“En mí ya termina el quechua”. Aproximaciones al uso lingüístico de hablantes bilingües (quechua-castellano) en el área urbana de Cochabamba, Bolivia
This article investigates the language use of bilingual students (Quechua-Spanish) in the urban area of Cochabamba. Their perceptions of language use at the societal as well as the individual level are analysed using empirical-qualitative methodologies. The urban area of Cochabamba constitutes a special ‘sociolinguistic reality’, which is mainly characterized by the language contact between Spanish and Quechua, and, though to a lesser extent, Aimara as well as other indigenous languages spoken there. This complex situation of language contact frequently results to be conflictive. Due to the long history of asymmetric power relations between the speakers of Spanish and those of Quechua, we find highly diglossic relations between these languages. At the same time, Quechua in Cochabamba has a remarkable vitality and there is evidence of an extended and relatively stable bilingualism at the societal and the individual level. This sociolinguistic situation exerts an influence on the current state and the future position of the Quechuan language in the urban area of Cochabamba. It is there that Quechua is suffering an accelerated language shift and loss at the societal and individual level. This phenomenon is closely related to a widespread lack of the intergenerational language transmission that plays a key role in language maintenance. Taking into account the current socio-political transformations in Bolivia and their possible influence on the region’s sociolinguistic situation, this article focuses on the individual bilingual speaker; it analyses his or her language use, which is understood as a cultural practice that gives life to a language and ensures its survival.