Languages of Peru
|Languages of Peru|
|Signed||Peruvian Sign Language|
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|Culture of Peru|
Peru has many languages in use. One of its official languages, Spanish, has been in the country since it began being taught in the time of José Pardo instead of the country's native languages, especially the languages in the Andes. In the beginning of the 21st century, it was estimated that in this multilingual country, about 50 very different and popular languages are spoken: there are 72 languages if dialects are considered. The majority of these languages are indigenous, but the most common language is Spanish, the main language that about 82.6% of the population speaks. Spanish is followed by the country's indigenous languages, especially all types of Quechua (13.9% combined) and Aymara (1.7%), who also have co-official status according to Article 48 of the Constitution of Peru, as well as the languages of the Amazon and the Peruvian Sign Language. In urban areas of the country, especially the coastal region, most people are monolingual and only speak Spanish, while in many rural areas of the country, especially in the Amazon, multilingual populations are prevalent.
At the political level, Spanish is the official language of Peru and, in areas where they are common, Quechua, Aymara, and some other indigenous languages are also the official language.
Number of Speakers
In Peru, there are close to 40 languages within the Amazon Rainforest which are usually grouped into 17 families and divide into close to 120 recognizable local varieties.
Population by Native Language
|Language||1993||20074 ||20175 |
|other indigenous language||132.174||0,70%||223.941||0,91%||227.405||0.63%|
Indigenous languages of Peru are primarily located in the central Andes and the Amazon rain forest. Many northern Andes languages were located along the northern coast and the northern Andes, but most of them died in the 19th century. The only native languages in the Andes that are common are Quechua, Aymara, Jaqaru, and Kawki; while in the Amazon region, there is an abundance of various native languages. In the Amazon, the most common languages are Asháninka and Aguaruna. There are more than 15 defined linguistic families in Peru's territory and another 15 or more languages that are isolated or not classified.
The actual number of languages in Peru could have exceeded 300. Some authors even say that there could have been 700 languages. However, since the conquering of Latin America by Spain and after Peru's independence, the disappearance of indigenous people (because of conquest and mixing of languages) and discrimination against indigenous languages because of white and mixed populations, as well as the Peruvian government (which imposed Spanish), led to the number of indigenous languages dropping to fewer than 150. Today the number of indigenous languages is still large, but much less than it used to be. The following list shows the languages spoken today in Peru and those that went extinct since the 20th century (shown in italics).
The indigenous languages of Peru belong to more than 15 language families, and some isolated or unclassified languages, which are extinct today (represented in the table as †), are also documented to more than 15 languages. The following list organizes more than 95 languages within existing and extinct languages:
|Classification of Indigenous Languages in Peru|
A family that is well-known demographically and historically, the north branch suffered from the expansion of Quechua, while the south branch still has many speakers today.
A small family with languages in Brazil and Peru. Some authors and scholars consider these languages related to Arawak.
This is the family with the most languages in South America.
|Southern||Southwest||Iñapari (†)||Madre de Dios|
|Mashko-Piro (†)||Madre de Dios|
|Yine||Madre de Dios, Ucayali, Loreto|
|Campa de Pajonal||Cuzco|
Some scholars question whether the Bora languages and the Huitoto languages form a single family due to the large diversity between the 2 groups.
|Chirino (†)||Amazonas, Cajamarca|
|Harákmbet||Amarakaeri||Madre de Dios|
|Huachipaeri||Madre de Dios|
|Jívaras||Aguaruna||Aguaruna||Amazonas, Cajamarca, San Martín|
|Pano-tacanasOne of the families with the most different languages in Peru.||Pano||Yaminawa||Amahuaca||Madre de Dios, Ucayali|
|Atsahuaca (†)||Madre de Dios|
|Yamiaca (†)||Madre de Dios|
|Nahua||Cuzco, Madre de Dios, Ucayali|
|Tacano||Ese'ejja||Madre de Dios|
These languages make a family of different languages, and not every variety of Quechua is known yet.
|Quechua I||Central Quechua I||Quechua ancashino||Ancash|
|Quechua yaru||Junín, Pasco|
|Peripheral Quechua I||Quechua de Pacaraos||Distrito de Pacaraos(Huaral)|
|Quechua II||Quechua II-A||Quechua cajamarquino||Provincia de Cajamarca|
|Quechua Incawasi-Cañaris||Distritos de Incahuasi y Cañaris|
|Quechua yauyino||Provincia de Yauyos|
|Quechua II-B||Quechua chachapoyano||Provincias de Chachapoyas y Luya|
|Quechua lamista||Provincia de Lamas, Valle del Huallaga|
|Quechua II-C||Quechua ayacuchano||Ayacucho, Huancavelica|
This family is a group of languages that are not well known, which have been extinct since the end of the 18th century or beginning of the 19th century. The only information that exists from this language are some lists of vocabulary.
|Atallano||Catacaos||Distrito de Catacaos|
|Colán||Distrito de Colán|
|Sechura||Olmos||Distrito de Olmos|
|Sechura||Provincia de Sechura|
This family is formed by many local languages in the south of Colombia and in parts of Brazil.
