Apurinã language

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Native to Brazil
Region Amazon basin
Native speakers
2,800 (2006)[1]
  • Southern
Language codes
ISO 639-3 apu
Glottolog apur1254[2]
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Apurinã (Ipurina) is a Southern Maipurean language spoken by the Apurinã people of the Amazon basin. It has an active–stative syntax.[3] Apurinã is a Portuguese word used to describe the Popikariwakori people and the language they speak (Facundes 34, 2000). Apurinã indigenous communities are predominantly found along the Purus river in the Northwestern Amazon region in Brazil, in the Amazonas state (Pickering 2, 2009). Its population is currently spread over twenty-seven different indigenous lands along the Purus river (Apurinã PIB). with an estimated population of 9,500 people in total. It is predicted however that less than 30% of the Apurinã population is able to speak the language fluently (Facundes 35, 2000). A definite number of speakers cannot be firmly determined due to a regional scattered presence of its people. The spread of Apurinã speakers to different regions was due initially to conflict or disease, which consequently led natives to loose the ability to speak the language due to lack of practice and interactions with other communities. Secondly, as a consequence of violence and oppression towards indigenous people, some natives and descendants choose to not identify themselves as indigenous further reducing the number of people that are categorized as speaking the language (Facundes 23, 2000). The consequence of this low transmission and cultivation of the language results is the risk of endangerment. The endangerment level of Apurinã is currently at level 3 (Facundes 4, 2000), meaning that although adults still speak the language, children are no longer being exposed to it and are being taught Portuguese or Spanish instead. This could consequently lead to a further reduction in the number of people that speak the language over the years and eventually lead it go become extinct.


In Facundes’ dissertation (2000), he makes reference to the use of independent pronouns in the Apurina language. These are words encoding gender, person or number or often a combination of all three, which stand alone or follow a verb or proposition. As the table above shows, Apurina language has four singular independent pronouns and three plural independent pronouns. As the examples below will demonstrate, these pronouns can be used in a sentence as both the subject and the object (345, 2000).

Person and Gender Pronoun forms
1 nota ata
2 pite hĩte
3M uwa unawa
3F owa

nhi-nhipolo-ta nota

1SG-eat-VBLZ 1S

“I did eating”

pi-nhipoko-ta pita

2SG-eat-VBLZ 2SG

“You did eating”

o-nhipolo-ta owa

2SG-eat-VBLZ 2SG

“She/it did eating”

In the examples above Facundes (2000) demonstrates the use of pronouns ‘nhi’ ‘pi’, ‘o’ as shown in the example, flowing the verb ‘nhipolo-ta’.

Causative sentences in Apurina are characterized by the suffix –ka, as described by Facundes (310, 2000), and can be used with both transitive and intransitive verbs. The examples below show the use of the causative marker being used in both transitive and intransitive verbs.

Intransitive: the verb nhipokota
nhi-nhipokota-ka1-ka2-ta-ru (M)


“I made him do eating”

Transitive: the verb nhika



“I am making him eat capybara”

The causative morpheme ‘–ka2 has the same function in both transitive and intransitive verbs. The difference between their functions is the affix position they are placed in the sentence. This change in position is dependent on whether the verb is classified under class1 verbs or class2 verbs. In brief, class1 verbs are those consisting of the bound formatives attaching to the base0 to form base1, thus making base1 a combination between base0 and the bound class1 formative (Facundes 308, 2000). Subsequently, class2 verbs are those that attach to base1 to form base2. Class2 verbs however, differ from class1 in that a verbalizer marker –ta is not necessary.

In class1 formatives, the verb is followed by the dependent verbalizer marker ‘–ta’ as seen in examples above whereas in class2, the causative marker is ‘–ka3 and does not possess a dependant relationship with the base verb (Facundes 325, 2000). The formative marker ‘–ka3 is classified as a class2 verb, whereas ‘–ka2 belongs in to class1. Examples are provided by Facundes (507,2000), on the location of ‘–ka2 as a causative marker.

amaruru n-unama-ka2-namu-ta
boy 1S-sleep-CAUS-PROG-VBLZ
“I am making the kid sleep"

nhi-nhika-ka2-ru yapa
I made him eat capybara”

In the first example , ‘amaruru’ is the causee and ‘n’ is the causer. By adding a causative marker, the monovalent verb becomes bivalent. Similarly, in the example below, ‘nhi’ is the causer and ‘ru’ is the causee, causing a bivalent verb to become a trivalent verb.



