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Unravelling the Enigma of the ‘Particular Language’ of the Incas

RODOLFO CERRÓN-PALOMINO

in Archaeology and Language in the Andes

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780197265031
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754142 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5871/bacad/9780197265031.003.0011

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Unravelling the Enigma of the ‘Particular Language’ of the Incas

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  • Ancient History (Non-Classical, to 500 CE)

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Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century chroniclers call attention to the Incas having had a ‘particular language’, used exclusively by members of the court. The sparse linguistic material attributed to it consists of barely a dozen proper names which ‘El Inca’ Garcilaso de la Vega, unable to explain through his Quechua mother tongue, assumed must belong to the purported secret language. On closer inspection most of these words do turn out to be explicable in terms of either a Quechua or an Aymara origin. Nevertheless, a small amount of extant onomastic material — mostly Inca institutional names — cannot be traced back to either, and points to a third language instead. This chapter makes the case that this could have been Puquina, once a major language of the Titicaca Basin, whence the mythical Incas set out on their journey to Cuzco. Linguistic, mythohistorical, and archaeological evidence are offered support of this hypothesis.

Keywords: Incas; Garcilaso de la Vega; Quechua; secret language; onomastic material; Puquina

Chapter.  14570 words. 

Subjects: Ancient History (Non-Classical, to 500 CE)

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