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Land of winds > The people > Language | Issue 03. Jan.-Feb.2011
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Ecuadorian Quichua

Quechua or runasimi is the most widely spoken language in the Andes today (see). It has a lot of varieties and dialects, since the language changes as the location of Quechua speaking people’s settlements changed. They can be roughly classified in two groups: Quechua I, including the different varieties of Quechua spoken in Peru, and Quechua II distinguishing “peripheral” dialects spoken in Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Argentina. When dialect differences become so great that the dialects are no longer intelligible to the speakers of these language varieties, some researchers consider them separately as daughter languages split from their common parent.
Quechua spoken in Ecuador is known as kichwa, quichua or runashimi. It has over one million speakers and a unified orthography (Shukyachiska Kichwa). Differences with other dialects, or Quechua languages, are most notable in the pronunciation but also in a number of distinctive grammatical features that make Quichua unmistakable. For instance, the infinitives ended in “-na”, the lack of distinction between inclusive and exclusive first person, and the fact that there are neither possessive nor bi-directional suffixes.
In the following lines there are several examples of Ecuadorian Quichua with their corresponding English translation. The same sentences appear also written in Bolivian Quechua for those interested in finding out the differences between one and the other:

Kanka, ima shimipitak rimanki
You, in what language do you speak?
Qanqa, ima simipitaq rimanki?

Kanpak wakrakuka wakashpami shayakun
Your little cow, mooing, is stopping
Waqrachaykuqa waqaspami sayakun

Ñukapa panikumi shamushka
My little sister has come/arrived
Panichaymi hamusqa

Kuytsaka yuyaysapami kan
The girl is very smart
Pasñaqa yuyaysapami

Wayra chishi pachapimi pukllan
The wind plays at night
Wayra ch’isi pachapimi puqllan

Killkana yachayta munanki
You want to learn how to write
Qillqay yachayta munanki

As Lisa Marie Hanley states in her paper (see below), there are several different theories on how Quichua was dispersed throughout present Ecuador. The most extended one is that Quichua entered Ecuador through the Inca conquest (1487). However, as proposed by Cerrón-Palomino, it might be that Quichua would have been dispersed throughout Ecuador by a trade route, and it would have become a useful lingua franca for merchants prior to the conquest of the Incas. Quichua survived the arrival of the Spaniards and Castilian (1535) while other local languages, once prominent, were severely suppressed. During the colonial reign, Quichua shifted from being the language of the elite to becoming the language of “uncivilized Indians” and the church used it to indoctrinate local people. However, Quichua remained spoken by most Andean indigenous people –the majority of the Ecuadorian colonial population at that time– attempting to preserve their cultural heritage mostly verbally transmitted in speech or song.
We shall go back in history to the beginning of the past century to discover a timid awakening of literature written in Quichua, popularized through the Romantic Movement. Regretfully, governments at the time and the country’s intellectual elite pushed Quichua, once more, into the background (it was labelled yangashimi, meaning “worthless language”), and its identity continued being that of embarrassment and poverty.
Since 1955, religious missions used this language again to write and publish catechisms and Bible books. In 1971 Quichua was first taught at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador and several grammar books, language courses and dictionaries have been published since the launch of these studies, as well as Quichua tales, anthropological and linguistic material and works on its oral tradition.
At present Quichua is not recognized as a co-official language alongside Spanish in Ecuador. Let’s hope someday the issue will seem quaint as it already does in Bolivia and Peru.

Kichwa language, in Wikipedia.
Quichua Identity in an Urban Setting: Quito, Ecuador, by Lisa Marie Hanley (paper).
Culturas y lenguas indígenas del Ecuador (Cultures and languages of Ecuador), by L. Mejeant [es].
Quichua, in Linguamón.
Runashimi grammar (Ecuadorian quechua), in SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics) [es].
Ecvuadorian Quichua grammar, by J. Catta. In Google books [es].
Quichua, official language of Ecuador. Article 1 and article 2 [es].
Origins and diversity of Quechua.
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