Panoan languages

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southwestern Amazon
Linguistic classification Pano–Tacanan?
  • Pánoan
Glottolog pano1256[1]
Panoan languages (dark green) and Takanan languages (light green). Spots indicate documented locations.

Panoan (also Pánoan, Panoano, Panoana, Páno) is a family of languages spoken in Peru, western Brazil, and Bolivia. It is a branch of the larger Pano–Tacanan family.


There are some 18 extant and 14 extinct Panoan languages.[2] In the list, (†) means extinct, and (*) obsolescent (no longer spoken daily). Dialects are listed in parentheses.

Boundaries between the Poyanawa, Chama, and Headwaters groups are somewhat blurred. Karipuna and Môa River Nawa may not be distinct languages, and Chiriba may not be Panoan at all.

Hundreds of other Panoan "languages" have been reported in the literature. These are names of groups that may have been ethnically Panoan, but whose language is unattested. They sometimes are assumed to be Panoan on no other evidence than that the name ends in -nawa or -bo. A few, such as Maya (Pisabo), are unattested but reported to be mutually intelligible with a known Panoan language (in this case Matsés).[citation needed] The people speaking one of these supposed languages, Kontanawa,[3] was rediscovered in 2002. However, no linguistic information is available, and it is not known if they speak a distinct language.[4]


Much of the confusion surrounding Panoan languages is the number of homonyms among different languages. The principal ambiguous names are as follows:[2]

Panoan languages with the same name
Name Location or other name Language
Kapanawa on the Tapiche dialect of Shipibo-Konibo
on the Juruá dialect of Ibuaçu Kashinawa
Kashinawa on the Ibuaçu Headwaters group
on the Tarauacá Mainline branch
Kulina on the Curuçá Mayoruna branch
of São Paulo de Olivençá Mainline branch
Marubo in the Javari Basin Mainline branch
of Maucallacta [no data] Mayoruna branch
Remo on the Blanco Nawa group
on the Môa Headwaters group
on the Jaquirana Poyanawa group
Southern Remo [no data] Chama group
Sinabo of the Mamoré Bolivian group
of the Ucayali Basin Chama group
Katukina Waninawa Marubo group
of Feijo' (Shanenawa) dialect of Yaminawa
Nawa on the Môa [little data] Poyanawa group
Parkenawa dialect of Yaminawa
Maroyuna (various) three languages in list above
Mates Mates
Barbudo [no data] Chama group
Demushbo Matses group
Chema dialect of Curuçá Kulina

Neighboring languages of other families may also share the names of Panoan language. The table below ignores other homonyms further afield:

Non-Panoan languages with the same names as Panoan languages
Family Language
Arawakan Kanamari, Kasharari, Kunibo, Mayoruna, Pakaguara
Takanan Chama, Arasa, Atsahuaca, Yamiaka
Katukinan Katukina, Kanamari
Tupian Karipuna, Katukinarú
Arawan Kulina, Arawá
Harakmbut Arasairi

Genetic relations[edit]

The Panoan family is generally believed to be related to the Tacanan family, forming with it Pano–Tacanan, though this has not yet been established (Loos 1999).

Grammatical features[edit]

Body-part prefixation[edit]

Exceptional to Panoan languages’ predominantly suffixal morphology are sets of approximately 30 morphemes primarily referring to parts or features of prototypical human and animal bodies (and, by analogical extension, of botanicals, manufactures, landscapes, and abstract space) which have been found to occur in almost all attested languages of the family (Fleck 2006: 59; Ferreira 2007, 2008; Amarante Ribeiro and Cândido 2008; Zariquiey and Fleck 2012: 385–386).

That these monosyllabic forms are productively affixed to the front of verbal, nominal, or adjectival roots has led many Panoanists to describe them as prefixes (e.g. Prost 1967 and Zingg 1998 [for Chakobo]; Faust 1973, Loriot et al. 1993, and Valenzuela 2003 [for Shipibo-Konibo]; Hyde 1980 [for Amawaka]; Eakin 1991[for Yaminawa]), while the forms’ resemblance and loose semantic correspondence to unbound, polysyllabic ‘body-part terms’ has led others to describe them as incorporated nouns (e.g. Loos 1999). More recent and detailed analyses of this feature in Matses (Fleck 2006) and Kashibo-Kakataibo (Zariquiey and Fleck 2012) have demonstrated that most body-part prefixes in these languages are not readily analyzable as synchronic allomorphs of the nouns they resemble.

Many Panoan body-part prefixes semantically encompass a range of denotata beyond the strictly 'corporeal' by means of analogical extension. In Matses, for example, the prefix an- corresponds to the nouns ana ‘mouth, tongue, palm (of hand), sole (of foot), (arm)pit’; anmaëşh ‘gill slits (of fish)’; and anşhantuk ‘swampy depression in the ground’; but can itself be glossed also as ‘cavity, concave surface, interior, underside’; and ‘center (of path of stream)’ (Fleck 2006: 64). In the examples below, the prefix an- with the verb root kiad ‘learn’ expresses the learning of a specifically ‘oral activity’ while the prefix më- ‘hand, mortar, forearm, wrist, projecting carpal bones, elbow, finger, knuckles, fingernail, branch’ expresses the learning of a specifically ‘manual’ one:

‘I learned with respect to (my) mouth’, i.e., ‘I learned an oral activity’ (a language, to speak, a song, to sing, to recite the alphabet, to whistle, to eat a type of food, etc.) (Fleck 2006: 78)
‘I learned to weave, write, do math problems, fire shotgun, fletch arrows, or other manual tasks’ (Fleck 2006: 78)

The following example illustrates how an- can express locative information in non-corporeal, topographical space:

nëid-ø an-san-aşh we-ta ø ke-pa-ak ka-denne-k ke-onda-şh center-put:PL.O-after:S/A>S lie-IMPER 3ABS say-TOP.CONT-NARR.PAST tell-REM.PAST.INDIC tell-DIST.PAST-3
'"Put this one in the middle [of the path] and then lie down!" he [the moon] said, they used to tell, I was told' (Fleck 2006: 80).

