AMERINDIA n°13, 1988

categorías de aspecto en el quechua del Perú central


University of Leiden, Netherlands


In an earlier publication on the Quechua dialects spoken in the province of Tarma (in Central Peru), we have analysed the verbal suffixes
-ya(:)- (<*-yka(:)-) and -ru- (<*-rqu-) as aspect markers (Adelaar 1977). The term "aspect" was chosen because the functions of these two suffixes closely resemble those of categories referred to as aspects in recent linguistic literature. A general definition of aspects as "different ways of viewing the internal temporal consti­tuency of a situation" (Comrie 1976) provides a good basis for an in­terpretation of the meaning and function of the two Quechua suffixes[2].

The suffixes -ya(:)- and -ru- share a number of properties that set them apart from other verbal suffixes in Tarma Quechua and justi­fy their conjoint treatment. The most unusual of these is their ab­sence from main verbs in negative sentences, a limitation for which no convincing explanation could be found so far. The two suffixes are never combined in a verb form - not even by mistake, in so far as our material goes -, and they occupy the same order position in sequences - of verbal suffixes -.

Both -ya(:)- and -ru- are highly productive suffixes -they may occur more frequently than any other verbal suffixes in Tarma Quechua-, and they combine freely with any verbal root[3] and with most other verbal suffixes including those referring to tense аnd mood. For these last eases, however, some interaction on the semantic level with the aspects must be taken into consideration.

There is an interesting contradiction between the frequency of the aspect markers and the fact that they are often dispensable. Since their semantic contribution is rarely essential, they can be omitted from a verb form without much detriment to the intelligibility of the sentence.

A comparison of two collections of narrative texts recorded from Quechua speakers of San Pedro de Cajas and Vicora Congas (district of Tarma)[4] shows remarkable discrepancies in the use of aspect markers and in their frequency of occurrence. In the Cajas texts aspect markers appear in almost every linguistic context allowed; in the Vicora texts aspect markers are used more sparingly, and the additional ex­planations are needed to account for their presence. Considering that the verbal morphology of the two dialects exemplified by these texts is otherwise nearly identical, we are inclined to believe that the dis­crepancies recorded are idiolectal, or even stylistic, rather than dialectal. Other texts recorded in the area[5] conform to either one of the two extremes or are intermediate (but no systematic study of these texts was made).

It is important to note that the above only hold for the use of aspect markers in main verbs. In subordinate clauses aspect marking is less free than in main clauses. For this and for other reasons -aspect and negation can be combined in subordinate clauses- the use of aspect markers in subordinate verbs requires a separate treatment.

Our discussion of the aspects in Tarma Quechua will be structured as follows. First, we shall discuss the functions performed by the aspect markers when these are used at their highest frequency. (This state of affairs obtains in the Cajas texts, which will provide the necessary examples). Secondly, an outline will be given of the semantic and pragmatic factors that stimulate the use of the aspect markers in discourse otherwise characterized by a low incidence of aspect marking. (For this purpose the Vicora texts will provide examples). Subsequent sections will deal with the aspects in their relation to negation and to imperatives and with the use of aspect markers in subordinate clauses. A separate section is dedicated to suffixes that play a marginal role within the aspect system. Finally, possible aspect systems in other Central Peruvian Quechua dialects are discussed.

1. General semantic characterization of the aspects.

If a maximum use is made of the possibilities of aspect marking, three options must be considered. A verb may contain the marker -ya(:)-, it may contain the marker -ru-, or it may be unmarked. Besides, there are a number of contexts where aspect marking in the proper sense is not allowed either because aspectual oppositions are neutralized, or because other suffixes take over aspectual functions. (Such cases are discussed in 6.).

At first sight, the aspect function of -ya(:)- can easily be identified, because it roughly resembles that of a "progressive form" in European languages. In Spanish it is usually rendered by means of the construction: estar + GERUNDIO. On the other hand, the function of -ru- is elusive, because it does not correspond to any overt category in Spanish.

In Comrie's study on aspect (1976) an overall distinction is made between "perfective" and "imperfective" meaning. If a verb has perfective meaning, it "presents the totality of a situation referred to without reference to its internal temporal constituency: the whole of the situation is presented as a single unanalysable whole, with beginning, middle, and end rolled into one" (p. 3). Imperfective meaning is then characterized as "explicit reference to the internal temporal structure of a situation, viewing a situation from within", but allows for a further subdivision into habitual and continuous (including progressive) meaning.

Comrie's definition of perfective meaning is also applicable to the meaning of the aspect marker -ru-, such as it is used in the Cajas texts. Imperfective meaning, however, covers a wider range of possibilities than that of the marker -ya(:)- in Quechua. The latter does not refer to habitual events (including those in statements of general facts), for which the unmarked form is normally used. As a result, the use of -ya(:)- is limited to verb-forms with non-habitual imperfective meaning, here referred to as "durative" meaning ("continuous" in Comrie's terminology).

Admittedly, the meaning of the aspect markers is defined here in a very general way. The following excerpt from a narrative from San Pedro de Cajas will help and illustrate their function in a discourse[6].

