An Introduction To Quechua, One of The World’s Most Widely Spoken Indigenous Languages

To understand the origins of the Quechua language, we have to go back in time to a territory currently in Peru and Ecuador know as Chinchay. The inhabitants of this area, the Chancas, were a coastal people heavily involved in trade whose economic interests allowed them to interact with other peoples in the north who […]

To understand the origins of the Quechua language, we have to go back in time to a territory currently in Peru and Ecuador know as Chinchay.

The inhabitants of this area, the Chancas, were a coastal people heavily involved in trade whose economic interests allowed them to interact with other peoples in the north who also used their language, Quechua, as a means of communication to buy and sell products.

The name Quechua, which means “temperate valley,” alludes to the ethnic group that lived in the high basin of the Río Pampas in Apurimac, considered to be the original speakers of this language and key to its spread.

The History Of The Quechua Language

The Incas, originally from Titicaca, moved to Cuzco speaking their own language, Pukina. When they arrived in the valley of Cuzco, the migrants from Titicaca underwent some distinct linguistic changes. First they had to learn Aimara, the dominant language of the time. After the war with the Chancas, who brought Quechua to Cuzco, they had to gradually start learning Quechua. The definitive step to Quechua came with the last Incas Huayna Capac and Atahualpa.

When the Incas started their expansion, Quechua was already spoken throughout the territory of Peru, but they were the ones who started to spread it to the southeast.

In 1575, Toledo declared Quechua, Aimara, and Pukina as official languages of Peru, and as the main languages for evangelization. When this declaration was made, the Pukina speakers were already speaking Quechua or Aimara more and more, which is why Quechua and Aimara remained while Pukina only exists in a few religious catechisms.

Quechua Grammar

To understand the Quechua language, you have to keep two aspects in mind: the form that words take and how they’re ordered in a sentence. It’s an agglutinating and suffixing language, which means it has a set of suffixes that are added to a root or main word to make it a longer, complete word, like this:

wasi — house

wasiy — my house

wasiyki — your house

wasin — his/her house

wasinchik — our house

wasicha — little house

wasichaykichik — their little house

wasichaykichikkuna — their little houses

As for its syntax, it’s a language that generally orders its sentences starting with the subject, then the object, and then the verb, although this can change.

Here’s an example:

Michi huk’uchata hap’in — The cat chases mice (Michi: cat; huk’ucha: mice; hap’i: chases. Each word has its own case and inflection.)

Other examples:

qari — man

qarim kani — I am a man

warmi — woman

Huk warmim kani — I am a woman

qari warma — boy

Huk qari warmam kani — I am a boy

As for adjectives, they always come before the noun:

yuraq hatun wasi — big white house

Quechuan Words

Many of these words are also used in Spanish.

achachay — feeling cold

ayayay — feeling pain

cautchouc — rubber (caucho in Spanish)

chakra — farm, field (chacra in Spanish)

chuqllu — corn

chullu — hat

chupi — soup

kancha — court or field for playing sports (cancha in Spanish)

karka — dirt

karpa — tent (carpa in Spanish)

kinuwa — quinoa

khena — flute

k’umpa — hammer

kuntur — condor

llama — llama

mati — mate (a type of tea)

michi — cat

nanay — lullaby (nana in Spanish)

ñatu — someone with a small nose (ñata in Spanish)

palta — avocado

pampa — plain

papa — potato

pita — thread

puma — puma

punchu — poncho

puna — mountain grass

putu — jug

sapallu — squash (zapallo in Spanish)

táchu — bucket

taita — father

wanu — guano

wáwa — small child

wik’uñavicuña (an animal)

wincha — measuring tape

yapa — something extra (ñapa in Spanish)

Spanish Words That Have Been Adopted In Quechua

Quechua speakers had to use words from the conquistadors’ language to talk about objects or actions that they couldn’t describe or name in their own language, for example:

aviónaviun (plane)

burro burru (donkey)

caballocauállo (horse)

carrocarru (car)

cuchillocuchillu (knife)

feriafiria (festival)

higoiwus (fig)

iglesiaiglesia (church)

misamissa (mass)

mula mula (mule)

plátanolatanus (plantane)

plazaplaza (town square)

vacawaca (cow)

Did You Know?

  • Quechua only has the vowels a, i and u.
  • The Quechua language adds suffixes to words to express friendliness and emotions.
  • Most words have an accent on the next to last syllable, and the tilde is used in more than just a few specific words.
  • Quechua doesn’t have gender markers on words. Instead, they use modifying words.
  • Quechua doesn’t have any diphthongs.
  • The letter h is pronounced like in English: hatun (big)
  • The letter q is pronounced like a double h: qaway (hhaway, to look)

As you can see, Quechua is an ancient language full of history, culture and tradition. Like other languages, such as Nahuatl, it’s still a living language and hasn’t disappeared.

This article originally appeared on the Spanish edition of Babbel Magazine.

The post An Introduction To Quechua, One of The World’s Most Widely Spoken Indigenous Languages appeared first on Babbel.

Source: Babbel