Maléku language

Maléku Jaíka
Native to Costa Rica
Ethnicity 1,070 Maleku people (200?)[1]
Native speakers
750 (2000)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 gut
Glottolog male1297[2]

The Maléku Jaíka language, also called Guatuso, Watuso-Wétar, and Guetar, is an indigenous language of north central Costa Rica. It is a Chibchan language and Votic language spoken by around 300 to 750 indigenous Maléku people. This language is considered to be endangered according to The Endangered Languages Project. Corobicí is possibly a dialect.


The Maleku population has lived in the Río Frío watershed for thousands of years with very little disturbance from other populations, or from Spanish colonizers, as they remained undiscovered until 1750. The Maleku tribes faced hardship when the rubber farmers migrated onto Maleku territory, spanning from 1868 - 1900. The rubber gatherers were armed, and many battles followed their arrival, leading to catastrophic losses of Maleku lives, and abandonment of their ancestral settlements. The Catholic Missionaries led by Bishop Thiel came to the aid of the Maleku in the late 1800s to early 1900s, providing them with protection and instruction. The missionaries vastly advanced the Maleku's worldly development by teaching them to use various tools, firearms, and also teaching them to grow different crops, along with expanding their knowledge of language. This is where the death of the Maleku's native language began, as cultural assimilation developed between the Catholic Missionary ideals and the Maleku's traditions. Only adults continued to speak the native language.[3]


The Maleku culture still thrives today, although not as prominent as it once was, in the form of their tourism offerings to visitors in their community. Economically, they thrive off of their cultural offerings such as art and jewelry, all handmade and artisan crafted, and religious ritualism, purely for the presence of tourists. Missionary presence during the early 1900s prevented children from participating in many traditional activities. This translates directly over into the Maleku's current culture in the sense that there are far fewer traditional activities to take place in now than there were in the 1800s.[3]

Sample Vocabulary



Common Nouns



  1. 1 2 Guatuso at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Maléku Jaíka". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. 1 2 Ryan, James. Maleku Jaika. N.p., 1 Mar. 2013. Web. 1 May 2016. <>
  4. 1 2 Native Languages of the Americas

Further reading

External links


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