(1) . kaynuyši huk kuti huk warmi i ulqu munanakura aliska


      . čaypitaš suwanakara:rin[7]

//therefore-they-say/they-elope (PERF)[8]//

. čawraqa aywarkayan marks altu:rankunapa munanakur

//then/they-go (DUR)/village/through-its-heights loving-each-other//

. čayši qa:yaq papata mikara:rin

//so-they-say/cold/potatoes (OBJ)/they-eat (PERF)//

. čay mikunqalanši paĉa nanaywan wanurura čay waynanqa

//that/his-eating-it-they-say/stomach/with-pain/he-died (PERF)/that/her-lover//

. čay waynan wanuruptinši qipiyan warmiqa čay ulqutaq'

//that/her-lover/after-he-has-died-they-say/she -carries (DUR)/woman/that/man (OBJ)//

. čayši čakarpurun ba:hayaqtaq'...

//so-they-say/night-overtakes-her (PERF)/she-going-down (OBJ)//

"They say that once a woman and a man loved each other a lot. Therefore they ran away together. So then they were going through the highlands-near the village, loving each other. They ate cold potatoes, and because of eating them the woman's lover died with a stomach ache. After he had died, the woman was carrying the man. Then night overtook her as she was going down..."

A remarkable feature of this story (and of four other narratives recorded in San Pedro de Cajas) is that it is almost entirely told in the present tense, the past tense being reserved for one or two introductory sentences (the "setting") and for a few crucial events such as the death of the young man in the above example. (But other tenses such as future and sudden discovery do occur).

The semantic opposition past vs. present is neutralized, all events being of course situated in the past. Only the aspect markers remain and mark the succession in time of the events described. Perfective aspect indicates a momentum in the succession of events, while durative aspect is used for the more descriptive passages.

The Cajas texts contain practically no cases where the absence of an aspect marker cannot be easily accounted for. Thanks to this, the restrictions to which aspect marking is subject become visible. Aspect markers are (or may be) left out in the following cases (main verbs only):

(a) The setting (the introductory sentence(s) of the narrative giving a background to the story). For an example see the first sentence in (1).

(b) Habitual events:

(2) imanirmi kada tardi upin ninaqa


"Why does the fire go out every afternoon? "

(c) Insecurity on the side of the speaker:

(3) wanunsi imansi


"So it died, or what, I don't remember."

(d) Negative sentences (see Section 3.):

(4) čawraq' warayta manaš punučinču warmitaq'

//then/all-night-long/not-they-say/he-does-not-let-sleep/woman (OBJ)//

"Then, they say, he would not let the woman sleep all night long."

(e) Future tense forms (only found in dialogues):

(5) nuqa qušay'čay qulqita


"I shall give you that money."

(f) Imperatives (only in dialogues):

(6) ...palabraytaqa kutičinakurkay


"Relieve each other of the promise you made!"

(g) With the verb roots ni- "to say" and ka- "to be". (This restriction is optional and concerns mainly the perfective aspect suffix -ru-; *niru- does not normally occur, karu- does occur, but rarely).

(7) kombintu ruritaš[9] yayguptinši pa:driq' ninaq...


"When she entered the convent", they say, "the priest said: ..."

(8) nuqam čay kara:


"That was me!"

(h) In forms containing the suffix -ku-. (This restriction is optional when -ku- is "reflexive"; see section 6.).

(9) čayši kikin ulquqa wanučikun


"They say the man killed himself."

(10) čay lapan nuna rikapuq qišpikurkan mančakaypita


"Everybody who saw him would flee out of fear."

In the cases (a) to (d) and (g) to (h) there are restrictions on the use of aspect markers. Future tense forms and imperatives, however, can be marked for aspect.

Consider the following examples:

(11) tamyarunqaĉ imanqaĉ

//it-will-rain-maybe (PREF)/it-will-what-maybe//

"It may start raining or so. (The sky looks so dark!)."

(12) upyaruy

//drink-it! (PERF)//

"Drink it at once!"

For the use of aspects with events situated in the future see section 2.(a) and (g); with imperatives see section 4.

2. Limited use of aspect markers.

In the texts supplied by Mr. Zárate, a Quechua speaker from Vicora Congas (district of Tarma), the possibility of using aspect markers has not been fully exploited. We anticipated that this low incidence of aspect marking is probably due to individual or stylistic factors. The texts were recorded in a slightly declamatory style, the contents being presented as general truths, rather than as personal experiences.

As a rule, the general characterizations of aspectual meaning given in the preceding section also hold for the Vicora texts, but additional factors must be found to account for the presence of aspect markers. That a verb form conveys perfective or durative meaning does not necessarily imply that it should be marked for aspect.

The motives that determine the use of aspect markers in the Vicora texts may either be contextual or purely semantic. Contextual factors equally influence the use of both aspect makers, whereas the semantic factors apply to either one of the aspect markers. There is, however, a considerable amount of overlapping between contextual and semantic factors. They are not always easy to separate.

