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About Quichua (Kichwa) Language

Kichwa (Kichwa shimi, Runashimi, also Spanish Quichua) is a Quechuan language including all Quechua varieties spoken in Ecuador and Colombia (Inga) by approximately 2,500,000 people. Kichwa belongs to the Northern Quechua group of Quechua II (according to Alfredo Torero).

Kichwa syntax has undergone some essential changes and therefore holds a special position within Quechua.

A unified orthography (Kichwa Unificado, Shukyachiska Kichwa) has been developed.


As in all varieties of Quechua, the words for 'brother' and 'sister' differ depending on who is using them. A woman must say ñaña for her sister and turi for her brother. On the other hand, a man must say pani for his sister and wawki for his brother. A woman reading "Ñuka wawki Pedromi kan" would therefore read aloud "Ñuka turi Pedromi kan".

According to various sources there are between eleven and fifteen different ethnic groups that live within one or another of Ecuador's geographic regions. Sources may differ, but a concensus exists that the Quichua people are the largest of any Indian group on the American continent in the world today. Their population numbers around 2.5 million.

Incas and Quichua People

Their tribal name can also be written as Quechua, Qquichua, or Kechua. Their language, Quichua, bears the same name as their tribal name. This name is believed to mean “those who speak correctly" and distinguishes the speakers from any other indigenous peoples who do not share the same language. This also may be because the Quichua language was the "official" language that the Incas used throughout their empire. The Quechua (Peruvian spelling) in Peru were among the first of the various South American tribes to be conquered by the Incas.

Conquistadors and the Quichua

During the Spanish dominion, even the Catholic missionaries used the Quichua language to convert the peoples of the fallen Inca Empire. However, it is believed that large numbers of the Quichua fled from their homeland in the mountains down to the coast or into the jungle during the Spanish conquest. As a result of the dispersal due to the conquistadors, unique tribal customs and identities developed according to their patterns of life pursued in the mountains and those that emerged within the jungle.

Tragically, after the Spanish expansion into the region, millions of the Quichua died due to the diseases brought by the European conquerers. In 1580, an official census numbered the Incan inhabitants with a population of 8,280,000 people with the Quichua the most numerous indigenous people in the Inca Empire. But, over 250 years later, in 1839, the Quichua population was only 1,393,000 people and that figure would also included individuals from unions between the Spanish and the Indian peoples.

Quichua in the 21st Century

Today, the Quichua population has bounced back and is once again the largest homogenous population (around 12.5 million) of Indian peoples in South, Central, and North America. It my be the largest in the world. The Quichua make up the majority of the rural populations of Ecuador and Peru and their farming techniques have endured into the 21st century. They adapted to the demanding conditions of the Andes. They actually utilize sophisticated irrigation systems to water their crops. They also carried their knowledge and special plants from the highlands to the jungle.


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