Karu language

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Native toColombia, Venezuela, Brazil
EthnicityBaniwa people
Native speakers
12,000 (2001–2007)[1]
  • Carútana-Baniwa
  • Hohôdene (Katapolitana)
  • Siusy-Tapuya (Seuci)
  • Ipeka-Tapuia
  • Curripaco (Wakuénai)
  • Unhun (Katapolitana, Enhen)
  • Waliperi
  • Mapanai
  • Moriwene
Official status
Official language in
 Brazil (São Gabriel da Cachoeira)
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
bwi – Baniwa
kpc – Curripako
Glottologbani1259  Baniwa-Curripaco[2]

Karu, one of several languages called Baniwa (Baniva), or in older sources Itayaine (Iyaine), is an Arawakan language spoken in Colombia, Venezuela, and Amazonas, Brazil. It forms a subgroup with the Tariana, Piapoco, Resígaro and Guarequena languages.[3] There are 10,000 speakers.[4]

Aikhenvald (1999) considers the three main varieties to be dialects; Kaufman (1994) considers them to be distinct languages, in a group he calls "Karu". They are:

  • Baniwa of Içana (Baniua do Içana)
  • Curripaco (Kurripako, Ipeka-Tapuia-Curripako)
  • Katapolítani-Moriwene-Mapanai (Catapolitani, Kadaupuritana)

Various (sub)dialects of all three are called Tapuya. All are spoken by the Baniwa people. Ruhlen lists all as "Izaneni"; Greenberg's Adzánani (= Izaneni) presumably belongs here.



Bilabial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop plain p t k
aspirated t̪ʰ
voiced b d
Affricate plain ts
voiced dz
Fricative plain ʃ~ʂ h
voiced ʒ~ʐ
Flap ɺ
Nasal m n ɲ
Approximant w j
Front Back
High i iː
Mid e eː o oː
Low a aː


Alignment System[edit]

Baniwa has active–stative alignment.[6] This means that the subject of an intransitive clause is sometimes marked in the same way as the agent of a transitive clause, and sometimes marked in the same way as the patient of a transitive clause. In Baniwa alignment is realized through verbal agreement, namely prefixes and enclitics.

Prefixes are used to mark:

  • Active intransitive subjects (Sa)
  • Agents of transitive clauses (A)
  • Possessors
  • Arguments of adpositions

Enclitics are used to mark:

  • Stative intransitive subjects (So)
  • Patients of transitive clauses (O)
Prefixes Enclitics
singular plural singular plural
First person nu- wa- -hnua -hwa
Second person pi- i- -phia -ihia
Third person Nonfeminine ri- na- -ni/ -hria -hna
Third person Feminine ʒu-
Impersonal pa- -pha

The differences between active and stative intransitive clauses can be illustrated below:

  • Transitive: ri-kapa-ni 'He sees him/it'
  • Active Intransitive: ri-emhani 'He walks'
  • Stative Intransitive: hape-ka-ni 'He is cold'

Noun Classification System[edit]

Baniwa has an interesting system of noun classification that combines a gender system with a noun classifier system.[7] Baniwa has two genders: feminine and nonfeminine. Feminine gender agreement is used to refer to female referents, whilst nonfeminine gender agreement is used for all other referents. The two genders are only distinguished in third person singular. Aihkenvald (2007) considers the bipartite gender system to be inherited from Proto-Arawak.[7]

In addition to gender, Baniwa also has 46 classifiers. Classifiers are used in three main contexts:[7]

  • As a derivational suffix on nouns, e.g. tʃipaɾa-api (metal.object-CL.hollow) 'pan'
  • With numerals, e.g. apa-api mawapi (one-CL.hollow blowgun+CL.long.thin) 'one blow gun'
  • With adjectives, e.g. tʃipaɾa-api maka-api (metal.object-CL.hollow big-CL.hollow) 'big pan'

Aihkenvald (2007) divides Baniwa classifiers into four different classes. One set of classifiers is used for humans, animate beings and body parts. Another set of classifiers specify the shape, consistency, quantification or specificity of the noun. Two more classes can be distinguished. One is only used with numerals and the other is only used with adjectives.[7]