We will first discuss the semantic factors that stimulate the use of perfective aspect ((a)-(f)) and, secondly, those that stimulate the use of durative aspect ((g)-(i)). The contextual factors are discussed last ((j)-(m)).

(a) Resultative meaning:

Verbs referring to events that are seen as the result of a prior development may be marked for perfective aspect. Such a prior development can either be external to the event referred to or consist in an effort of the actor. English translations such as "at last", "eventually", or "he managed to...", "he ended up" are usually adequate, although probably too strong in some cases.

Resultative meaning is one of the strongest motives for the presence of a perfective aspect marker and accounts for a large number of cases. It is interesting to note that it can also serve as a motive for the use of the aspect marker -ru- when describing a habit or general truth consisting of several components. See (38), (39) below.

Resultative meaning can be found with any tense or mood with the possible exception of the imperative. With the future tense and the potential mood (-man) it may be the only valid motive for the presence of a perfective marker, and it often acquires the character of a threat. See (14), (17) below.

(13) čawraxa na: xišyaxman muyurun ulxubis warmibis

//then/already/to-sick-people/they-turn (PERF)/men-too/women-too//

"Both men and women eventually become sick people."

(14) wamra: wanurunxa waxaywan

//my-child/it-will-die (PERF)/with-crying//

"My child will cry itself to death."

(15) kananmi čay čusbita wanuračišax

//now/that/fly (OBJ)/I-will-kill (PERF)//

"Now I will kill that fly! (I have taken all necessary precautions in order not to miss it)."

(16) čaymi kigilanguna ispańolgunata xarxurura

//so/they-themselves/Spaniards (OBJ)/they-chased-away (PERF)//

"They finally managed to chase away the Spaniards themselves."

(17) mana inti gatbinxa wanuručwanmi alalaywan

//not/sun/if-it-was-there/we-should-die (PERF)/of cold//

"If there were no sun, we would die of cold."

(b) Reference to an unexpected event:

Verbs referring to unexpected events can be marked for perfective aspect (compare also the contextual factor discussed in (m) below). This use is apparently contradictory to that discussed in (a) because no prior development is implied.

(18) čayĉu rikakarura xuk krus

//there/it-appeared (PERF)/a/cross//

Suddenly a cross appeared on that spot ".

(c) Completive meaning:

Verbs referring to a complement-event cap be marked for perfective aspect. This includes complex events which are "summed up" (19) and events which are irreversible (21).

(19) na:mi ami:ta kunčura:rin rigaba:kunampax

//already/pull-loose (OBJ)/they-suffer (PERF)/in-order-to-look-at-it//

"They have already taken much trouble to pull it loose in order to look inside."

(20) unaylam xitararun pampaĉu[10]

//for-long-time/he-lies (PERF)/on-floor//

"He has lair on the floor for a long while."

(21) xunxarunčik

//we-forget-it (PERF)//

"We have forgotten it."

(d) Inceptive meaning:

Perfective aspect can mark -the beginning of a state or condition.

(22) čay tu:nil ta:pakarutbin ke:dara:rira čay ruriĉu

//that/tunnel/after-it-had-collapsed/they-remained (PERF)/that/inside//

"When that tunnel had collapsed, they remained inside."

(23) byu:du garura

//widower/he-was (PERF)//

"He became widower."

(e) Punctuality:

Perfective aspect may mark events that occur only once.

(24) čay ača išgimuxmi išgiramura čay takša xuĉa ĉawbiman

//that/star/that-falls/it-fell (PERF)/that/little/lake/into-middle//

"That falling star fell in the middle of that little lake."

(f) Priority in time:

Perfective aspect may indicate that an event is prior to the situation described. Such use is more characteristic of perfective aspect in subordinate clauses. In a few cases, however, it was also recorded with main verbs (25).

The meaning "recent past" with perfective present tense forms may also be included here, but it is doubtful whether "recent past" should be considered as a basic distinction (see (26)).

(25) ali mo:dakuš'gama ĉara:rin čay kasamintuman

//well/dressed-up/they-arrive (PERF)/that/to-wedding//

"They arrived at that wedding, beautifully dressed."

(26) ĉixninakunxaymi kayta rurarušunki

//the-one-who-hates-you/this (OBJ)/he-does-it-to-you (PERF)//

"Your enemy has done this to you."

(g) Event in progress:

The most common function of durative aspect is to mark verbs referring to events in progress (27). In many cases, then, the aspect marker indicates that the event is continuing when another event (or the observation itself) takes place (28), (29), or it may indicate that the event has begun when another event (or the observation itself) takes place (30), or it may refer to an event in the future that will be prolonged for some time (31).

(27) kananmi nuxa kasaraya:čix taytančiba xutinĉu

//now/I/I-marry-you (DUR)/of-our-Father/in-his-name//

"Now I am marrying you in the name of our Lord."

(28) tre:pan xanĉakušas' pelyayanran

//his-guts/even-dragged/he-still-fights (DUR)//

"Even if he has to drag about his own guts, he still goes on fighting."

