chapter  14
23 Pages

New Functional Domains of Quechua and Aymara: Mass Media and Social Media

BySerafín M. Coronel- Molina

The Andean region is a multilingual, pluriethnic, and multicultural territory comprising a dominant Spanish-speaking society and numerous indigenous

populations speaking different languages. Of these, Quechua and Aymara are the most widely spoken. According to the Atlas sociolingüístico de pueblos indígenas de América Latina (2009, p. 517), there are 6,617,639 Quechua speakers and 2,488,924 Aymara speakers. However, other estimates put the number of Quechua speakers as high as 10-13 million. Greater precision is difficult because national censuses and other attempts to count Quechua and Aymara speakers are not executed systematically across countries. A specifically linguistic census in South America would more accurately quantify these numbers, but such an initiative would require considerable time, effort, planning, and human and economic resources. But why is this even necessary? The reason is that Quechua and Aymara are considered endangered languages, despite their apparently high populations of speakers. To understand this paradox, one must understand not only that both languages have suffered from contact with Spanish for over 500 years, but also that the linguistic diversity within the languages themselves may contribute to their decline. Quechua, for example, is divided into two linguistic branches. Quechua I, or Central Quechua, is found in the central part of Peru. Quechua II, or Southern/Northern Quechua, intriguingly, surrounds Quechua I to the north and south of Peru. Cerrón-Palomino (1987), Parker (1963), and Torero (1964, 1974) have each independently distinguished more than 20 different dialects divided between the two linguistic branches. These dialectal differences have served over time to lead many Quechua speakers to observe speakers of other dialects with suspicion or disdain. This intra-Quechua prejudice has led to a decline in the use of less widely spoken or prestigious varieties, and has served to hinder status planning for Quechua as a whole. The other major factor in the endangerment of Quechua and Aymara is their contact with Spanish. Given the dominance of Spanish and colonial efforts to impose this language on the Andean natives, countless indigenous languages have already become extinct. I contend, however, that with careful language planning, Quechua and Aymara do not need to become casualties too. Language planning is typically divided into three subcategories: status, corpus, and acquisition planning. Essentially, status planning deals with the functional domains of a language or variety within a given society – that is, the uses to which the speakers put the language. Corpus planning, for its part, focuses on the form of the language: codifying, standardizing, or otherwise changing the lexicon, the writing system, or discourse. Finally, acquisition planning concerns the users of a language; its most common ultimate goal is to increase the number of speakers, and generally involves education in some way.