Posted by: Gladys Camacho Rios – MA Candidate at CLACS / Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU
I have come to Bolivia to gather data in two Quechua-speaking communities: one in the town of Tarabuco northwest of Sucre, and the other in Toro Toro north of the city of Potosí. Specifically, I am interested in doing a post-acoustic analysis of the uvular sound effects in high vowels /i u/ comparing the Quechua dialects of these two communities.
I started in Tarabuco which is the center of the Yampara culture. To get there, I flew to the city of Sucre, the constitutional capital of Bolivia. Tarabuco is located 64 kilometers from Sucre and it is known for its colorful knitted fabrics.
When I got to the community, I looked for Quechua-speaking subjects originally from Tarabuco to record them. I met a young girl, Emiliana, with whom I spoke in Quechua the entire time. She was very friendly and helped me find other Quechua-speaking subjects.
The recordings I made used the following methodology: subjects had to do an organized recording according to my schedule. First, I explained the activity in Quechua and they had to agree to be recorded. Then, I pronounced the selected Quechua infinite verbs using my flashcards. Each subject conjugated the verbs orally in simple present. All the while, I will be present recording everything that the subjects said.
For example, I would say ‘Phukuy’ (to blow), and the subjects would respond ‘Ñuqa phukuni’ (I blow). After that, I asked for their personal information (age, education, their use of Quechua, etc.), and then, I asked if they were familiar with a list of vocabulary words that people do not normally use but that are mentioned in many dictionaries. I also asked them to identify sounds in lists with real words. For instance, if they would say ‘qilla warmi’ (a lazy woman) or ‘qhilla warmi’ (a lazy woman) I wanted to know if they use a simple sound /q/ or an aspirated sound /qh/, thus subjects had to identify which sound they use. I also interviewed three subjects about the process of making ‘chicha’, a traditional Bolivian drink.
On Sundays there is a big free market in Tarabuco. Many people from the surrounding small communities come to find different products as well as livestock. I went to the market after set up at 6:00 a.m., and saw people buying, selling and eating. I spent some hours listening to their conversations in Quechua and spoke with many of them. After every conversation I had or heard, I took notes of the variations they use in their dialect. I did not want to write notes on a notebook in front of them, so instead I used my cellphone and that way it seemed like I was sending an sms. Standing next to people who were talking in Quechua, the first variant that I listened to was the present progressive in Quechua. People in Tarabuco pronounce the velar fricative [x], and I say the post-alveolar fricative [ʃ].