(29) kigimpas' gaya:butbin aširgayan masta

//of-their own-even/when-there-is-to-them/they-look-for-it (DUR)/more (OBJ)//

"Even when they have (land) of their own, they go on looking for more."

(30) xuk la:dubam paĉiĉi:la yabay paĉyaya:mun

//other/on-side/with-a-blow/again/it-bursts (DUR)//

(When the illness seems to be almost cured), it comes up again, bursting with a blow, on some other part of the body."

(31) čaybita mičax'maldisyaya:mankiman

//for-that/rightly/you-may-curse-me (in the future)".

Note that the duration of these events has a relative character. It is mainly an impression based on a comparison with some other event that is less long.

(h) Temporary state:

Verbs referring to states which are not permanent but last for a certain amount of time may be marked for durative aspect.

(32) kiru: gayanmi

//my-teeth/it-is-there (DUR)//

"I (still) have my own teeth."

(33) šunxu nanaywan pasay gayančik kurkukaša

//lungs/with-pain/totally/we-are (DUR)/bent//

"We are totally bent with pain in the lungs."

(i) Limitation in space:

Verbs referring to states which only hold for specific locations or objects may be marked for durative aspect.

(34) wašanmi gayan-altuman

//its-back/it-is (DUR)/upwards//

"Its backside is pointing upwards."

(35) xarwagatax waxtaba inkaba kaminun aywayan

//Carhuacatac/by-slope/Inca's/its-highway/it-goes (DUR)//

"The Inca highway run along the slopes of Carhuacatac."

(j) Switching to the present.

In historic accounts or descriptions of customs aspect markers are. of ten used whey the speaker temporarily switches to the present situation (in order to make a comparison, for instance). This factor favours in particular the use of durative aspect. Most examples are introduced by kanan "now".

(36).čaymi čay išgaynin marga wawxigaš gaba:kux tarmatambu margawan wanri marga


.čaymi kanan wilganguna mana gaba:kunču wanriĉu:xa sino: tarmatambuĉu:mi gargayan...

//so/now/their-descendants/not/they-are-not/in Huari/but/in Tarmatambo/they-are (DUR)//

"So both towns, Tarmatambo and Huari, used to be brothers. And nowadays their descendants do not live in Huanri, but they do live in Tarmatambo."

(37) čaynuybam čay fyesta kanan o:ra xalaygurun

//in-the-same-way/that/feast/now/time/it-has-started (PERF)//

"In the same way (as we have been describing) that feast has just started now."

(k) Direct speech:

Aspect markers are frequent in pieces of direct speech inserted into account. In (38) an imaginary patient describes the symptoms of his illness. (Note the absence of aspect markers in the negative sentences and in connection with -ku-).

(38).nawi:mi mana riganču


.uma:mi muyuyan čukčukyaya:mi masya:dum ušaka:ku:

//my-head/it-turns (DUR)/I-tremble (DUR)/very much/I-always-get-tired//

.manam iĉi:ta atiba:ču

//not/walk (OBJ)/I-cannot//

.ĉagi:mi xakaramun

//my-feet/it-swells (PERF)//

.rikra:mi xakaramun

//my-arms/it-swells (PERF)//

"My eyes do not see. My head is turning. I am trembling. I always get tired. I cannot walk. My feet swell and my arms swell."

(l) Successive events:

Aspect markers are particularly frequent in accounts of situations characterized in terms of several component events (38) or consisting of several successive phases (39). In such cases aspect markers are instrumental in specifying the temporal interrelations of the events. This function is important enough to permit the occurrence of aspect markers in descriptions of customs. The habitual character of these customs then does no longer prevent the presence of aspect markers.

(39) . čaybin tyempuxa me:dikuguna xampiba:kux xaĉalawanmi


. asta umangunata paginakara:rirsi tintušwanmi čuxiš xaĉawanmi xiranakara:rix

//even/their-heads (OBJ)/even-after-having-broken-each-other's/with-straps/choquesh/with-herbs/they-used-to-sew-each-other's (PERF)//

. mana aličakayta munatbinxa čay ruri čančamayu putuwanmi kaskutayubay ĉuranakara:rix

//not/heal (OBJ)/if-it-wanted/that/interior/Chanchamayo/with-calabash/like-helmet (OBJ)/they-used-to-place-each-other's (PERF)//

. činargurmi purirgayax

//after-doing-so/they-used-to-walk (DUR)//

"In those times the physicians used to cure people with medicinal herbs only. Even when people had broken each other's heads, they would sew them with straps, with choquesh herbs. And then, if they would not heal, they would fit in something like a helmet (manufactured) with a calabash from inner Chanchamayo. And in such a condition they would be walking about."

(m) Momentum:

Aspect markers may be used to mark moments of excitement or personal involvement in the account.

(40) . čay kuĉu xaxaman yaygunxanĉu ilarirura

//that/corner/into-rock/in-his-entering/he-disappeared (PERF)//

"There, in that corner rock, at the same place where he had appeared, he disappeared."

