The Puquina and Leko languages

Willem Adelaar & Simon van de Kerke
(Leiden University, The Netherlands)

It is highly likely that already before the Spanish conquest Pukina was a language under strong pressure from both Quechua and Aymara, but it had enough prestige to be chosen as one of the ‘lenguas generales’. For that reason, religious texts have been translated in Pukina, which ended up in the Ore manuscript from 1607, the only source on the language (Torero 1965, 2002).

Apart from these texts, we have the Kallawaya language, used by herb doctors as a secret language. It is a mixed language, based on Pukina lexicon and Quechua morphology. The Kallawayas live(d) in what was probably one of the last strongholds of the Pukinas in Bolivia: the high plateau of the Northern La Paz department, an area that overlooks the pie de monte area where, among other montaña groups, the Lekos live(d).

Apart from some small wordlists, the only relevant source on Leko was a religious text from the beginning of the 19th century. Recent fieldwork has provided us with more data on this dying language. Given the highland-lowland contact that is a general Andean characteristic, contact between Pukina and Leko speaking groups is almost a certainty.

Within in a larger research project that will examine whether these languages have more in common than some lexical and morphological elements, we started to reanalyze the Ore document. In this paper we will report on our latest findings that range from a strong Quechua bias in the production of the text, Pukina’s supposed genetic link with Arawak, and some reflexions on the contact between Pukina and Leko.

(Symposium 'Advances in Native South American Historical Linguistics', 52nd International Congress of Americanists, 18/jul/2006)

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