Thèse : Conceptualization of ‘xihuitl’ : history, environment, and cultural dynamics in Postclassic Mexica cognition


  • Izeki, Mutsumi


My research is concerned with how the Postclassic Mexica people developed their unique perspective of history and environment in a dynamic cultural context. By focusing on the process of conceptualization of the Nahuatl word ‘xihuitl’, I analyze the way the Mexica expressed their cognition. Xihuitl covers a range of meanings: ‘turquoise’, ‘grass’, ‘solar year’, ‘comet’, ‘preciousness’, ‘blue-green’ and ‘fire’. To group these meanings may seem odd because there is nothing to connect them that is intuitively obvious in the modern sense. I propose that xihuitl represents an aspect of cognition peculiar to the Mexica, and is linked especially to the economic, political and religious concerns of the Mexica elites. The meanings covered by xihuitl were not established at one time but were a product of history the history of the Mexica’s experiences in and of their ever- changing environment. The correlations of the meanings of xihuitl can be explained from a structural point of view. However, structural analysis does not reveal the dynamic experiential processes that produced such correlations in the minds of the Mexica. In order to account for this dynamic aspect of the concept, I employ a theory drawn from cognitive science. This theory argues that the meanings and representations of a concept are metaphoric extensions that derive from the central sense of the concept. Applying this theory, I examine the metaphoric extension of each xihuitl representation from the central sense. I also analyze the four media of expression linguistic, iconographic, material and ritual in which representations of xihuitl occur. The representations of xihuitl in each medium embody a particular aspect of the concept. At the same time, the concept as a whole was affected by the Mexica conceptual system the way the Mexica saw their world rooted in the connections they believed existed between themselves and those who established earlier Central Mexican civilizations.

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Olivier Jacquot (2023, 25 mars). Thèse : Conceptualization of ‘xihuitl’ : history, environment, and cultural dynamics in Postclassic Mexica cognition. Amoxcalli. Consulté le 19 juin 2024, à l’adresse

Olivier Jacquot

Chargé de collections : manuscrits des fonds américains, Service des manuscrits ORientaux (SOR), département des Manuscrits (MSS), Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF)

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