SIL linguist honored by Peru’s Ministry of Culture

Dr. Dan Hintz has been involved with language development in the Ancash region of Peru for nearly three decades and is the author of several published works on different varieties of Quechua.

(September 2013) SIL Linguist Dr. Dan Hintz was recently honored by the Ancash regional headquarters of Peru’s Ministry of Culture. Hintz was awarded the medal of El dios Guari de Chavín for contributions to language development and language assessment research.

Named for a major archeological site in the area, the award is the highest honor reserved for outstanding individuals involved in the promotion of culture in the Ancash region. Previous recipients have been honored for:

  • Investigations on issues and historical events during the early years of the Peruvian Republic
  • Exploration of the Cordillera Blanca, including the first ascent of Mt. Huascaran Sur (22,205’) by a Peruvian expedition in 1953
  • Contributions strengthening education at the national level by an outstanding educator and author from Ancash
  • Academic research leading to reassessment of the cultural landscape in the Ancash region

Hintz and his wife Diane, who both hold a PhD in linguistics, have been involved with language research and vernacular literature production in the South Conchucos Quechua, Corongo Quechua and Sihuas Quechua language communities since 1986.

South Conchucos Quechua is spoken by approximately 250,000 people in the eastern Ancash and western Huánuco regions of central Peru. Quechua is the language of everyday life for people of all ages. Most adults also have some level of fluency in the local variety of Spanish. The Hintzes have worked together with local authors and SIL colleagues to produce over one hundred forty publications in this language, including books of traditional stories, songs, riddles, a health manual, literacy materials, a translation of the novel Heidi and a translation of the New Testament.

Currently, the Hintzs’ research and language development efforts focus on the Corongo and Sihuas varieties of Quechua, both considered endangered languages. Mother-tongue speakers refer to these languages by the name Llaqwash. Ten years ago researchers estimated that there were approximately 4,000 people speaking Corongo and 6,500 speaking Sihuas, but those numbers have since declined. The Hintzes have joined with a group of local partners in public schools, municipalities, churches and NGOs working to reinvigorate use of the local languages, thus reinforcing a positive sense of self-worth and cultural identity.

As part of an innovative project that the Hintzes helped to design, local language promoters have been trained to teach Quechua reading and writing in schools in the Corongo and Sihuas communities. These supplemental lessons have been well-received by students, parents and teachers.

Another project that has bolstered enthusiasm for the local languages and cultural identity is the recent translation of the Peruvian national anthem into both the Corongo and Sihuas varieties of Quechua. Dan Hintz worked with mother-tongue speakers from the area to get the anthem translated. Posters with the anthem lyrics and photos of children from the local schools were distributed to promote the use of the translated anthem.  It is now sung with pride during the opening exercises of many of the schools in Corongo and Sihuas.

Hintz has published several books and articles on the Quechuan varieties spoken in the Ancash region. Distintivos del quechua de Corongo, published by SIL Peru in 2000, describes the phonology and morphology of Corongo Quechua. His most recent book was published by University of California Press in 2011.  Crossing Aspectual Frontiers describes the expression and historical development of verbal aspect in South Conchucos Quechua. A Spanish version will be published by SIL Peru in 2014.

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