Kamayurá language

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Native to Brazil
Region Upper Xingu region
Ethnicity Kamayurá people
Native speakers
400 (2011)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 kay
Glottolog kama1373[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Kamayurá language (Kamaiurá in Portuguese) belongs to the Tupi–Guarani family, and is spoken by the Kamayurá people of Brazil – who numbered about 290 individuals in 2004.



Front Central Back
High i ɨ u
Mid e o
Low a


Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Unrounded Rounded Unrounded Rounded
Stop p t k ʔ
Affricate ts
Nasal m n ŋ
Approximant j w h
Flap ɾ

The "glottal approximants" /h/ and /hʷ/ assume the quality of the following vowel.


Kamayurá is one of the few languages in the world with two mechanisms for causation that differ in how involved the causer is in the action. The prefix mo- indicates that the causer was not involved in the activity ("he stopped in the canoe when he was outside it") while the prefix (e)ro- expresses that it was involved ("he stopped in the canoe when he was inside it").[3]

Sample text[edit]

The following sample is taken from Seki (2000), p. 438. It is a small excerpt of a folk take about hero Arawitará, who is summoned by his deceased friend to help the souls of the dead in their eternal war against the birds. Here Arawitará has returned to the world of the living, and his describing his journey to the friend's old mother.

  1. jererahame rake ko‘yt a‘ɳa rupi rak orohome ko‘yt
  2. jene peuan ikatu a‘ia ko‘ypy
  3. jawa‘ipaip ehe‘aɳ jajuw a‘e
  4. te a‘ia‘iw a‘iwĩ jene retama ko‘ypy
  5. jakatupe tete ne jene retama jaetsa ko‘ypy
  6. nite ne jawa‘iawa ko‘ypy
  7. kopiaip ehe‘aɳ jaju kwãj‘awan
  8. petsakame te jene retama ko‘ywa
  9. ipeiripyrera witene
  10. ipeiripyrera wite a‘ia‘iwine jeneretama ko‘ypy
  11. ojewunewunawa a‘iweru je wi kwãj
  12. okoj opiretepewewara ruri we
  1. "He [the deceased friend] took me [Araw.]. We went this way.
  2. Our straight path(*) is very beautiful
  3. Here we live among ugly weeds
  4. Ah, how beautiful is our [otherwordly] village!
  5. I saw the [otherwordly] village very clean(%),
  6. There is not even a single weed there!
  7. Here we live as in the path to the orchards($), folks!
  8. You should see our [otherwordly] village!
  9. It is like one which has been swept
  10. it is like one which has been swept a lot, our village
  11. The poor [souls] spat on the ground for my being there(#)
  12. 'Here comes someone who is still in his original skin.'"


(*) "The straight path" (peu-) is the path followed by the souls of the deceased to reach the other world.
(%) Kamayurá villages consist of a ring of houses surrounding a flat central plaza of packed dirt, which is kept clean and swept frequently. The village of the departed souls is impeccable in this regard.
($) The Kamayurá orchards are located at some distance from the village, and the path to them usually goes through the tropical the jungle.
(#) The souls spat on the ground because the nauseating smell of the hero's living flesh made them sick.





  1. ^ Kamayurá at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Kamayurá". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Dixon, R.M.W. and Aikhenvald, A.Y. (1997). "A typology of argument-determined constructions." p. 83–4. In Bybee, J., Haiman, J., & Thompson, S.A., eds. (1997). Essays on language function and language type, dedicated to T. Givón. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.