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Page history last edited by Mark Defensor 14 years, 6 months ago

Quechua, the Unwritten Language


(A form of quipu)


The language Quechua has been used for quite a while now. There are many versions of Quechua that is being used mostly in South America. There are around 13 million speakers of the language that don’t even have a writing system. Quechua is occasionally used in some Roman Catholic churches within the South American region. Since the Spanish Conquest has practically taken over the South American culture, the language of Quechua has been deeply interwoven with the Spanish language. Quechua has also been using the Roman alphabet as a writing system since the Spanish rule.                                                                                                         

Despite the fact that Quechua was a language that didn’t have a writing system back then; the Inca used strands of woven llama hair called quipus to record numerical data. The color of the quipu would have a specific meaning to the message while a series of knots would indicate the numerical message. For example, 4 quipus with 10 simple knots on each string would represent the number 40. There are knots that may mean other things like the number 100 may have a knot to represent the number 100.  Days, months, years and any other numerical data could be easily recorded onto the quipus.  Though the quipus sounds very helpful to the Inca civilization; it wasn’t a substitute for a written language. This was still one of the things that helped the civilization go up and running. If anyone were to send these messages they would head to the nearest chasqui runner station.                                                                                                                       

Chasqui runners are like our modern mailman. Say if someone needed to send a message half-way across the empire, they would rely on the chasqui runners. Without any writing, the chasqui runners would have to remember the message that was given to them. A chasqui runner would run a kilometer nonstop until he reached the next chasqui runner station. As the chasqui runner approaches the next station, the upcoming runner would blow a conch (a shell that is found at the sea shore) and alert the next runner to get ready. While the chasqui running he would yell the message while the other chasqui runner would start to run. You could think of this like an extremely long game of Chinese whispers. If a message were needed to be a secret, they would take the message in a form of a quipu. To avoid any delays, the chasqui runners weren’t allowed to bring any weapons while they were running. This means the chasqui runners were prone to danger while they were running. Especially whenever they would run into the wilderness. If a chasqui runner were to ever deliver the message in a wrong way; the Sapa Inca would make the runner face dire consequences. However, the chasqui runners were trained to never make that mistake.                                                                                                                                        

Quechua was able to spread throughout the whole Inca Empire. The Inca knew that Quechua was a perfect tool to unify the whole empire. The Incas thought of a way to spread the language. They thought whenever they would capture a city or village; they would teach the prisoners how to speak Quechua. Now the Quechua language is still being spoken to this very day. Quechua could be understood by people who live from far distances. Say if someone from Peru spoke Quechua to a person who spoke another type of Quechua in Chile; they would still understand each other.               


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