While body-part prefixes in Kashibo-Kakataibo, as in Matses, are highly productive with verbs, they are used regularly with only a modest array of adjectives and nouns (Fleck 2006: 72; Zariquiey and Fleck 2012: 394–5). Zariquiey and Fleck (2012: 394) note that the Kashibo-Kakataibo "words for 'skin', 'hair', and 'flesh'" are regularly prefixed:

kapë të-şhaka mëra-aşh ...
caiman neck-skin.ABS find-S/A>S
'finding the caiman's neck skin ...' (Zariquiey and Fleck 2012: 395).

Due to the paucity of detailed studies of Panoan body-part prefixes, explanations of their grammaticalization remain largely speculative. Fleck has hypothesized that "Panoan (verb) prefixation evolved from past noun incorporation that co-existed with noun-noun and noun-adjective compounding that involved synchronic reduction of body-part roots" (2006: 92). In light of their analysis of Kashibo-Kakataibo prefixation, Zariquiey and Fleck present two diachronic scenarios to orient future comparative work: "(1) prefixation evolved from productive noun incorporation (prefixes have come from longer body-part nouns); or (2) Proto-Panoan body-part terms were monosyllabic forms that became bound, and most of the current body-part terms were later built up from these" (2012: 408).


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Panoan". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  2. ^ a b David Fleck, 2013, Panoan Languages and Linguistics, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History #99
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Kontanawa". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  4. ^ Hammarström (2015) Ethnologue 16/17/18th editions: a comprehensive review: online appendices

External links[edit]


  • Amarante Ribeiro, Lincoln Almir, and Gláucia Viera Cândido. (2008). "A formação de palavras a partir de morfemas monossilábicos nominais e bases verbais em línguas indígenas da família Pano: Prefixação ou incorporação nominal?" Veredas On Line (UFJF) 1:129–45.
  • Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  • Eakin, Lucille. (1991). "Lecciones Para el Aprendizaje del Idioma Yaminahua. Documento de Trabajo no. 22. Yarinacocha, Peru: Instituto Lingüístico de Verano.
  • Faust, Norma. (1973). "Lecciones Para el Aprendizaje del Idioma Shipibo-Conibo." Documento de Trabajo no. 1. Yarinacocha, Peru: Instituto Lingüístico de Verano.
  • Ferreira, Rogério Vincente. (2007). "Afixos verbais em uma lingua da familia Pano." V Congreso Internacional de Investigaciones Lingüísticos-Filológicas: La Enseñanza de la Lengua en el Tercer Milenio. Lima: Universidad Ricardo Palma.
  • Ferreira, Rogério Vincente. (2008). "Morfemas “partes do corpo” em Matis e algumas línguas da família Pano." Raído (Universidade Federal da Grande Dourados) 2, no. 4:35–39.
  • Fleck, David. (2006). "Body-part prefixes in Matses: Derivation or noun incorporation?" IJAL 72:59–96.
  • Hyde, Sylvia. (1980). "Diccionario Amahuaca" (Edición Preliminar). Serie Lingüística Peruana no. 7. Yarinacocha, Peru: Instituto Lingüístico Peruano.
  • Kaufman, Terrence. (1990). "Language history in South America: What we know and how to know more." In D. L. Payne (Ed.), Amazonian linguistics: Studies in lowland South American languages (pp. 13–67). Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-70414-3.
  • Kaufman, Terrence. (1994). "The native languages of South America." In C. Mosley & R. E. Asher (Eds.), Atlas of the world's languages (pp. 46–76). London: Routledge.
  • Loos, Eugene E. (1999). "Pano." The Amazonian Languages, ed. R. M. W. Dixon and Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald, pp. 227–49. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Loriot, James; Erwin Lauriault; and Dwight Day. (1993). "Diccionario Shipibo–Castellano." Serie Lingüística Peruana no. 31. Yarinacocha, Peru: Instituto Lingüístico de Verano.
  • Migliazza, Ernest C.; & Campbell, Lyle. (1988). "Panorama general de las lenguas indígenas en América". Historia general de América (Vol. 10). Caracas: Instituto Panamericano de Geografía e Historia.
  • Prost, Gilbert R. (1967). "Chacobo." Bolivian Indian Grammars: 1, ed. Esther Matteson, pp. 285–359. Norman: Summer Institute of Linguistics and the University of Oklahoma.
  • Rodrigues, Aryon. (1986). Linguas brasileiras: Para o conhecimento das linguas indígenas. São Paulo: Edições Loyola.
  • Shell, Olive A. (1975). "Las lenguas pano y su reconstrucción". Serie lingüística Peruana (No. 12). Yarinacocha, Peru: Instituto Lingüístico de Verano.
  • Valenzuela, Pilar M. (2003). "Transitivity in Shipibo-Konibo grammar." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Oregon, Eugene.
  • Zariquiey Biondi, Roberto and David W. Fleck. (2012). "Body-Part Prefixation in Kashibo-Kakataibo: Synchronic or Diachronic Derivation?" IJAL 78(3):385–409.
  • Zingg, Philipp. (1998). Diccionario Chácobo–Castellano Castellano–Chácobo con Bosquejo de la Gramática Chacobo y con Apuntes Culturales. La Paz, Bolivia: Ministerio de Desarrollo Sostenible y Planificación Viceministro de Asuntos Indígenas y Pueblos Originarios.