Hup language

Native toBrazil
EthnicityHupd'ëh, Yohup
Native speakers
1,700 (2006–2007)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3Either:
jup – Hup
yab – Yuhup
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The Hup language (also called Hupdë,[3] Hupdá, Hupdé, Hupdá Makú, Jupdá, Makú, Makú-Hupdá, Makú De, Hupda, and Jupde) is one of the four Naduhup languages. It is spoken by the Hupda indigenous Amazonian peoples who live on the border between Colombia and the Brazilian state of Amazonas. There are approximately 1500 speakers of the Hup language. As of 2005, according to Epps, Hup is not seriously endangered – although the actual number of speakers is few, all Hupda children learn Hup as their first language.


Although their territory was the target of forced transferrals throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, due to their isolation, the Naduhup were among the least affected, since they were protected by the geography of their land. They were also the target of several Catholic missions, though those ultimately failed, as the Naduhup refused to send their children to Catholic education centres.[4]

Contact with the Tucanoan people, also known as the River Indians, who live along the rivers rather than in the forests, has significantly impacted the Naduhup, both culturally and linguistically. Since before European contact, the Naduhup and Tukanoan peoples have engaged in trade, the Naduhup providing labour and hunted meats and the Tucanoan providing agricultural goods. However, the Naduhup are viewed as inferior by the Tucanoan, because of their linguistic and lifestyle differences. Because of this inequality, most Naduhup people can understand and/or speak a Tucanoan, while it is the opposite vice versa – very few, if any Tucanoan people speak Hup.[5]

Language profile

Relatively few linguistic materials of Hup are available, due to the isolation of the Hupda. Incomplete vocabulary lists and dictionaries were established in 1955 (Giacone) and 1993 (Erickson and Erickson). The most complete descriptive grammar of Hup, A Grammar of Hup, was written by Patience Epps in 2005, was updated in 2008, and outlines Hup phonology, parts of speech, morphology, aspect, tense, modality, among many other features.

Hup is one of four languages in the Naduhup (Makú) family. Though Makú is the term most commonly used to refer to this language family, there is controversy over its usage, since it is also an ethnic slur, translating to “without language”, used by the Tukanoan towards the Naduhup. There has not been a consensus on a replacement term, although Epps proposed “Naduhup”, which combines the names of the four members of the language family - Nadëb, Dâw, Hup, and Yuhup.[6]



There are nineteen contrasting consonants in Hup, with the twentieth /p’/ occurring in the morpheme-initial position in only one word of only some Hup dialects. /j/, /g/, and /ç/ only appear in morpheme-final position, while all other consonants may appear in morpheme initial, medial, and final position. Hup has glottalized consonants of both stops and approximants which can be seen in the chart below.[7] This language also has nasal allophones of the voiced stops.[7]

Bilabial Denti-alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop voiceless p t c k ʔ
voiced b d ɟ g
glottalized b' (p') ɟʼ
Fricative ç h
Approximant plain w j
ejective w' j'

Adapted from Epps (2005), p. 40.


Hup contains a large segmental phonemic inventory, in comparison to the Tukanoan languages that neighbour it geographically. Hup vowels are composed of nine contrasting sounds, with no occurring diphthongs:[8]

Front Central Back
Close i ɨ u
Mid e ə o
Open æ a ɔ

However, these nine sounds occur only in non-nasal contexts. In nasal morphemes, there are only six distinct vowels:

Front Central Back
Close ĩ ɨ̃ ũ
Open æ̃ ã ɔ̃

Adapted from Epps (2005)[9]

According to Epps (2005), this indicates that the contrast between mid-vowels and high/low vowels are neutralised in nasal contexts. Nasalisation is morphemic at the syllable level and targets all segments – generally, every syllable is either fully nasal or fully oral.[9]


Hup tonality functions in what is called a word-accent system – there is a word-level tone contrast system; the contrast is restricted to one syllable per word, which is predictable and also exhibits other features of stressed syllables (greater intensity, longer duration, and higher pitch). There are two tones: rising and high, which only appear in nouns and adjectives.

