Quechua Word Structure

Analysis of Three Sample Texts

with full analysis of the structure of the Quechua words





Text One:  Life in the Peruvian Army

Text Two:  The First Aeroplane Over the Andes

Text Three:  Why Did the Gringos Go to the Moon?

Key to Abbreviations for Suffixes


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To view the parallel texts here in line with each other properly, you’ll need to set the text size on your browser to a fairly small setting (on the View menu, under the Text Size option).

To jump to the explanation of any particular suffix (morpheme), just click on it (in green and underlined).  Then click on your back button to go back to the text.


Apologies for the boring font, it’s needed to keep the parallel texts in line.


Three texts are presented here are taken and adapted from a native Quechua-speaking villager’s account of his life:

Valderrama Fernández, Ricardo & Carmen Escalante Gutiérrez (1982)  Gregorio Condori Mamani – Autobiografía
 Centro Bartolomé de las Casas: Cuzco, Peru


The English translations are a mixture of my own, and my adaptations to those by P. Gelles and G. Martínez in the English version, alias:

Valderrama Fernández, Ricardo & Carmen Escalante Gutiérrez (1996)   Andean Lives: Gregorio Condori Mamani & Asunta Quispe Huamán
 University of Texas Press:  Austin

For full details and a review of these books, click here.


The spelling of these texts has been amended to follow the official Quechua alphabet for southern Quechua (Ayacucho, Cuzco, Puno, Bolivia).  Since the original book was published before the 1985 spelling reform, it was written with five vowels, appropriate for Spanish but not for Quechua!  The reforms in the mid-1980s have now rectified this, and the official alphabets in all three main Quechua-speaking Andean countries (Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador) all now use only three vowels <i>, <a> and <u> in the spelling of native Quechua words.  The letters <e> and <o> are therefore found in these texts only in Spanish loanwords which have not been fully assimilated to Quechua pronunciation.

In the Quechua texts, words in capitals are borrowings from Spanish.  The first passage in particular, where Gregorio relates his time as a press-ganged conscript in the Peruvian Army (where Spanish was the only language it was permitted to speak), has an even greater number of loanwords from Spanish than is usual in Quechua.  This is largely due to the context of the Peruvian Army, an institution entirely dominated by Spanish.  To give you a bit of a perspective by comparison with English, words in bold in the English translation of the first text have also been put in bold if they are ones that English has borrowed from French.

Note too that the first Quechua passage has a total of just 69 words, while the English translation has 139:  a clear indication of Quechua’s agglutinating language structure.


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Text One:  Life in the Peruvian Army

Valderrama Fernández, Ricardo & Carmen Escalante Gutiérrez (1982:  43-44) 


Khayna-m       soldado   vida   ka-rqa-n. 
dir:foc   soldier   life   be-past-3
Such was life as a soldier.

Cuartel-pi-qa      todo   recto-m         patria       serve-y    
lcv-top   all    strict-dir:foc   fatherland   serve-inf  
In the barracks everything is strict:  serve fatherland

obedecer   todo”,       chay-pi-qa     mana-m   ati-ku-n-chu        
obey       everything   that-
lcv-top   no-dir   can-rfxv-3-neg:foc  
obey everything”, you can’t

mana-m   ni-ku-y-ta.        Si-chus     “mana-m”      ni-nki  
dir   say-rfxv-inf-acv   If-dub:foc   no-dir:foc   say-2   
say no to anything there.  If you do say no

u-taq    mala   voluntad-wan   rura-nki, 
or-ctv   bad    will-itl       do-2
or do something without showing willing,

Si-chus     “mana-m”      ni-nki   u-taq    mala   voluntad-wan   rura-nki, 
dub:foc   no-dir:foc   say-2    or-ctv   bad    will-itl       do-2
If you do say no or do something without showing willing,

castigo,     calabozo   o    patadas. 
punishment   lock-up    or   kicking.
then punishment, lock-up or a kicking.

Si-chus      mama-yki   wañu-chi-na-yki-paq   kama-chi-su-nki 
dub:foc   mother-2   die-csv-pdg-2-pps     do-csv-3-2:oj
If they order you to kill your mother

chay-ta-pas     rura-na-yki;   si   no,    mana   patria       obedece-y-chu. 
acv-adnl   do-pdg-2       if   not,   not    fatherland   obey-inf-neg:foc
then you had to do so;  if not, that was not obeying the fatherland.

Cuartel-pi-qa      ka-lla-n-taq   abecedario   mana   lee-y      yacha-q-paq 
lcv-top   be-ltv-3-ctv   alphabet     not    read-inf   know-ag-dtv
In the barracks there’s also an alphabet for those who don’t know how to read

letra-kuna   alambre-pi   ensarta-sqa   a-b-c-d-j-k-p. 
pl    wire-lcv     wind-pppl     a-b-c-d-j-k-p
the letters are wound in wire:  a-b-c-d-j-k-p.

