Kawésqar language

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Native to Chile
Region Channel Region, western Patagonia, Wellington Island off south Chilean coast, 49° south, with centre in Puerto Edén.
Ethnicity 2,600 Alacaluf people (2002 census)[1]
Native speakers
12 (2006)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 alc
Glottolog kawe1237[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Kawésqar (Qawasqar), also known as Alacaluf,[3] is an language isolate spoken in southern Chile by the Kawésqar people. Originally there were three regional dialects: northern, central, and southern. (Kakauhua, a.k.a. Chono, is sometimes listed as a related language, but it is completely unattested.) Only a dozen speakers of Kawesqar remain, half of them on Wellington Island, off the southwestern coast of Chile.



Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open æ a


Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n   ŋ    
Plosive p t t͡ʃ k q ʔ
Ejective t͡ʃʼ    
Fricative f s       h
Rhotic   r - ɾ        
Approximant w l j      

Writing system[edit]

The alphabet in use is as follows [1]: a, æ, c, c', e, f, h, i, j, k, k', l, m, n, o, p, p', q, r, rr, s, t, t', u, w, x. However, there are reported to be differences between dialects, and some sounds that are not represented here.

Morphology and syntax[edit]

Kawésqar has a complex system of grammatical tense, which includes a basic morphological contrast between future, present, immediate past, recent past, distant past, and mythological past events.


  • Aguilera Faúndez, Óscar (2001): Gramática de la lengua kawésqar. Temuco: Corporación de Desarrollo Indígena.
  • Clairis, Christos (1987): El qawasqar. Lingüística fueguina. Teoría y descripción. Valdivia: Universidad Austral de Chile [Anejo de Estudios Filológicos 12].
  • Pieter C. Muysken. 2004. The Languages of the Andes. Cambridge Language Surveys. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


  1. ^ a b Kawésqar at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Kawesqar". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Spelling variants include Kaweskar, Kawaskar, Qawashqar, Kaueskar and Alakaluf, Halakwulup, Halakwalip; other names include Aksanás, Aksana and Hekaine.

External links[edit]