Apurinã vowels are obligatorily nasalized by surrounding nasal vowels[clarification needed], even across word boundaries.[4]

Short Vowels Long Vowels
Front Central Back Frontal Central Back
Oral/Nasal Oral/Nasal Oral/Nasal Oral/Nasal Oral/Nasal Oral/Nasal
High i/ĩ ɨ/ɨ̃ i:/ ɨ̃ː ɨ/ ɨ̃ː
Mid e/ ẽ o/ õ e:/ ẽ: o/ õ:
Low a/ ã a/ ã:


Bilabial Alveolar Postalveolar
or palatal
Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ
Plosive p t k
Affricate t͡s t͡ʃ
Fricative s ʃ h
Flap ɾ
Approximant j ɰ


In Facundes’ dissertation (2000), he explores morphology, a branch of linguistics centered on the study of words. It primarily focuses on how words are formed, their grammatical structure, composition and their relationship to other words of the same language. He starts off by introducing the domain of morphology, followed by constructors of a word and makes reference to morphemes, allomorphs, bound and free formatives. Facundes’ (2000) introduction to morphology is followed by a detailed account of noun morphology where he describes simple, compound and deverbal nouns. In simple nouns, Facundes (2000) makes reference to underived, simple nouns. These are nouns that have only one root and cannot be further simplified. ‘Anãpa’ for ‘dog’ was one of the examples provided (151, 2000).

Morphemes were one of the constructors explored by Facundes (2000). Morphemes are grammatical fragments put together to generate one final product, often a word. It is the minimal unit of word-building in a language and thus cannot be broken down any further (Facundes 19, 2000). For example, the word ‘unbreakable’, composed of three morphemes: un, break and able. ‘Un’ is a prefix preceding the base morpheme, break. Finally, ‘able’ is a suffix, a morpheme following the base morpheme. Although the combination of multiple morphemes yields a word with a meaning, individual morphemes do not always have a recognizable meaning. For example, In the example of the word ‘touched’, it can be broken down into two morphemes, ‘touch’, a base morpheme and ‘ed’, an affix for the morpheme base. Within morphemes and word-structure, Facundes (122, 2000) mentions that although the meaning of word is not always transparent, they exist in two separate classes in Apurina language. The first, phonological word. These are the words that allow pauses to occur at the two boundaries of another word.

Nu-su-pe-ka-ko nota watxa


“I’ll get going now”

The example above is a representation of a phonological word, where a ‘pause phenomenon’ can be manifested in a way that would shift the order in which the word appears in the sentence, without affecting the general interpretation of the sentence (Facundes 122, 2000)

Secondly, Facundes (123, 2000) introduces a second class of word, Grammatical words. This class represents words with little or ambiguous lexical meaning, and instead are used to represent a grammatical relationship with other words standing within the same sentence.




*uwa muteka-wako-ru

3M run-PL-M

“They ran”

nu-su-pe-ka-ko nota watxa

1SG-go-PFTV-PRED-FUT 1SG today

“I’ll get going now”

As presented by Facundes (125, 2000), each of the sentences above contain a plural marker ‘wako-ru’, which is used exclusively with nouns. Furthermore, these grammatical words can often be placed between two words as seen in the example below, where two grammatical words ‘uwa’ and ‘nuteka-manu-ta’ are placed on either side of ‘owa-kata’ meaning “with her”, thus giving a meaning to the sentence “He was running with her”.

Uwa owa-kata muteka-nanu-ta


“he was running with her”

Affixes are also used in morphology and are added before or after a base morpheme. They are a type of bound formative encoding a grammatical constructor associated with a specific word class. The position in which the affix is placed in a word changes its’ classification to either a prefix, preceding the base morpheme or a suffix, which is placed after the base morpheme they are attached to. In example 4a provided by Facundes (137, 2000), ‘wako-ru’ represents a plural suffix, proceeding the base morpheme ‘kuku’, meaning man. The use of the suffix in this case was to make the base morpheme ‘kuku’ plural, into kuku-wako-ru meaning men (124). Facundes (2000) also proceeded to describe other forms of bound formatives. These are categorized separately from the prefixes and suffixes and thus also function differently. In the example provided by Facundes (2000), some bound formatives float in a sentence but maintain a general meaning.

(1a) nota muteka-ko

1SG run-FUT

“I’ll run away”

(1b) nota-ko muteka

1SG-FUT run

“I’ll run away”

As seen in the examples above, the marker ‘-kata’ is used in both sentences 1a and 1b, to yield sentences with the same meaning.


Valency Reducing[edit]

Valency reducing operations are those that serve to change a transitive sentence into an intransitive sentence by altering the function of a subject into an oblique status, meaning they are no longer considered core-arguments. Oblique arguments are also known to occupy a “patient” role and thus do no play a critical role in the sentence, compared to those arguments possessing an “agent” semantic role. This means that it is not imperative for the oblique argument to be included in the sentence, and without it, the sentence would not withhold any information. Passive constructions are seen in the Apurina language, as described by Facundes (400), and are indicated by the passive parker ‘–ka’ placed after a base morpheme. The use of passive marker is to encode a patient role in the sentence (Facundes 400, 2000).