Classifiers for Humans and animate beings:[7]

Classifier Usage Example
-ita for animate males and body parts apa-ita pedaɾia 'one old man'
-hipa for human males only aphepa nawiki 'one man'
-ma for female referents apa-ma inaʒu 'one woman'

Classifiers according to shape, consistency, quantification and specificity:[7]

Classifier Usage Example
-da round objects, natural phenomena and generic classifier hipada 'stone'
-apa flying animate, semioval objects kepiʒeni 'bird'
-kwa flat, round, extended objects kaida 'beach'
-kha curvilinear objects a:pi 'snake'
-na vertical, standing objects haiku 'tree'
hollow, small objects a:ta 'cup'
-maka stretchable, extended objects tsaia 'skirt'
-ahna liquids u:ni 'water'
-ima sides apema nu-kapi makemaɾi 'one big side of my hand'
-pa boxes, parcels apa-'pa itsa maka-paɾi one big box of fishing hooks'
-wana thin slice apa-wana kuphe maka-wane 'a big thin slice of fish'
-wata bundle for carrying apa-wata paɾana maka-wate 'a big bundle of bananas'
canoes i:ta 'canoe'
-pawa rivers u:ni 'river'
-ʃa excrement iʃa 'excrement'
-ya skins dzawiya 'jaguar skin'


There are two main strategies for negation in the Kurripako-Baniwa varieties:[4]

  • Independent negative markers
  • The privative derivational prefix ma-

Different varieties have different negative markers. This is so prominent that speakers identify Kurripako dialects according to the words for 'yes' and 'no'.[4]

Dialect Spoken in Yes No
Aha-Khuri Colombia, Venezuela & Brazil Aha Khuri
Ehe-Khenim Venezuela Ehe Khenim
Oho-Karo Colombia & Brazil Oho Karo
Oho-Ñame Colombia & Brazil Oho Ñame

The independent negative markers come before the verb. They are used as clausal negators in declarative and interrogative sentences. They are also used to link clauses.[4]

The privative suffix is attached to nouns to derive a verb which means 'lacking' the noun from which it was derived. The opposite of the privative prefix is the attributive prefix ka-. This derives a verb which means 'having' the noun from which it was derived.[4] The difference can be illustrated below:

  • Noun: iipe 'meat'
  • Privative: ma-iipe > meepe 'be thin' (lit. lack meat)
  • Attributive: ka-iipe > keepe 'be fat' (lit. have meat)

The prefix is used in combination with the restrictive suffix -tsa to form negative imperatives, e.g. ma-ihnia-tsa 'don't eat!'. A privative prefix is also reconstructed in Proto-Arawak privative as *ma-.[8]

Word Order[edit]

Granadillo (2014) considers Kurripako a VOS language.[4]


Baniwa English
Kapa To See
Za To Drink
Hima To Hear
Cami To Die
Nu To Come

External links[edit]

Baniva del Guainia Language


  1. ^ Baniwa at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Curripako at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Baniwa-Curripaco". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y.; Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. (2014-01-01). Negation in Tariana: A North Arawak Perspective in the Light of Areal Diffusion. doi:10.1163/9789004257023_006.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Granadillo, Tania; Granadillo, Tania (2014-01-01). On Negation in Kurripako Ehe-Khenim. doi:10.1163/9789004257023_005.
  5. ^ de Souza, Erick Marcelo Lima (1986). Estudo Fonológico da Língua Baniwa-Kuripako (PDF).
  6. ^ Aikhenvald, "Arawak", in Dixon & Aikhenvald, eds., The Amazonian Languages, 1999.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Aikhenvald, Alexandra (2007). "Classifiers in Multiple Environments: Baniwa of Içana/Kurripako—A North Arawak Perspective on JSTOR". International Journal of American Linguistics. 73 (4): 475. doi:10.1086/523774.
  8. ^ Michael, Lev; Granadillo, Tania; Granadillo, Lev Michael|Tania (2014-01-01). Negation in Arawak Languages » Brill Online. doi:10.1163/9789004257023.
  9. ^ "The ASJP Database - Wordlist Baniva". asjp.clld.org. Retrieved 2019-06-02.