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Kallawaya, also Callahuaya or Callawalla is an endangered, secret, mixed language in Bolivia. It is spoken by the Kallawaya people, a group of traditional itinerant healers in the Andes in their medicinal healing practice.

Native toBolivia
Native speakers
10–20 as 2nd language[citation needed]
Language codes
ISO 639-3caw



Kallawaya is a mixed language. The grammar is partially Quechua in morphology, but most of its words are from either unknown sources or from an otherwise extinct language family, Pukina. Pukina was abandoned in favor of Quechua, Aymara, and Spanish.[3]

Kallawaya is also a secret language, passed only by father to son, or grandfather to grandson, or rarely, to daughters if a practitioner has no sons. It is not used in normal family dialogue. Although its use is primarily ritual, used secretly for initiated men, Kallawaya may be a part of everyday conversation between those familiar with it.[4]

Kallawaya was one of the subjects of Ironbound Films' 2008 American documentary film The Linguists, in which two linguists attempted to document several moribund languages.[5]

Bolivians refer to the region where the speakers live as "Qollahuayas," meaning "place of the medicines", because the Kallawaya are renowned herbalists. Since they treat or cure with plants, minerals, animal products, and rituals, peasants refer to the speakers as "Qolla kapachayuh", meaning "lords of the medicine bag".


  1. ^ Kallawaya at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Callawalla". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Willem Adelaar; Simon van de Kerke. "The Puquina and Leko languages". Symposium: Advances in Native South American Historical Linguistics, July 17–18, 2006, at the 52nd International Congress of Americanists, Seville, Spain. Retrieved 2007-09-19.
  4. ^ "The Kallawaya Language Project". Archived from the original (online) on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-09-19.
  5. ^ Honeycutt, Kirk (18 January 2008). "The Linguists". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on November 21, 2008. Retrieved 22 February 2009.

Further readingEdit

  • Aguiló, Federico. Diccionario kallawaya. La Paz, Bolivia: MUSEF, 1991. (Spanish language)
  • Bastien, JW. 1989. Differences between Kallawaya-Andean and Greek-European Humoral Theory. Social Science & Medicine (1982). 28, no. 1: 45-51.
  • Girault, Louis. Kallawaya: el idioma secreto de los incas : diccionario. [La Paz, Bolivia?]: UNICEF, 1989. (Spanish language)
  • Muysken, Pieter (2009). Kallawaya. In: Mily Crevels and Pieter Muysken (eds.) Lenguas de Bolivia, vol. I, 147-167. La Paz: Plural editores. (in Spanish). See also the online edition at Lenguas de Bolivia
  • Oblitas Poblete, Enrique, and Jan Szemiński. Lexico Kallawaya. [S.l: Bet Xemex?, 1994. (Spanish language)

External linksEdit