A taste of Quechua


Photo: Ausangate viewed from Ccotatóclla

I will be back to visit Ccotatóclla but not necessarily to live for as long as I did this year.
Every time I smell wood smoke I remember the hearth of Elena and Ignacio’s home. Here is a handful of the sentences I said to them in that room:
Susanpa ayllun
Sutiyuqmi Susan. Taytaypa sutinmi Charles. Mamaypa sutintaq Nadine. Kimsa ñañaturayuqmi kani, ñuqawan tawan kayku: iskay warmi, iskay qhari. Judith, Thomas, Susan, Andrew. Qusaypa sutinmi Josh. Ñuqaykuqa isaky wawayuqmi kayku: huk warmi, huk qhari. Paykunan Sylvie, Jacob ima.
Susan’s family
My name is Susan. My father’s name is Charles. My mother’s name is Nadine. I have three brothers and sisters; with me there are four: two women, two men. Judith, Thomas, Susan, Andres. My husband’s name is Josh. We have two children, one girl, one boy. They are Sylvie and Jacob.

Here are some things Elena and family taught me to say:
Munay pilliminayki. – Your hair-ties are cute. (she wants me to get some for Yeny)
Munay chumpayki. – Your sweater is cute.
Mana ñachu yapata munayki? – Don’t you want more?
Wiksaymi askhata mikhuqtiyqa nanawanman. – My belly will ache from eating too much.
Mikhuchkani ciwada lawata. – I am eating barley soup.
Ayihadachay Yeny wasinpi tiyachkani. – I am living with my little goddaughter Yeny.
Ch’iqtachkan. – He is chopping wood.

In standard Cusco Quechua, mallki is tree and mallki mallki is forest; here, mallki is only a bush and sach’a is a tree; sach’a sach’a is a forest.

Quechua is an interesting language for an English speaker! It´s directionality runs backwards from ours; (like Japanese or Turkish) the subject comes first, but then come indirect objects, direct objects, and finally, the verb. There is no verb ‘to have’ but having is often marked with case markers on the noun (as in -q or –paabove.) Most sentences mark whether the information was witnessed by the speaker (as in -mi above) or reported from another source.

Quechua speakers like to tell others who are learning their language that it is an especially onomatopoetic language, meaning that many of its sounds come from nature, and an especially tender and spiritual language; there are many emotive and intensifying suffixes that relate the speaker to the hearer, and physical entities such as rocks, wind and trees are addressed as if they were feeling beings.

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