Arhuaco language

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Native toColombia
Ethnicity14,800 Arhuacos (2001)[1]
Native speakers
8,000 (2009)[2]
  • Arwako–Chimila
    • Arwako languages
      • Arhuaco
Language codes
ISO 639-3arh
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Arhuaco, commonly known as Ikʉ, (Arhuaco: Ikʉ) is an Indigenous American language of the Chibchan language family, spoken in South America by the Arhuaco people.[4]

There are 8000 speakers, all in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region of Colombia, 90% of whom are monolingual.[4] Literacy is 1 to 5% in their native language. Some speak Spanish, and 15 to 25% are literate in that auxiliary language.[4] The users have a very strong traditional culture and have vibrant use of their tongue.[4]

It is also known as: Aruaco, Bintuk, Bíntukua, Bintucua, Ica, Ijca, Ijka, Ika, and Ike.[4]

The language uses a subject–object–verb (SOV) sentence structure.[4]


Back vowels Central vowels Front vowels
Open vowels i i ɨ ʉ u u
Mid vowels e e ə y o o
Close vowels a a

/ə/ is raised to and merged with /ɨ/ word finally.


This language registers 17 consonant phonemes:

Labial Alveolar Alveolo-palatal Velar Glottal
occlusive (voiceless) p p t t ch k k ʔ (ꞌ (saltillo))
occlusive (voiced) b b d d ɉ ɡ g
nasal m m n~ŋ n
fricative (voiceless) s s h j
fricative (voiced) β w z z ʒ zh
flap ɾ r

Syllable Structure[edit]

With some exceptions, Arhuaco syllables may begin with up to two consonants (the second of which must be a glide /w j/) and may be closed by one of the following consonants: /ʔ n r w j/.


Arhuaco stress normally falls on penultimate syllables, with secondary stresses occurring on every other preceding syllable, in the case of longer words (e.g. /ˌunkəˈsia/ 'protective bracelet').[5] There are some affixes and enclitics that are extrametrical and do not count as syllables for stress assignment.


Frank, Paul. 1985. A grammar of Ika. PhD thesis. University of Pennsylvania.

Frank, Paul. 2000. Ika syntax. Dallas, TX: Summer Institute of Linguistics.

Landaburu, Jon. 2000. La lengua Ika. in Lenguas indigenas de Colombia: Una visión descriptiva. Bogota: Instituto Caro y Cuervo.

P.84. [1]. in Scientific American.


  1. ^ Arhuaco language at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009)
  2. ^ Arhuaco at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Arhuaco". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Arhuaco, by Arango and Sánchez, Ethnologue, 1998, access date 04-16-08
  5. ^ Landaburu, Jon (2000). La lengua Ika. Bogotá: Instituto Caro y Cuervo.

External links[edit]