Clase-kuna   abecedario-ta-qa   yacha-chi-q-ku, 
pl       alphabet-acv-top   know-csv-ag-vbpl
The non-commissioned officers teach the alphabet

tuku-pti-yki-taq     primer   año-ta     qu-su-nki-ku.
pplsb-2-ctv   first    year-acv   give-3-oj:2-vbpl
and when you finish, they class you as first year passed.

Hayku-pti-yki-taq   tapu-su-nki-ku:   “Yacha-nki-chu   lee-y-ta?”
pplsb-2-ctv   ask-3-oj:2-vbpl   know-2-ynq:foc   read-inf-acv
When you join the army they ask you:  “Do you know how to read?”

“Mana-m   yacha-ni-chu”    ni-pti-yki-taq,   apa-mu-q-ku          
not-dir   know-1-neg:foc   say-pplsb-2-ctv   carry-trans-ag-vbpl 
And if you say that you don’t know how to

kay    letra-kuna-ta   yacha-chi-na-su-yki-ku-paq   
this   letter-
pl-acv   know-csv-pdg-3-oj:2-vbpl-dtv  
the sergeants and the sub-lieutenants

sargento-kuna,   subteniente-kuna.
pl      sub-lieutenant-pl
bring you these letters in order to teach you.


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Text Two:  The First Aeroplane Over the Andes

Valderrama Fernández, Ricardo & Carmen Escalante Gutiérrez (1982:  30-31)


Huk   p’unchay-mi   era         tiempo-pi,  
one   day-foc:dir   threshing   time-lcv     
One day during the threshing season,

rikhu-ri-rqa-mu-n          huk   hatun-kankaray  urpi
see-drv-past:dir-trans-3   one   big-aug     bird
a huge bird

kuntur-man   rikch’a-ku-q,    condenado-hina   qapa-rqa-cha-spa.
condor-ioj   appear-rfxv-ag   damned-simil     shriek-drv-drv-pplgd
looking like a condor suddenly appeared, shrieking like one of the damned.

Chay-qa    llipi-y-ku      era-pi          ka-q-kuna   mancha-ri-ku-y-ku.    
that-top   all-1-pl.excl   threshing-lcv   be-ag-pl    scare-drv-rfxv-1-pl.excl
All of us working there threshing got scared.

Chay   rato-taq     ñuqa   yuya-ri-rqu-ni       huk   kuti-n         tio-y    
that   moment-ctv   I      remember-drv-drv-1   one   occasion-rel   Uncle-1
And right then, I remembered what my uncle Gumercindo once told of:

Gumercindo-p     willa-ku-sqa-n-ta,         pisi   p’unchay  
Gumercindo-gen   tell-rfxv-past:rpv-3-acv   few    day       
that a few days before

kay   pacha-p      tuku-ku-na-n     ka-sha-pti-n-si          huk   allqamari        
this   world-gen   end-rfxv-pdg-3   be-pgv-pplsb-3-foc:rpv   one   messenger.eagle  
the end of this world, a messenger eagle

kuntur   uma-yuq    llama   chaki-yuq   runa   inka   familia-man   
condor   head-psv   llama   feet-psv    runa   Inca   family-ioj    
with a condor’s head and llama feet will come and forewarn

willa-q-ni-n-chik        hamu-nqa     Listo   kay    pacha-p 
advise-ag-ep-1-pl:incl   come-fut:3   ready   this   world-gen
us runas, the Inca’s kinsfolk, to be waiting ready

tuku-ku-y-ni-n      suya-na-paq.   Hina-spa-m           tio-y     ni-ra-n:
end-rfxv-nml-ep-3   wait-pdg-dtv   Thus-pplgd-foc:dir   uncle-1   say-past:dir:3
for the end of this world And my uncle also said:

– Inka-rrey-mi        kunan   ukhu     pacha-pi    tiya-chka-n,  
Inka-king-foc:dir   now     inside   world-lcv   live-pgv-3    
“Inkaríy has been living in the underworld

señor   kura    Pizarro-p     wañu-chi-sqa-n-manta     pacha.  
Señor   priest  Pizarro-gen   die-csv-past:rpv-3-abl   time    
ever since Pizarro the priest killed him.

Hina-spa-m           chay   pacha   tuku-ku-y
thus-pplgd-foc:dir   this   world   end-rfxv-nml
And the day this world ends,

p’unchay   lluqsi-mu-nqa        lliw   runa-kuna-man   aypa-q.
day        go.out-trans-fut:3   all    runa-pl-ioj     take.by.the.hand-ag
he’ll emerge to join all the runas.”