(41) . čay rigax aywaba:kunampaxxa rasumpa čagataš' gaya:nax

//that/to-see/as-they-went/really/crucified-one/he-turned-out-to-be-there (DUR)//

"As they went and looked, it turned out that there really was a crucified one."

3. Aspect and negation

In the Quechua dialects of Tarma province aspect markers are never found in the main verbs of negative sentences[11]. A possible explanation is that aspects convey a subjective view of objective events, which would become meaningless if those events did not exist.

This argument, however, which is not very strong in itself -all utterances are in some degree subjective- is further weakened by the fact that in other Quechua dialects with similar aspect systems aspect markers do occur in negative sentences[12].

For example see (36), (38) and the following:

(42). imapa:taq nuqata qayaya:manki

//for-what/me/you-call-me (DUR)//

. manta, tayta, nuqa qayaraqču qamtaq' (Cajas)

//not-but/Sir/I/I-called-you/you (OBJ)//

"Why are you calling me?" "But I did not call you, Sir!"

(43) čay ti:rarutbinxa manam čusbixa wanuraču sino: warminmi wanurura (Vicora)

//that/when-once-he-fired/not/fly/it-did-not-die/but/his-wife/she-died (PERF)//

"When once he fired, the fly did not die, but his wife died".

4. Aspect and imperative.

A durative aspect marker in an imperative sentence procures an incitement to start an activity in expectation of some other event, or to continue an activity already started.

(44) čay xalayuš'gaxta aywayay asta ušanxaygama (Vicora)

//that/begun/what-is (OBJ)/continue (DUR)/until/until-you-finish//

"Continue the job that was started until you finish it."

A perfective aspect marker in an imperative sentence indicates that the addressee is urgently incited to action. See (12) and

(45) pwe:dirxa mastas'ankese: winakuruy uĉbalataxa (Vicora)

//if-(you)-can/more (OBJ)/let-it-be/fill-it-for-yourself (PERF)/just-ash (OBJ)//

"Just put more ash in your bag, if you can."

5. Aspect in subordinate clauses.

Verbs in subordinate clauses can be marked for aspect. The main function of aspect markers in subordinate clauses is to provide information about the temporal characteristics of the subordinate clause in relation to those of the main clause. Consequently, their use in subordinate is more restricted and more predictable than it is in main clauses. The restriction that aspect markers do not occur in a negative context does not hold for subordinate clauses. See (48) below.

The verb in a subordinate clause can either be a nominalized verb, containing one of the nominalizing suffixed -q/-x, -ša, -na, -nqa-/-nxa-, or it may contain a special subordinating suffix -pti-/-tbi-, -r[13]. Here we will discuss in the first place the use of aspect markers in subordinate verbs with -pti-/-tbi- and -r. The use of -pti-/-tbi- and -r indicates a loose relationship between the events referred to by the subordinate and main clauses. This relationship can be causal, temporal, hypothetic, or concessive, there being a temporal limitation in the sense that the event referred to by the subordinate verb cannot be posterior to that of the main verb.

If aspect markers are added to the subordinate verb, the temporal relation between the two verbs becomes further specified. Durative aspect indicates that the events referred to are simultaneous, that of the subordinate clause serving as a background to that of the main clause.

(46) kima ĉunka xunax aywargayarxa ĉara:rira xuk monta:ńaman

//three/ten/days/when-(they)-go (DUR)/they-finally/a/at-mountain//

"Travelling for thirty days, they finally arrived at a mountain."

(47) tristi karkayaptinšár čay maripo:sa yapay čarun (Cajas)

//sad/as-they-were (DUR)-they-say/that/butterfly/again/it-arrived//

"They say that as they were sad together, that butterfly arrived again".

(48) imanirmi čay ĉakra nunagunaxa xwan belaskuba fabornin gaba:kun mana imantasi musyayar (Vicora)

//why?/that/country/people/Juan/Velasco's/his -favour/they-are/not/even-what-of-his (OBJ)/as-they-know (DUR)//

"Why do those country people support Juan Velasco, while they know nothing about him?"

Perfective aspect explicitly indicates that the event referred to by the subordinate verb is prior in time to that of the main verb.

(49) kaba:lu xananman yargurutbinxa punčunwan ta:parura (Vicora)

//horse/onto-its-top/as-he-climbed (PERF)/with-his-poncho/he-covered-him//

"After he1 had mounted the horse, he2 covered him with his2 poncho".

(50) biya:hita aywaruptinši warmiq' ke:dara:rin wawalankunawan (Cajas)

//trip (OBJ)/as-he-went (PERF)-they-say/woman/they-stayed/with-her-children//

"They say that after he had gone on a trip, the woman stayed at home with her children."

If the subordinating suffix is -r there are two options, because instead of -ru a suffix -rku-/-rgu-[14] can also be used.

By using -ru- the speaker emphasizes that the event referred to by the subordinate verb is somehow essential to the realization of that of the main verb (English "once that" - "as soon as").

-rku-/-rgu- indicates a purely chronological succession of events without any casual or conditional overtone.

