The Quechuan languages are spoken in mainly in Peru, and also in Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Argentina. They belong to the Quechuan language family, and have a total of about 7.7. million speakers. In Ecuador varities of Quechua are known as Quichua. The Quechuan languages are thought to have descended from a common ancestor, known as Proto-Quechua. The modern Quechuan languages are not mutually intelligible, and each variety has a number of dialects.
Varities of Quechua include:
Quechua was the language of the Inca Empire, and continued to be used as a lingua franca after the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. It was officially recognised by the Spanish, who learnt it to communicate with the Inca people, and also to spread Christianity among them. Quechua continued to be used in this way until the late 18th century, after which colonial officials ceased to use it in administration and for religious purposes, and banned its used in public in Peru.
There was a revival of Quechuan languages in the 19th century after Latin American nations gained independence, however the prestige of the language has fallen since then. Today Quechuan languages are the most widely spoken indigenous languages in South America.
Quechuan languages are officially recognised in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia. Bilingual education in Quechua and Spanish is available in these countries. There are some broadcasts in Quechua on radio and television stations.
The Inca used a system of knotted strings known as quipu to send messages around their empire. The number and shape of the knots and the colours of the strings helped to remind messengers of the contents of the messages. Recent research suggests that the quipu might have been used not just as mnemonic devices but also to record the Quechua language phonetically.
Quechua first appeared in print in 1560 in the form of a dictionary by Domingo de Santo Tomás. Other early texts include collections of hymns by Cristóbal de Molina and a Quechua cathechism by Juardo Palomino.
Hear the Quechua alphabet:
Tukuy kay pachaman paqarimujkuna libres nasekuntu tukuypunitaj kikin obligacionesniycjllataj, jinakamalla honorniyojtaj atiyniyojtaj, chantaqa razonwantaj concienciawantaj dotasqa kasqankurayku, kawsaqe masipura jina, tukuy uj munakuyllapi kawsakunanku tian.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Information about Quechua
Online Quechua lessons
Diccionarios: Quechua - Aymara al español
Photos of and information about the Inca, Maya and Aztec peoples
Page last modified: 09.05.22
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