Miskito-Matagalpan Languages

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Miskito-Matagalpan Languages


(Misumalpan languages), a family of languages spoken in Nicaragua and Honduras and formerly also in El Salvador by more than 30,000 people (1970, estimate). The family includes the Miskito language (eastern coast of northern Nicaragua and Honduras), the nearly extinct Matagalpan languages (in northwestern Nicaragua and at one time also in Honduras and El Salvador), and the Sumo languages (Ulva, Yosco, and Sumo proper, subdivided into the Tauahca, Panamaca, Boa, and Bauihca dialects), spoken in remote regions of northern Nicaragua and eastern Honduras.

The languages have simple vowel (long and short vowels) and consonant systems. Grammatical relations are expressed analytically, by suffixes (partly by fusion suffixes), agglutinative prefixes, and infixes. The noun distinguishes absolute and construct states, as in the Semitic languages, and possessive forms for three persons (“my,” “your [singular],” “his”). Case is expressed by postpositions and word order. The verb has person forms and aspectualtemporal forms. The grammatical category of number is absent in Miskito. A number of linguists classify the Miskito-Matagalpan languages in the Chibchan macrofamily.


Adam, L. Langue Misquito. Paris, 1891.
Heath, G. Grammar of the Miskito Language. Herrnhut, 1927.
Conzemius, E. “Notes on the Miskito and Sumu Languages of Eastern Nicaragua and Honduras.” International Journal of American Linguistics, 1929, vol. 5.
Heath, C. R., and W. G. Marx. Diccionario miskito-español, español-miskito. Tegucigalpa, 1953.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.