(51) nunaqa rikapururqa mančakarunšar (Cajas)

//people/when-they-saw-him (PERF)/they-became-afraid-they-say//

"They say that, as soon as people saw him, they would become afraid."

(52) čaybita na: mana uryayta pwe:ditbinxa awgisyarur na: xarxara:rimux mana pa:gar ni imar (Vicora)

//thereafter/already/not/work (OBJ)/as-they-could/when-(they)-became-old (PERF)/already/they-would-chase-them-away/not/paying/nor/doing-what//

"Afterwards, when once grown old they1 were no longer able to work, they2 would chase them1 away without pay or anything".

(53) čay nirgurxa ku:raguna rimanakarga:rir[15] aywaba:kura rigax (Vicora)


"After saying that and after talking over the matter, the priests went and looked".

(54) kay nunaq' pinsyayan warminta wanukarkačirqa15 (Cajas)

//this/man/he-is-thinking/his-wife (OBJ)/after-killing-her//

"This man was thinking after having killed his wife".

The function of aspect markers with nominalized verbs (that is, in relative clauses, object clauses and some adverbial clauses) does not differ essentially from that in the subordinate clauses discussed so far, but some of the uses that are characteristic for main vergs (e.g. temporary state) are found as well.

We will limit ourselves to the following examples that represent some of the most common combinations.

(55) čayši čakarpurun ba:hayaqtaq' (Cajas)

//so-they-say/night-overtook-her/she-going-down (DUR) (OBJ)//

"They say the night overtook her on her way down" (relative clause)

(56) todalabi:da nuxa kawaya:na:taĉ pinsan (Vicora)

//for-ever/I/that-I-shall-be-living (OBJ)-maybe/he-thinks//

"He probably thinks that I shall be living for ever" (object clause)

(57) munanxa:ta ruraru: asta ńawsaša gayanxangama (Vicora)

//what-I-wanted (OBJ)/I-did-to-him/until/blinded/as-long-as-he-was (DUR)//

"I did to him what I wanted, as long as he remained blinded" (adverbial clause)

(58) čawraq' nunaq' yaygurun mančakarayanqampita (Cajas)


"Then the man entered (coming) from a state of fright". (adverbial clause)

(59) čay alma qipirayanqanqa "ča: puručuku markam iha" niptinši warmiq' pasay mančakarun (Cajas)

//that/dead-one/that-she-carries (DUR)/that/Puruchuco/village/daughter/as-he-said-they-say/woman/a-lot/she-became-frightened//

"They say that woman became very frightened, when the dead body she was carrying said: "That is the village of Puruchuco, girl!" (relative clause)

(60) kampanata pagirura tukayanxanĉu (Vicora)

//bell (OBJ)/he-broke-it/as-he-rang-it (DUR)//

"He broke the bell when he was ringing it" (adverbial clause)

(61) xarwašyaruša paĉančik nanan šunxunčik nanan (Vicora)

//turned-yellow (PERF)/our-belly/it-hurts/our-lungs/it-hurts//

"Once we have turned yellow, our belly hurts and our lungs hurt" (participial clause; see Adelaar 1977)

6. Aspect marker and other suffixes.

There is a remarkable reluctance to the use of aspect markers in combination with verbal suffixes having the shape -ku- (or -CVku-). Its explanation lies in that some of these suffixes themselves have an aspectual character. Since, this situation is characteristic of Tarma Quechua, we shall discuss in a few words the use of these suffixes (see also Adelaar 1977).

Four suffixes -ku- must be distinguished[16]:

-ku1- reflexive "(for) himself"

-ku2- perfective "definitely, for good"

-ku3- characteristic action "always, continually"

-ku4- characteristic quality "excessively, very much"

On the formal level these suffixes are distinguished from each by the effect produced upon a preceding vowel. -ku1- shortens a preceding vowel; -ku4- lengthens a preceding vowel; and -ku3- is neutral in this respect; no pertinent cases obtain for -ku2-.

-ku3- and -ku4- are complementary in the sense that -ku4- is limited to a small subclass of verbs referring to tastes and other physical sensations, whereas -ku3- can be found with any other verb. -ku1- and
2- do not occur with this subclass probably for semantic reasons.

-ku2- is limited to verbs of motion (aywa- "go", qišpi-/xišbi- "escape", etc.) and verbs containing a directional suffix of the set -rku-/
-rgu-, -rpu-/-rbu-, -y(k)u-/ygu-, and -rqu-/-rxu-, irrespective of whether these suffixes are used productively (e.g. kuti-rpu/kuti-rbu "return downwards") or form part of lexicalized rootsuffix combinations (e.g. qalayu-/xalay(g)u- "begin", yarqu-/yarxu"go out").

-ku1- and -ku2- differ in their distribution, the latter being inserted between a root and a directional suffix, if any, whereas the former would follow such a suffix.

Combinations of aspect suffixes with either -ku2-, -ku3- or -ku4- do not occur.

