Piapoco language

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Native toColombia, Venezuela
Native speakers
6,400 (2001–2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3pio
Glottologpiap1246  Piapoco[2]
pona1251  Ponares – undemonstrated[3]

Piapoco is an Arawakan language of Colombia and Venezuela.

A "Ponares" language is inferred from surnames, and may have been Piapoco or Achagua.


Piapoco is a branch of the Arawak language, which also includes Achagua and Tariana.[4] Piapoco is considered a Northern Arawak language.[5] There are only about 3,000 Piapoco speakers left today. These people live in the Meta, Vichada, and Guanviare rivers in Colombia[6] Piapoco speakers also reside in Venezuela.[7] It is an endangered language.[7]


The Piapocos come from the larger tribe, the Piaroa, who are indigenous to the Amazon rain forest.[8] The Piapoco people originally lived in the midsection of Rio Guaviare, later moving in the 18th century to avoid settlers, missionaries, and others.[9]


A Piapoco-Spanish dictionary containing 2,500 words was written by Deloris Klumpp, in which botanical identification of plants were captured, although not all.[5] The Piapoco language follows the following grammatical rules: plural suffix -nai used for animates only, derivational suffixes masculine -iri, feminine -tua, suffix -mi ‘late, defunct,’ nominalizing -si, declarative mood marker -ka.[5] Piapoco is unique in that it seems to be a nominative-accusative language.[5] There are eighteen segmental phonemes, fourteen consonant and four vowels in the Piapoco language.[10]


The word Piapoco is a Spanish nickname in reference to the toucan.[6] Most Piapoco also speak Spanish.[9] Speakers who have had less contact with Spanish speakers more often pronounce the phoneme “s” as a voiceless interdental fricative.[10] Younger speakers of the Piapoco language tend to eliminate the “h” more than older speakers due to their contact with the Spanish language.[10]

When a large portion of people come in contact with another language and are competent in it, their language gradually becomes more like the other.[11] This allows for a gradual convergence, where grammar and semantics of one language begin to replicate the other.[11]


  1. ^ Piapoco at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Piapoco". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Ponares". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ Seifart, F (2012). "Causative Marking in Resígaro (Arawakan): A Descriptive and Comparative Perspective". International Journal of American Linguistics. 78 (3): 369–384. doi:10.1086/665917.
  5. ^ a b c d Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. (1 January 1998). "Review of Vocabulario Piapoco-Español, ; Bosquejo del Macuna: Aspectos de la cultura material de los macunas--Fonología; Gramática, , , ; Gramática Pedagógica del Cuiba-Wámonae: Lengua indígena de la familia lingüística guahiba de los llanos orientales". International Journal of American Linguistics. 64 (2): 168–173. doi:10.1086/466355. JSTOR 1265983.
  6. ^ a b Klumpp, James; Burquest, Donald A. (1 January 1983). "Relative Clauses in Piapoco". International Journal of American Linguistics. 49 (4): 388–399. doi:10.1086/465801. JSTOR 1265211.
  7. ^ a b "Did you know Piapoco is threatened?". Endangered Languages.
  8. ^ Piapoco Indians. (n.d.). Retrieved March 09, 2017, from http://www.indian-cultures.com/cultures/piapoco-indians/
  9. ^ a b Flowers, N. M. (n.d.). Piapoco. Retrieved March 09, 2017, from http://www.everyculture.com/South-America/Piapoco.html
  10. ^ a b c Klumpp, D. (1990). Piapoco Grammar. 1-136. Retrieved March 9, 2017, from https://www.sil.org/resources/archives/18810.
  11. ^ a b Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. (1 January 2003). "Mechanisms of Change in Areal Diffusion: New Morphology and Language Contact". Journal of Linguistics. 39 (1): 1–29. doi:10.1017/s0022226702001937. JSTOR 4176787.