Glossary of Terminology
The letters in this color are not in an alphabet constructed from original pronunciation. They have been added to common pronunciation, gradually, from Spanish.
Although Sh is a letter from original Quechua pronunciation, I have found no words beginning with it, therefore there is no entry in the glossary for this letter.
In 1985, the Peruvian government approved of an official system of writing Quechua that contained only three vowels (a, i and u). However, like with most human languages, practice does not always follow the rules! The e and the o are found in many Quechua words in various dictionaries and glossaries. Pronunciation of the three official vowels has five sounds:
Dipthongs are indivisible vowel sounds created by combining a vowel and a consonant, such as the English toy. The Quechua system combines w and y with a, i or u to form the following dipthongs:
In the official Peruvian system, consonants are pronounced pretty much like they are in English, with a few exceptions which are not in English pronunciation. There are two types of exceptional consonants: aspirated and ejective, which we will go into further down.
There are three varieties of Quechua: Cusco, Puno and Bolivian. They are defined by their pronunciation of aspirated and ejective consonants. It is important to master the difference because the meaning of a word can change depending on how you pronounce it, just as in English. For example, the word chaka pronounced as you would an English word means hip in Quechua. Pronounce it with the aspirated sound, chhaka means big black ant; pronounce it as an ejective and ch'aka means hoarse. Practice, practice, practice, and keep in mind that context will probably help you get your meaning across.
Here follows a guide to Quechua consonant sounds that are roughly equivalent to English:
Aspirated consonants are pronounced with a soft puff of air, like the p in pretty as opposed to the p in speech. They are marked in written Quechua with the addition of the letter h after the consonant.
Ejectives are pronounced by abruptly stopping the airflow outward at the back of the throat, thus compressing the air, and then just as abruptly letting go and ejecting the sound with a short, hard compression of the diaphragm.
An accent mark over a vowel means that syllable is stressed. However, as a general rule, words are stressed on the next to last syllable. If the word is two syllables, the first one is stressed. If a word has more than three syllables, the first syllable is also stressed.
Intonation in Quechua is very different than in English. English questions give a rising lilt on the last word to indicate a query. Quechua questions are spoken like statements, but use specific words or prefixes that indicate a question is being asked. Exclamations are also different, with an increased stress on the particular syllable emphasizing what is being stated.
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First Edition (c) 2007 Patt O'Neill. All rights reserved. This site was originally published 6-13-07
Second Edition (c) 2008 Patt O'Neill. All rights reserved. Published Jan. 2008.
Third Edition (c) 2014 Patt O'Neill. All rights reserved. Published April 2014
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