Indigenisms in Spanish

Lia Pinto

The Aymara and Quechua cultures come with their own language which are, in Bolivia, recognized as official native languages. Quechua and Aymara are ancient languages that date from well before the Spanish conquest. The languages bring with them a mass of history, wealth and a set of guiding values ​​to people's way of life. When these languages came into contact with Spanish, they contributed greatly in the formation of words that are irreplaceable today. In speaking of this contribution, reference can be made to the loan of these indigenous words that have emerged and are frequently used in modern day Spanish.

The Quechua and Aymara languages have an infinite number of terms.  Below are just a few of words that have been derived from both of these ancient languages.

If you have ever been in Western Bolivia, you have probably heard one or several of these words: llajwa (chili with ground tomato), choclo (freshly harvested corn), charqui (dried meat), chuño (dehydrated potato), lloqhalla (young boy), imilla (young girl), ch'alla (a spread of alcohol and mixtures or flowers), tata (dad), mama (mom), etc. These terms are what we call indigenisms. Words originally derived from indigenous languages but used in everyday speech within another language. It is common to hear these words used in modern Spanish in many different places, situations and moments.

When a culture, carrying its language, comes into contact with another distinct culture and language, it indefinitely marks its territory with a loan of words. We call this ‘languages ​​in contact.’ An exchange of lexis with the new language takes place and the new words are soon constituted as part of the languages accepted vocabulary.

It is important to note that to rescue these indigenous languages, in Bolivia, according to law No. 269 enacted on August 2, 2012, all public and private officials are obliged to learn one of them based on the region in which they work. [1]

In this respect, Quechua and Aymara are the most influential indigenous cultures and therefore,  their linguistic and cultural contribution must be recognized and valued in the Spanish community.




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Aymara and Quechua cultures / official native languages / Spanish / Western Bolivia / culture and language / indigenous languages