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  • the Matsés language of Peru has undergone some mixing with other indigenous languages because the Matsés people previously had the custom of capturing women from neighboring tribes?

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Peru is a multilingual nation. Its official languages are Spanish and, in the zones where they are predominant, Quechua, Aymara, and other aboriginal languages. (Political Constitution, art. 48) The most common languages are Spanish, to a lesser extent, Quechua and Aymara languages, not mention numerous Amazonian languages, such as Urarina.[1]

Urarina shaman, 1988


Original languages

The aboriginal languages of Peru are spoken mainly in the central Andes and in the Amazon forests. A considerable number of languages were once spoken on the northern coast and in the northern Andes, but other than some endangered pockets of Quechua in the northern highlands (Cajamarca, Inkawasi-Cañaris and Chachapoyas), all others have died out - Mochica is thought to have gone extinct in the 1950s.

The only aboriginal Andean languages in use in the highlands today are those of the Quechua and Aymara families (the latter including Jaqaru/Kawki). The Amazon region, however, is home to a great variety of languages, the most commonly spoken of which are Asháninka and Aguaruna, not to mention lesser known languages, such as Urarina, which is deemed by most linguists as an unclassified language isolate.

There are currently 14 defined linguistic families in Peruvian territory, in addition to many more isolated and unclassified languages.

It is known that the number of languages that were used in Peru easily surpasses 300; some observers speak of 700. Yet from the time of European conquest, epidemics and periods of forced work (in addition to the influence of the hegemonic Spanish language), fewer than 150 can be counted today. The following is an incomplete list of languages spoken today, and a number that became extinct in the twentieth century or that are endangered.


Families & Linguistic "Isolates"

Languages extinct prior to the twentieth century
  • Quignam (olmos, pescadora)
  • Culle (culli, kulyi)
  • Chocó
  • Múchik
  • Catacaoanas (catacaonas)
    • Katakao
    • Kolán
  • Cholonas
    • Cholón (seeptsá)
    • Híwitu (hibito, hivito)
  • (...)

Foreign languages

In addition to the above, in Peru there is a large community of immigrants, of which few keep their languages. Within those, there are the Japanese and the Chinese (Cantonese dialect), for example, and in smaller numbers, the Germans (central Andes), the Arabic speakers, and the Hindi speakers retain their native languages in Peru. The last two are products of the recent wave of immigrants from Palestine and Pakistan.

Spanish language

In Peru, the most common language is Spanish, which is spoken with three major dialect groups within the country:

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