Ecuadoran media lengua: More than a "half"-language?

John M. Lipski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


This paper examines the status of two languages spoken in the Andean highlands of Ecuador: Imbabura Quichua and Media Lengua. The latter is a mixed language consisting of Quichua morphosyntax, including all system morphemes, and Spanish-derived roots for all lexical items. Imbabura Media Lengua is currently spoken in three small indigenous communities, surrounded by other communities where only Quichua and Spanish are spoken. Previous descriptions of Media Lengua suggest that it may not be systematically different from Quichua but rather a last-ditch attempt by Quichua speakers to retain their language in the face of growing Hispanization. This paper provides the results of several interactive experiments conducted with Quichua-Media Lengua bilinguals, which demonstrate that the psycholinguistic boundaries between Quichua and Media Lengua are clearly delimited for most speakers. Only among the youngest speakers-most of whom have received Quichua classes in school-is there some blurring of the distinction between Quichua and Media Lengua.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-262
Number of pages30
JournalInternational Journal of American Linguistics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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