Hina-spa-m           aeroplano   ñuqa-y-ku     sesgo-man
Thus-pplgd-foc:dir   aeroplane   I-1-pl:excl   direction-ioj pl
So when the aeroplane came veering

hamu-chka-pti-n-taq-mi         ni-rqa-n-ku:
come-pgv-pplsb-3-ctv-foc:dir   say-past:dir-3-pl
in our direction, people said:

– Chay-qa    Tayta-cha   Milagro-m,        ñuqa-n-chik-man-mi     
That-foc   God-dim     miracle-foc:dir   I-1-pl:incl-ioj-foc:dir  
“It’s a divine miracle

hamu-wa-chka-n-chik.      Qhawa-ri-pti-y    ñuqa-y-ku    
come-1obj-pgv-3-pl:incl   see-drv-pplsb-1   I-1-pl:excl  
coming towards us”.  When I saw

sesgo-man-puni-taq        hamu-chka-n   chay-qa    yuya-yu-ni
direction-ioj-defin-ctv   come-pgv-3    that-top   think-drv-1
that it was truly veering towards us, I was thinking,

Qhawa-ri-pti-y    ñuqa-y-ku     sesgo-man-puni-taq        hamu-chka-n   chay-qa   
see-drv-pplsb-1   I-1-pl:excl   direction-ioj-defin-ctv   come-pgv-3    that-top  
When I saw that it was truly veering towards us,

yuya-yu-ni   “Tayta-cha   Milagro-chá        riki…”,   ni-spa.  
think-drv-1   God-dim     miracle-foc:conj   really    say-pplgd  
I was thinking,  “This must be a divine miracle...

“Ay   Taytá-y,   mana-m        hucha-sapa-chu       ka-ni,
Oh    Father-1   not-foc:dir   fault-paug-foc:neg   be-1
Oh Father, I’m no sinner.

chakra-ta-qa    llank’a-rqa-ni-puni-m           tayta-y-kuna-ta    yana-pa-spa”.
field-acv-top   work-past:dir-1-defin-foc:dir   father-1-pl-acv    help-drv-pplgd
I’ve always helped my elders work their fields”.


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Text Three:  Why Did the Gringos Go to the Moon?

Chhay-na-m           vida   ka-chka-n.   Ignorancia-lla-y-pi-m
that-simil-foc:dir   life   be-pgv-3     ignorance-ltv-1-lcv-foc:dir
Such is life. In my ignorance

ni‑ni:   chay   Tayta-cha-p      llaga-n‑kuna‑taq   chhay‑na
say-1    that   father-dim-gen   wound-3-pl-ctv     that-simil
I say:  if the wounds of this God

ni-ra-q       nak’ari-y-paq   causa,    tawa   p’unchay   vida-paq…
say-past-ag   suffer-1-dtv    cause,    four   day        life-dtv
are the cause of so much suffering, for four days of life…

chay‑qa,    imana‑pti-n-mi          mana   maskha-spa‑chu       hanpi‑rqu-n‑ku?
that-top,   be so‑pplsb-3-foc:dir   not    seek-pplgd-foc:neg   cure-drv-3-pl
Why don’t we look for him and treat him?

Ña        wata-kuna-ña      chhay-na-ta      warmi-y-ta    ni-rqa-ni,
already   year-pl-discont   that-simil-acv   woman-1-acv   say-past-1
That’s what I said to my wife years ago,

pay-taq-mi           ni-rqa-n:
he/she-ctv-foc:dir   say-past-3
and she replied:

Chay-paq-si        extranjero   mama     Killa-ta   ri-n.
that-dtv-foc:rpv   foreigner    mother   moon-acv   go-3
  That’s why the foreigners went to the Mother Moon, they say.

Chay-paq   hina-taq-mi        chay   p’unchaw-kuna   lliw   calle-kuna-pi
that-dtv   thus-ctv-foc:dir   that   day-pl          all    street-pl-lcv
In fact, just in those days, in all the streets

rima-y    ka-n,   gringo-kuna-s       avion-pi        semana-nti-n
say-inf   be-3,   gringo-pl-foc:rpv   aeroplane-lcv   week-incv-rel
there was talk of how the gringos, travelling for a week in a plane,

puri-spa      mama     Killa-man   chaya-n-ku,    ni-spa.
walk-ppl:ss   mother   moon-ioj    arrive-3-pl,   say-pplgd.
had reached the Mother Moon.

Ñuqa-manta   rima-y-lla-chu        si    no   kan-man.
I-abl        say-inf-ltv-foc:neg   yes   no   be-condit.
All that sounds like just tall stories to me though.


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Key to Abbreviations for Suffixes

The suffixes given here are in the form and spellings used in the official Quechua alphabet for southern Quechua (Ayacucho, Cuzco, Puno, Bolivia).  For more information on Quechua suffixes, click on these links to see Jean‑Luc Ancey’s webpages on Quechua suffixes, in Spanish or (more briefly) in French.  Be aware, though, that he presents the Bolivian forms of these, uses a slightly different spelling system and some different names, but suffixes should still be recognisable as the same as the ones given here.

The abbreviations for these suffixes are my own for now.  As soon as I can get the time, I will amend them to follow the proposed standard conventions for interlinear morpheme translation (the ‘Leipzig Glossing Rules’) drawn up by a number of linguists who are specialists in language typology:  Bernard Comrie, Martin Haspelmath, Balthasar Bickel, William Croft, Christian Lehmann, Dietmar Zaefferer, and others.  These conventions can be downloaded at:



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