The semantic contribution of -ku2- comes near to that of the perfective aspect marker -ru-, the difference being that -ku2- introduces a more or less permanent situation, whereas -ru- is neutral in this respect[17].

Compare (10) and

(62) čawraq' limpuš qišpira:rin mayorsi huk kaqsi (Cajas)

//then/all-they-say/they-flee-away (PERF)/the-eldest-one-too/other/the-one-too//

"They say both the eldest daughter and the middle one fled away".

In (10) the act of fleeing is definitive -they do not come back-, while in (62) the girls temporarily retire to their rooms.

Compare also (37) and

(63) čaywanmi atux maĉarur fyestata rurayta xalakuyun (Vicora)

//with-that/fox/once-(he)-got-drunk/feast (OBJ)/make (OBJ)/he-started//

"Once he got drunk on that (chicha), the fox started to make merry".

With the verb qalayu-/xalay(g)u- "begin", we have not been able to detect any semantic difference between forms with -ru- and -ku2-.

-ku3- refers to the habitual character of an event, a characteristic behaviour; its association with the aspect system as a third aspect marker could be defended. We prefer, however, not to do so, because it is much less frequent and clearly more restricted in its use than -ya(:)- and -ru-. If it belongs to the aspect system at all, it takes up a very marginal position in that system. See (38) and

(64) asta tulunčigunas' nana:kun wipyaš' yubay (Vicora)


"Even our bones always hurt, as if they had been beaten".

(65) čawraq' ča:qa kakuna alqu (Cajas)


"It turned out that he had been a dog all along".

We have no reliable data concerning the behaviour of -ku2- and
3- in negative sentences.

There is no reason why -ku1- (reflexive) should not occur with aspect markers, its semantic value being far removed from anything aspectual. It seems, however, that the impossibility of using aspect markers in combination with -ku2-, -ku3-, -ku4-, has its influence upon potential combinations of aspect markers with -ku1- (including those with suffix sequences or complex suffixes, such as -naku-, -čiku-, -ĉaku-, -baku-/-paku-). In forms containing -ku1- aspect suffixes are allowed but often omitted.

Compare (Cajas) (9) and

(66) wakin nanankunaqa wanučikara:rin[18]

//remaining/her-sisters/they-killed-themselves (PERF)//

"Her other sisters killed themselves"

A few words remain to be said about the suffixes -rku-/-rgu and
-yu-/-ygu-. Apart from their original function as directionals ("upwards" for -rku-/-rgu-; "inwards", "towards an indicated place" for -yu-/-ygu-), they can have other functions as well. -rku-/-rgu (not to be confounded with -rku-/-rgu- treated in 5.) is normally rendered as "with your permission", "with your approval"; -yu-/-ygu refers to actions that are limited in extent, but are performed with special care or attention.

When used in this way these suffixes do not normally combine with aspect suffixes. In Sayk (1974), they are treated conjointly with the perfective aspect marker -ru-, because the three "have punctual meaning" and "consider the action in its totality". This would imply that -rgu-/-rku- and -yu-/-ygu- have perfective meaning as well, and that they can replace -ru- under certain circumstances.

In (67) this seems to be the case:

(67) ali kamakuyur xuknin nawinta ximčikuyur ti:rarura (Vicora)

//well/aiming-thoroughly/other/his-eye (OBJ)/shutting-tightly/he-fired//

"Aiming thoroughly and shutting his other eye tightly, he fired".

Our material contains one clear (elicited) example of a combination of -rku-/-rgu- "with your approval" and -ru-:

(68) mikurgurutbi:xa manam na: mikana:manxaču (Vicora)

//when-I-eat (PERF)-with-your-permission/not/already/I-will-not-be-hungry//

"As soon as I have eaten, with your permission, I shall not be hungry anymore".

But otherwise such combinations do not occur, or, if they do, there is no certainty whether -rku-/-rgu- resp. -yu-/-ygu- should not be rather interpreted as directionals.

A final answer about the exact relationship of -rku-/-rgu- and -yu-/-ygu-, on the one hand, and the aspect marker -ru-, on the other hand, cannot be given at present. But, if -rku-/-rgu- and -yu-/-ygu- function within the aspect system at all, their role can only be a marginal one.

7. Aspect in other Quechua dialects

An aspect system, such as it exists in Tarma Quechua, is not an isolated phenomenon in Quechua. All dialects have a suffix that comes near in meaning to the durative aspect marker. Besides, the perfective aspect marker (>*-rqu-) is found with practically the same function as in Tarma province in Wanka and the dialect of Pacaraos. It is likely that more Central Peruvian dialects may be added to this list. In Antonio Raimondi, Ancash, the suffix -skI- is mutually exclusive with the durative suffix -ykā- and both are members of the same position class (Snow 1972). This may indicate that -skI- and -ykā function within a system similar to that described for Tarma.

A rapid consultation of two texts from Chongos Bajo (Huancayo) leaves the impression that the suffixes -ya(:)- and -:(lu)- (<*-rqu-) are used in the same way as the aspect markers in Tarma, their frequency of occurrence being somewhere in between that in the Cajas texts and that in the Vicora texts.

