Bora language

Native toPeru, Colombia
EthnicityBora people
Native speakers
2,400 (2000)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3boa

Bora is an indigenous language of South America spoken in the western region of Amazon rainforest. Bora is a tonal language which, other than the Ticuna language, is a unique trait in the region.

The majority of its speakers reside in Peru and Colombia. Around 2,328 Bora speakers live in the areas of the northeast Yaguasyacu, Putumayo and Ampiyacu rivers of Peru. There are about 500 speakers of Bora also in Colombia in the Putumayo Department. Peruvian speakers have a 10 to 30% literacy rate and a 25 to 50% literacy rate in their second language of Spanish.[citation needed]

Early linguistic investigators thought that Bora was related to the Huitoto (Witoto) language, but there is very little similarity between the two. The confusion was most likely due to the frequent intermarriage between the tribes and the Ocaina dialect of Witotoan which has many Bora words.


Miraña, a dialect of Bora, is spoken along the Caquetá-Japurá river which flows from Colombia to Brazil, and a few villages are there.

Bora proper has 94% mutual comprehensibility with the Miraña dialect.

Another dialect of Bora, Murnane, which has about a 50% comprehensibility with Bora and Miraña, is spoken along tributaries of the Caquetá River in central Colombia.

Loukotka (1968) lists these dialects of Bora:[2]

  • Bora (Boro) - on the Cahuinari River and in a colony in the village of Méria on the Igara Paraná River
  • Imihitä (Emejeite) - spoken on the Jacaré River
  • Fa:ai - spoken in the Sierra Futahy in the same region (poorly attested, only a few words)


Bora contains 350 classifiers, the most discovered of any languages thus far.[3][4]


The written form of Bora was developed by Wycliffe Bible Translators Wesley and Eva Thiesen with the help of the natives of the village of Brillo Nuevo on the Yaguasyacu river. Wesley and Eva Thiesen's daughter Ruth is also the first recorded non-native to learn the language. First, Bora to Spanish school books was developed. Then the New Testament Bible was translated. Finally, a comprehensive dictionary and grammar book was developed to document and preserve the language's grammar rules. This has since facilitated more textbooks so that speakers can be taught to read and write in their language, rescuing it from extinction due to the prevalence of Spanish and Portuguese in the regions where it is spoken.


Front Central Back
Close i iː ɨ ɨː ɯ ɯː
Close-mid o oː
Mid ɛ ɛː
Open a aː
  • All vowels have long forms. Bora demonstrates contrastive vowel length.
  • /ɛː/ before /iː/ is heard as [æː].
  • /i/ is heard in shortened form as [ɪ].[5]
Bilabial Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
plain pal. plain pal. plain pal. labial plain pal.
Stop plain p t k k͡p ~ kʷ ʔ ʔʲ
aspirated pʲʰ tʲʰ kʲʰ
Affricate plain t͡s t͡sʲ ~ t͡ʃ
aspirated t͡sʰ t͡sʲʰ ~ t͡ʃʰ
Fricative β βʲ (x) h
Nasal m n ɲ
Approximant j
Flap ɾ (ɾʲ)
  • /h/ can have an allophone of [x].
  • /j/ is also heard as [ɾʲ].


  1. ^ Bora at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Loukotka, Čestmír (1968). Classification of South American Indian languages. Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center.
  3. ^ "Bora". Archived from the original on 2015-06-12. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  4. ^ "Jivaroan and Witotoan Language Families". Archived from the original on 2015-06-12. Retrieved 2015-06-11.
  5. ^ Thiesen, Wesley; Weber, David (2012). A Grammar of Bora with Special Attention to Tone. SIL International.

External links

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