Guahibo language

Native to Colombia, Venezuela
Region Casanare, eastern Meta, Vichada, Guaviare, Guainia states (Colombia)
Orinoco River (Venezuela)
Native speakers
34,000 (1998–2001)[1]
  • Guahibo
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Either:
guh  Guahibo
gob  Playero (Pepojivi)
Glottolog guah1254[2]

Guahibo, the native language of the Guahibo people, is a Guahiban language that is spoken by about 23,006 people in Colombia and additional 8,428 in Venezuela. There is a 40% rate of monolingualism, and a 45% literacy rate.



Guahibo has a unique and complex stress system with both primary and secondary stress. The stress system shows a sensitivity to syllable weight so that heavy syllables are always stressed. Both contrasting trochaic and iambic patterns are found on morphemes in nonfinal morphemes with more than two syllables:

Trochaic Iambic
mátacàbi "day"
tulíquisì "bead necklace"

The binary feet are parsed from left to right within each morpheme. Morphemes with an odd number of syllables leave the final syllable unstressed (and unparsed into feet):

Trochaic Iambic
wánali "crystal"
wayáfo "savannah"
pàlupáluma "rabbit"
culèmayúwa "species of turtle"

Morphemes that consist of two syllables and are also word-final are an exception to the above and only have the trochaic pattern:

Trochaic Iambic (with reversal)
náwa "grass fire"
púca "lake"

These morphemes alternate with an iambic pattern when placed in a nonfinal context. Thus náwa keeps its trochaic pattern with the addition of a single light syllable morpheme like -ta "in":

náwa + -tanáwata ('LL)L

However, an iambic word show its underlying iamb when it is followed by -ta:

púca + -tapucáta (L'L)L

Affixation generally does not affect the stress pattern of each morpheme.

Heavy syllables since they are required to be stressed disrupt perfect trochaic and iambic rhythms. However, morphemes with a sequence of at least two light syllables show contrasting stress patterns:

Trochaic Iambic
nónojì "hot peppers"
jútabài "motmot"

Primary Stress. Primary stress generally falls on the rightmost nonfinal foot. For example, the following word

(ˌLL)(ˈLL)L (pà.lu).(pá.lu).ma "rabbit"

has primary stress on the rightmost foot ( which is not word-final. However, the rightmost foot ( in

(LˈL)(LˌL) (tu.lí).(qui.sì) "bead necklace"

is word-final and cannot receive primary stress; the primary stress then falls on the next rightmost foot ( Placing a light syllable suffix -ta "with" after a four syllable root shows shifting of primary stress:

(LˈL)(LˌL) tsapánilù "species of turtle"
(LˌL)(LˈL)L tsapànilúta "with the turtle"

With the addition of the suffix, the root-final foot ( is no longer word-final and is subsequently permitted to accept primary stress.



  1. Guahibo at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Playero (Pepojivi) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Guahibo–Playero". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

External links

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