Tucanoan Languages

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Tucanoan Languages


a family of American Indian languages spoken by tribes inhabiting three regions of South America: (1) in the Uaupés, Tiquié, Apáporis, Miriti Paraná, and Ja-purá river basins in southeastern Colombia and northwestern Brazil; (2) in northeastern Peru (Loreto Department), northeastern Ecuador (Napo and Pastaza provinces), and southern Colombia (Caquetáa Department and neighboring regions); (3) at the source of the Manacacias River (Meta Department in central Colombia).

According to the preliminary classification of the Spanish scholar A. Tovar Llórente, the Tucanoan language family is subdivided into a number of branches. In the first of the areas mentioned above, the Tucanoan languages are represented by the Tucano-Tuyuka languages (Tucano, Tuyuka, Bara, Piratapuyo, Karapana [Carapaná], and others), the Desana languages (Desana and Coretu), the Kubeo (Cubeo) language, and the Buha-gana and Yahuna languages. The Choquesiona languages (Siona, Coto, Icaguahe, and several extinct languages) and the Piojé-Siona languages are found in the second area, and the Tama language in the third zone.

The Tucanoan languages have been poorly described. Judging from a description of the Siona language, grammatical meanings are expressed by agglutinated suffixes, animate and inanimate nouns have a clear morphological opposition, and masculine and feminine gender categories exist. In the Uaupés and Tiquié river basins, each of the Tucano-Tuyuka and Desana languages (and also the local Arawakan and Cariban languages) is assigned to a separate exogamous marriage class and serves as a distinctive feature of this class. Tucano is used as a lingua franca in the northwestern part of the Amazon basin.


Elson, B. F. Studies in Ecuadorian Indian Languages, 1. Norman, Okla., 1962.
Giacone, A. Gramática, dicionários e fraseología da lingua Dahceié ou Tucano. Belém, 1965.
Jackson, J. “Language Identity of the Colombian Vaupés Indians.” In Explorations in the Ethnography of Speaking. Cambridge, Mass., 1974.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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References in periodicals archive ?
The productivity of bitter and sweet cassava in Tukanoan Indian settlement in Northwest Amazon.
The category of the "People of the Animals" includes mostly groups living north of the Caqueta like the Yukuna, Matapi, Letuama and Tanimuka from the Miriti-parana and Apaporis rivers to which the whole Tukanoan speaking groups of the Vaupes region must be added.
These groups have been classified (2) into five linguistic families: Tukanoan (represented by the Eastern Tukanoan subfamily), Guahiban, Arawakan, KakuaNukak and Cariban.
Banisteriopsis rusbyana was found widely used among the Western Tukanoan Siona of the Colombian Putumayo.
Eastern Tukanoan names of the palm Iriartea deltoidea: an evidence of its possible preagricultural use as a starch source.
Abstract: This paper considers language acquisition within the greater context of gender-associated norms and practices among Amerindian speakers of Eastern Tukanoan languages in the northwest Amazon, where descent and language are viewed as manifestations of one another.
Finally, Gomez-Imbert ("When animals become `rounded' and `feminine': conceptual categories and linguistic classification in a multilingual setting") presents observations collected in the Vaupes basin of Northwest Amazonia, with particular attention to situations of linguistic exogamy that involve two typologically unrelated language families (Arawakan and Tukanoan).