Wichí languages are the most widely spoken language of the Matacoan language family. They are also known as Mataco, Wichi, Wichí Lhamtés, Weenhayek, Noctenes, Matahuayo, Matako, Weʃwo. The name Mataco is common but pejorative.
They include the following languages:
- Noktén (AKA Noctén, Wichí Lhamtés Nocten), spoken in Bolivia and Argentina
- Vejoz (AKA Vejo, Pilcomayo, Bermejo, Wichí Lhamtés Vejoz), spoken in Argentina and Bolivia
- Wiznay (AKA Güisnay, Wichí Lhamtés Güisnay), spoken in Argentina.
- Matawayo (AKA Matahuayo).
The Argentine National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INDEC) gives a figure of 36,135 Wichí speakers in Argentina.
In Rosario, the third biggest city of Argentina, there's a community of about 10,000 Wichí people, all of them fluent in whichi, and some native speakers. There are a couple of bilingual primary schools.
For Bolivia, Alvarsson estimated between 1,700 and 2,000 speakers in 1988; a census reported 1,912, and Diez Astete & Riester (1996) estimated between 2,300 and 2,600 Weenhayek in sixteen communities.
According to Najlis (1968) and Gordon (2005), three main dialects can be distinguished in the Wichí group: southwestern or Vejós (Wehwós), northeastern or Güisnay (Weenhayek) and northwestern or Nocten (Oktenay). Tovar (1981) and other authors claim the existence of only two dialects (northeastern and southwestern), while Braunstein (1992-3) identifies eleven ethnical subgroups.
Wichí languages are predominantly suffixing and polysynthetic; verbal words have between 2 and 15 morphemes. Alienable and inalienable possession is distinguished. The phonological inventory is large, with simple, glottalized and aspirated stops and sonorants. The number of vowels varies with dialect (five or six).