Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Native peoples > Diaguita

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Language

It has been proposed that the Diaguita’s mother tongue is Kakán, as that was the language spoken by the so-called Diaguita groups inhabiting Argentina’s Calchaquíes valleys. Very little is know about this language, as it disappeared quickly after the Spanish conquest, according to historians. Present-day Diaguita communities in Chile speak Spanish only. According to scholar Ricardo Latcham, surnames ending in “ay” are characteristic of the Kakán language, as are local place names ending in “…gasta or its short-form ga, il, til, quí, quil, ama or cama, ao, ahoho, mar, alá…”, among others. The same could be said of surnames found among the Diaguitas of Huasco Alto, such as Campillay, Huenchicay and Eliquitay, and in the place names found in the valleys of the Norte Chico, such as Elquí, Sotaquí, Talinay, Salala and Combarbalá, among many others.