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Quechuan and Aymaran spelling shift

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Title: Quechuan and Aymaran spelling shift  
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Subject: Quechuan languages, Aymaran languages, History of the Incas, Spelling, Andean civilizations
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Quechuan and Aymaran spelling shift

In recent years, the spelling of place names in Peru and Bolivia has been revised among Quechua and Aymara speakers. A standardized alphabet for Quechua was adopted by the Peruvian government in 1975; a revision in 1985 moved to a three-vowel orthography.[1]

The major changes are to replace the digraph hu with the single letter w, and to replace the consonants c/q[u] with either k or q, as appropriate in the word in question. K and q represent different sounds in most Andean languages: k is a velar stop, as in Spanish and English; q is a uvular stop [q]. As Spanish does not have uvular [q], traditional spellings lose this distinction (although sometimes a double cc was used to represent the k-like sounds of Quechua that differed from the "plain k" sound known in Spanish; e.g., in place names such as Ccarhuacc, Chopcca, Cconocc, Llacce, Manyacc, Chihuilluyocc, Chilcahuaycco, etc.), and Quechua or Aymara sources must be consulted to select the right consonant. For instance, the Temple of the Sun in Cusco is named Qurikancha in Quechua, with both sounds (quri = gold, kancha = courtyard, enclosure), and is spelled Coricancha in hispanicized spelling.

Additionally, the phoneme inventory of Quechua and Aymara includes just three vowels, /a/, /i/, and /u/. Older Spanish transcriptions (as well as the 1975 standard) used the letters o and e as well; this is because the pronunciation of /u/ and /i/ opens to [o] and [e] adjacent to a /q/,[2] an instance of allophonic variation. For instance, Quechua qucha 'lake' sounds to Spanish speakers like cocha, as in the sample Huiracocha below. Some sources, such as dictionary published by the Academia Mayor de la Lengua Quechua, still use the five-vowel 1975 orthography.

In Bolivia and Southern Peru, including Cuzco, there are three versions of all the stop consonants: the basic unaspirated sounds (p, t, ch, k, q), an aspirated series spelled with an h (ph, th, chh, kh, qh); and finally an ejective series spelled with an apostrophe (p', t', ch', k', q'). In Aymara and Southern Quechua, these are distinct sounds, making a total of 15 stop consonants, and these differences must be shown in the spelling: in the example words below, the kh in khipu is not the same as the k in Inka or in Tiwanaku; nor is the qh sound at the start of "qhapaq" the same as the q sound at the start of "Qusqu". In most regions north of Cusco, these variants do not exist, and only the basic unaspirated sounds are used.

These changes are considered to be part of a general process of spelling standardisation and reassertion of the right of these native languages to their own spelling system appropriate for their sound systems, which are very different from that of Spanish. This accompanies a growth of pride in the Andean heritage of these countries, and moves to recover the prestige of their indigenous languages. These spelling changes are part of the official alphabets for Quechua and Aymara in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, though debate continues on the extent to which they are to be used when writing in Spanish.

The following table shows examples of official modern spellings of Aymara and Quechua expressions, their meanings and common hispanicized spellings.[3][4]

Aymara Meaning Hispanicized spellings
Ch'iyar Juqhu ch'iyara black, juqhu muddy place, "black muddy place" Chearoco, Chearaco, Chiaroco, Chiaraco
Janq'u Uma janq'u white, uma water, "white water" Ancohuma, Jankho Uma, Jankhouma
Wila Quta or Wilaquta wila red, quta lake, "red lake" Vila Cota, Wila Kkota, Wila Khota, Wila Kota, Vila Ccota, Vilaccota, Wilaccota, Wila Ccota, Vilakkota, Vilakota, Vilacota
Quechua Meaning Hispanicized spellings
Qiwllarahu qiwlla gull, rahu snow, ice, mountain with snow, "gull mountain with snow" Caullaraju, Jeulla Rajo, Jeulla Raju, Queulla Raju, Queullaraju
Wayna Qhapaq wayna young, young man, qhapaq sovereign, the mighty one Huayna Capac, Huayna Cápac, Huayna Ccapacc, Guayna Capac
Wiraqucha wira fat, qucha lake, wiraqucha or Wiraqucha mister, sir, gentleman / god Huiracocha, Huiraccocha, Viracocha, Wiracocha

Quechuan and Aymaran WorldHeritages are also a good example of using of the modern spelling.


  1. ^ Bruce Mannheim, The Language of the Inka since the European Invasion, University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas,1991, p. 235
  2. ^ Rodolfo Cerrón-Palomino, Lingüística Quechua, Centro de Estudios Rurales Andinos "Bartolomé de Las Casa", 1987, p. 255
  3. ^ Transcripción del Vocabulario de la lengua Aymara Biblioteca del pueblo aymara. Author, Ludovico Bertonio. Publisher, Radio San Gabriel (IRPA)
  4. ^ Teofilo Laime Ajacopa, Diccionario Bilingüe Iskay simipi yuyayk'ancha, La Paz, 2007 (Quechua-Spanish dictionary)

External links

  • Ima hinataq runasimita sumaqta qillqay How to write Quechua well.
  • Quechua and Aymara Spelling With many more details and integrated sound files to listen to the pronunciations.
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