This is the family with the most languages in South America, especially in Brazil.
|Záparas||Group I||Cahuarano (†)?||Loreto|
|Isolated Languages||Culli (†)||La libertad, Cajabamba|
|Mochica (†)||Departamento de Lambayeque|
|Puquina (†)||Alrededor del lago Titicaca|
|Quingnam (†)||Lima, Ancash, La Libertad|
|Unclassified LanguagesThere exists a group of languages with rare documentation and references to extinct villages, that cannot be classified due to lack of information. For example, see unclassified languages of South America.||Aguano (†)||Loreto|
|Bagua (†)||Amazonas, Cajamarca|
|Chacha (†)||La Libertad, San Martín|
|Patagón (†)(caribe?)||Amazonas, Cajamarca|
Quechua is the second language of Peru, in terms of number of speakers. It is the official language in areas where it is the dominant language, even though from a linguistic point of view, it is a family of related languages. (Ethnologue assigns separate language codes to more than 25 varieties of Quechua in Peru.)
Aymara has the third largest number of speakers within Peru, with about half a million speakers in the country. It is most common in the southern part of the country, in parts of Puno, Moquegua, and Tacna.
The rest of the indigenous languages of Peru have more than 105 thousand speakers in total, and are located mostly in the east and north part of the country, specifically in Loreto, Madre de Dios, and Ucayali. The northern part of Peru (Loreto) is probably the most diverse part of the country from a linguistic standpoint since that part contains an abundance of the small families of languages and isolated languages.
In northern Peru, there are 5 small families of languages: Cahuapana, Jívara, Zápara, Peba-yagua, and Bora-witoto. These families of languages are mostly spoken in Loreto, but also in areas connected to Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador. The majority of these groups were destroyed in the "Rubber Boom" at the beginning of the 20th century. In the Putumayo river region, the population fell from 50 thousand to between 7-10 thousand within the first decade of the 20th century.
In the Peruvian Amazon over forty languages, which are usually grouped into 14 families and diversifying about 120 recognizable local varieties are spoken.
Other Minority Languages
A foreign language of a territory is a language whose historical origin is known and falls outside of said that territory and arrived in this territory through conquest, immigration, or colonization.
Other Foreign Languages
In addition to Spanish, which is the most common foreign language, there exist other languages that also did not originate in Peru, and are spoken due to the results of migration.
While it is true that there are many foreign colonies in Peru, the majority of these abandoned their original language. Within the first communities of immigrants lived people from Japan, China, and in smaller amounts people from Germany (central jungle in Pozuzo and Oxapampa), Italy (urban areas of Lima and Arequipa), and Arabic and Hindi (Urdu) areas. These last two are due to the recent waves of immigrants from Palestine and Pakistan. French is also a language that is rooted in Loreto due to a campaign by the French Alliance. French was well received in the Peruvian population, especially in Iquiteña. Lately English has also had a big influence due to the number of tourists and American/British residence. Portuguese is also used in areas like Ucayali, Loreto, and Madre de Dios. These areas border Brazil, whose official language is Portuguese.
Use in government
Historically name registers only captured Spanish or Western-inspired names. In 2019 the government began encouraging the use of indigenous names in name registers.
- Alfredo Torrero Historia social del quechua Lima
- "Perú: Perfil Sociodemográfico" (PDF). Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática. p. 197.
- Gibson, Michael Luke (1996): El muniche: un idioma que se extingue Archived 2014-01-15 at the Wayback Machine. Serie Lingüística Peruana 42. Yarinacocha: Summer Institute of Linguistics.
- Constitución política del Perú, art.48
- "Documento Nacional de Lenguas originarias del Perú" (PDF). Ministerio de Educación del Perú.
- Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informatica: http://censos2017.inei.gob.pe/redatam/ censo de 2017
- Respecto al total de declarantes.
- Adelaar, 2004, pp. 610-624.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-09-10. Retrieved 2013-09-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "http://www4.congreso.gob.pe/ntley/Imagenes/Leyes/29535.pdf" (PDF). External link in
|title=(help)[permanent dead link]
- "Peru Population 2019 (Demographics, Maps, Graphs)". World Population Review.
- The French Language Worldwide 2014 (PDF). Paris: Nathan. ISBN 978-2-09-882654-0. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-10-11. Retrieved 2015-08-11 – via Francophonie.org.
- Collyns, Dan (2019-04-04). "Call me by my name: Peru promotes use of indigenous names in public records". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019-10-28.
- Adelaar, Willem F. H.; & Muysken, Pieter C. (2004): The languages of the Andes. Cambridge language surveys. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-36275-7
- Dixon & Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald (eds.) (1999): The Amazonian languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-57021-3.