Southern Quechua

Southern Quechua (Quechua: Urin qichwa, Spanish: quechua sureño), or simply Quechua (Qichwa or Qhichwa), is the most widely spoken of the major regional groupings of mutually intelligible dialects within the Quechua language family, with about 6.9 million speakers. It is also the most widely spoken indigenous language in the entire New World. The term Southern Quechua refers to the Quechuan varieties spoken in regions of the Andes south of a line roughly east–west between the cities of Huancayo and Huancavelica in central Peru. It includes the Quechua varieties spoken in the regions of Ayacucho, Cusco and Puno in Peru, in much of Bolivia and parts of north-west Argentina. The most widely spoken varieties are Cusco, Ayacucho, Puno (Collao), and South Bolivian.

Southern Quechua
Native toPeru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile
EthnicityQuechua, Qulla
Native speakers
(6 million cited 1987–2002)[1]
  • Quechua II
    • Southern Quechua
Latin script
Official status
Regulated bynone (Academia Mayor de la Lengua Quechua)
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
qwc  Classical Quechua
quy  Ayacucho Quechua
qxu  Arequipa-La Unión Quechua
quz  Cusco Quechua
qve  Eastern Apurímac Quechua
qxp  Puno Quechua (Collao)
qul  North Bolivian Quechua (Apolo)
quh  South Bolivian Quechua
cqu  Chilean Quechua
qus  Santiagueño Quechua
Distribution of Quechua sub-groups. Southern Quechua is shown in blue.

In the traditional classification of the Quechua language family by Alfredo Torero, Southern Quechua is equivalent to Torero's 'Quechua IIc' (or just 'QIIc'). It thus stands in contrast to its many sister varieties within the wider Quechuan family that are spoken in areas north of the Huancayo-Huancavelica line: Central Quechua (Torero's QI) spoken from Huancayo northwards to the Ancash Region; North Peruvian Quechua around Cajamarca and Incahuasi (Torero's IIa); and Kichwa (part of Torero's Quechua IIb).


Dialects are Ayacucho Quechua, Cusco Quechua, Puno Quechua (Collao Quechua), North Bolivian Quechua (Apolo Quechua), and South Bolivian Quechua. Santiagueño Quechua in Argentina is divergent, and appears to derive from a mix of dialects, including South Bolivian.[3]

The most salient distinction between Ayacucho Quechua and the others is that it lacks the aspirated (tʃʰ, pʰ, tʰ, kʰ, qʰ) and ejective (tʃʼ, pʼ, tʼ, kʼ, qʼ) series of stop consonants. The other varieties of Bolivia and Southern Peru taken together have been called Cusco–Collao Quechua (or "Qusqu–Qullaw"); however, they are not monolithic. For instance, Bolivian Quechua is morphologically distinct from Cusco and Ayacucho Quechua, while North Bolivian is phonologically quite conservative compared to both South Bolivian and Cusco so there is no bifurcation between Ayacucho and Cusco–Collao.

Santiagueño also lacks the aspirated and ejective series, but it was a distinct development in Argentina. It also maintains remnants of the Quechua s–š distinction, which has otherwise been lost from Southern Quechua, which suggests other varieties of Quechua in its background.

Standard Quechua

The Peruvian linguist Rodolfo Cerrón Palomino has devised a standard orthography intended to be viable for all the different regional forms of Quechua that fall under the umbrella term Southern Quechua. It is a compromise of conservative features in the pronunciations of the various regions that speak forms of Southern Quechua. It has been accepted by many institutions in Peru and Bolivia and is also used on Wikipedia Quechua pages, and by Microsoft in its translations of software into Quechua.

Here are some examples of regional spellings different from the standard orthography:

Ayacucho Cuzco Standard Translation
upyay uhay upyay "to drink"
llamkay llank'ay llamk'ay "to work"
ñuqanchik nuqanchis ñuqanchik "we (inclusive)"
-chka- -sha- -chka- (progressive suffix)
punchaw p'unchay p'unchaw "day"

In Bolivia, the same standard is used except for "j", which is used instead of "h" for the sound [h] (like in Spanish).

The following letters are used for the inherited Quechua vocabulary and for loanwords from Aymara:
a, ch, chh, ch', h, i, k, kh, k', l, ll, m, n, ñ, p, ph, p', q, qh, q', r, s, t, th, t', u, w, y.

Instead of "sh" (appearing in the northern and central Quechua varieties), "s" is used.
Instead of "ĉ" (appearing in the Quechua varieties of Junín, Cajamarca, and Lambayeque), "ch" is used.

The following letters are used in loanwords from Spanish and other languages (not from Aymara):
b, d, e, f, g, o.

The letters e and o are not used for native Quechua words because the corresponding sounds are simply allophones of i and u that appear predictably next to q, qh, and q'. This rule applies to the official Quechua orthography for all varieties. Thus, the spellings qu and qi are pronounced [qo] and [qe].

The letters appear, however, in proper names or words adopted directly from Spanish:
c, v, x, z; j (in Peru; in Bolivia, it is used instead of h).

See also


  • Rodolfo Cerrón-Palomino (1994). Quechua sureño, diccionario unificado quechua–castellano, castellano–quechua [Southern Quechua, Quechua–Spanish, Spanish–Quechua Unified Dictionary]. Lima, Biblioteca Nacional del Perú.
  • Óscar Chávez Gonzales (2017). Urin Qichwa. Siminchik allin qillqanapaq: chankakunapaq qullawkunapaqwan. Lima, Editorial Textos. 72 pp., ISBN 9786124686832
  • César Itier (2017). Diccionario Quechua Sureño - Castellano. Lima, Editorial Commentarios. 303 pp., 3900 entries, ISBN 9789972947094


  1. Classical Quechua at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Ayacucho Quechua at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Arequipa-La Unión Quechua at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Cusco Quechua at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Eastern Apurímac Quechua at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Puno Quechua (Collao) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    (Additional references under 'Language codes' in the information box)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Quechua IIC". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Adelaar (2004)
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