Is it necessary to choose between minority language standardisation and the vitality of its varieties? Alto Napo Kichwa case study

Karolina Grzech – University of London, Inglaterra

Karolina Grzech, 2017: "¿Es necesario elegir entre la estandarización de las lenguas minoritarias y la vitalidad de sus variedades? Estudio de caso del kichwa de Alto Napo", Onomázein – N.º especial | Las lenguas amerindias en Iberoamérica: retos para el siglo XXI, 16-34.
DOI: 10.7764/onomazein.amerindias.02

This article focuses on the standardization of Ecuadorian Quichua (Kichwa) and on the effects of this process on one of the minority varieties of the language: Tena Kichwa, or Alto1 Napo Kichwa, spoken in the Amazonian province of Napo. The analysis presented here is based on data and observations collected during one year of fieldwork in the Napo province. The article showcases how the standardization of Ecuadorian Kichwa debilitates the local dialects, rather than strengthening them.
The interruption of intergenerational transmission of Tena Kichwa is accelerated not only by the growing dominance of Spanish and processes of urbanization and socio-political change, but also by the standardization of Kichwa. Because of the latter, different variants of Kichwa are used in the school system and by the authorities on the one hand, and in the everyday life of the community on the other. This dichotomy accelerates the process of Tena Kichwa falling into disuse. Moreover, the language policies implemented by the local and state authorities do not respond to the needs of the local population, and contribute to the increasing marginalization of the local dialects.