With approximately 8-9 million speakers, Quechua is the largest surviving indigenous language in the Americas.
It originated in Peru with the Incas, and then due to trade relationships, it spread north to southern Columbia and south to northern Argentina. Quechua is mostly spoken in Peru and Bolivia where it has joined official status with Spanish.
When the Spanish first arrived in the 1500s, Quechua was such an important language that it continued to be widely used. It was officially recognised by the Spanish administration, and Spanish officials learnt it to communicate with the locals.
However, in the 18th century, Quechua was banned as an administrative and religious language, and its use declined. In the 19th century it was reinstated, but by this time the damage had been done and Quechua was no longer seen as a prestigious language. Quechua was made an official language in Peru in 1975, but Spanish is still seen as the language of economic advancement.
Related posts: P is for Proto Indo European R is for……
Proto-Indo-European is the common ancestor of many of the India and European languages spoken today. Little is known about it, because it wasn’t a written language, but linguists have traced languages backwards, using their knowledge of how languages evolve, to reconstruct what PIE probably sounded like.
Because there are no written records, nobody even knows for sure how long ago it was spoken, or where it originated, but the theory is that it dates back to between 5000 and 2500 BC and that the speakers lived around the Black Sea area. From there they probably migrated across Europe and Asia and the language evolved in different ways to the languages we speak today.
I came across this article a while back and found it fascinating. Have a look and listen to what Proto-Indo-European was probably like! Telling Tales in Proto-Indo-European – Archaeology Magazine.
Related posts: O is for Ojibwe Q is for Quechua
Ojibwe, also known as Chippewa, belongs to the Algonquin family of languages. Spoken in Southern Canada and northern USA, it is made up of several dialects which are mutually intelligible. It is known by the Ojibwe people as Anashinabe.
It is classified by UNESCO as critically endangered, which means that the speakers are mostly older generations (grandparents and above) who speak the language infrequently. Despite this, it is possibly the least endangered of the indigenous North American languages, and there are efforts being made to revive the language, such as immersion centres.
There is no common writing system across the dialects, but a few different ones have been devised using the Latin alphabet.
The word order is verb-object-subject or verb-subject-object.
Related posts: N is for Norwegian P is for Proto-Indo-European
Most people don’t realise this, but Norwegian is actually two languages not one! Both are official languages of the country.
Bokmål is the most common with 80 to 95% of the population speaking this as their first language. It is based on Danish but with a Norwegian flavour, and stems from when Norway was ruled by Denmark, with Danish being the language of the elite, used in courts and for other administrative purposes. Bokmål, which means “book language”, has evolved separately from Danish, and although they are mutually intelligible, they are two separate languages now.
Nynorsk (new Norwegian) is the language spoken by the remainder of the population. This language is based on the way the rural population spoke rather than how the ruling classes spoke.
The two languages together have about 5 million speakers. Both languages are taught in school, but students can choose which one they specialise in. An idea was put forward in the past to unify the two languages to create one Norwegian language, but it never really took off.
If you fancy leaning a little Norwegian, try this free course from FutureLearn.
Related posts: M is for Maori O is for Ojibwe
Maori belongs to the Eastern Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family. It is spoken by the Maori (the indigenous people of New Zealand) and has been an official language of New Zealand since 1987. Until the late 18th century it was the only language, closely related to Tahitian and Hawai’ian.
After the arrival of British settlers in New Zealand, English became the dominant language and only English was allowed to be spoken in school. Children who spoke Maori were punished. By the 1980s only about 20% of the Maori people spoke Te Reo as the language is known in Maori. Te Reo (short for Te Reo Maori) means “the language”.
From the 1980s there have been efforts to save the language from extinction, but it is still vulnerable and appears on the UNESCO endangered languages list.
One of the ways to protect the language was the setting up of “language nests” known as Kohanga Reo which is an immersion program for pre-school children where they socialise with older generations who are fluent speakers.
If you’d like to find out more about Maori and few words, there’s an interesting free course at Open2Study. You may also like this list of words.
Related posts: L is for Latvian and Lithuanian N is for……