Cerrón's description of -:(lu)- (-qLu-) (Cerrón 1976) shows that its use is very similar to that of -ru- in Tarma, except that -:(lu)- is used differently in -ša nominalizations.

The use of the suffixes -yka(:)- and -rqu- in Pacaraos (Huaral, Lima) is also comparable with the use of the aspect markers in Tarma, but some differences must be noted.

-yka(:)- and -rqu- do occur in negative sentences:

(69) manam karqunsu ka:řu

//not/there-was-not (PERF)/car//

"There was no car".

(70) ama hurquykaysu

//not/don't-take-it-out (DUR)//

"Stop taking it out!" "Don't take it out!"

Present tense forms containing the suffix -rqu- seem to be practically interchangeable with past tense forms that are not marked for aspect. Past tense forms containing the suffix -rqu are very rare and seem to indicate surprise.

(71) saypiq ratáš ratašpaĉ šamurqayki aw

//from-there/falling/falling-probably/you-came (PAST)/yes?//

"From there (yesterday) you probably came here slipping and falling continuously, didn't you?"

(72) qayan hapur urampaĉ šarqamunki

//yesterday/hapur/along-its-lower-side-probably/you-came (PRESENT PERF)//

"Yesterday you came along the place under (the place where) the hapur (is growing)"

(73) ńa saynawpaš wamra rimarqurqa

//already/like-that-they-say/child/it-suddenly-spoke (PAST PERF)//

"They say in that way the child suddenly spoke"

Future tense forms rarely contain -rqu-. There is no suffix -rku- indicating priority in time in subordinate clauses, -rqu being used instead.

(74) saynaw suwanakurqušpama:[19] qipaman qarqunakun

//like-that/after-running-away-together (PERF)/to-behind/they-chase-each-other-away//

"After running away together like that, they abandon each other".




ADELAAR, W.F.H. 1977. Tarma Quechua, grammar, texts, dictionary, Lisse.

ADELAAR, W.F.H. (in press). Morfología del quechua de Pacaraos.

CERRON PALOMINO, R. 1976. Gramática Quechua: Junín-Huanca, Lima.

COMRIE, B. 1976. Aspect, Cambridge.

CUSIHUAMAN, A. 1976. Gramática Quechua: Cuzco-Collao, Lima.

SAYK CRUZ, E. 1974. "Derivación verbal en el Quechua del norte del departamento de Junín", Documento de trabajo 28, Centro de Investigación de Linguística Aplicada, Lima.

SNOW, CH, T. 1972. "The modal suffix -skI in Ancash Quechua", Papers in Andean Linguistics I:1, 17-28, Madison.

SOLA, D.F. 1967. Gramática del Quechua de Huánuco, Lima.

VIENRICH, A. 1961. Fábulas Quechua, Lima.


[1] The data for this paper were collected with financial support from the Nether­lands Organization for the Advancement of Pure Research (ZWO) and the Netherlands Foundation for the Advancement of Tropical Research (WOTRO).

[2] In earlier publications on Quechua grammar (Solá 1967, Parker 1969) the term "aspect" was used for elements such as -n/ř, -p, -r, -s/-š Even though these ele­ments form part of the formal make-up of several productive suffixes, they do not seem to qualify for the status of separate morphemes in a synchronic description. Their semantic definitions, if realistic at all, are not applicable to categories traditionally called "aspect".

[3] An exception must be made for the use of the suffix -ru- with ni- "to say" and ka-/ga- "to be" (see section 1 (g)).

[4] Part of these texts were published in Adelaar (1977).

[5] These texts include a collection of narratives recorded at the turn of the century by A. Vienrich (Vienrich 1961).

[6] For the transcriptions used see Adelaar (1977), but ń before č, and n* are written n.

[7] -ru- is modified to -ra:- before the pluralizing suffix -ri-; to -ra- before certain other suffixes. (For a detailed description see Adelaar 1977).

[8] PERF: perfective; DUR: durative; OBJ: object.

[9] The suffix is probably superflous here.

[10] (20) is an elicited example. It illustrates the use of perfective aspect with verbs that have inherent "durative" meaning: xita-ra- "to lie".

[11] A single counterexample is found in one of Vienrich's texts. See note 5.

[12] In interrogative sentences aspect markers are allowed, but rare when the interrogative character is indicated by the suffix -ču.

[13] -r is used when subjets are identical; -pti/-tbi when subjets are different.

[14] -rku-/-rgu- can have other functions as well (see section 6.), but these clearly play no role in this context.

[15] -rku-/-rgu- is modified to -rka:-/-rga:- before the pluralizer -ri-; to -rka-/-rga- before certain other suffixes.

[16] -ku- can also act as a verbalizer, this use is not relevant to the discussion.

[17] The function of -ku2- is comparable with one of the functions of -pu- in Cuzco Quechua (Cusihuaman 1976).

[18] -ku- is modified to -ka- before -...ri-.

[19] In Pacaraos -špa takes the place of the subordinating suffix -r.