|Native to||Ecuador, Colombia, Peru|
|(1.2 million cited 1991–2010)|
inb – Inga
inj – Jungle Inga
qvo – Napo Lowland
qup – Southern Pastaza
qud – Calderón Highland
qxr – Cañar Highland
qug – Chimborazo Highland
qvi – Imbabura Highland
qvj – Loja Highland
qvz – Northern Pastaza
qxl – Salasaca Highland
quw – Tena Lowland
Distribution of Quechua sub-groups. Kichwa is shown in blue.
Kichwa (Kichwa shimi, Runashimi, also Spanish Quichua) is a Quechuan language which includes all Quechua varieties of Ecuador and Colombia (Inga), as well as extensions into Peru, and is spoken by a million people. The most widely spoken dialects are Chimborazo and Imbabura Highland Kichwa, with one to two million and half a million to one million speakers, respectively. Cañar Highland Quecha has 100,000–200,000 speakers; the others in the range of ten to twenty thousand. Kichwa belongs to the Northern Quechua group of Quechua II (according to Alfredo Torero).
Kichwa syntax has undergone some grammatical simplification compared to Southern Quechua, perhaps due to partial creolization with the pre-Inca languages of Ecuador.
A standardized language with a unified orthography (Kichwa Unificado, Shukyachiska Kichwa) has been developed. It is similar to Chimborazo, less some of the phonological peculiarities of that dialect.
The earliest grammatical description of Kichwa was written in the 17th century by the Jesuit priest Hernando de Alcocer.
According to linguist Arturo Muyulema, the first steps in the teaching of Kichwa in schools was born in the forties, when Dolores Cacuango created various indigenous schools in Cayambe. Later, indigenous organizations initiated self-governed schools to provide education in Kichwa during the decades of 1970 and 1980 (Muyulema 2011:234). He also argues that the creation of literary pieces like " Caimi Ňucanchic Shimuyu-Panca", "Ňucanchic Llactapac Shimi," "Ňucanchic Causaimanta Yachaicuna" and " Antisuyu-Punasuyu" provided the step stones for the standardization of Kichwa language initiated by DINEIB (National Board of Intercultural Bilingual Education).
Afterwards, a new more standard alphabet was created by ALKI (Kichwan Language Academy). This new alphabet comprises 20 characters; including three vowels (a,i,u); two semi-vowels (w,y); and 15 consonants (ch,h,k,l,ll,m,n,ñ,p,r,s,sh,t,ts,z), according to Muyulema's article "Presente y Futuro de la lengua Quichua desde la perspectiva de la experiencia vasca (Kichwa sisariy ňan) (Muyulema 2011:234). Later on, the bigger and much more comprehensive dictionary "Kichwa Yachakukkunapa Shimiyuk Kamu" was published in 2009 by the linguist Fabián Potosí in conjunction with other scholars sponsored by the Ministery of Education of Ecuador.
In contrast to other regional varieties of Quechua, Kichwa does not distinguish between original ("Proto Quechua") /k/ and /q/, which are both pronounced [k]. Therefore, [e] and [o], the allophones of the vowels /i/ and /u/ near /q/, do not exist, and kiru can mean both "tooth" (kiru in Southern Quechua) and "wood" (qiru [qero] in Southern Quechua), and killa can mean both "moon" (killa) and "lazy" (qilla [qeʎa]).
Additionally, Kichwa in both Ecuador and Colombia has lost possessive and bidirectional suffixes (i.e. verbal suffixes indicating both subject and object), as well as the distinction between the exclusive and inclusive first person plural.
On the other hand, other particularities of Quechua have been preserved. As in all varieties of Quechua, the words for 'brother' and 'sister' differ depending on whom they refer to. There are four different words for siblings: ñaña (sister of a woman), turi (brother of a woman), pani (sister of a man), and wawki (brother of a man). A woman reading "Ñuka wawki Pedromi kan" would therefore read aloud Ñuka turi Pedromi kan.
The missionary organization FEDEPI (2006) lists eight dialects of Quechua in Ecuador, which they illustrate with the clause "the men will come in two days". (Ethnologue 16 (2009) lists nine, distinguishing Cañar from Loja Highland Quechua.) Below are the comparisons, along with Standard (Ecuadorian) Kichwa and Standard (Southern) Quechua:
|Dialect||ISO code||Speakers per SIL (FEDEPI)||Pronunciation||Orthography (SIL or official)||Notes|
|Imbabura||[qvi]||300,000 (1,000,000)||Čay xarikunaka iškay punžapižami šamuŋga||Chai jaricunaca ishcai punllapillami shamunga.||⟨ll⟩ = "ž"|
|Calderón (Pichincha)||[qud]||25,000||Čay xarikunaka iškay punžapižami šamuŋga||Chai jaricunaca ishcai punllapillami shamunga.||⟨ll⟩ = "ž"|
|Salasaca||[qxl]||15,000||Či kʰarigunaga iški pʰunžažabimi šamuŋga||Chi c'arigunaga ishqui p'unllallabimi shamunga.||⟨ll⟩ = "ž"|
|Chimborazo||[qug]||1,000,000 (2,500,000)||Čay kʰarikunaka iški punžažapimi šamuŋga||Chai c'aricunaca ishqui punllallapimi shamunga.||⟨ll⟩ = "ž"|
|(200,000) qxr: 100,000
|Čay kʰarikunaka iškay punžaλapimi šamuŋga||Chai c'aricunaca ishcai punzhallapimi shamunga.|
|Tena Lowland||[quw]||5,000 (10,000)||Či kariunaga iški punžaλaimi šamuŋga||Chi cariunaga ishqui punzhallaimi shamunga.|
|Napo Lowland||[qvo]||4,000 Ecu. & 8,000 Peru (15,000)||Či karigunaga iškay punčaλaimi šamunga.||Chi carigunaga ishcai punchallaimi shamunga.|
|Northern Pastaza||[qvz]||4,000 Ecu. & 2,000 Peru (10,000)||Či karigunaga iškay punžallaimi šamunga.||Chi carigunaga ishcai punzhallaimi shamunga.|
|Standard Kichwa||—||Chay karikunaka ishkay punllallapimi shamunka.|
|Standard Southern Quechua (Qhichwa)||—||Čæy qʰarikunaqa iskæy p'unčawllapim hamunqa.||Chay qharikunaqa iskay p'unchawllapim hamunqa.|
|Kichwa language test of Kichwa at Wikimedia Incubator|