Quechua (Runa Simi) is a Native American language of South America. It was already widely spoken across the Central Andes long before the time of the Incas, who established it as the official language of administration for their Empire, and is still spoken today in various regional forms (the so-called ‘dialects’) by some 10 million people through much of South America, including Peru, south-western and central Bolivia, southern Colombia and Ecuador, north-western Argentina and northern Chile. It is the most widely spoken language of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
Though it is tradionally referred to as a single language many (if not most) linguists treat it as a family of related languages - Quechuan languages, which has approximately 46 dialects, grouped in at least seven languages.
Quechua is a very regular agglutinative language, as opposed to a fusional one. Its normal sentence order is SOV (subject-object-verb). Its large number of suffixes changes both the overall significance of words and their subtle shades of meaning. Notable grammatical features include bipersonal conjugation (verbs agree with both subject and object), evidentiality (indication of the source and veracity of knowledge), a topic particle, and suffixes indicating who benefits from an action and the speaker's attitude toward it.
The oldest records of the language are those of Fray Domingo de Santo Tomás, who arrived in Peru in 1538 and learned the language from 1540, publishing his Grammatica o arte de la lengua general de los indios de los reynos del Perú in 1560.
Quechua has often been grouped with Aymara as a larger Quechumaran linguistic stock, largely because about a third of its vocabulary is shared with Aymara. This proposal is controversial, however, as the cognates are close, often closer than intra-Quechua cognates, and there is little relationship in the affixal system. The similarities may be due to long-term contact rather than from common origin. The language was further extended beyond the limits of the Inca empire by the Roman Catholic Church, which chose it to preach to natives in the Andes. Where the two languages intermix, Quechua phrases and words are commonly used by Spanish speakers and vice-versa. In southern rural Bolivia, for instance, many Quechua words such as wawa (infant), michi (cat), wasca (strap, or thrashing) are as commonly used as their Spanish counterparts, even in entirely Spanish-speaking areas.
Today, it has the status of an official language in both Peru and Bolivia, along with Spanish and Aymara. Before the arrival of the Spaniards and the introduction of the Latin alphabet, Quechua had no written alphabet. The Incas kept track of numerical data through a system of quipu-strings.
Currently, the major obstacle to the diffusion of the usage and teaching of Quechua is the lack of written material in the Quechua language, namely books, newspapers, software, magazines, etc. Thus, Quechua, along with Aymara and the minor indigenous languages, remains essentially an oral language. It must be said that this situation is being greatly improved by modern technology.
There are four main dialect groups.
Quechua I or Waywash is spoken in Peru's central highlands. It is the most diverse branch of Quechua, such that its dialects have often been considered different languages.
Quechua II or Wanp'una (Traveler) is divided into three branches:
This traditional classification, though still a helpful guide, has been increasingly challenged in recent years, since a number of regional varieties of Quechua seem to be intermediate between the two branches.
The number of speakers given varies widely according to the sources. The most reliable figures are to be found in the census results of Peru (1993) and Bolivia (2001), though they are probably altogether too low due to underreporting. The 2001 Ecuador census seems to be a prominent example of underreporting, as it comes up with only 499,292 speakers of the two varieties Quichua and Kichwa combined, where other sources estimate between 1.5 and 2.2 million speakers.
Additionally, there may be hundreds of thousands of speakers outside the traditionally Quechua speaking territories, in immigrant communities.
A number of Quechua loanwords have entered English via Spanish, including coca, cóndor, guano, jerky, llama, pampa, puma, quinine, quinoa, vicuña and possibly gaucho. The word lagniappe comes from the Quechua word yapay ("to increase; to add") with the Spanish article la in front of it, la yapa or la ñapa, in Spanish.
The influence on Latin American Spanish includes such borrowings as papa for "potato", chuchaqui for "hangover" in Ecuador, and diverse borrowings for "altitude sickness", in Bolivia from Quechua suruqch'i to Bolivian sorojchi, in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru soroche.
Quechua has borrowed a large number of Spanish words, such as pero (from pero, but), bwenu (from bueno, good), and burru (from burro, donkey).
|plosive / affricate||p||t||tʃ||k||q|
|aspirated plosive or affricate||pʰ||tʰ||tʃʰ||kʰ||qʰ|
None of the plosives or fricatives are voiced; voicing is not phonemic in the Quechua native vocabulary of the modern Cusco variety.
About 30% of the modern Quechua vocabulary is borrowed from Spanish, and some Spanish sounds (e.g. f, b, d, g) may have become phonemic, even among monolingual Quechua speakers.
Quechua has been written using the Roman alphabet since the Spanish conquest of Peru. However, written Quechua is not utilized by the Quechua-speaking people at large due to the lack of printed referential material in Quechua.
Until the 20th century, Quechua was written with a Spanish-based orthography. Examples: Inca, Huayna Cápac, Collasuyo, Mama Ocllo, Viracocha, quipu, tambo, condor. This orthography is the most familiar to Spanish speakers, and as a corollary, has been used for most borrowings into English.
In 1975, the Peruvian government of Juan Velasco adopted a new orthography for Quechua. This is the writing system preferred by the controversial Academia Mayor de la Lengua Quechua. Examples: Inka, Wayna Qapaq, Qollasuyu, Mama Oqllo, Wiraqocha, khipu, tampu, kuntur. This orthography:
In 1985, a variation of this system was adopted by the Peruvian government; it uses the Quechua three-vowel system. Examples: Inka, Wayna Qapaq, Qullasuyu, Mama Uqllu, Wiraqucha, khipu, tampu, kuntur.