Hup Tones
Rising /cǎʔ/ [čǎʔ] "clump of roots"
High /cáʔ/ [čáʔ] "box, nest"


Nouns and verbs are open class, while adjectives are closed class. Nouns usually appear as arguments of clauses and can appear bare in the clause, while verbs must be inflected in some way. Hup is highly agglutinative and concatenative, with a high rate of synthesis and low rate of phonological fusion of morphemes. Therefore, its morphemes are easily segmented. Roots typically undergo compounding, while formatives are affixed or cliticised.[10]

Personal pronouns

Subject Object Oblique Possessive
Downriver Hup dialects Umari Norte dialect
1sg ʔɑ̃h́ ʔɑ́n ʔɑ̃h́-ɑ̃t́ nɨ̌ nɨ̌h
2sg ʔɑ́m ʔɑ́m-ɑ́n ʔɑ́m-ɑ́t ʔɑ́mɨ̌h ʔɑ́m-nɨ̌h
3sg tɨ́h tɨ́h-ɑ́n tɨ́h-ɨ́t tɨnɨ̌h tɨh-nɨ̌h
1pl ʔɨ́n ʔɨ́n-ɑ́n ʔɨ́n-ɨ́t ʔɨnɨ̌h ʔɨn-nɨ̌h
2pl nɨ́ŋ nɨ́ŋ-ɑ́n nɨ́ŋ-ɨ́t nɨŋɨ̌h nɨŋ-nɨ̌h
3pl hɨ́d hɨ́d-ɑ́n

hɨɾan (TD)


[hɨɾɨt] (TD)


hɨdɨ̌h [hɨɾɨh] (TD)



Adapted from Epps (2005), p. 138

Semiverbal "Verby" nouns

Some nouns of Hup are semi-verbal, namely those which have to do with the passage of time, as well as periods of time, which are “inherently progressive and impermanent.”[11]

“Passage of time” words:

  • wəhə́d "old man"
  • wɑ́ "old woman"
  • dóʔ "child"

“Periods of time” words:

  • wɑ́g "day"
  • j'ə́b "night"

While these words belong to the noun class (they typically appear as arguments of a clause, and aspectual inflection is not required), they have verb-like qualities, such as occurrence in verbal compounds (which is normally restricted to only verbs):

mɔ̌h tɨh yæ̃ʔ-wɑd-hi-wɑ́g-ɑ́h
inambu 3sg roast-eat-FACT-day-DECL
"He cooked and ate inambu until daybreak."

Respect markers

The enclitic =wəd, derived from the word for “old man” wəhə́d, can be inserted as a respect marker when referring to spiritual beings or other humans. The feminine form of this is =wa.

yunícu=wəd-ǎn ʔãh ʔɨ́d-ɨh
Junilson=RESP-OBJ 1sg speak-DECL
"I spoke to respected Junilson."

This marker is usually used to refer to someone older or of higher status, though it can also be used to indicate someone to be feared, especially when used to refer to dangerous spirits.[12]

yúp tɨ̃hɨ̃́y=wəd nɨ̌h tóg-óh!
that.ITG snake=RESP POSS daughter-DECL
"It was the old/respected Snake’s daughter! (from the Rainbow Spirit and the Snake of the

Hollow-Star story) ."

The usage of =wəd is also not necessarily respectful. The enclitic can also be affixed to children’s names as a sign of affection, comparable to doing the same in English with the titles “Mister” or “Miss”.[13]


Case and agreement

Hup is nominative-accusative. All subjects are unmarked, while the object and other noun cases are suffixed. Which suffix is used can depend on number, animacy, type of noun, and grammatical function, as shown in the table below. Case marking extends also to the noun phrase and relative clause, and the suffixes attach to the final constituent of the phrase.

Grammatical function Nouns Nouns marked for number Pronouns, demonstratives
S, A
O (Direct object) Human: -ɑ̌n, Animal: -ɑ̌n (optional), Inanimate: -ø -ɑ̌n (Plural: -n’ɑ̌n) -ɑ̌n
O (beneficiary, recipient of ditransitive verbs) -ɑ̌n -ɑ̌n (Plural: -n’ɑ̌n) -ɑ̌n
Directional oblique -an
Oblique -V́t -V́t -V́t

Adapted from Epps (2005), p. 143

tɨh=tæ̃h ʔín-ɑ̌n=mɑh tɨh mǽh-ǽh
3sg=child,mother-OBJ=REP 3sg hit-DECL
"He beat his wife, it’s said."
(Direct Object, Epps (2005), p. 144)
nǽm ʔɑ́m-ɑ̌n ʔɑ̃h key-nɨ̌ŋ
louse 2sg-OBJ 1sg see-COOP
"I’ll look for lice for you."
(“You” as a beneficiary, Epps (2005), p. 145)
hɔ̃p=n'ɑn tɨh w'ób-óh
fish=PL.OBJ 3sg place-DECL
"She placed the fish (on the smoking platform)."
(Plural object, Epps (2005), p. 153)
yɑ́g-ɑn g'ɑ̃ʔ-ʔɑ́y hɑ́m
hammock-DIR suspend-VENT.IMP go.IMP
"Go lie in the hammock!"
(Directional Oblique, Epps (2005), p. 156)
tiyǐʔ(-ɑ̌n) (tɨh=)pǒg-ɑ̌n túk-úy=mɑh
man(-OBJ) (3sg=)big-OBJ want-DYNM=REP
"She wants the big man, it’s said."
(Suffixes assigned to last word of noun phrase, Epps (2005), p. 155)

Though the object case and directional oblique markers are almost identical phonologically, the only difference being the stress, directional oblique is mainly used to indicate direction, and sometimes, location, in which it coincides with oblique case.



