Monday, October 12, 2015

Early Peruvian Languages-Part I

The Andes rank among earth’s rare independent beginnings of agriculture and cradles of pristine civilization, a chapter of undeniable significance in the wider story of Western Hemispheric humanity. And it is no coincidence that the region is home also to what by number of speakers counts as our greatest surviving link to the speech of the Americas before European conquest—the Quechua language family. 
Two Native American Languages of South America predominate the Andean area today, Quechua and Aymara. Some linguists believe that because speakers of Aymara and Quechua have had a great deal of contact with each other over the millennia, all over the Andes from central Peru southwards to Bolivia, that their languages have influenced each other very strongly. While some professionals believe the two languages are not really related, one can see so many similarities that if the truth were known, more than two thousand years ago these two languages may well have been more closely connected than we know—in fact, Paul Heggerty and David Beresford-Jones, in “Not the Incas? Weaving Archaeology and Language into a Single New Prehistory,” (British Academy Review, Issue 12, January 2009, the British Academy, London, England) claim just the opposite.
    One of the problems facing a better understanding of the ancient language(s) of Andean Peru is the fact that archaeologists and anthropologists as well as linguists of the past have viewed the development of this land in isolation—that is, as groups of people disconnected from one another. Add to this a lack of effort over the years of these professional disciplines to work together to achieve a single past for Andean Peru,  and you have everyone going off in their own direction, with every new city being discovered as having nothing to do with any other ancient culture already discovered—each discovery claiming to be the oldest city in the Americas, as though the idea of such a past was foreign to such effort.
    Only recently has a group called the Cambridge Symposium on Archaeology and Linguistics in the Andes, a series of cross-disciplinary symposia and edited volumes, both a non-Church and non-BYU driven archaeological effort to unite and found a more accurate understanding of the singular development of Andean Peru, which is part of the Archaeology and McDonald Institute of the University of Cambridge, has undertaken a herculean effort to achieve results before the “archaeological and linguistic records are progressively and irrecoverably destroyed.”
    For those, especially archaeologists, who have long held that Quechua was not an overall Andean language, work is now showing that where the original Quechua homeland lay, it has long been shown that Quechua had spread widely across central and southern Peru many centuries before the Incas first rose out of obscurity. While it was either the language the Inca knew, or adopted, is unclear, but certainly it was the lingua franca of the Andes long before the Inca. In fact, Spanish chronicles also report a ‘secret language’ of the Inca nobility, citing a few verses that clearly betray their non-Quechua origins. The Inca heartland itself, meanwhile, is dotted with place names that seem not Quechua but Aymara; and the river Vilcanota flowing past Ollantaytambo, and even Cuzco itself (the ‘owl [stone]’, etymology seems quite unfounded.
This, then, brings us on to a second widely-held misconception, surrounding that other great linguistic survivor in the Andes—the Aymara language. Today, Aymara is spoken in regions centred on Lake Titicaca, and across much of the ancient realm of Tiyawanaku (Tiahuanaco), whose ruins stand near its southern, Bolivian shore. But again, it is all too easy to be beguiled by the apparent co-incidences between modern language geography and the extent of an ancient material culture. For the language data turn out to betray Aymara’s spread here as too recent to be compatible with the millennium or more that has elapsed since Tiyawanaku fell. Within its modern Altiplano heartland, Aymara exhibits such limited variation that linguists feel confident that its expansion there is of relatively recent date.
    In addition, Moreover, place name studies and early Spanish colonial reports attest that Aymara was once spoken widely across many other regions in forms now lost to us, and suggest that its expansion across the region predates that of its now larger partner in Andean linguistic domination, Quechua. To this day, forms of ‘Central Aymara’ (Jaqaru/Kawki) are still spoken in scattered pockets in the highlands inland from Lima, some 495 miles north of Titicaca. The widespread association between Tiyawanaku and Aymara fails to explain any of this historical and toponymic evidence for Aymara’s former wide presence across southern Peru. Nor can it account for the very deep and intimate associations between the Quechua and Aymara language families.
    There seems no question that the Lamanites and Nephites came into this Land of Promise both speaking Hebrew, having come from the area where their father “dwelt all his days at Jerusalem” (1 Nephi 1:4). Thus, other than the Lamanites—that is the Lamanites, Lemuelites and Ishmaelites (Jacob 1:13)—breaking away to become a people Jacob called “filthy and cursed” (Jacob 3:5), or Enos referred to as “their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a bloodthirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us” (Enos 1:20).
    Even more, the Lamanites “swore in their wrath that, if it were possible, they would destroy our records and us, and also all the traditions of our fathers” (Enos 1:14). Obviously, it was the desire of the Lamanites to rid the entire land of everything and anything Nephite.  Before this edict was first established, however, the two spoke and wrote the same language, though the latter was first to be lost among the Lamanites, and the spoken language itself changed until the two could not be understood by the time of Amulon, when king Laman had the language of Nephi taught among all of the Lamaniotes (Mosiah 24:4) in the lands of Shemlon, Shilom and Amulon.
    These teachers taught the Lamanites to keep records, and that they might write one another, and thus “the Lamanites began to increase in riches, and began to trade one with another and wax great, and began to be a cunning and a wise people, as to the wisdom of the world, yea, a very cunning people, delighting in all manner of wickedness and plunder, except it were among their own brethren” (Mosiah 24:7).
    This was obviously necessary, for by the time of this event, around 145 to 123 B.C., or after some 435 years of separation, one people from the other, the Hebrew or language of the Lamanite had become so corrupted that the Nephites, also speaking Hebrew, could not understand them. This is no different than the Mulekites who, around 200 B.C., after 400 years separation from Jerusalem, could not be understood in their language by the Nephites who also spoke Hebrew.
Using the Andean model, the southern highlands would be (Yellow Arrow) from Cuzco to Lake Titicaca and Tiahuanaco (southern Peru and western Bolivia), while the Nephites were (White Arrow) north of there, in the central highlands and coastal regions. The Quechua language began in the Central Highlands and along the coasts, while Aymara was spoken in the Southern Highlands. This shows that the Quechua language began in the land occupied by the Nephites while Aymara was in the area occupied by the Lamanites
(See the next post, “Early Peruvian Languages-Part II,” for more information about these early languages and how they fit in with the scriptural record)

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