Macro-Chibchan languages

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Central America and Colombia
Linguistic classificationProposed language family
Lenmichi languages.png
The Chibchan, Misumalpan, and Lencan languages

Macro-Chibchan is a proposed grouping of the languages of the Lencan, Misumalpan, & Chibchan families into a single large phylum (macrofamily). The Lencan & Misumalpan languages were once included in the Chibchan family proper, but were excluded pending further evidence as that family became well established. Kaufman (1990) finds the Chibchan–Misumalpan connection convincing, if as yet unsubstantiated, though Campbell (1997) finds it doubtful. The Xincan family was once included in Macro-Chibchan, but this is now doubtful.

Constenla (2005) calls this proposed phylum Lenmichí (Lencan–Misumalpan–Chibchan) and provides 85 cognate sets which exhibit regular sound correspondences among the three families. He suggests that Chocoan may be related as well.

Greenberg proposed a broader conception of Macro-Chibchan, one dismissed by linguists working on the families in question. It included Yanomam, Purépecha, and Cuitlatec in addition to Chibchan–Misumalpan–Xinca–Lenca. Greenberg (1987) included Paezan languages in a Chibchan-Paezan stock with Barbacoan, Chibchan, Chocoan, Jirajaran, and the isolates Betoi, Kamsá (Sibundoy language), Yaruro, Esmeraldeño, Mochica, Cunza, Itonama, and Yurumanguí.


Phylogenetic tree for Macro-Chibchan (Lenmichian) languages.

Constenla (2005) reconstructed five vowels and eleven consonants for Proto-Lenmichian, with the following reflexes:


Proto-Lenmichian *a *e *i *o *u
Proto-Chibchan *a *e *i *o *u
Proto-Lencan *a *e *e *i *o *u *u
Proto-Misumalpan *a *i *i *u *u

There are also a series[clarification needed] of nasal vowels.


Proto-Lenmichian *b *d *t *k *ts *s *h *l *w
Proto-Chibchan *b *d *t *k *ts *s *h
Proto-Lencan *p
*t *k *ts' *l *w
Proto-Misumalpan *b
*t *k *s *l *w


  • Campbell, Lyle (1997). American Indian languages: the historical linguistics of Native America. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  • Constenla Umaña, Adolfo (2002). "Acerca de la relación genealógica entre las lenguas lencas y las lenguas misumalpas" (PDF). Revista de Filología y Lingüística de la Universidad de Costa Rica. 28: 189–206.
  • Constenla Umaña, Adolfo (2005). "¿Existe relación genealógica entre las lenguas misumalpas y las chibchenses?". Estudios de Lingüística Chibcha. 24: 7–85.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. (1987). Language in the Americas. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  • Kaufman, Terrence (1990). "Language History in South America: What we know and how to know more." In Doris L. Payne, ed. Amazonian Linguistics, pp. 13–74. Austin: University of Texas Press.