The different orthographies are still highly controversial in Peru. Advocates of the traditional system believe that the new orthographies look too foreign, and suggest that it makes Quechua harder to learn for people who have first been exposed to written Spanish. Those who prefer the new system maintain that it better matches the phonology of Quechua, and point to studies showing that teaching the five-vowel system to children causes reading difficulties in Spanish later on.
For more on this, see Quechuan and Aymaran spelling shift.
Writers differ in the treatment of Spanish loanwords. Sometimes these are adapted to the modern orthography, and sometimes they are left in Spanish. For instance, "I am Robert" could be written Robertom kani or Ruwirtum kani. (The -m is not part of the name; it is an evidential suffix.)
Peruvian linguist Rodolfo Cerrón-Palomino has proposed an orthographic norm for all Quechua, called Southern Quechua. This norm, el Quechua estándar or Hanan Runasimi, which is accepted by many institutions in Peru, has been made by combining conservative features of two most common dialects: Ayacucho Quechua and Qusqu-Qullaw Quechua (spoken in Cusco, Puno, Bolivia, and Argentina). For instance:
To listen to recordings of these and many other words as pronounced in many different Quechua-speaking regions, see the external website The Sounds of the Andean Languages There is also a full section on the new Quechua and Aymara Spelling
|Person||First||Ñuqa||Ñuqanchik (inclusive) Ñuqayku (exclusive)|
Noun roots accept suffixes which indicate person (defining of possession, not identity), number, and case. In general, the personal suffix precedes that of number - in the Santiago del Estero variety, however, the order is reversed. From variety to variety, suffixes may change.
|suffix indicating number||plural||-kuna||wasikuna||houses|
|possessive suffix||1.person singular||-y, -:||wasiy, wasii||my house|
|2.person singular||-yki||wasiyki||your house|
|3.person singular||-n||wasin||his/her/its house|
|1.person plural (incl)||-nchik||wasinchik||our house (incl.)|
|1.person plural (excl)||-y-ku||wasiyku||our house (excl.)|
|2.person plural||-yki-chik||wasiykichik||your (pl.) house|
|3.person plural||-n-ku||wasinku||their house|
|suffixes indicating case||abessive||-naq||wasinaq||without the house|
|ablative||-manta, -piqta||wasimanta, wasipiqta||away from the house|
|accusative||-(k)ta||wasita||the house (obj.)|
|adessive||-(ni)ntin||wasintin||the house (obj.)|
|benefactive||-paq||wasipaq||for the house|
|causative||-rayku||wasirayku||because of the house|
|comitative (instrumental)||-wan||wasiwan||with the house|
|comparative||-naw, -hina||wasinaw, wasihina||than the house|
|dative||-paq||wasipaq||for the house|
|directional||-man||wasiman||towards the house|
|exclusive||-lla(m)||wasilla(m)||only the house|
|genitive||-p(a)||wasip(a)||of the house|
|immediate||-raq||wasiraq||first the house|
|inclusive||-piwan, puwan||wasipiwan, wasipuwan||including the house|
|interactive||-pura||wasipura||among the houses|
|locative||-pi, -traw||wasipi, wasitraw||in the house|
|transitive||-(rin)ta||wasinta||through the house|
|terminative||-kama, -yaq||wasikama, wasiyaq||up to the house|
Adverbs can be formed by adding -ta or, in some cases, -lla to an adjective: allin - allinta ("good - well"), utqay - utqaylla ("quick - quickly"). They are also formed by adding suffixes to demonstratives: chay ("that") - chaypi ("there"), kay ("this") - kayman ("hither").
There are several original adverbs. For Europeans, it is striking that the adverb qhipa means both "behind" and "future", whereas ñawpa means "ahead, in front" and "past". This means that local and temporal concepts of adverbs in Quechua (as well as in Aymara) are associated to each other reversely compared to European languages. For the speakers of Quechua, we are moving backwards into the future (we cannot see it - ie. it is unknown), facing the past (we can see it - ie. we remember it).
The infinitive forms (unconjugated) have the suffix -y (much'a= "kiss"; much'a-y = "to kiss"). The endings for the indicative are:
Particles are indeclinable words, that is, they do not accept suffixes. They are relatively rare. The most common are arí ("yes") and mana ("no"), although mana can take some suffixes, such as -n/-m (manan/manam), -raq (manaraq, not yet) and -chu (manachu?, or not?), to intensify the meaning. Also used are yaw ("hey", "hi"), and certain loan words from Spanish, such as piru (from Spanish pero "but") and sinuqa (from sino "rather").
Nearly every Quechua sentence is marked by an evidential suffix, indicating how certain the speaker is about a statement. -mi expresses personal knowledge (Tayta Wayllaqawaqa chufirmi, "Mr. Huayllacahua is a driver-- I know it for a fact"); -si expresses hearsay knowledge (Tayta Wayllaqawaqa chufirsi, "Mr. Huayllacahua is a driver, or so I've heard"); -chá expresses probability (Tayta Wayllaqawaqa chufirchá, "Mr. Huayllacahua is a driver, most likely"). These become -m, -s, -ch after a vowel, although -ch is rarely used, and the majority of speakers usually employ -chá, even after a vowel (Mariochá, "He's Mario, most likely").
The evidential suffixes are not restricted to nouns; they can attach to any word in the sentence, typically the comment (that is, new information, as opposed to the topic).