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


Language Upper Napo Kichwa (ISO639-3:quw), ,
Depositor Karolina Grzech
Affiliation Universitat de València / Stockholm University
Location Ecuador
Collection ID 0639
Grant ID
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Forthcoming
Landing Page Handle


Summary of the collection

Upper Napo Kichwa is a Quechuan language spoken in the course of upper Napo River in the Ecuadorian Amazon, province of Napo. The present collection represents the rich oral tradition of the Upper Napo Kichwa- speaking community, who auto-denominate themselves Napo Runa.

The projects is collaborative and have been created by the linguist, Karolina Grzech, together with a team of native speaker researchers, involved in the corpus design and the collection, transcription and translation of the data. The project focuses on endangered oral traditions, documenting the rich tradition of Upper Napo Kichwa verbal art, including stories, songs, advice giving and the like.

This corpus was created within the same research project (IPF301 grant from ELDP) as a corresponding corpus of Tungurahua Kichwa, also deposited with ELAR.


Group represented

The Napo Runa, as the speakers of Upper Napo Kichwa call themselves, are an indigenous group from the Napo Province in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The region they call home is uniquely located on the cross-section of two major cultural and geographical areas in South America: the Andes and the Amazon, and is often referred to as ‘Andean foothills’ or ‘piedemonte’. Although the Napo Runa speak a Quechuan language, traditionally associated with the cultural area of the Andes, their customs, as well as material and immaterial culture, including myths and origin stories, are decidedly Amazonian in nature. The group has adopted Kichwa as their language several centuries ago, in an extended process involving trade contacts with Kichwa speakers from the Highlands and missionary activity. It is not clear what language the group had spoken before.


Language information

Upper Napo Kichwa is also referred to as Tena Lowland Kichwa/Quichua (Moseley 2010; Lewis 2016). It is a Quechuan language belonging to the QII grouping (Torero 1964), and to the Amazonian Kichwa dialect continuum stretching across Ecuador, Peru and Colombia. Speaker figures vary between 20,000 (Moseley 2010) and ca. 46,000 (INEC 2010). The levels of bilingualism in Spanish among Upper Napo Kichwa speakers are extremely high, and rapid infrastructure development has led to acceleration of language shift. In most communities, children no longer learn Upper Napo Kichwa as first language.


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).

Torero, Alfredo. 1964. Los dialectos quechuas. Anales Científicos de la Universidad Nacional Agraria, Lima 446–78.


Special characteristics

ELAR houses another collection of Upper Napo Kichwa from a previous collaborative project (2012-2015), comprising a broader range of topics:

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


Collection contents

The collection will contain 10 hours of audio-video recordings of Upper Napo Kichwa oral literature, transcribed in Upper Napo Kichwa and translated into Spanish in ELAN.

It will also include short recordings in which the native speakers who worked on the project introduce themselves and state their motivations and goals for being involved in a project documenting their language. These recordings will also be transcribed in Upper Napo Kichwa and translated into Spanish.

The audio-visual recordings will be complemented by academic articles related to the project, as well as a corpus guide.


Collection history

The data for this collection 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 Upper Napo Kichwa. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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