The language names are also spelled Kapixana, Kapixanã, and Canoé, the last shared with Awa-Canoeiro.
For a long time Kanoê was too poorly attested to classify. Various proposals were advanced on little evidence; Price (1978) for example thought Kanoê might be one of the Nambikwaran languages. When it was finally described in some detail, by Bacelar (2004), it turned out to be a language isolate.
In the main Kanoê population of a hundred people, only three elders speak the language. However, in 1995 the discovery of an isolated family of two monolingual adults and a two-year-old child doubled the known population, and demonstrated that the language is not moribund.
/x/ is limited to a few verb forms, ‿where it occurs before /ĩ/. /ts/ is highly variable, [ts tʃ s ʃ], with the affricates being the more common, [ʃ] rare, and [tʃ ʃ] most common before /i u/. /r/ is [ɾ] between vowels, [d] after [n] and occasionally initially. /ɲ/ varies as [ȷ̃]. /n/ is [ŋ] before /k/, a pattern which occurs during metathesis. /p/ is very rarely realized as [ɓ]. /w/ /j/ are nasalized after nasal vowels.
Vowel qualities are /i ɛ æ ɨ a u ɔ/, all oral and nasal; the nasal vowels have slightly different or variable pronunciations: [ĩ], [ɛ̃]~[ẽ], [æ̃], [ɨ̃], [ã]~[ʌ̃], [ɔ̃]~[õ], [ũ].
Oral vowels are optionally nasalized next to nasal stops, with the variation of phonemically nasal vowels. /ɛ/ varies as [ɛ]~[e] after /ts/ and next to an approximant. /ɨ/ varies as [ɨ]~[ə] after voiceless consonants. /ɔ/ varies as [ɔ]~[o] after /p, m/. Vowels may have a voiceless offglide (effectively [h]) when not followed by a voiced sound.
Vowels are long when they constitute a morpheme of their own. Stress is on the last syllable of a word. Maximally complex syllable is CGVG, where G is a glide /j w/, or, due to epenthesis in certain morphological situations or to elision, the final consonant may be /m n/. One of the more syllabically complex words is /kwivɛjkaw/ 'to shave'. Vowel sequences occur, as in /eaere/ 'chief'.
- Bacelar, Laércio Nora (2004). Gramática da língua Kanoê (PDF) (in Portuguese). Nijmegen: Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen.
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