The plurality marker for nouns is =d'əh and follows an animacy hierarchy: humans, animals, and inanimates. For humans, plural marking is obligatory, though exception is made for a non-specific referent.[14]

tiyǐʔ=d'əh-əwə́c ʔəg-nɑ́ʔ-ɑ́y
man=PL-FLR-EXCL2 drink-lose.senses-DYNM
"Only the men got drunk!"
(Epps (2005), p. 165)
hup də̌b hɨd bɨ́ʔ-ɨ́h
person many 3pl work-DECL
"Lots of people worked."
(Epps (2005), p. 166)

However, the marker is present for groups of people, which are considered conceptually plural.[15]

nutæ̌n-ɑy teghɔ̃́=d'əh nɨ̌h yɑ́g-ɑy nutæ̌n-ǽp
today-INCH Non-Indian=PL POSS hammock-INCH today-DEP
"Nowadays we use the hammocks of the Non-Indians, these days."
(Epps (2005), p. 165)

Animals are generally also marked for plurality, but differ in that the marker is not obligatory for groups of animals. As with humans, non-specific referents are also not marked.[16]

núp nutæ̌n yɑʔɑ́m=d'əh hɨd wæd-nɨ́h-ɑy-ɑ́h
this today jaguar=PL 3pl eat-NEG-INCH-DECL
"So today jaguars don’t eat (people)."
(Epps (2005), p. 168)
hɔ̃̌p(*=d'əh) ʔɑ̃́h kək-d'oʔ-nɨ́h
fish(*=PL) 1sg pull-take-NEG
"I didn't catch any fish."
(Epps (2005), p. 168)
hɔ̃̌p=d'əh pɑ̃̌
fish=PL NEG:EX
"The (specific) fish are not here."
(Epps (2005), p. 168)

Inanimate objects are not marked for plurality and rely on numerals to indicate such. Plural inanimate entities are regarded with low importance, due to usually having low conceptual salience, and therefore are also almost always unmarked for number in discourse as well.[17]

dadɑ́nya tɨ́h-ɑ̌n ʔɑ̃h nɔ́ʔ-b'ɑy-ɑ́h
orange 3sg-OBJ give-AGAIN-DECL
"I gave her the oranges (that I’d brought)."
(Epps (2005), p. 169)


Abbreviation Meaning
COOP cooperative
DECL declarative
DEP dependent marker, topic marker
DIR directional oblique
DYNM dynamic
EXCL exclusive
FACT factitive
FLR following marker
IMP imperative
INCH inchoative
ITG intangible
NEG negative (verbal)
NEG:EX negative existence
OBJ object
PL plural/collective
POSS possessive
RESP respect marker
VENT ventive


  1. ^ Hup at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Yuhup at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Endangered Languages Project data for Yuhup.
  3. ^ The letter ë stands for [ə].
  4. ^ Ricardo, Fany Pantaleoni (ed.). "Hupda". Povos Indígenas no Brasil.
  5. ^ Epps, Patience (2005). A Grammar of Hup. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 20. ISBN 3110199076.
  6. ^ Epps, Patience (2005). A Grammar of Hup. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 8. ISBN 3110199076.
  7. ^ a b Epps, Patience (2008). A Grammar of Hup. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. p. 33.
  8. ^ Epps, Patience (2005). A Grammar of Hup. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 37. ISBN 3110199076.
  9. ^ a b Epps, Patience (2005). A Grammar of Hup. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 39. ISBN 3110199076.
  10. ^ Epps, Patience (2005). A Grammar of Hup. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 97. ISBN 3110199076.
  11. ^ Epps, Patience (2005). A Grammar of Hup. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 141. ISBN 3110199076.
  12. ^ Epps, Patience (2005). A Grammar of Hup. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 299. ISBN 3110199076.
  13. ^ Epps, Patience (2005). A Grammar of Hup. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 300. ISBN 3110199076.
  14. ^ Epps, Patience (2005). A Grammar of Hup. Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 164–5. ISBN 3110199076.
  15. ^ Epps, Patience (2005). A Grammar of Hup. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 165. ISBN 3110199076.
  16. ^ Epps, Patience (2005). A Grammar of Hup. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 168. ISBN 3110199076.
  17. ^ Epps, Patience (2005). A Grammar of Hup. Mouton de Gruyter. p. 169. ISBN 3110199076.
  • Patience Epps (2008) A Grammar of Hup. Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Moore, Barbara J.; Franklin, Gail L. Breves notícias da língua Maku-Hupda. Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1979 [1]

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