Southern Quechua

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Southern Quechua
Quechua II-C
PronunciationQuechua pronunciation: [qʰɛtʃwa]
Native toPeru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile
RegionCountries of the Andean highlands of South America, minorities in neighboring countries and some parts of Asia and Europe
EthnicityQuechua, Qulla, Inka (historically)
Native speakers
(5 million cited 1987–2014)[1]
  • Quechua II
    • Quechua IIC
      • Southern Quechua
Early form
Latin script (Quechua alphabet)
Official status
Official language in
List of countries where Southern Quechua is an official language

List of countries where Southern Quechua is a regional language

List of countries where Southern Quechua is a minority native language
Regulated bynone
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
qwc – Classical Quechua
quy – Ayacucho Quechua
qxu – Arequipa-La Unión Quechua
quz – Cusco Quechua
qve – Eastern Apurímac Quechua
qxp – Puno Quechua (Collao)
qul – North Bolivian Quechua (Apolo)
quh – South Bolivian Quechua
qus – Santiagueño Quechua
ELPCatamarca and La Rioja Quechua (extinct variety in Argentina)

Southern Quechua (Quechua: Urin qichwa, Spanish: quechua sureño), or simply Quechua (Qichwa or Qhichwa), is the most widely spoken of the major regional groupings of mutually intelligible dialects within the Quechua language family, with about 6.9 million speakers.[citation needed] It is also the most widely spoken indigenous language in the Americas. The term Southern Quechua refers to the Quechuan varieties spoken in regions of the Andes south of a line roughly east–west between the cities of Huancayo and Huancavelica in central Peru. It includes the Quechua varieties spoken in the regions of Ayacucho, Cusco and Puno in Peru, in much of Bolivia and parts of north-west Argentina. The most widely spoken varieties are Cusco, Ayacucho, Puno (Collao), and South Bolivian.

In the traditional classification of the Quechua language family by Alfredo Torero, Southern Quechua is equivalent to Torero's 'Quechua IIc' (or just 'QIIc'). It thus stands in contrast to its many sister varieties within the wider Quechuan family that are spoken in areas north of the Huancayo–Huancavelica line: Central Quechua (Torero's QI) spoken from Huancayo northwards to the Ancash Region; North Peruvian Quechua around Cajamarca and Incahuasi (Torero's IIa); and Kichwa (part of Torero's Quechua IIb).


Dialects are Ayacucho Quechua, Cusco Quechua, Puno Quechua (Collao Quechua), North Bolivian Quechua (Apolo Quechua), and South Bolivian Quechua. Santiagueño Quechua in Argentina is divergent, and appears to derive from a mix of dialects, including South Bolivian.[4] The Argentinian dialects of Catamarca and La Rioja are extinct.[5]

The most salient distinction between Ayacucho Quechua and the others is that it lacks the aspirated (tʃʰ, pʰ, tʰ, kʰ, qʰ) and ejective (tʃʼ, pʼ, tʼ, kʼ, qʼ) series of stop consonants. The other varieties of Bolivia and Southern Peru taken together have been called Cusco–Collao Quechua (or "Qusqu–Qullaw"); they are not monolithic. For instance, Bolivian Quechua is morphologically distinct from Cusco and Ayacucho Quechua, while North Bolivian is phonologically quite conservative compared to both South Bolivian and Cusco so there is no bifurcation between Ayacucho and Cusco–Collao.

Santiagueño also lacks the aspirated and ejective series, but it was a distinct development in Argentina. It also maintains remnants of the Quechua s–š distinction, which has otherwise been lost from Southern Quechua, which suggests other varieties of Quechua in its background.

Standard Quechua[edit]

The Peruvian linguist Rodolfo Cerrón Palomino has devised a standard orthography intended to be viable for all the different regional forms of Quechua that fall under the umbrella term Southern Quechua. It is a compromise of conservative features in the pronunciations of the various regions that speak forms of Southern Quechua. It has been accepted by many institutions in Peru and Bolivia and is also used on Wikipedia Quechua pages, and by Microsoft in its translations of software into Quechua.

Here are some examples of regional spellings different from the standard orthography:

Ayacucho Cuzco Standard Translation
upyay uhyay upyay "to drink"
llamkay llank'ay llamk'ay "to work"
ñuqanchik nuqanchis ñuqanchik "we (inclusive)"
-chka- -sha- -chka- (progressive suffix)
punchaw p'unchay p'unchaw "day"

In Bolivia, the same standard is used except for "j", which is used instead of "h" for the sound [h] (like in Spanish).

Sound examples for words pata, phata p'ata.

