Peba–Yaguan languages

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Yawan, Peban
western Amazon
Linguistic classificationSaparo–Yawan ?
  • Peba–Yaguan

The Peba–Yaguan language family (also Yaguan, Peban, Yáwan) is located in the northwestern Amazon, but today Yagua is the only remaining spoken language of the family.

Internal structure[edit]

French ethnologist Paul Rivet had suggested that the Peba–Yaguan family had been divided into two branches, with Yameo in one branch, and Peba and Yagua in the other.[citation needed] There is extremely little documentation of Yameo and Peba, both of which are now extinct, though the town Pebas on the Amazon River clearly takes its name from this group of people. The available documentation is largely due to the efforts of early Catholic missionaries, as summarized by Rivet.[citation needed]



Masamae (Mazán, Parara)



Čestmír Loukotka (1968), a Czechoslovak linguist, also lists Masamae (Mazán, Parara) as part of the language family. It is spoken around the Mazán River in Loreto Department, Peru, and is most closely related to Yameo.[1]

Brazilian linguist Marcelo Jolkesky (2016) groups Peba and Yameo in one branch, and Yagua in another separate branch.[2]


There is no sound scientific evidence yet that the Peba–Yaguan family is related to any other family or stock of South America (in particular, there is no evidence for grouping it with Cariban languages). There has likely been contact between the Yaguas and Bora–Witotoan peoples, perhaps particularly during the era of the rubber-trade; this may account for some structural similarities between the languages (Doris Payne, linguist, forthcoming). Kaufman (2007) includes Sabela, Taushiro, and Omurano in his Yawan family.[citation needed]

Language contact[edit]

Jolkesky (2016) notes that there are lexical similarities with the Kwaza, Zaparoan, and Nambikwaran language families due to contact.[2]


Loukotka (1968) lists the following basic vocabulary items.[1]

gloss Yagua Peba Yameo Masamae
one tékí tomätaira pwitér poetinten
two nanoxõ monomoira narámue
three mungoá tamoimansa pwiterorineo
head ori-nó rai-no wi-nátu nato
ear o-tsiwá mi-tiwa wi-tíwẽ
tooth o-xaná vi-ala wi-é
man wánu komoley awára
fire [h]ená föla óle aule
sun iñi remelané natéra raitará
earth mokané kapalé pópo popo
maize lelú lolú ogung
tapir nechá ameisha náse

Further reading[edit]

  • Powlison, P. (1995). Diccionario Yagua - Castellano. (Serie Lingüística Peruana, 35). Lima: Ministerio de Educación and Summer Institute of Linguistics.


  1. ^ a b Loukotka, Čestmír (1968). Classification of South American Indian languages. Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center.
  2. ^ a b Jolkesky, Marcelo Pinho De Valhery. 2016. Estudo arqueo-ecolinguístico das terras tropicais sul-americanas. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Brasília.