Sapé language

Native toVenezuela
RegionParagua and Karuna rivers
Ethnicity9 (2011 census)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3spc

Sapé a.k.a. Kaliana is an extinct language recently spoken along the Paragua River and Karuna River. There were only about a few dozen speakers in the mid-1900s, and by the 2000s, only a few elderly speakers were found. Sapé may be a language isolate.


Sape is one of the most poorly attested extant languages in South America, and there is no comprehensive linguistic description of the language other than scattered word lists.[2][3]

Word lists have been collected by Armellada & Matallana (1942),[4] Migliazza (1978),[5] Walter Coppens,[6] and Francia Medina.[7] There are unpublished field notebooks by Fèlix Cardona i Puig from the 1930s-1940s containing linguistic data of Sapé.[8]

Perozo et al. (2008: 175-176) was also able to collect 44 words and 5 short phrases from semi-speakers living in the Ninam villages of Boca de Ichún and Kavamaikén and the Pemon village of Karunkén in Venezuela.[9] Some of the Sapé semi-speakers have since moved to Yuwapí Merú, a village located on the Middle Paragua. There may also be semi-speakers of Sapé living in the Pemon village of Venevené (Benebené, Veneveken).[8]

Loukotka (1968)

Loukotka (1968) lists the following basic vocabulary items for Kaliána.[10]

gloss Kaliána
one koki
two ikiria
three komoña
head koyanukú
eye kam-kukú
tooth kaká
man mínõ
water inám
fire txokó
sun yám
manioc téntu
jaguar pudzyín
house enaĩ

Sociolinguistic situation

According to Rosés Labrada & Medina (2019), the last fluent speakers of Sapé were Elena Lezama, who died in 2004, and Ramón Quimillo Lezama, who died in November 2018. However, at least 2 semi-speakers remain.[8] Traditionally located along the Karún River and the Upper Paragua River, most Sapé have assimilated into Pemon-speaking villages.

Language contact

Jolkesky (2016) notes that there are lexical similarities with the Warao, Chibchan, Puinave-Kak, Jirajara, Tukano (especially Cubeo and Wanano), Arutani, and Máku language families due to contact.[11]

Similarities with Chibchan are primarily with the Magdalena subgroup.[11]:326


  1. ^ a b Sapé at Ethnologue (23rd ed., 2020)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald. 2010. 'The status of the least documented language families in the world'. In Language Documentation & Conservation, v 4, p 183 [1]
  3. ^ Dixon and Aikhenvald, 1999, The Amazonian Languages, p 343.
  4. ^ Armellada, Cesareo de & Baltasar de Matallana. 1942. Exploración del Paragua. Boletín de la Sociedad Venezolana de Ciencias Naturales 8, 61-110.
  5. ^ Migliazza, Ernest C. 1978. Maku, Sape and Uruak languages current status and basic lexicon. Anthropological Linguistics 20(3), 133-140.
  6. ^ Coppens, Walter. 2008 [1983]. Los Uruak (Arutani). In Miguel Ángel Perera (ed.) Los aborígenes de Venezuela, 2nd edition, Volume 2, 705-737. Caracas: Fundación La Salle de Ciencias Naturales/Instituto Caribe de Antropología y Sociología.
  7. ^ Medina, Francia. 2008. Los Sapé: notas sobre su situación presente y actualización bibliográfica. In Miguel Ángel Perera (ed.) Los aborígines de Venezuela, 2nd edition, Volume 2, 739-746. Caracas: Ediciones IVIC, Monte Ávila Editores, ICAS, Fundación La Salle.
  8. ^ a b c Jorge Emilio Rosés Labrada & Francia Medina (2019). Sapé (Venezuela) — Language Snapshot. In Peter K. Austin (ed.) Language Documentation and Description, vol 16. London: EL Publishing. pp. 169-175.
  9. ^ Perozo, Laura, Ana Liz Flores, Abel Perozo, and Mercedes Aguinagalde. 2008. Escenario histórico y sociocultural del alto Paragua, Estado Bolívar, Venezuela. In Josefa Celsa Señaris, Carlos A. Lasso & Ana Liz Flores (eds.) Evaluación rápida de la biodiversidad de los ecosistemas acuáticos de la cuenca alta del río Paragua, Estado Bolívar, Venezuela, 169-180, 302-308. Arlington, VA: Conservation International.
  10. ^ Loukotka, Čestmír (1968). Classification of South American Indian languages. Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center.
  11. ^ a b Jolkesky, Marcelo Pinho de Valhery (2016). Estudo arqueo-ecolinguístico das terras tropicais sul-americanas (Ph.D. dissertation) (2 ed.). Brasília: University of Brasília.

External links

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