Central Jê languages

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Central Jê
Tocantins, Mato Grosso, formerly also Minas Gerais, Goiás, Distrito Federal, Bahia
Linguistic classificationMacro-Jê

The Akuwẽ[1]:12–4 or Central Jê[2]:547 languages are a branch of the Jê languages constituted by two extant languages (Xavánte and Akwẽ-Xerénte) and two extinct or dormant, scarcely attested languages (Xakriabá and Acroá).[3] Together with the Goyaz Jê languages, they form the Cerrado branch of the family.


The Akuwẽ languages share a number of characteristic innovations, such as the Akuwẽ/Central Jê vowel shift,[4]:61[5]:164 the sound change *ka- > *wa-,[5]:161[6]:70–1 and the occlusive merger,[5]:159–161 which distinguish them clearly from all other Jê languages.

A characteristic feature of the Akuwẽ languages is the existence of complex allomorphy patterns whereby the choice of the allomorph is conditioned by the position of the word within a syntagm (i.e. whether the word is in the middle or in the end of a syntagm).[7]:139–43 It has been suggested that it is possible to derive both allomorphs (those that occur syntagm-internally and those that occut syntagm-finally) from uniform underlying representations, which involve underlying codas.[5]:155–168

Historical development[edit]

The onsets of Proto-Cerrado have evolved in the following way in Proto-Akuwẽ.

Proto-Cerrado Proto-Akuwẽ
oral nucleus nasal nucleus oral nucleus
non-high vowel)
oral nucleus
high vowel)
before a diphthong nasal nucleus
*p */p/ *p */p/ *b */b/ N/A *m */b/
*mb */m/ *m */m/
*pr */pɾ/ *pr */pɾ/ N/A *mr */bɾ/
*mbr */mɾ/ *mr */mɾ/ N/A
*w */w/ *w */w/
*t */t/ *t */t/ *d */d/ *∅ *n */d/
*nd */n/ *n */n/ N/A
*r */ɾ/ *r */ɾ/ *∅ *r */ɾ/
*c */c/ *c */c/ */ɟ/, *h */h/ (before *i) *∅ *c */c/
*nĵ */ɲ/ N/A N/A
*j */j/ */j/ */ĵ/, *c */c/ (before *i) *k */k/ */ĵ/
*k */k/ *k */k/
(unstressed *ka- > *wa-)
*h */h/ *∅ *k */k/
*ŋg */ŋ/ */ŋ/ N/A
*kr */kɾ/ *kr */kɾ/ *kr */kɾ/
*ŋgr */ŋɾ/ *ŋr */ŋɾ/ N/A
*g */g/ *g */g/ N/A

Note that the onsets *p, *t, and *k(r) are synchronically found preceding not only non-high oral vowels in Proto-Akuwẽ, but also preceding innovative high vowels (*i, *u < Proto-Cerrado , ) and nasal vowels (such as , *ə̃ < *u, *a). The reflexes *b, *d, and *h are found preceding only those vowels that were already high in Proto-Cerrado.


Predicate number[edit]

The Akuwẽ languages commonly employ different lexemes for singular, dual, and plural predicates.[8][9][7]:203–7 Although the lexicalized expression of verbal number is pervasive in the family in general, the Akuwẽ languages are remarkable in having triads (rather than dyads) of verbs contrasting in number.


  1. ^ Nikulin, Andrey (2020). Proto-Macro-Jê: um estudo reconstrutivo (PDF) (Ph.D. dissertation). Brasília: Universidade de Brasília.
  2. ^ Ribeiro, Eduardo Rivail; Voort, Hein van der (2010). "Nimuendajú was right: the inclusion of the Jabutí language family in the Macro-Jê stock" (PDF). International Journal of American Linguistics. 76 (4): 517–70.
  3. ^ Carvalho, Fernando Orphão de; Damulakis, Gean Nunes (5 January 2015). "The Structure of Akroá and Xakriabá and their relation to Xavante and Xerente: A contribution to the historical linguistics of the Jê languages". LIAMES: Línguas Indígenas Americanas. 15 (1): 17. doi:10.20396/liames.v15i1.8641494.
  4. ^ Oliveira, Christiane Cunha de (February 2014). The Language of the Apinajé People of Central Brazil (PDF) (Ph.D. dissertation). Eugene, OR: University of Oregon.
  5. ^ a b c d Nikulin, Andrey (2017). "A phonological reconstruction of Proto-Cerrado (Jê family)". Journal of Language Relationship. 15 (3): 147–180. doi:10.31826/jlr-2018-153-404.
  6. ^ de Carvalho, Fernando O. (2016). "On the Development of the Proto–Northern Jê Rhotic in Panará Historical Phonology". Anthropological Linguistics. 58 (1): 52–78. doi:10.1353/anl.2016.0019.
  7. ^ a b Estevam, Adriana Machado (2011). Morphosyntaxe du xavante. Langue jê du Mato Grosso (Brésil) (PDF) (Ph.D. dissertation). Paris: Université Denis Diderot – Paris 7.
  8. ^ Cabral, Ana Suelly Arruda Câmara; Xavante, Eliseu Waduipi; Rojas-Berscia, Luis Miguel; Miranda, Maxwell (2020). "Distinção ternária de número e concordância em línguas Jê Centrais (Macro-Jê)". In Miranda, Maxwell; Borges, Águeda Aparecida da Cruz; Santana, Áurea Cavalcante; Sousa, Suseile Andrade (eds.). Línguas e culturas Macro-Jê: saberes entrecruzados (PDF). Barra do Garças: GEDDELI/Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso. pp. 353–92. ISBN 978-65-00-02975-8.
  9. ^ Cotrim, Rodrigo Guimarães Prudente Marquez (2016). Uma descrição da morfologia e de aspectos morfossintaxe da língua Akwê-Xerente (Jê Central) (PDF) (Tese de doutorado). Brasília: Universidade de Brasília.