University of Oslo
The Mochica language was spoken on the North-West coast of Peru and in some inland villages. The first attested documentation of the language is from 1607. The language was widely used in the area in the 17th and early 18th century, but records of the language at the end of the 19th century show a dying language only spoken by a few persons in some villages around Chiclayo. The language died out as a spoken language about 1920, but certain words and phrases were in use in some families up to the 1960s.
Mochica was the language of the Chimú culture and it may have been the language of the Moche culture. Mochica was the language of one of the main pre-Inca cultures of Perú, a culture that created the great town Chanchan and the impressive pyramids, temples and tombs from Trujillo in the south to Túcume in the north.
Our main source for the knowledge of this ancient South American language is Fernando de la Carrera: ARTE DE LA LENGVA YVNGA DE LOS VALLES del Obispado de Truxillo del Peru, con vn Confessonario, y todas las Oraciones Christianas, traducidas en la lengua, y otras cosas. (Lima 1644). The book contains a grammar, all the basic religious texts, confessional formulas, extensive explanatory questions and answers to most texts, psalms, as well as some brief non-religious dialogues and a number of sentences in Mochica. The author had a native command of the lanuage.
Mochica is typologically different from the other main languages on the West coast of South America (Quechua, Aymara, and Mapudungun) and contains features that are rare both within South American languages and in the languages of the world: case system where cases are build on each other in a linear sequence, e.g. the ablative suffix has to be added to the locative which again must be added to an oblique case form - all nouns have two stems: a possessed stem and a non-possessed stem - an agentive case suffix mainly used for the agent in passive clauses - a verbal system where all finite forms are formed with the copula. Mochica appears to be a linguistic isolate with no clear cognates among attested American Indian languages.
ISBN 9783895868627. Languages of the World/Materials 433. 80pp. 2004.