Chiquitano language

Native toBolivia, Brazil
RegionSanta Cruz (Bolivia); Mato Grosso (Brazil)
Ethnicity47,100 Chiquitano people (2004)[1]
Native speakers
5,900 in Bolivia (2004)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3cax
Glottologchiq1253  Chiquitano
sans1265  Sansimoniano
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Chiquitano (also Bésiro or Tarapecosi) is an indigenous language isolate spoken in the central region of Santa Cruz Department of eastern Bolivia and the state of Mato Grosso in Brazil.


Chiquitano is usually considered to be a language isolate. Joseph Greenberg linked it to the Macro-Jê languages in his proposal,[2] but the results of his study have been later questioned due to methodological flaws.[3][4]

Kaufman (1994) suggests a relationship with the Bororoan languages.[5] Adelaar (2008) classifies Chiquitano as a Macro-Jê language,[6] while Nikulin (2020) suggests that Chiquitano is rather a sister of Macro-Jê.[7]


Mason (1950)

Mason (1950) lists:[8]

  • North (Chiquito)
    • Manasí (Manacica)
    • Penoki (Penokikia)
    • Pinyoca; Kusikia
    • Tao; Tabiica
  • Churapa

Loukotka (1968)

According to Čestmír Loukotka (1968), dialects were Tao (Yúnkarirsh), Piñoco, Penoqui, Kusikia, Manasi, San Simoniano, Churapa.[9]

  • Tao (Yúnkarirsh) - spoken at the old missions of San Rafael, Santa Ana, San Miguel, San Ignacio, San Juan, Santo Corazón, and Concepción, Bolivia.
  • Piñoco - spoken at the missions of San Xavier, San José, and San José de Buenaventura.
  • Penoqui - spoken at the old mission of San José.
  • Cusiquia - once spoken north of the Penoqui tribe.
  • Manasi - once spoken at the old missions of San Francisco Xavier and Concepción, Santa Cruz province.
  • San Simoniano - now spoken in the Sierra de San Simón and the Danubio River.
  • Churapa - spoken on the Piray River, Santa Cruz province.

Nikulin (2020)

Chiquitano varieties listed by Nikulin (2020):[7]

  • Chiquitano
  • Divergent varieties
    • Sansimoniano (spoken in the far northeast of Beni Department)
    • Piñoco (formerly spoken in the missions of San José de los Boros, San Francisco Xavier de los Piñoca, and San José de Buenavista/Desposorios; see also Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos)

Nikulin (2019) proposes that Camba Spanish has a Piñoco substratum. Camba Spanish was originally spoken in Santa Cruz Department, Bolivia, but is now also spoken in Beni Department and Pando Department.[10]



Bilabial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive p t t͡ʃ k ʔ
Fricative β s ʃ
Rhotic r
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Approximant w j


Front Central Back
Close i ɨ u
Close-mid e o
Open a


Nasal assimilation

Chiquitano has regressive assimilation triggered by nasal nuclei / ɨ̃ ĩ ũ õ ã ẽ/ and targeting consonant onsets within a morpheme.

  • /suβũ/[suˈmũ] 'parrot (sp.)'[12]

Syllable structure

The language has CV, CVV, and CVC syllables. It does not allow complex onsets or codas. The only codas allowed are nasal consonants.


Loukotka (1968) lists the following basic vocabulary items for different dialects of Chiquito (Chiquitano).[13]

gloss Chiquito Yúnkarirsh San Simoniano Churápa
tooth oh-ox oän noosh
tongue otús natä iyúto
foot popez popess pipín ípiop
woman pais páirsh paá páish
water toʔus tush túʔush
fire péz péesh peés
sun suur suursh sóu súush
manioc tauax táhuash tabá tawásh
tapir okitapakis tapakish oshtápakish
house ogox póosh ípiosh
red kiturixi kéturuk kéturikí

For a vocabulary list of Chiquitano by Santana (2012),[14] see the corresponding Portuguese article.

Language contact

Chiquitano has borrowed extensively from an unidentified Tupí-Guaraní variety; one example is Chiquitano takones [takoˈnɛs] ‘sugarcane’, borrowed from a form close to Paraguayan Guaraní takuare'ẽ ‘sugarcane’.[10]:8 There are also numerous Spanish borrowings.

Chiquitano (or an extinct variety close to it) has influenced the Camba variety of Spanish. This is evidenced by the numerous lexical borrowings of Chiquitano origin in local Spanish. Examples include bi ‘genipa’, masi ‘squirrel’, peni ‘lizard’, peta ‘turtle, tortoise’, jachichicha leftover’, jichi ‘worm; jichi spirit’, among many others.[10]

Further reading

  • Galeote Tormo, J. (1993). Manitana Auqui Besüro: Gramática Moderna de la lengua Chiquitana y Vocabulario Básico. Santa Cruz de la Sierra: Los Huérfanos.
  • Santana, A. C. (2005). Transnacionalidade lingüística: a língua Chiquitano no Brasil. Goiânia: Universidade Federal de Goiás. (Masters dissertation).
  • Nikulin, Andrey. 2019. ¡Manityaka au r-ózura! Diccionario básico del chiquitano migueleño: El habla de San Miguel de Velasco y de San Juan de Lomerío.


  1. ^ a b Chiquitano at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Greenberg, Joseph H. (1987). Language in the Americas. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  3. ^ Rankin, Robert. (1992). [Review of Language in the Americas by J. H. Greenberg]. International Journal of American Linguistics, 58 (3), 324-351.
  4. ^ Campbell, Lyle. (1988). [Review of Language in the Americas, Greenberg 1987]. Language, 64, 591-615.
  5. ^ Kaufman, Terrence. 1994. The native languages of South America. In: Christopher Moseley and R. E. Asher (eds.), Atlas of the World’s Languages, 59–93. London: Routledge.
  6. ^ Adelaar, Willem F. H. Relações externas do Macro-Jê: O caso do Chiquitano. In: Telles de A. P. Lima, Stella Virgínia; Aldir S. de Paula (eds.). Topicalizando Macro-Jê. Recife: Nectar, 2008. p. 9–27.
  7. ^ a b Nikulin, Andrey. 2020. Proto-Macro-Jê: um estudo reconstrutivo. Doctoral dissertation, University of Brasília.
  8. ^ Mason, John Alden (1950). "The languages of South America". In Steward, Julian (ed.). Handbook of South American Indians. 6. Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office: Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 143. pp. 157–317.
  9. ^ Loukotka, Čestmír (1968). Classification of South American Indian Languages. Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center. pp. 60.
  10. ^ a b c Nikulin, Andrey (2019). "Contacto de lenguas en la Chiquitanía". Revista Brasileira de Línguas Indígenas. 2 (2): 5–30.
  11. ^ Krusi, Dorothee, Martin (1978). Phonology of Chiquitano.
  12. ^ Sans, Pierric (2011), Proceedings of the VII Encontro Macro-Jê.Brasilia, Brazil
  13. ^ Loukotka, Čestmír (1968). Classification of South American Indian languages. Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center.
  14. ^ Santana, Áurea Cavalcante. 2012. Línguas cruzadas, histórias que se mesclam: ações de documentação, valorização e fortalecimento da língua Chiquitano no Brasil. Goiânia: Universidade Federal de Goiás.
  • Fabre, Alain (2008-07-21). "Chiquitano" (PDF). Diccionario etnolingüístico y guía bibliográfica de los pueblos indígenas sudamericanos. Retrieved 2009-01-16.

External links

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