Embera language

Ethnicity: Emberá people
Colombia & Panama
Linguistic classification:


  • Emberá
  • Northern
  • Southern
Glottolog: embe1258[1]
Young Embera woman from Panama

Emberá (also known as Chocó) is a dialect continuum spoken by 100,000 people in northwestern Colombia and southeastern Panama. It belongs to the Choco language family.

Embera, Emperã, Empena, Eberã, Epena, etc. is the Embera word for 'human being' or 'man' and is used as the autonym by all speakers of varieties of Embera (though not by the related Wounaan). It is also sometimes used to refer to other indigenous people who are not of Emberá ethnicity.

Languages and regional variation

Emberá is usually divided into at least two major groupings:

  1. Northern Emberá
  2. Southern Emberá

Each has a few regional varieties. These varieties are sometimes considered dialects but are actually distinct languages. The Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America lists them as follows, along with alleged sub-varieties which may be places, extinct groups, or misspellings:

Ethnologue (2005, 2009) treats Tadó (*) as a separate language. A case can be made for classifying Baudó in the Northern Embera group. It has many features of both groups and is partially intelligible with the neighboring Northern Embera dialect as well as with Epena.



  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Embera". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. The Northern Embera variety is used in the movie "End of the Spear", where Embera people from Panama portray the Waodani people of Ecuador.

External links

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