Waorani language

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Huaorani / Waorani
Wao Terero
Native to Ecuador, Peru
Region Oriente or Ecuadorian Amazon
Ethnicity 1,800 Huaorani people (2012)[1]
Native speakers
1,700 (2004)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Ecuador: indigenous languages official in own territories
Language codes
ISO 639-3 auc
Glottolog waor1240[2]

The Waorani (Huaorani) language, commonly known as Sabela (also Wao, Huao, Auishiri, Aushiri, Ssabela ; autonym: Wao Terero; pejorative: Auka, Auca) is a language isolate spoken by the Huaorani people, an indigenous group living in the Amazon Rainforest between the Napo and Curaray Rivers in Ecuador. A small number of speakers with so-called uncontacted groups may live in Peru.


Huaorani distinguishes nasal vowels from oral ones. Syllable structure is (C)V, with frequent vowel clusters.

p t k
b d~ɾ ɟ~j ɡ
m n ɲ ŋ
Front Non-front
Plain Nasal Plain Nasal
Close i ĩ
Mid e ɵ~o~ɤ ɵ̃~õ~ɤ̃
Open æ æ̃ a ã


Huaorani has three dialects: Tiguacuna (Tiwakuna), Tuei (Tiwi Tuei, Tiwi), and Shiripuno.

Genetic relations[edit]

Sabela is not known to be related to any other language. However, it forms part of Terrence Kaufman's Yawan proposal.


  1. ^ a b Sabela at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Waorani". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 

External links[edit]


  • Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. (1987). Language in the Americas. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • 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.
  • Peeke, M. Catherine. (2003). A Bibliography of the Waorani of Ecuador. SIL International. Retrieved 2007 December 26 from http://www.sil.org/silewp/2003/silewp2003-006.pdf
  • Pike, Evelyn G and Rachel Saint. 1988. Workpapers Concerning Waorani discourse features. Dallas, TX: SIL.
  • Rival, Laura. Trekking through History: The Huaorani of Amazonian Ecuador, Columbia University Press, 2002.