Aymara is an Aymaran language with about 1.6 million speakers mainly in Bolivia and Peru and also in Chile and Argentina. There are two main varieties of Aymara: Central Aymara, which has about 1.4 million speakers, and Southern Aymara, with about 213,000 speakers.
In 2014 there were about 998,000 speakers of Central Aymara in western Boliva, particularly in the departments of La Paz, Oruro and Potosí. The language is spoken mainly by adults, and few children are growing up speaking it. As a result, it is considered potentially endangered. Aymara is official recognized in Bolivia, and is used in schools, the media and literature.
There are about 443,000 speakers of Central Aymara in southern Peru, particularly in the Moquegua, Puno and Tacna regions near Lake Titicaca. There are also 213,000 speakers of Southern Aymara in the same area. Aymara is an officially recognized language in Peru, along with Spanish.
Central Aymara is spoken by about 19,000 people in northern Chile, mainly in the regions of Antofagasta, Arica and Parinacota, and Tarapacá. It is an officially recognised minority language, and some schools teach bilingually in Aymara and Spanish.
In northern Argentina there are about 4,100 speakers of Aymara, mainly in Jujuy and Salta provinces, many of whom came from Bolivia in search of employment.
The Aymara originally used a collection of symbols, mainly pictures of people or things, as a mnemonic device. The symbols represented the things they portrayed or similar sounding words but never developed into a complete writing system. The symbols were originally written on animal skins using plant or mineral pigments but paper was substituted after the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. The symbols were never standardised and there was considerable variation in the way they were used among different Aymara groups.
Under the influence of the Spanish, the Latin alphabet was adopted to write Aymara. Many different spelling systems have been divised over the years. In 1985, the Peruvian goverment introduced a new spelling system known as the Aymara Official Alphabet or Unified Alphabet (Alfabeto Único).
Hear the Aymara alphabet:
Some information about the Aymara alphabet provided by Michael Peter Füstumum
Taqpach jaqejh khuskat uñjatatäpjhewa munañapansa, lurañapansa, amuyasiñapansa, ukatwa jilani sullkanípjhaspas ukham uñjasipjhañapawa.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Information about the Aymara language
Аймара (information about Aymara in Russian)
Page last modified: 06.02.23
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