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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. 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" 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 Linguistica Aimara by the respected Peruvian linguist Rodolfo Cerron-Palomino.Rodolfo Cerron-Palomino, Linguistica Aimara, Centro de Estudios Regionales Andinos Bartolome de las Casas, Lima, 2000, pp 34-6.
Aymara has three phoneme vowels , which distinguish two degrees of length. The high vowels are lowered to mid height before uvular consonants .
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 and ), but each stop has three forms: plain (unaspirated), glottalized, and aspirated. Aymara also has a trilled , and an alveolar/palatal contrast for nasals and laterals, as well as two semivowels ( and ).
Stress is usually on the penult (the syllable before the last one), but long vowels may shift it. Also, the final vowel of words is elided except at the end of a phrase, but the stress remains on its original syllable.
There are roughly two million Bolivian speakers, half a million Peruvian speakers, and perhaps a few thousand speakers in Chile and Argentina. 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; many Peruvian and Bolivian communities which were once Aymara-speaking now speak Quechua.Xavier Albo, "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 , 765-871.
There is some degree of regional variation within the Aymara language, although all the dialects are mutually intelligible. 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 Potosi 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 southern 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 Maria Teresa Poblete, "El aimara de Chile ", Revista de Filologia y Linguistica de la Universidad de Costa Rica, Vol XXIII: 1, pp 121-203, 2, pp 95-138; Cerron-Palomino, 2000, pp 65-8, 373..
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 Cerron-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.
Linguistic and gestural analysis by Nunez and Sweetser also asserts that the Aymara have an apparently unique, or at least very rare, understanding of time, and Aymara is, with 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 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'unchawcorresponds directly to Aymara qhipa uru. Possibly, the metaphor is that the past is visible to us (in front of our eyes), while the future is not.
References in literature
It is cited by the author Umberto Eco in The Search for the Perfect Languageas a language of immense flexibility, capable of accommodating many neologisms. Ludovico Bertonio published Arte de la lengua aymarain 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 Adan). Ivan Guzman de Rojas has suggested that it be used as an intermediary language for computerised translation.
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 ILCA.
Nunez, R., & Sweetser, E. 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.
Gifford, Douglas. Time Metaphors in Aymara and Quechua. St. Andrews: University of St. Andrews, 1986.
Guzman de Rojas, Ivan. 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 Vasquez, and Juan de Dios Yapita. Aymara Grammatical Sketch: To Be Used with Aymar Ar Yatiqanataki''. Gainesville, Fla: Aymara Language Materials Project, Dept. of Anthropology, University of Florida, 1971.
Hardman, Martha James. Primary research materials online as full-text in the University of Florida's Digital Collections, on Dr. Hardman's website, and learning Aymara resources by Dr. Hardman.
Indigenous languages of the Americas
Classification schemes for indigenous languages of the Americas
Language families and languages
Classification of indigenous peoples of the Americas
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
[[:Category:Indigenous languages of the Americas]] (division into geocultural areas)
Languages of Peru
List of Spanish words of Indigenous American Indian origin
www.aymara.org An extensive website about the language in English, Spanish and Aymara.
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.
Ethnologue reports for Aymara
Encyclopedy in Aymara
Aymara - English Dictionary: from Webster's Online Dictionary, the Rosetta Edition.
Andean language looks back to the future - article on Aymara's reversed concept of time, with the past ahead and the future behind
JACH'AK'ACHI. Patpatankiri markana kontawipa An aymara page dedicated to this city in aymara language.
Aymara - Compendio de Estrutura Fonologica y Gramatical, 20 downloadable PDF files
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