The Strange Case of Final Accents, Like Peru

A question won´t let me alone. It is just one of those that keeps picking at me and won`t let me alone. Let me show you what it is.

The massive archeological site above the colonial core of the City of Cusco is an example. Its name is a rush of sounds towards a burst at the end, a tide running towards a massive spray on the rocks of its end when said in Spanish. In the indigenous Quechua, it is different, the burst happens off the coast before the end. It is a wave that crests well before the coastal rocks.

This is represented in spelling by the placement of a written accent in this cases, Saqsaywamán versus the unaccented Saqsayhuaman. If you listen carefully you will hear people say it differently, but most people in the city who are Spanish speakers throw the accent at the end, on the final syllable.

This is not the only word like this. There seems to be some sort of patter whereby in Spanish some words that came into the language from the native peoples take a final accent while many others don’t. They are what the Spanish grammarians call agudas, instead of the more normal Spanish llanas or graves. Quechua, the language most are taken from, or Aymara—the other main language of the Andes—are very regular. Their accent falls in a way that makes all words llanas, to use the Spanish name.

Given that both Spanish and Quechua rely fundamentally on the next to the last syllable being accented it is strange to hear something like Saqsayhuamán. If pronounced in the grave fashion, then the word would fit more regularly into the Spanish pattern, while when aguda, the burst of spray at the end, it stand out from the sea of ordinary Spanish words.

Interestingly, the very name for the country, Perú, is a similar word. Ordinarily in Spanish it would not be accented on the final syllable, much like the similar word pero or pera, or even the ideologically troublesome perro (troublesome because it means dog and that slur has often been used against Perú’s native peoples). It is likely the word originally was not aguda, but grave if it followed normal Quechua and Aymara usage.

Another example is the common last name Huamán. In Quechua it would be Huaman, accented on the first and not the last syllable, while in Spanish it rushes to the end. Of course this is also the same word as in the archeological site mentioned above.

Let me give one that is related but is not the same: Huamaní. In Quechua Huamani and in Spanish Huamaní, another common last name.

Or one that is not related but is another prominent archeological site: Pachacamác, versus the normal, indigenous Pachacamac.

Something is going on here and I do not know what. It seems the vast majority of Quechua and Aymara words that made their way into Spanish perform as they would in Quechua, at least in terms of accent. However, there is this set that does not, that must stress out on the last syllable, right on the rocks of the word’s end.

In Spanish there is always this difference between words that are graves, i.e. normal, and ones that are agudas, i.e. not quite so normal. As a result, it may have been that since the words mentioned are important as symbols in the indigenous world and in the Spanish world as symbols of Native existence or power, that their accent was shifted to the final syllable to make the point. Other words, not overladen with so much symbolic weight passed into Spanish as they were and stayed, normal.

I do not know and I wish some historical linguist would show me the data and demonstrate to me why it is that I must say Saqsayhuamán, when in Quechua it should be Saqsayhuaman.555909_10151691048221645_78443440_n

As someone who has spent most of my adult life either living in or going to very indigenous Bolivia, I find this strange. It seems these native words must be falsified in order to be seen as indigenous. Peru does have, in its Spanish, a very strong process of denial of indigenous phonic integrity, that is to say keeping the sounds of native words intact, while in Bolivia that very things is important in most Spanish as was insisted on to me by people as I learned their Spanish. It is ch’ullu and not chuyo unlike how most urban Peruvians say the same word.

Maybe this is the same process of placing letters in strange places when spelling words, such as rity instead of rit’i. Again, I do not know, but the idea built into practice seems to be that the prominent, symbolically valuable native words must first be wrenched from their native pronunciation and then recoded as Indigenous by a strange usage in Spanish, such as the y above or making the word aguda as we talked about.

I look forward to finding the answer.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button