Carabayo language

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Amazonas Macusa
Native toColombia
Ethnicity200 Carabayo (aerial survey)[1]
Native speakers
150 (2007)[1]
  • Carabayo
Language codes
ISO 639-3cby

The Carabayo (Caraballo) language is spoken by the Carabayo people, also known as Yuri and Aroje, an uncontacted Amazonian people of Colombia living in at least three long houses, one of several suspected uncontacted peoples living along the Rio Puré (now the Río Puré National Park) in the southeastern corner of the country. They are known as the Aroje to the Bora people. Maku and Macusa are pejorative Arawak terms applied to many local languages, not anything specific to Carabayo. The name "Carabayo" is taken from a mock name, "Bernardo Caraballo", given to a Carabayo man during his captivity in the Capuchin mission at La Pedrera in 1969. It has been reported that their self-designation is Yacumo.[3]


It is often assumed that the Carabayo language and people are a continuation of the Yuri language and people attested from the same area in the 19th century. Indeed, Colombian government publications speak of the "Yuri (Carabayo)", "Carabayo (Yuri)", or "Yuri, Aroje, or Carabayo" as a single people.[4] However, the only information on the Carabayo language was obtained when a family was kidnapped during a violent encounter and held in a mission for several weeks. During this time, one of the priests wrote down words that he overheard, or that were used in exchanges with him, sometimes with a context that suggested their meaning. Fifty words were collected; excluding Spanish words like tabako that were picked up during captivity, and two words from the old lingua franca Nheengatu, kariba 'white man' and tupana 'God' (forms also shared with Yuri), there are 25 words recorded with a gloss or context. Several of these have good comparisons with Yuri or its sister language Ticuna:[3]

Carabayo Yuri
tʃʼau-, tʃʼu- 'I, my' tʃʼau-, tʃʼu- 'I, my' (also Tikuna)
hono 'boy' ona, oné 'son'
tʃʼaunoβe 'warm me' tʃʼau- + nore 'warm'
ao 'father' ? (h)ato, atu 'father' (but see Ticuna below)
hako 'well!' ('bites!'?) ? (h)okó 'I am fine, this is good, beautiful' (but see 'bite' below)
tʃʼauameni 'good, well, like' ? tʃʼau- + (su)mêniko '(my) heart' (but see below)
Carabayo Tikuna
tʃʼauameni 'good, well, like' tʃʼau na me nii (1sg 3sg good be) 'I like it' (lit. 'it is good to me')
ɡudda 'wait!' ŋɯ̀ná 'wait! not yet'
pinə 'prawn' pinɯ 'prawn'
aɡó 'bring!' a ŋe 'bring it!' (3sg bring)
pine-ɡó 'bring prawns!' pinɯ na ŋe 'bring prawns!'
ɡu 'yes' ŋɯ 'yes'
ɲe 'no' ɲé (emphatic negation)
-nate 'father'[5] natɯ 'father'
amá 'come!' ɲiama 'let us follow'
pama 'there, look!' paamà 'quick!, hurry up!'
ao (how children call their father) a o (how children and parents call each other)
ɲa 'out' (perhaps from ɲa kariba 'out, white man!) na ɲa (3sg out) 'get out!'
aua (calling a child) na ũã (3sg go) 'come here!, move!'
ɲa-nauué 'give me, show me' ɲia na uué (EXH 3sg lower) 'lower it (your hand)!'
hako! 'bite'(?) ja ŋo (EXH eat) 'eat!', na ŋo (3sg eat) 'he eats'
ʃàma 'enough!' ? tama (negation), ʃama (1sg)
kariba dimene 'white man' + 'kill'(?) ('they will kill us'?) tɯma̰ni (1pl.kill.agv) 'our killers', dɯmení 'look!'

According to Seifart & Echeverri (2014), the greater number of matches with Tikuna reflects the poverty of the data for Yuri, and the fact that Yuri speakers could not be interviewed to elicit matches, and they were able to do with Tikuna speakers. The fact that Tikuna speakers were able to recognize some of the Carabayo phrases suggests the languages are, or were once, part of a dialect continuum. However, Carabayo matches Yuri in having initial /ɡ/ where Tikuna has /ŋ/ ('bring', 'yes', 'wait'), suggesting that Carabayo may be closer to Yuri (whether or not a direct descendent of Yuri) than to Tikuna.[3]


  1. ^ a b Carabayo at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Carabayo". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ a b c Seifart & Echeverri (2014) "Evidence for the Identification of Carabayo, the Language of an Uncontacted People of the Colombian Amazon, as Belonging to the Tikuna–Yurí Linguistic Family". PLoS ONE 9(4): e94814
  4. ^ See, for example, Ley X de 2010
  5. ^ Assuming jakomanate, the name of Jakoma's father, means 'Jakoma's father'