In Sin and Confession in Colonial Peru, Harrison draws directly from confession manuals to demonstrate how sin was newly defined in Quechua lexemes, how the role of women was circumscribed to fit Old World patterns, and how new monetized perspectives on labor and trade were taught to the subjugated indigenous peoples of the Andes by means of the Ten Commandments. Although outwardly confession appears to be an instrument of oppression, the reformer Bartolomé de Las Casas influenced priests working in the Andes; through their agency, confessional practice ultimately became a political weapon to compel Spanish restitution of Incan lands and wealth. Bringing together an unprecedented study (and translation) of Quechua religious texts with an expansive history of Andean and Spanish transculturation, Harrison uses the lens of confession to understand the vast and telling ways in which language changed at the intersection of culture and religion.
Mannheim first discusses changes in the social setting of language use in the Andes from the time of the first European contact in the sixteenth century until today. He reveals that the modern linguistic homogeneity of Spanish and Quechua is a product of the Spanish conquest, since multilingualism was the rule in the Inka empire. He identifies the social and political forces that have influenced the kinds of changes the language has undergone. And he provides the first synthetic history of Southern Peruvian Quechua, making it possible at last to place any literary document or written text in a chronological and social context.
Mannheim also studies changes in the formal structure of Quechua. He finds that changes in the sound system were motivated primarily by phonological factors and also that the changes were constrained by a set of morphological and syntactic conditions. This last conclusion is surprising, since most historical linguists assume that sound change is completely independent of other aspects of language. Thus, The Language of the Inka since the European Invasion makes an empirical contribution to a general theory of linguistic change.
Written in an engaging style that is accessible to the nonlinguist, this book will have a special appeal to readers interested in the history and anthropology of native South America.