The following letters are used for the inherited Quechua vocabulary and for loanwords from Aymara:
a, ch, chh, ch', h, i, k, kh, k', l, ll, m, n, ñ, p, ph, p', q, qh, q', r, s, t, th, t', u, w, y.

Instead of "sh" (appearing in the northern and central Quechua varieties), "s" is used.
Instead of "ĉ" (appearing in the Quechua varieties of Junín, Cajamarca, and Lambayeque), "ch" is used.

The following letters are used in loanwords from Spanish and other languages (not from Aymara):
b, d, e, f, g, o.

The letters e and o are not used for native Quechua words because the corresponding sounds are simply allophones of i and u that appear predictably next to q, qh, and q'. This rule applies to the official Quechua orthography for all varieties. Thus, the spellings ⟨qu⟩ and ⟨qi⟩ are pronounced [qo] and [qe].

The letters appear, however, in proper names or words adopted directly from Spanish:
c, v, x, z; j (in Peru; in Bolivia, it is used instead of h).


Morphological type[edit]

Quechua is an agglutinating language, meaning that words are built up from basic roots followed by several suffixes, each of which carry one meaning. Their large number of suffixes changes both the overall meaning of words and their subtle shades of meaning. All varieties of Quechua are very regular agglutinative languages, as opposed to isolating or fusional ones [Thompson]. Their normal sentence order is SOV (subject–object–verb). Notable grammatical features include bipersonal conjugation (verbs agree with both subject and object), evidentiality (indication of the source and veracity of knowledge), a set of topic particles, and suffixes indicating who benefits from an action and the speaker's attitude toward it, but some varieties may lack some of the characteristics.


Singular Plural
Person First Ñuqa Ñuqanchik (inclusive)

Ñuqayku (exclusive)

Second Qam Qamkuna
Third Pay Paykuna

In Quechua, there are seven pronouns. First-person plural pronouns (equivalent to "we") may be inclusive or exclusive; which mean, respectively, that the addressee ("you") is and is not part of the "we". Quechua also adds the suffix -kuna to the second and third person singular pronouns qam and pay to create the plural forms, qam-kuna and pay-kuna.


Adjectives in Quechua are always placed before nouns. They lack gender and number and are not declined to agree with substantives.


  • Cardinal numbers. ch'usaq (0), huk (1), iskay (2), kimsa (3), tawa (4), pichqa (5), suqta (6), qanchis (7), pusaq (8), isqun (9), chunka (10), chunka hukniyuq (11), chunka iskayniyuq (12), iskay chunka (20), pachak (100), waranqa (1,000), hunu (1,000,000), lluna (1,000,000,000,000).
  • Ordinal numbers. To form ordinal numbers, the word ñiqin is put after the appropriate cardinal number (iskay ñiqin = "second"). The only exception is that, in addition to huk ñiqin ("first"), the phrase ñawpaq is also used in the somewhat more restricted sense of "the initial, primordial, the oldest".


Noun roots accept suffixes that 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.[6] From variety to variety, suffixes may change.

Examples using the word wasi (house)
Function Suffix Example (translation)
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 nominative wasi the house (subj.)
accusative -(k)ta wasita the house (obj.)
instrumental -wan wasiwan with the house, and the house
abessive -naq wasinaq without the house
dative -paq wasipaq to the house
genitive -p(a) wasip(a) of the house
causative -rayku wasirayku because of the house
benefactive -paq wasipaq for the house
locative -pi wasipi at the house
directional -man wasiman towards the house
inclusive -piwan, puwan wasipiwan, wasipuwan including the house
terminative -kama, -yaq wasikama, wasiyaq up to the house
transitive -(rin)ta wasinta through the house
ablative -manta, -piqta wasimanta, wasipiqta off/from the house
comitative -(ni)ntin wasintin along with the house
immediate -raq wasiraq first the house
intrative -pura wasipura among the houses
exclusive -lla(m) wasilla(m) only the house
comparative -naw, -hina wasinaw, wasihina than 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" and ñawpa means "ahead, in front" and "past".[7] 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: it is unknown), facing the past (we can see it: it is remembered).


