Sahagún’s Sixteenth-Century Translation Techniques

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This article seeks to reaffirm the belief that Fray Bernardino de Sahagún acted as the main translator of the Nahuatl text of Historia universal de las cosas de Nueva España (ca. 1577) into Spanish. Initially, Sahagún envisaged the Spanish translation as part of an encyclopaedic-linguistic work for preachers and confessors, but he eventually completed the translation, as it appears in the surviving manuscript, the Florentine Codex, as a palatable account of the Nahua world for Spanish officials. The second section of this article focuses on the most salient translation techniques of some Nahua culture-specific items into Spanish, as found in the Spanish column of the Florentine Codex. From a contemporary viewpoint, these techniques can be grouped as conservation strategies, in the form of intratextual gloss and transcription of Nahuatl words, and as substitution strategies, through naturalization, deletion, and autonomous creation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-212
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Iberian and Latin American Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Evangelization
  • Florentine Codex
  • Nahua world
  • Sahagún
  • translation techniques


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