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Puinave language

Pronunciation [wãnsɤhɤt]
Native to Colombia, Venezuela
Ethnicity 7,000 (ca. 2007)[1]
Native speakers
3,000 (2001–2008)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 pui
Glottolog puin1248[2]

Puinave, AKA Waipunavi (Guaipunabi) or Wanse (Wãnsöhöt), is a poorly attested and generally unclassified language of South America.


  • Phonology 1
    • Consonants 1.1
    • Vowels 1.2
    • Tone 1.3
  • Morphology and Syntax 2
  • Classification 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6



Labial Coronal Dorsal Glottal
Plosives p t k  
Nasals m n    
Fricatives   s   h


Front Back
Close i ĩ ɯ u
Mid e ɤ ɤ̃ o õ
Open   a ã  

Syllable structure is (C)V(C); nasal syllablic nuclei cause allophonic variation of consonantal segments in the same syllable. The phonemes /m n/ have oral, non-sonorant allophones [b d] in the onsets of syllables with oral nuclei.

The high vowel [u], when occurring in onset or coda position, is realized as a glide [w]. When the high vowel /i/ is in coda position, it is also realized as a glide [j], but in onset position, it is realized as a palatal stop matching in nasality with the nucleus, either [ɟ] or [ɲ], in the same way that /m n/ match the following vowel's nasality. Any glides [w] occurring before or [j w] occurring after a nasalized nucleus are also realized as nasal [j̃ w̃].


Puinave distinguishes four surface (phonetic) tones: two simple (H and L) and two contour (HL and LH); these are analyzed as being composed of two phonemic tone values, H and L. Girón Higuita and Wetzels (2007) note that speakers seem to associate H with prominence, rather than increased duration or intensity (the typical correlates of prominence in languages like English).

Morphology and Syntax

Jesús Mario Girón's description of the morphology and the function of nominalized constructions in this language can be found in The Linguistics of Endangered Languages (edited by Leo Wetzels).


Puinave is sometimes linked to other poorly attested languages of the region in various Macro-Puinavean proposals, but no good evidence has ever been produced. The original motivation seems to simply be that all of these languages were called Maku "babble" by Arawakans.[3] Ongoing work on Puinave by Girón Higuita at the University of Amsterdam will hopefully clarify the situation.


Girón Higuita, J.M. and W. Leo Wetzels (2007). Tone in Wãnsöhöt (Puinave). Language Endangerment and Endangered Languages: Linguistic and Anthropological Studies with Special Emphasis on the Languages and Cultures of the Andean-Amazonian Border Area, W. Leo Wetzels ed., CNWS Publications.


  1. ^ a b Puinavé at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^
  3. ^ Patience Epps, 2008. A Grammar of Hup. Mouton de Gruyter.

External links

  • Puinave dictionary online (select simple or advanced browsing)

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