Waorani language

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Huaorani / Waorani
Wao Terero
Native toEcuador, Peru
RegionOriente or Ecuadorian Amazon
Ethnicity1,800 Huaorani people (2012)[1]
Native speakers
2,000 (2004)[2]
Official status
Official language in
Ecuador: indigenous languages official in own territories
Language codes
ISO 639-3auc

The Waorani (Huaorani) language, commonly known as Sabela (also Wao, Huao, Auishiri, Aushiri, Ssabela ; autonym: Wao Terero; pejorative: Auka, Auca) is a vulnerable language isolate spoken by the Huaorani people, an indigenous group living in the Amazon Rainforest between the Napo and Curaray Rivers in Ecuador. A small number of speakers with so-called uncontacted groups may live in Peru.

Huaorani is considered endangered due to growing bilingualism in Quechua and Spanish and diminishing Huaorani usage among youth.[1][4]


Huaorani has three dialects: Tiguacuna (Tiwakuna), Tuei (Tiwi Tuei, Tiwi), and Shiripuno.

Genetic relations[edit]

Sabela is not known to be related to any other language. However, it forms part of Terrence Kaufman's Yawan proposal.


Huaorani distinguishes nasal vowels from oral ones. Syllable structure is (C)V, with frequent vowel clusters.

p t k
b d~ɾ ɟ~j ɡ
m n ɲ ŋ
Front Non-front
Plain Nasal Plain Nasal
Close i ĩ
Mid e ɵ~o~ɤ ɵ̃~õ~ɤ̃
Open æ æ̃ a ã


Loukotka (1968) lists the following basic vocabulary items for Sabela and Tiwituey.[5]

gloss Sabela Tiwituey
one iríng aruki
two méa
head u-kabu u-kubo
eye a-wínka a-winga
woman ohíña unkia
fire chúnga tua
sun nánki neinghi
star nemu
maize kad'ínghu
house húnku
white kúri mia


  1. ^ a b Sabela at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ "Waorani". UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger. UNESCO. Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Waorani". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ Fawcett, Alexia Zandra (May 2012). "Documenting Language, Culture, and Cognition: Language and Space among the Waorani" (PDF). Anthropology and Linguistic Department, Bryn Mawr College. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  5. ^ Loukotka, Čestmír (1968). Classification of South American Indian languages. Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center.


  • Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. (1987). Language in the Americas. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • 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.
  • Peeke, M. Catherine. (2003). A Bibliography of the Waorani of Ecuador. SIL International. Retrieved 2007 December 26 from http://www.sil.org/silewp/2003/silewp2003-006.pdf
  • Pike, Evelyn G and Rachel Saint. 1988. Workpapers Concerning Waorani discourse features. Dallas, TX: SIL.
  • Rival, Laura. Trekking through History: The Huaorani of Amazonian Ecuador, Columbia University Press, 2002.

External links[edit]