Quechua (, US also ; Spanish: [ˈketʃwa]), usually called Runasimi ("people's language") in Quechuan languages, is an indigenous language family spoken by the Quechua peoples, primarily living in the Andes and highlands of South America. Derived from a common ancestral language, it is the most widely spoken language family of indigenous peoples of the Americas, with a total of probably some 8–10 million speakers. Approximately 25% (7.7 million) of Peruvians speak a Quechuan language. It is perhaps most widely known for being the main language family of the Inca Empire. The Spanish colonisers initially encouraged its use, but from the middle of their reign they suppressed it. However, Quechua ultimately survived, and variants are still widely spoken today. The Quechua had already expanded across wide ranges of the central Andes long before the expansion of the Inca Empire. The Inca were one among many peoples in present-day Peru who already spoke a form of Quechua. In the Cusco region, Quechua was influenced by neighboring languages such as Aymara, which caused it to develop as distinct. In similar ways, diverse dialects developed in different areas, borrowing from local languages, when the Inca Empire ruled and imposed Quechua as the official language.
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