Aymara language

Aymara language

Infobox Language
name = Aymara
nativename = Aymar aru
states = Bolivia, Peru and Chile.
speakers = 2,227,642 speakers of Aymara.
familycolor = American
fam1 = Aymaran
iso1=ay |iso2=aym
lc1=aym |ld1=Aymara (generic) |ll1=none
lc2=ayr |ld2=Central Aymara |ll2=none
lc3=ayc |ld3=Southern Aymara |ll3=none

Aymara ("Aymar aru") is an Aymaran language spoken by the Aymara people of the Andes. It is one of only a handful of Native American languages with over a million speakers.cite web |title=Bolivia: Idioma Materno de la Población de 4 años de edad y más- UBICACIÓN, ÁREA GEOGRÁFICA, SEXO Y EDAD |work=2001 Bolivian Census |publisher=Instituto Nacional de Estadística, La Paz — Bolivia |url=http://www.ine.gov.bo/BEYOND/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=993] The other native American languages with more than one million speakers are: Nahuatl, Quechua, and Guaraní. ] Aymara, along with Quechua and Spanish, is an official language of Peru and Bolivia. It is also spoken to a much lesser extent in Chile and in Northwest Argentina.

Some linguists have claimed that Aymara is related to its more widely-spoken neighbour, Quechua. This claim, however, is disputed — although there are indeed similarities such as the nearly identical phonologies, the majority position among linguists today is that these similarities are better explained as areal features resulting from prolonged interaction between the two languages, and that they are not demonstrably related.

The Aymara language is an agglutinating and to a certain extent polysynthetic language, and has a subject-object-verb word order.


The old suggestion that the word "Aymara" comes from the Aymara words "jaya" (ancient) and "mara" (year, time) is almost certainly a quite mistaken folk etymology. Many linguists now favor the theory that the term came from an ethnic group from the Apurimac region known as the "Aymaraes", but the etymology remains unclear. A full discussion of the possible origins of the word can be found in the book "Lingüística Aimara" by the respected Peruvian linguist Rodolfo Cerrón-Palomino. [Rodolfo Cerron-Palomino, "Lingüística Aimara", Centro de Estudios Regionales Andinos “Bartolomé de las Casas”, Lima, 2000, pp 34-6.]



Aymara has three phoneme vowels IPA|/a i u/, which distinguish two degrees of length. The high vowels are lowered to mid height before uvular consonants (IPA|/i/IPA| [e] , IPA|/u/IPA| [o] ).


As for the consonants, Aymara has phonemic stops at the labial, alveolar, palatal, velar and uvular points of articulation. Stops show no distinction of voice (e.g. there is no phonemic contrast between IPA| [p] and IPA| [b] ), but each stop has three forms: plain (unaspirated), glottalized, and aspirated. Aymara also has a trilled IPA|/r/, and an alveolar/palatal contrast for nasals and laterals, as well as two semivowels (IPA|/w/ and IPA|/j/).


Stress is usually on the penult (the syllable before the last one), but long vowels may shift it.

Geographical distribution

There are more than 2.5 million Bolivian speakers, 420,000 Peruvian speakers and 15,000 Chilean speakers. [Cerron-Palomino, 2000, pp 68-70.] At the time of the Spanish conquest, in the sixteenth century, Aymara was the dominant language over a much larger area than today, including most of highland Peru south of Cuzco. Over the centuries Aymara has gradually lost speakers both to Spanish and to Quechua; today, many Peruvian and Bolivian communities which were once Aymara-speaking speak Quechua. [Xavier Albó, "Andean People in the Twentieth Century," in "The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas. Vol. III: South America", ed. Frank Salomon and Stuart B. Schwartz (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 765-871.]


There is some degree of regional variation within the Aymara language, although all the dialects are mutually intelligible. [SIL's [http://www.ethnologue.com Ethnologue.com] and the ISO designate a [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=ayc Central Aymara] dialect found in between Lake Titicaca and the Pacific Coast in southern Peru and a [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=ayr Southern Aymara] dialect found in western Bolivia and northeast Chile. These classifications, however, are not based upon academic research and are probably a misinterpretation of Cerron-Palomino's classification of the language family.] Most study of the language has focused on either the Aymara spoken on the southern Peruvian shore of Lake Titicaca or the Aymara spoken around La Paz. Lucy Therina Briggs classifies both of these regions as being part of the Northern Aymara dialect, which encompasses the department of La Paz in Bolivia and the department of Puno in Peru. The Southern Aymara dialect is spoken in the eastern half of the Iquique province in northern Chile and in most of the Bolivian department of Oruro. It is also found in northern Potosí and southwest Cochabamba, but it is slowly being replaced by Quechua in those regions. Intermediate Aymara shares dialectical features with both Northern and Southern Aymara and is found in the eastern half of the Tacna and Moquegua departments in southwest Peru and in the northeastern tip of Chile. [Lucy Therina Briggs, "Dialectal Variation in the Aymara Language of Bolivia and Peru", Dissertation, University of Florida, Gainesville, 1976; Adalberto Salas and María Teresa Poblete, "El aimara de Chile (fonología, textos, léxico)", "Revista de Filoogía y Linüistica de la Universidad de Costa Rica", Vol XXIII: 1, pp 121-203, 2, pp 95-138; Cerron-Palomino, 2000, pp 65-8, 373.] .

