Tupian languages

The Tupi or Tupian language family comprises some 70 languages spoken in South America, of which the best known are Tupi proper and Guarani.

Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and North-East Argentina
Linguistic classificationJe-Tupi-Carib?
  • Tupian
ISO 639-2 / 5tup
Tupi languages
Tupi–Guarani (medium pink), other Tupian (violet), and probable range ca. 1500 (pink-grey)

Homeland and urheimat

Rodrigues (2007) considers the Proto-Tupian urheimat to be somewhere between the Guaporé and Aripuanã rivers, in the Madeira River basin.[2] Much of this area corresponds to the modern-day state of Rondônia, Brazil. 5 of the 10 Tupian branches are found in this area, as well as some Tupi–Guarani languages (especially Kawahíb), making it the probable urheimat of these languages and maybe of its speaking peoples. Rodrigues believes the Proto-Tupian language dates back to around 3,000 BC.

History, members and classification

When the Portuguese arrived in Brazil, they found that wherever they went along the vast coast of this newly discovered land, most natives spoke similar languages. Jesuit missionaries took advantage of these similarities, systematizing common standards then named línguas gerais ("general languages"), which were spoken in that region until the 19th century. The best known and most widely spoken of these languages was Old Tupi, a modern descendent of which is still used today by indigenous peoples around the Rio Negro region, where it is known as Nheengatu ([ɲɛʔẽŋaˈtu]), or the "good language". However, the Tupi family also comprises other languages.

In the neighbouring Spanish colonies, Guarani, another Tupian language closely related to Old Tupi, had a similar history, but managed to resist the spread of Spanish more successfully than Tupi resisted Portuguese. Today, Guarani has 7 million speakers, and is one of the official languages of Paraguay. The Tupian family also includes several other languages with fewer speakers. These share irregular morphology with the Je and Carib families, and Ribeiro connects them all as a Je–Tupi–Carib family.[3]

Rodrigues & Cabral (2012) list 10 branches of Tupian, which cluster into Western Tupian and Eastern Tupian.[2] Within Western and Eastern Tupian, the most divergent branches are listed first, followed by the core branches.

See also


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Tupian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ a b Rodrigues, Aryon Dall'Igna, and Ana Suelly Arruda Câmara Cabral (2012). "Tupían". In Campbell, Lyle, and Verónica Grondona (eds). The indigenous languages of South America: a comprehensive guide. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
  3. ^ Rodrigues A. D., 2000, "‘Ge–Pano–Carib’ X ‘Jê–Tupí–Karib’: sobre relaciones lingüísticas prehistóricas en Sudamérica", in L. Miranda (ed.), Actas del I Congreso de Lenguas Indígenas de Sudamérica, Tome I, Lima, Universidad Ricardo Palma, Facultad de lenguas modernas, p. 95-104.

Further reading

  • Rodrigues, Aryon Dall'Igna (2007). "As consoantes do Proto-Tupí". In Ana Suelly Arruda Câmara Cabral, Aryon Dall'Igna Rodrigues (eds). Linguas e culturas Tupi, p. 167-203. Campinas: Curt Nimuendaju; Brasília: LALI.

External links

Akuntsu language

Akuntsu is an undocumented Tupian language of Brazil. Peaceful contact with the Akuntsu people was only made in 1995; they had been massacred by cattle ranchers in the 1980s. The Akuntsu language is spoken only by members of the tribe and not fully understood by any outsider.It is considered unlikely that the Akuntsu language or culture will survive following the deaths of the tribe's remaining members. For this reason several observers have described the tribe as the victims of genocide. The neighbouring Kanoê have been similarly reduced in number through contact with settlers, as were the people of a man recently encountered living alone in the Igarapé Omerê reserve who is apparently the sole survivor of his tribe.

Arikem language

Arikem is an extinct Tupian language of the state of Rondônia, in the Amazon region of Brazil.

Arikem languages

The Arikem languages of Brazil form a branch of the Tupian language family.

They are Karitiâna and the extinct Kabixiana and Arikem.

Aruáshi language

Aruáshi, or Aruá, is a nearly extinct Tupian language of the states of Rondônia and Mato Grosso, in the Amazon region of Brazil. There were 131 Aruá in 2012 and about 20 people who speak Aruá as a maternal language.

Awetï language

The Awetí language or Aweti language, is one of the Tupian languages of Central Brazil. Spoken by the indigenous people that live along the Upper Xingu River, the language is in danger of becoming extinct with a declining 150 living speakers. The Aweti people live in a multilingual area due to various indigenous people settling there from various regions. In search of refuge many people have relocated to the reserve as a result of European colonialism.

Cinta Larga language

Cinta Larga is a Tupian dialect cluster of Brazil, the largest language of the Monde branch.

Guarayu language

Guarayu is a Tupian language of Bolivia.

The name Guarayu (Gwarayú) is a variant of Guarayo, which when used in a pejorative sense refers to several indigenous peoples in the area with the meaning of 'savage' or 'uncultured'.

The origin of the names is Guara meaning "warrior", and yu "pale" (yellow or white). Compared to other Guarani peoples, the Gwarayú are lighter in colour, and bear a striking resemblance to another Guarani group found in Paraguay the Ache.

Juruna language

The Juruna language is spoken in Brazil. Specifically it is spoken in the North Mato Grosso, Xingu Park. In 2001 there were 278 native speakers.

Kuruaya language

Kuruáya is a nearly extinct Tupian language of the state of Pará, in the Amazon region of Brazil.

Makurap language

Makurap (Macurapi) is a Tupian language of Brazil.

Mondé language

Mondé, or Salamãi, is a possibly extinct Tupian language of the state of Rondônia, in the Amazon region of Brazil.

Munduruku languages

The Mundurukú languages of Brazil form a branch of the Tupian language family. They are Munduruku and the extinct Kuruáya.

Purubora language

The Puruborá language of Brazil is one of the Tupian languages. It is also known as: Aurã, Cujubim, Burubora, Kuyubi, Migueleno, Miguelenho or Pumbora. Specifically it is spoken in the Brazilian state of Rondônia, in Costa Marques and around the headwaters of the Rio São Miguel tributary of the right bank of the Guaporé. It is nearly extinct, with only two native speakers (and two in the ethnic group) reported in 2002.

Ramarama languages

The Ramarama languages of Brazil form a branch of the Tupian language family. They are Karo, or Ramarama, with 150 speakers, and the extinct Urumi.

Tupari languages

The Tuparí languages of Brazil form a branch of the Tupian language family.

They are:


Tuparí, Kepkiriwát, Akuntsu–Mekéns (Sakirabiá, Waratégaya), WayoróNone are spoken by more than a few hundred people.

Urumi language

Urumi is an extinct Tupian language of the state of Rondônia, in the Amazon region of Brazil.

Xipaya language

Xipaya (or Shipaja or Xipaia) is an endangered language spoken in the Pará region of Brazil.

It is one of the approximately 70 Tupian languages of South America.

At last count, Xipaya was only spoken by two elderly women in Altamira, Pará.

Yuruna languages

The Yuruna languages of Brazil form a branch of the Tupian language family.

They are Jurúna, Maritsauá, and Xipaya.

Zo'é language

Zo'é (Jo'é) is spoken by the indigenous Zo'é people of Pará, Brazil. It is close to the Emerillon language.

Zo'é is also known as Buré, Poturu, Poturujara, and Tupí of Cunimapanema.

Tupian languages
and Asia
New Guinea
and the Pacific
See also

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