Choco languages

Colombia and Panama
Linguistic classificationOne of the world's primary language families
  • Emberá
  • Waunana
Choco languages.png
Poet and politician Eduardo Cote Lamus on his journey in Río San Juan (Choco, Colombia) in 1958 with some of the people speaking Choco languages

The Choco languages (also Chocoan, Chocó, Chokó) are a small family of Native American languages spread across Colombia and Panama.

Family division

Choco consists of six known languages, all but two of which are extinct.

Anserma, Arma, and Sinúfana are extinct.

The Emberá group consists of two languages mainly in Colombia with over 60,000 speakers that lie within a fairly mutually intelligible dialect continuum. Ethnologue divides this into 6 languages. Kaufman (1994) considers the term Cholo to be vague and condescending. Noanamá has some 6,000 speakers on the Panama-Colombia border.

Jolkesky (2016)

Internal classification by Jolkesky (2016):[1]

(† = extinct)


Language contact

Jolkesky (2016) notes that there are lexical similarities with the Guahibo, Kamsa, Paez, Tukano, Witoto-Okaina, Yaruro, Chibchan, and Bora-Muinane language families due to contact.[1]

Genetic links between Choco and Chibchan had been proposed by Lehmann (1920).[2] However, similarities are few, some of which may be related to the adoption of maize cultivation from neighbors.[1]:324

Genetic relations

Choco has been included in a number of hypothetical phylum relationships:


Loukotka (1968) lists the following basic vocabulary items for the Chocó languages.[4]

gloss Sambú Chocó Pr. Citara Baudo Waunana Tadó Saixa Chamí Ándagueda Catio Tukurá N'Gvera
one haba abá aba aba haba aba abbá abba abá
two ome ume dáonomi umé homé umé ómay tea unmé
three ompea umpia dáonatup kimaris hompé umpea ompayá umbea unpia
head poro poro achiporo púro boró tachi-púro boró bóro buru porú
eye tau tau tabú tau dága tau tau dáu tow dabu tabú tapü
tooth kida kida kida kidá xidá kidá chida chida
man amoxina mukira umakira emokoida mukira mukína mugira mohuná mukira
water pañia paniá pania pania pania panía banía puneá panea pánia
fire tibua tibuá xemkavai tupuk tupu tubechuá tübü
sun pisia pisiá umantago vesea edau vesea áxonihino umata emwaiton humandayo ahumautu
moon edexo édexo hidexo xedeko xedego edekoː átoní edexo heydaho xedeko xedéko hedeko
maize pe pe paga pedeu pe pe pe
jaguar imama ibamá ibamá imama kumá pimamá imama imamá imamá
arrow enatruma halomá halomá sia chókiera umatruma sía ukida enentiera


For reconstructions of Proto-Chocó and Proto-Emberá by Constenla and Margery (1991),[5] see the corresponding Spanish article.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Jolkesky, Marcelo Pinho De Valhery. 2016. Estudo arqueo-ecolinguístico das terras tropicais sul-americanas. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Brasília.
  2. ^ Lehmann, W. (1920). Zentral-Amerika. Teil I. Die Sprachen Zentral-Amerikas in ihren Beziehungen zueinander sowie zu Süd-Amerika und Mexico. Berlin: Reimer.
  3. ^ Pache, Matthias J. 2016. Pumé (Yaruro) and Chocoan: Evidence for a New Genealogical Link in Northern South America. Language Dynamics and Change 6 (2016) 99–155. doi:10.1163/22105832-00601001
  4. ^ Loukotka, Čestmír (1968). Classification of South American Indian languages. Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center.
  5. ^ Constenla Umaña, Adolfo; Margery Peña, Enrique. (1991). Elementos de fonología comparada Chocó. Filología y lingüística, 17, 137-191.


  • Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  • Constenla Umaña, Adolfo; & Margery Peña, Enrique. (1991). Elementos de fonología comparada Chocó. Filología y lingüística, 17, 137-191.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. (1987). Language in the Americas. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Gunn, Robert D. (Ed.). (1980). Claificación de los idiomas indígenas de Panamá, con un vocabulario comparativo de los mismos. Lenguas de Panamá (No. 7). Panama: Instituto Nacional de Cultura, Instituto Lingüístico de Verano.
  • 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.
  • Loewen, Jacob. (1963). Choco I & Choco II. International Journal of American Linguistics, 29.
  • Licht, Daniel Aguirre. (1999). Embera. Languages of the world/materials 208. LINCOM.
  • Mortensen, Charles A. (1999). A reference grammar of the Northern Embera languages. Studies in the languages of Colombia (No.7); SIL publications in linguistics (No. 134). SIL.
  • Pinto García, C. (1974/1978). Los indios katíos: su cultura - su lengua. Medellín: Editorial Gran-América.
  • Rendón G., G. (2011). La lengua Umbra: Descubrimiento - Endolingüística - Arqueolingüística. Manizales: Zapata.
  • Rivet, Paul; & Loukotka, Cestmír. (1950). Langues d'Amêrique du sud et des Antilles. In A. Meillet & M. Cohen (Eds.), Les langues du monde (Vol. 2). Paris: Champion.
  • Sara, S. I. (2002). A tri-lingual dictionary of Emberá-English-Spanish. (Languages of the World/Dictionaries, 38). Munich: Lincom Europa.
  • Suárez, Jorge. (1974). South American Indian languages. The new Encyclopædia Britannica (15th ed.). Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica.
  • Swadesh, Morris. (1959). Mapas de clasificación lingüística de México y las Américas. México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
  • Tovar, Antonio; & Larrucea de Tovar, Consuelo. (1984). Catálogo de las lenguas de América del Sur (nueva ed.). Madrid: Editorial Gedos. ISBN 84-249-0957-7.

External links

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