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Endangered oral traditions of Kichwa-speaking Ecuador: collaborative documentation of Upper Napo Kichwa


Language Tungurahua Kichwa (ISO639-3:qxl), ,
Depositor Karolina Grzech
Affiliation Universitat de València / Stockholm University
Location Ecuador
Deposit ID 0638
Grant ID IPF0301
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Forthcoming
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the deposit

Tungurahua Kichwa, also known as Salasaca Kichwa, is spoken in the Tungurahua province of Ecuador. The language has very little description and documentation available, and the materials available suggest that is distinct from the neighbouring Quechuan dialects.

This project focuses on creating a documentation of the language, with emphasis on the oral culture of the Tungurahua Kichwa speakers, given that the oral literature, tales, songs and other similar genres tend to cease to be transmitted in situations of language endangerment, such as the one that Tungurahua Kichwa is facing. The deposit will also consist of other materials that the research team will consider important for comprehensive documentation of the language and culture, as well as of linguistic elicitation, collected with a view of creating a description of the language.

The documentation will be carried out by a research team involving the linguist, Karolina Grzech, and a team Tungurahua Kichwa native speakers (3-5 people), with assistance from the more experienced Upper Napo research team, who have been working on documenting their language since 2011.


Group represented

“The Salasacas”, as the speakers are called, are an ethnic and cultural group distinct from speakers of other Highland Kichwa varieties. The language is assigned a separate ISO 639-3 code (qxl), but UNESCO (Moseley 2010) groups it together with other distinct varieties as “Quichua (Cotopaxi, Tungurahua and Chimborazo)”. Ethnologue (Lewis 2016) recognises the language as a separate variety, “Salasaca Highland Kichwa”. The speaker figures given by Lewis (2016) come from the year 2000 and estimate that the language had 14,300 speakers, but only 3,500 monolinguals. The INEC (2010) figures given above are higher (ca. 35,000 speakers), but there are substantial caveats in the methodology of data collection, as no detailed sociolinguistic questions are asked, and Kichwa is treated as one language. Although no exact numbers are known, as elsewhere in Ecuador, Kichwa speakers are increasingly shifting to Spanish, and Kichwa is limited to the home and family domain, where it is often in a diglossic situation with Spanish.

INEC, Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos. 2010. Censo Nacional: Población y Economía. Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos. (4 November, 2015).

Lewis, Paul M. (ed.). 2016. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 19th edn. Dallas, Tex: SIL International.

Moseley, Christopher. 2010. Atlas of the World’s Languages in danger. 3rd edn. Paris: UNESCO Publishing. (11 January, 2015).


Language information

Tungurahua Kichwa is also referred to as Salasaca Kichwa. There is virtually no descriptive material on the language. The only available documentation is a 5-page grammar sketch in an overview volume on the languages of the Andes (Adelaar with Muysken 2004: 237-242) and a phonological sketch of the same length (Chango Masaquiza & Marlett 2008), as well as limited anthropological literature (Penaherrera de Costales & Samaniego 1959, Masaquiza 1995). As far as the author is aware, this deposit is the first audio-visual documentation of the language.


Adelaar, W.F.H, in collaboration with P. Muysken. 2004. The Languages of the Andes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chango Masaquiza, F. and S. A. Marlett. 2008. Salasaca Quichua. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 38. 223–227.

Masaquiza M., J. 1995. Los Salasacas. In J. Almeida Vinneza (ed.) Identidades indias en el Ecuador con-temporáneo. 213-246. Quito: Abya-Yala.

Penaherrera de Costales, P. and A. C. Samaniego. 1959. Los salasacas. (Llacta, 8.) Llacta. Quito: Publicaciones del Instituto Ecuatoriano de Antropología


Special characteristics

This collection is part of the same project as the documentation of endangered oral traditions in Upper Napo Kichwa, which can be found here:


Deposit contents

The deposit will include a documentary corpus of Tungurahua Kichwa, including 30 hours audio-visual recordings of different genres, with emphasis on situated language use, oral literature and verbal art, so as to create a comprehensive record of language use and socio-cultural practices. This will also include audio-visual recordings of all the project participants introducing themselves and talking about their contribution to the project.

At least 8 hours of audio elicitation of Tungurahua Kichwa, conducted according to best practice in linguistic fieldwork transcribed and translated into English/Spanish. These will focus on key aspects of the grammar, areas of variation with neighbouring varieties, basic lexicon, and issues of interest that might emerge as the analysis of the language progresses.

The above materials will be transcribed and translated into Spanish in ELAN.


Deposit history

The data for this deposit will be collected in 2021/22.


Other information

All the audio-visual data will be accompanied by by Spanish and English keywords and descriptions, thus allowing easy access for community members. Data will also be labelled for potential sensitive content and access permissions.


Acknowledgement and citation

To refer to any data from the collection, please cite as follows:

Grzech, Karolina. Forthcoming. Endangered oral traditions of Kichwa-speaking Ecuador: collaborative documentation of Tungurahua Kichwa. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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