‘He was killed’

Example (3a) above, shows the effect of the subject/possessor marker. The example above as presented by Facundes (401, 2000), occurs in a naturally occurring speech and thus can often also be combined with other markers. Facundes (2000) mentions combining the valency-reducing passive marker –ka with the perfective marker ‘–pe’ and sometimes the imperfective marker ‘–panhi’, in which case all sentences under this construction would still retain a passive tone.

(3b) uwã u-su-pē-ka

there 3M-go-PFTV-PASS

‘He/It has gone (somewhere)

Above are examples provided by Facundes (401, 2000) to show the relationship between the passive marker and combined with perfective or imperfective markers. Example 3b shows the combination of the perfective marker ‘–pe’ along with the passive marker ‘-ka’. In this case, “gone” remains as the past participle, which is used to inform perfect and passive tenses. In this case, as descibred by Facundes (401, 2000), the argument would remain passive.



Similar to other languages, it is used to mark the progression on an action or an event through time. In Apurina, tense is classified as future or non future. The two types of tense used in Apurinã use as a reference the speech locus, in other words, the time in which the speech is taking place (Facundes 513, 2000).

The future sentence in this language in used to indicate a speech or an action in a not-immediate future. These are identified with the use of the marker morpheme ‘–ko’ (Facundes 513, 2000), and can be attached to noun bases, pronoun bases, numeral bases as well as particle bases.

nota-ko suka-ru


I’ll give away to him

In the example above, the future is signified by the attaching of the morpheme “-ko” to the pronoun ‘nota’ meaning first person singular, I.

kona-ko nhi-txiparu-te nhi-suka-i

not-FUT 1SG-banana-POSSED 1SG-give-2O
I won’t give you banana

In this example, the same rule applies when the future is on its negative form, with a negative particle. ‘I will not’ is symbolised by the attaching of the morpheme ‘–ko’ to a “not” proposition, giving the sentence an overall future meaning (Facundes 410, 2000).


The non future tense in Apurina relates to a time frame that occurred prior to the speech locus, known as past in most languages. Due to Apurina only being divided into two tenses, the current speech locus (also known as present), can also be categorised as non-future. This rule is also applicable to any time frame happening immediately after the speech locus, as it is considered to be the immediate future. In the case of the non-future tense, there is no specific morpheme that marks it.

Akirita i-txa-ro owa

Call 3M-AUX-3SG.F

‘He called her’

The first example above shows a sentence describing an event that happened in the past and it is not marked by a particular morpheme to indicate a past action.

Mipa imata-ru a-sãkire

Mipa know-3M.O 1PL-language

Mipa knows our language

The seconds example is also considered to be non-tense and indicated a present time frame. Again in this example, there there is no specific marker morpheme used in the sentence to indicate the time frame. Thus, whenever no –ko morpheme is included with a noun or pronoun base, one can assume the event took place in the past, in the present or happened in the near future.

As mentioned by Facundes (515, 2000), the difference between future and immediate future in the language cannot be measured in an exact manner. This is because speakers can very as to the extent that they mark an event as future or immediate future. The example provided by Facundes (515, 2000), consisted of a time frame exceeding the speech locus by only a couple of days. He described that in this case, the tense use will dependent on the speaker, but will most often be presented as a distant future rather than the immediate future.


  1. ^ Apurinã at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Apurinã". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Aikhenvald, "Arawak", in Dixon & Aikhenvald, eds., The Amazonian Languages, 1999.
  4. ^ The World Atlas of Language Structures Online – Chapter 10 – Vowel Nasalization

External links[edit]

  • Da Silva Facundes, Sidney. The Language of the Apurinã People of Brazil (Maipure/Arawak). Ph.D. dissertation, SUNY Buffalo.
  • Aberdour, Cathie – Referential Devices in Apurinã Discourse
  • ELAR – archive of Apurinã language documentation materials
  • Lev, Michael; Stark, Tammy; Chang, Will (2012). "Phonological inventory of Apurinã". The South American Phonological Inventory Database (version 1.1.3 ed.). Berkeley: University of California: Survey of California and Other Indian Languages Digital Resource. 
  • Eldp. "ELDP // Preserving Endangered Languages." ELDP / Projects We Funded. ELDP, Web.
  • Escola Indigena Apurinã em Boca Do Acre." Guia Amazonas. Web
  • Facundes, Sidney S. "The Language of Apurinã People of Brazil." (2000). University at Buffalo. Web.
  • Pickering, Wilbur N. "Apurinã Grammar." Devadattīyam (2009): Summer Institute of Linguistics SIL International. Web. Schiel, Juliana. " Apurinã." Povos Indigenas No Brasil. Oct. 2005. Web