Kanoê language

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Region Rondônia, Brazil
Native speakers
5 (2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 kxo
Glottolog kano1245[2]
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Kanoê or Kapishana is a nearly extinct language isolate of Rondônia, Brazil. The Kapishana people now speak Portuguese or other indigenous languages from intermarriage.

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.


m n ɲ
p t k
β ts (x)
w r j

/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'.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kanoé at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kanoê". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.