The wider language family

It is often assumed that the Aymara language descends from the language spoken in Tiwanaku, on the grounds that it is the native language of that area today. This is very far from certain, however, and most specialists now incline to the idea that Aymara only expanded into the Tiwanaku area rather late, as it spread southwards from an original homeland more likely to have been in Central Peru. Aymara placenames are found all the way north into central Peru, and indeed (Altiplano) Aymara is actually but one of the two extant languages of a wider language family, the other surviving representative being Jaqaru/Kawki.

This family was established by the research of Martha James Hardman de Bautista of the Program in Linguistics at the University of Florida. Jaqaru [jaqi aru = human language] and Kawki communities are in the district of Tupe, Yauyos Valley, in the Dept. of Lima, in central Peru. Jaqaru has approximately 2,000 native speakers, nearly all Spanish bilinguals. Kawki is spoken in a neighboring community by a very small number of mostly elderly individuals and is a dying language. It was originally proposed by Dr Hardman that Jaqaru and Kawki should be classified as languages quite distinct from each other, but other more recent research classifies them as two very closely related varieties of the same mutually intelligible language.

Terminology for this wider language family is not yet well established. Dr Hardman has proposed the name 'Jaqi' ('human'), while other widely respected Peruvian linguists have proposed alternative names for the same language family. Alfredo Torero uses the term 'Aru' ('speech'); Rodolfo Cerrón-Palomino, meanwhile, has proposed that the term 'Aymara' should be used for the whole family, distinguished into two branches, Southern (or Altiplano) Aymara and Central Aymara (i.e. Jaqaru and Kawki). Each of these three proposals has its followers in Andean linguistics. In English usage, some linguists use the term Aymaran for the family, reserving 'Aymara' for the Altiplano branch.

Unique features

The language has attracted interest because it is based on a three value logic system,Fact|date=November 2007 and thus supposedly has better expressiveness than many other languages based on binary logic.

It is cited by the author Umberto Eco in "The Search for the Perfect Language" as a language of immense flexibility, capable of accommodating many neologisms. Ludovico Bertonio published "Arte de la lengua aymara" in 1603. He remarked that the language was particularly useful for expressing abstract concepts. In 1860 Emeterio Villamil de Rada suggested it was "the language of Adam" ("la lengua de Adán"). Guzmán de Rojas has suggested that it be used as an intermediary language for computerised translation.

Linguistic and gestural analysis by Núñez and Sweetser also assert that the Aymara have an apparently unique, or at least very rare, understanding of time, and is, besides Quechua, one of very few languages where speakers seem to represent the past as in front of them and the future as behind them. Their argument is situated mainly within the framework of conceptual metaphor, which recognizes in general two subtypes of the metaphor THE PASSAGE OF TIME IS MOTION: one is TIME PASSING IS MOTION OVER A LANDSCAPE (or "moving-ego"), and the other is TIME PASSING IS A MOVING OBJECT ("moving-events"). The latter metaphor does not explicitly involve the individual/speaker; events are in a queue, with prior events towards the front of the line. The individual may be facing the queue, or it may be moving from left to right in front of him/her.

The claims regarding Aymara involve the moving-ego metaphor. Most languages conceptualize the ego as moving forward into the future, with ego's back to the past. The English sentences "prepare for what lies before us" and "we are facing a prosperous future", and possibly the Chinese word (lit. not yet come, meaning "future") exemplify this metaphor. In contrast, Aymara seems to encode the past as in front of individuals, and the future in back; this is typologically a rare phenomenon.

Many languages, including English and Chinese, have words like "before"/ and "after"/ that are (currently or archaically) polysemous between 'front/earlier' or 'back/later'. This seemingly refutes the claims regarding Aymara uniqueness. However, these words relate events to other events, i.e., are part of the moving-events metaphor. In fact, when "before" means "in front of ego", it can only mean "future". For instance, "our future is laid out before us" while "our past is behind us". Parallel Aymara examples describe future days as "qhipa uru", literally 'back days', and these are sometimes accompanied by gestures to behind the speaker. The same applies to Quechua speakers, whose expression "qhipa p'unchaw" corresponds directly to Aymara "qhipa uru".


There is increasing use of Aymara locally and there are increased numbers learning the language, both Bolivian and abroad. There are even projects to offer Aymara through the internet, such as by [http://www.ilcanet.org/ciberaymara ILCA] .



*Núñez, R., & Sweetser, E. " [http://www.cogsci.ucsd.edu/~nunez/web/NSaymaraproofs.pdf With the Future Behind Them : Convergent Evidence From Aymara Language and Gesture in the Crosslinguistic Comparison of Spatial Construals of Time.] " Cognitive Science, 30(3), 1-49.

