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|Native to||Ecuador, Colombia, Peru|
|(1.2 million cited 1991–2010)|
Distribution of Quechua sub-groups. Kichwa is shown in light blue (II B).
Kichwa (Kichwa shimi, Runashimi, also Spanish Quichua) is a Quechuan language that includes all Quechua varieties of Ecuador and Colombia (Inga), as well as extensions into Peru. It has an estimated 1,000,000 speakers.
The most widely spoken dialects are Chimborazo Highland and Imbabura Highland Kichwa, with 1,000,000 to 2,000,000 speakers. Cañar Highland Quechua has 100,000–200,000 speakers; the other dialects have from 10,000 to 20,000 speakers each. Kichwa belongs to the Northern Quechua group of Quechua II, according to linguist Alfredo Torero.
Kichwa syntax has undergone some grammatical simplification compared to Southern Quechua, perhaps because of partial creolization with the pre-Inca languages of Ecuador.
A standardized language, with a unified orthography (Kichwa Unificado, Shukyachiska Kichwa), has been developed. It is similar to Chimborazo but lacks some of the phonological peculiarities of that dialect.
According to linguist Arturo Muyulema, the first steps to teach Kichwa in public schools dates to the 1940s, when Dolores Cacuango founded several indigenous schools in Cayambe. Later, indigenous organizations initiated self-governed schools to provide education in Kichwa in the 1970s and 1980s (Muyulema 2011:234).
Muyulema says that the creation of literary pieces such as "Caimi Ňucanchic Shimuyu-Panca", "Ňucanchic Llactapac Shimi," "Ňucanchic Causaimanta Yachaicuna," and " Antisuyu-Punasuyu" provided the catalysts for the standardization of Kichwa language. This was initiated by DINEIB (National Board of Intercultural Bilingual Education).
Afterward a new alphabet was created by ALKI (Kichwan Language Academy). It comprises 20 characters; including three vowels (a, i, u); two semi-vowels (w, y); and 15 consonants (ch, h, k, l, ll, m, n, ñ, p, r, s, sh, t, ts, z), according to Muyulema's article "Presente y Futuro de la lengua Quichua desde la perspectiva de la experiencia vasca (Kichwa sisariy ňan)" (Muyulema 2011:234).
Later, the bigger and much more comprehensive dictionary Kichwa Yachakukkunapa Shimiyuk Kamu was published in 2009 by the linguist Fabián Potosí, in conjunction with other scholars sponsored by the Ministry of Education of Ecuador.
In contrast to other regional varieties of Quechua, Kichwa does not distinguish between the original ("Proto Quechua") /k/ and /q/, which are both pronounced [k]. [e] and [o], the allophones of the vowels /i/ and /u/ near /q/, do not exist. Kiru can mean both "tooth" (kiru in Southern Quechua) and "wood" (qiru [qero] in Southern Quechua), and killa can mean both "moon" (killa) and "lazy" (qilla [qeʎa]).
Additionally, Kichwa in both Ecuador and Colombia has lost possessive and bidirectional suffixes (verbal suffixes indicating both subject and object), as well as the distinction between the exclusive and inclusive first person plural:
On the other hand, other particularities of Quechua have been preserved. As in all Quechuan languages, the words for 'brother' and 'sister' differ depending on to whom they refer. There are four different words for siblings: ñaña (sister of a woman), turi (brother of a woman), pani (sister of a man), and wawki (brother of a man). A woman reading "Ñuka wawki Pedromi kan" would read aloud Ñuka turi Pedromi kan.
The missionary organization FEDEPI (2006) lists eight dialects of Quechua in Ecuador, which it illustrates with "The men will come in two days." (Ethnologue 16 (2009) lists nine, distinguishing Cañar from Loja Highland Quechua.) Below are the comparisons, along with Standard (Ecuadorian) Kichwa and Standard (Southern) Quechua:
|Dialect||ISO code||Speakers per SIL (FEDEPI)||Pronunciation||Orthography (SIL or official)||Notes|
|Imbabura||[qvi]||300,000 (1,000,000)||Čay xarikunaka iškay punžapižami šamuŋga||Chai jaricunaca ishcai punllapillami shamunga.||⟨ll⟩ = "ž"|
|Calderón (Pichincha)||[qud]||25,000||Čay xarikunaka iškay punžapižami šamuŋga||Chai jaricunaca ishcai punllapillami shamunga.||⟨ll⟩ = "ž"|
|Salasaca||[qxl]||15,000||Či kʰarigunaga iški pʰunžažabimi šamuŋga||Chi c'arigunaga ishqui p'unllallabimi shamunga.||⟨ll⟩ = "ž"|
|Chimborazo||[qug]||1,000,000 (2,500,000)||Čay kʰarikunaka iški punžažapimi šamuŋga||Chai c'aricunaca ishqui punllallapimi shamunga.||⟨ll⟩ = "ž"|
|(200,000) qxr: 100,000
|Čay kʰarikunaka iškay punžaλapimi šamuŋga||Chai c'aricunaca ishcai punzhallapimi shamunga.|
|Tena Lowland||[quw]||5,000 (10,000)||Či kariunaga iški punžaλaimi šamuŋga||Chi cariunaga ishqui punzhallaimi shamunga.|
|Napo Lowland||[qvo]||4,000 Ecu. & 8,000 Peru (15,000)||Či karigunaga iškay punčaλaimi šamunga.||Chi carigunaga ishcai punchallaimi shamunga.|
|Northern Pastaza||[qvz]||4,000 Ecu. & 2,000 Peru (10,000)||Či karigunaga iškay punžallaimi šamunga.||Chi carigunaga ishcai punzhallaimi shamunga.|
|Standard Kichwa||—||Chay karikunaka ishkay punllallapimi shamunka.|
|Standard Southern Quechua (Qhichwa)||—||Čæy qʰarikunaqa iskæy p'unčawllapim hamunqa.||Chay qharikunaqa iskay p'unchawllapim hamunqa.|
|Kichwa language test of Kichwa at Wikimedia Incubator|