The infinitive forms have the suffix -y (e.g., much'a 'kiss'; much'a-y 'to kiss'). These are the endings for the indicative:

Present Past Past Habitual Future Pluperfect Optative
Ñuqa -ni -rqa-ni -qka-ni -saq -sqa-ni -yman
Qam -nki -rqa-nki -qka-nki -nki -sqa-nki -nki-man
Pay -n -rqa(-n) -q -nqa -sqa -nman
Ñuqanchik -nchik -rqa-nchik -qka-nchik -su-nchik -sqa-nchik -nchik-man


Ñuqayku -yku -rqa-yku -qka-yku -saq-ku -sqa-yku -yku-man
Qamkuna -nki-chik -rqa-nki-chik -qka-nki-chik -nki-chik -sqa-nki-chik -nki-chik-man


Paykuna -n-ku -rqa-(n)ku -q-ku -nqa-ku -sqa-ku -nku-man

The suffixes shown in the table above usually indicate the subject; the person of the object is also indicated by a suffix (-a- for first person and -su- for second person), which precedes the suffixes in the table. In such cases, the plural suffixes from the table (-chik and -ku) can be used to express the number of the object rather than the subject.

Various suffixes are added to the stem to change the meaning. For example, -chi is a causative suffix and -ku is a reflexive suffix (example: wañuy 'to die'; wañuchiy 'to kill'; wañuchikuy 'to commit suicide'); -naku is used for mutual action (example: marq'ay 'to hug'; marq'anakuy 'to hug each other'), and -chka is a progressive, used for an ongoing action (e.g., mikhuy 'to eat'; mikhuchkay 'to be eating').

Grammatical particles[edit]

Particles are indeclinable: they do not accept suffixes. They are relatively rare, but 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. Other particles are yaw 'hey, hi', and certain loan words from Spanish, such as piru (from Spanish pero 'but') and sinuqa (from sino 'rather').


The Quechuan languages have three different morphemes that mark evidentiality. Evidentiality refers to a morpheme whose primary purpose is to indicate the source of information.[8] In Quechuan languages, evidentiality is a three-term system: there are three evidential morphemes that mark varying levels of source information. The markers can apply to first, second, and third persons.[9] The chart below depicts an example of these morphemes from Wanka Quechua:[10]

Evidential morphemes -m(i) -chr(a) -sh(i)
Meaning Direct evidence Inferred; conjecture Reported; hearsay

The parentheses around the vowels indicate that the vowel can be dropped in when following an open vowel. For the sake of cohesiveness, the above forms are used to discuss the evidential morphemes. There are dialectal variations to the forms. The variations will be presented in the following descriptions.

See also[edit]


  • Rodolfo Cerrón-Palomino (1994). Quechua sureño, diccionario unificado quechua–castellano, castellano–quechua [Southern Quechua, Quechua–Spanish, Spanish–Quechua Unified Dictionary]. Lima, Biblioteca Nacional del Perú.
  • Óscar Chávez Gonzales (2017). Urin Qichwa. Siminchik allin qillqanapaq: chankakunapaq qullawkunapaqwan. Lima, Editorial Textos. 72 pp., ISBN 9786124686832
  • César Itier (2017). Diccionario Quechua Sureño – Castellano. Lima, Editorial Commentarios. 303 pp., 3900 entries, ISBN 9789972947094


  1. ^ Classical Quechua at Ethnologue (24th ed., 2021) closed access
    Ayacucho Quechua at Ethnologue (24th ed., 2021) closed access
    Arequipa-La Unión Quechua at Ethnologue (24th ed., 2021) closed access
    Cusco Quechua at Ethnologue (24th ed., 2021) closed access
    Eastern Apurímac Quechua at Ethnologue (24th ed., 2021) closed access
    Puno Quechua (Collao) at Ethnologue (24th ed., 2021) closed access
    (Additional references under 'Language codes' in the information box)
  2. ^ "Justia Bolivia :: Nueva Constitución Política Del Estado > PRIMERA PARTE > TÍTULO I > CAPÍTULO PRIMERO :: Ley de Bolivia". Archived from the original on 25 February 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  3. ^ La educación intercultural bilingüe en Santiago del Estero, ¿mito o realidad? [La cámara de diputados de la provincia sanciona con fuerza de ley.] (in Spanish). Cámara de Diputados de la Nación. p. 1. Declárase de interés oficial la preservación, difusión, estímulo, estudio y práctica de la lengua Quíchua en todo el territorio de la provincia [..]
  4. ^ Adelaar (2004)
  5. ^ "Did you know Catamarca and la Rioja Quechua is dormant?".
  6. ^ Alderetes, Jorge R. (1997). "Morfología nominal del quechua santiagueño".
  7. ^ This occurs in English, where "before" means "in the past", and Shakespeare's Macbeth says "The greatest is behind", meaning in the future.
  8. ^ Aikhenvald 2004, p. 3.
  9. ^ Aikhenvald 2004, p. 377.
  10. ^ Aikhenvald 2004, p. 42.

External links[edit]