Further reading

* Gifford, Douglas. "Time Metaphors in Aymara and Quechua". St. Andrews: University of St. Andrews, 1986.
* Guzmán de Rojas, Iván. "Logical and Linguistic Problems of Social Communication with the Aymara People". Manuscript report / International Development Research Centre, 66e. [Ottawa] : International Development Research Centre, 1985.
* Hardman, Martha James. "The Aymara Language in Its Social and Cultural Context: A Collection Essays on Aspects of Aymara Language and Culture". Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1981. ISBN 0813006953
* Hardman, Martha James, Juana Vásquez, and Juan de Dios Yapita. "Aymara Grammatical Sketch: To Be Used with Aymar Ar Yatiqañataki". Gainesville, Fla: Aymara Language Materials Project, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Florida, 1971.
*Hardman, Martha James. [http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/UFDC/?c=jaqi Primary research materials online as full-text in the University of Florida's Digital Collections,] on [http://grove.ufl.edu/~hardman/ Dr. Hardman's website] , and [http://www.latam.ufl.edu/hardman/aymara/AYMARA.html learning Aymara resources by Dr. Hardman] .

ee also

* Indigenous languages of the Americas
* Classification schemes for indigenous languages of the Americas
* Mesoamerican languages
* Language families and languages
* Classification of indigenous peoples of the Americas
* Indigenous peoples of the Americas
* (division into geocultural areas)
* Languages of Peru
* List of Spanish words of Indigenous American Indian origin

External links

* [http://www.ilcanet.org/publicaciones/pdf_compendio.html Aymara - Compendio de Estrutura Fonológica y Gramatical] , 20 downloadable PDF files es icon
* [http://www.aymara.org www.aymara.org] An extensive website about the language in English, Spanish and Aymara.
* [http://www.quechua.org.uk/Sounds The Sounds of the Andean Languages] listen online to pronunciations of Aymara words, see photos of speakers and their home regions, learn about the origins and varieties of Aymara.
* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=ayr Ethnologue reports for Aymara]
* [http://ay.enciclopedia.org Encyclopedy in Aymara]
* [http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/Aymara-english/ Aymara - English Dictionary] : from [http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org Webster's Online Dictionary] , the Rosetta Edition.
* [http://www.cbc.ca/story/science/national/2006/06/12/language-time.html Andean language looks back to the future] - article on Aymara's reversed concept of time, with the past ahead and the future behind
* [http://achacachi.tripod.com/ay/index.htm JACH'AK'ACHI. Patpatankiri markana kont’awipa] An aymara page dedicated to this city in aymara language.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Aymará — • Tribe of sedentary Indians inhabiting the northern sections of Bolivia Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Aymara     Aymará     † …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Aymará — Aymara Aymara aymar aru Parlée au  Pérou,  Bolivie …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Aymara ethnic group — Infobox Ethnic group group=Aymara poptime=1.6 million [http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/06/photogalleries/wip week34/photo5.html Tiawanaku, Bolivia, June 20, 2007] National Geographic] popplace=Bolivia (1.2 million) [http://www.aymara …   Wikipedia

  • Aymara — La sauvegarde du patrimoine culturel immatériel des communautés Aymara de la Bolivie, du Chili et du Pérou * …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Language planning — This article is about the field of language planning and policy. See Constructed language for details on the creation of planned or artificial languages. Language planning is a deliberate effort to influence the function, structure, or… …   Wikipedia

  • Aymara — [ī΄mə rä′] n. [AmSp, prob. < Quechua ] 1. pl. Aymaras or Aymara a member of a South American Indian people living mainly in Bolivia and Peru and believed to have been the builders of a great ancient culture that was later supplanted by that of …   English World dictionary

  • Aymara — Aymaran, adj. /uy mah rah /, n., pl. Aymaras, (esp. collectively) Aymara for 1. 1. a member of an Indian people living in the mountainous regions around Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and Peru. 2. the language of the Aymara people. [1855 60] * * *… …   Universalium

  • Aymara — noun (plural Aymara or Aymaras) Etymology: Spanish aymará Date: 1842 1. a member of an Indian people of Bolivia, Peru, and northern Chile 2. the language of the Aymara people …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Aymara — ISO 639 3 Code : aym ISO 639 2/B Code : aym ISO 639 2/T Code : aym ISO 639 1 Code : ay Scope : Macrolanguage Language Type : Living Individual languages : Identifier : ayc Name: Southern Aymara Individual languages : Identifier : ayr Name:… …   Names of Languages ISO 639-3

  • Aymara — /aɪməˈra/ (say uymuh rah) noun 1. an indigenous people of Bolivia and Peru, in the Lake Titicaca area. 2. (plural Aymara or Aymaras) a member of this people. 3. the language spoken by this people. Also, Aymará. –Aymaran /aɪməˈræn/ (say uymuh ran) …   Australian English dictionary