The Maxakalían languages (also Mashakalían) were first classified into the Gê languages. It was only in 1931 that Loukotka separated them from the Gê family. Alfred Métraux and Curt Nimuendaju Unkel considered the Maxakalían family isolated from others. John Alden Mason suggests a connection with the Macro-Gê stock, confirmed by Aryon Dall’Igna Rodrigues.
Apart from extinct varieties generally seen as dialects of Maxakalí, Mason noted resemblances with a few other extinct languages of the area: Pataxó, Malalí and Coropó. However, Coropó is now thought to be a Purian language. Campbell (1997) therefore lists the Maxakalian languages as:
Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
Kaufman, Terrence. (1990). Language history in South America: What We Know and How to Know More. In D. L. Payne (Ed.), Amazonian Linguistics: Studies in Lowland South American Languages (pp. 13–67). Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-70414-3.
Kaufman, Terrence. (1994). The Native Languages of South America. In C. Mosley & R. E. Asher (Eds.), Atlas of the World's Languages (pp. 46–76). London: Routledge.