Chamacoco language

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Native toParaguay
RegionAlto Paraguay
Native speakers
2,000 (2015)[1]
  • Chamacoco
Language codes
ISO 639-3ceg
A speaker of Chamacoco, also known as Ishír/Yshyr.

Chamacoco is a Zamucoan language spoken in Paraguay by the Chamacoco people. It is also known as Xamicoco or Xamacoco, although the tribe itself prefers the name Ishír, which is also spelled Ishiro or Jewyo.[2] When the term Ishiro (or yshyro or ɨshɨro) is used to refer to the language, it is an abbreviation for Ishir(o) ahwoso, literally meaning 'the words, the language of the Chamacoco people'.[3] It is spoken by a traditionally hunter-gatherer society that now practices agriculture. Its speakers are of all ages, and generally do not speak Spanish or Guarani well.[4]


Chamacoco is classified as a Zamucoan language, along with Ayoreo. Both languages are considered endangered.[5] There is relatively little information about the Zamucoan family.

Chamacoco speakers live in the northeastern part of the Chaco Boreal at the origin of the Río Verde in Paraguay.[4] Four dialects of Chamacoco have been identified: Héiwo, in the Fuerte Olimpo area; Ebidóso and Hório, spoken in the Bahía Negra region; and Tomaráho, in the Paraná-Paraíba interior forests.[2]

The speakers of Hório and Ebidóso were estimated to be 800 in 1970. Fewer than 200 people spoke Tomaráho then. Back in 1930, over 2000 people were estimated to speak Chamacoco.[2]

Verb inflection is based on personal prefixes and the language is tenseless.[6] For example, chɨpɨrme teu dosh means "the kingfisher eats fish", while chɨpɨra teu wichɨ dosht means "the kingfisher will eat fish." Nouns can be divided into possessable and non-possessable. Possessable nouns are characterized by a prefixation whereby the noun agrees with the possessor or genitival modifier.[7] There is no difference between nouns and adjectives in suffixation.[8] The syntax is characterized by the presence of para-hypotactical structures.[9] The comparison of inflectional morphology has shown remarkable similarities with Ayoreo and Ancient Zamuco.[10]

A Chamacoco Talking Dictionary was produced by Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages.



Front Central Back
Close i ɨ
Near-close ɪ
Close-mid e
Mid ə
Open-mid ɔ
Open a ɑ

All vowels except for /ɑ, ə/ have nasalized forms.[11]


Bilabial Alveolar Postalveolar Velar Glottal
Stop voiceless p t k ʔ
voiced b d g
Affricate voiceless t͡ʃ
voiced d͡ʒ
Fricative voiceless s ʃ h
voiced z ʒ ɣ
Nasal m n
Approximant plain ɹ w
lateral l
Trill r

Sample words and phrases[edit]

  • matah debich (IPA: a debitʃ) – finger
  • aap (IPA: ap) – fox/lion cub
  • tɨkɨn chɨp owa (IPA: tɪgɪ ʃebɔa) – thank you very much
  • ich amatak (IPA: ɪdʒ amaɹtɔk) – he eats a lot
  • ye takmape (IPA: je taɣmabe) – he does not eat a lot
  • tɨkɨya oyetɨke (IPA: tɪkija ɔɪhetɪgɪ) – I bought a dog for you
  • yok (IPA: jɔk) – I
  • ich takaha (IPA: i taɣaha) – I go


  1. ^ "Chamacoco". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-07-20.
  2. ^ a b c Chamacoco: Orientation. Every Culture. 2008 (retrieved 29 March 2009)
  3. ^ Ciucci, Luca 2011. L’amico di D’Annunzio e la tribù perduta: in Sudamerica alla ricerca dei confini di Babele. Normale. Bollettino dell’associazione normalisti, 1-2. 23-28. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-04. Retrieved 2013-07-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ a b Gordon, Raymond G., Jr., ed. Chamacoco: A Language of Paraguay. Ethnologue. 2005 (retrieved 29 March 2009)
  5. ^ Sorosoro: Zamucoan family Archived 2011-01-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Ciucci, Luca 2009. Elementi di morfologia verbale del chamacoco. Quaderni del Laboratorio di Linguistica della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, n.s. 8. [1]
  7. ^ Ciucci, Luca 2010. La flessione possessiva del chamacoco. Quaderni del Laboratorio di Linguistica della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, n.s. 9,2. [2]
  8. ^ Ciucci, Luca 2013. Chamacoco lexicographical supplement. Quaderni del Laboratorio di Linguistica della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, n.s. 12. [3]
  9. ^ Bertinetto, Pier Marco & Luca Ciucci 2012. Parataxis, Hypotaxis and Para-Hypotaxis in the Zamucoan Languages. In: Linguistic Discovery 10.1: 89-111. [4]
  10. ^ Ciucci, Luca 2013. Inflectional morphology in the Zamucoan languages. Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. Ph.D. thesis.
  11. ^ "SAPhon – South American Phonological Inventories". Retrieved 2018-07-20.

External links[edit]