Cora language

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Not to be confused with Cora language (Baja California).
Region Mexico: Nayarit, Jalisco, Durango
Native speakers
13,000  (2000)[1]
Official status
Regulated by Secretaría de Educación Pública
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
crn – El Nayar Cora
cok – Santa Teresa Cora
Glottolog cora1260[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Cora is an indigenous language of Mexico of the Uto-Aztecan language family. It is spoken by the ethnic group that is widely known as the Cora but who refer to themselves as Naáyarite. The Cora inhabit the northern sierra of the Mexican state Nayarit which is named after its indigenous inhabitants. Cora is a Mesoamerican language and shows many of the traits defining the Mesoamerican Linguistic Area. Under the "Law of Linguistic Rights" it is recognized as a "national language" along with 62 other indigenous languages and Spanish which have the same "validity" in Mexico [1].

Geographic distribution[edit]

There are two main variants of Cora. One is called Cora del Nayar or Cora Meseño and is spoken mainly in and around the medium-altitude settlements of Mesa de Nayar and Jesús María in the south of the el Nayar municipality of Nayarit, and has approximately 9,000 speakers (1993 census). The other variant is called Cora de Santa Teresa and is spoken by approximately 7,000 people (1993 census), for the most part in the high sierra in the north of el Nayar. Cora de Santa Teresa has such a low degree of mutual intelligibility with other Cora speech communities that Ethnologue considers it a separate variety. Due to recent migrations a small community of Coras exists in the United States in western Colorado.


Cora is spoken in a number of dialects, some of which have difficult mutual intelligibility. ISO distinguishes two languages, INALI nine.

El Nayar Cora / Jesús María Cora
Dolores Cora
Rosarito Cora
San Blasito Cora
San Juan Corapan Cora (cora corapeño)
Santa Teresa Cora (cora tereseño)
La Mesa del Nayar Cora (Cora meseño)
Presidio de los Reyes Cora (Cora presideño)
San Francisco Cora (Cora francisqueño)


The closest relatives of the Cora language is the Huichol language together with which it forms the Coracholan subgroup of the Uto-Aztecan languages. The Taracahitan group of languages containing among others the languages Tarahumara, Yaqui and Mayo is also related to Cora.

  • Uto-Aztecan
    • Coracholan branch
      • Huichol language
      • Cora languages


The phonology of Cora is typical of southern Uto-aztecan languages with five vowels and a relatively simple consonant inventory. However atypically of Uto-aztecan languages Cora has developed a simple tonal system or pitch accent with an harmonic accent taking high falling tone.


Bilabial Alveolar Palatal / Retroflex Velar Glottal
Plosives p/b t k ʔ
Fricatives s ʂ x h
Affricates ts
Liquids l ɽ
Nasals m n
Semivowels w j


Front Central Back
i ʉ u
Mid ɛ


Cora is a verb-initial language; its grammar is agglutinative and polysynthetic, particularly inflecting verbs with many affixes and clitics. There are a number of adpositional clitics that can also be used as relational nouns.

Nominal morphology[edit]

Nouns are marked for possession and exhibit several different plural patterns.


Different classes of nouns mark the plural in different manners. The most common way is by means of suffixes - The suffixes used for pluralization are the following: -te, -mwa, -mwa'a, -tse, -tsi, -, -, -se, -si, -ri and -i. Other ways to form the plural is by reduplication of the final vowel of a noun stem or by shifting the accent from one syllable to the other. Another class of works form their plurals by suppletion.


Possessed nouns are marked with a prefix expressing the person and number of their possessor. The forms of the prefix expressing first person singular is ne-, na-, or ni-, for second person singular it is a-, mwa'a-, a'a-. The third person singular is marked by the prefix ru-. A first person plural possessor is marked by the prefix ta-, second person plural by ha'amwa- and third person plural by wa'a-. Furthermore there are two suffixes. One, -ra'an is used to mark an obviative or fourth person possessor. The other is -me'en used to mark a plural possessum of a singular possessor.

Possessive paradigm
Number/person of Possessor Singular Plural
1. person nechi'i "my house" tachi'i "our house"
2. person achi'i "your house" há'amwachi'i "Your (pl.) house"
3. person ruchi'i "his/her own house" wa'áchi'i "Their house"
4. person chí'ira'an "the house of the other"
pl. possessum + possessor chí'imeen "his/her houses"

Verbal morphology[edit]

Verbs are inflected for person and number of subject and direct object and object prefixes for 3rd person inanimate objects also show the basic shape of the object. Verbs are also inflected for location and direction.


Typologically Cora is interesting because it is a VSO language but also has postpositions, a trait that is rare cross-linguistically but does occur in a few Uto-Aztecan languages (Papago, Tepehuán, and some dialects of Nahuatl).


Cora-language programming is carried by the CDI's radio station XEJMN-AM, broadcasting from Jesús María, Nayarit.


  1. ^ El Nayar Cora at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
    Santa Teresa Cora at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Coran". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  • Preuss, Konrad Theodor: Grammatik der Cora-Sprache, Columbia, New York 1932
  • Miller, Wick. (1983). Uto-Aztecan languages. In W. C. Sturtevant (Ed.), Handbook of North American Indians (Vol. 10, pp. 113–124). Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution.
  • McMahon, Ambrosio & Maria Aiton de McMahon. (1959) Vocabulario Cora. Serie de Vocabularios Indigenas Mariano Silva y Aceves. SIL.
  • Casad, Eugene H.. 2001. "Cora: a no longer unknown Southern Uto-Aztecan language." In José Luis Moctezuma Zamarrón and Jane H. Hill (eds), Avances y balances de lenguas yutoaztecas; homenaje a Wick R. Miller p. 109-122. Mexico, D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Historia.