Interacting with Native Quechua Speakers in the North of Potosí, Bolivia

Posted by: Gladys Camacho Rios – MA Candidate at CLACS / Latin American and Caribbean Studies at NYU

The second part of my fieldwork took place in Toro Toro north of the city of Potosí, Bolivia. After finishing the first part of my fieldwork in Tarabuco, northwest of Sucre, I went back to Cochabamba in order to take a bus to the mountainous town of Toro Toro. It has several tourist attractions like: dinosaur footprints, cave paintings, natural waterfalls, the biggest explored caves in Bolivia, and a big canyon. Most people who live in the town speak Quechua.

Mountains around Toro Toro town

After 6 hours travelling by bus from Cochabamba I got to Toro Toro. My goal was to record people who speak Quechua regularly. When I found my subjects, I used the same methodology as in Tarabuco. To gather data for the acoustic analysis of uvular effects on high vowels, I first explained the activity in Quechua, and after, they had to agree to be recorded. Then, I pronounced the selected Quechua infinite verbs using the same flashcards I used in Tarabuco. 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 ‘saqiy’ (to leave), and the subject would respond ‘Ñuqa saqini’ (I leave).

When interviewing the Quechua speaking subjects, in addition of asking the same information like in Tarabuco, I confirmed some lexical variation data that I found in Tarabuco. For example, people in Tarabuco used the words like: [miʧi] for ‘cat’, [sinʧ ’i] for ‘strong’, [thujʎɑ] ‘very early in the morning’, [ʧɑqɑʎu] for ‘pod’, [rixɑn] to say ‘he/she is going’ and so on. Quechua speakers in Toro Toro use similar words but those words differ in pronunciation or meaning for example: [misi] for ‘cat’ [sinʧi] for ‘strong’ [ʧhɑχpu] ‘very early in the morning’ [ʧɑqɑʎu] for ‘dry pod’ [riʃɑn] to say ‘he/she is going’.

During our long conversations in Quechua, subjects were very supportive and they explained to me, with many details, every meaning of words as well as their pronunciation which was a great thing for my research notes.

Interviewing Quechua speakers
Photo by Marcelo Herbas.

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