It was the language of the Aztecs who dominated what is now central Mexico during the Late Postclassic period of Mesoamerican history.
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Current subclassification of Nahuatl rests on research by Canger (1980), Canger (1988) and Lastra de Suárez (1986).
Canger introduced the scheme of a Central grouping and two Peripheral groups, and Lastra confirmed this notion, differing in some details. "Nahua loan words from the early classic period: Words for cacao preparation on a Río Azul ceramic vessel".
The Ethnologue recognizes 28 varieties with separate ISO codes.
Sometimes the label also is used to include the Pipil language (Nawat) of El Salvador.
As a language label, the term "Nahuatl" encompasses a group of closely related languages or divergent dialects within the Nahuan branch of the Uto-Aztecan language family.