Páez language

Nasa Yuwe
Native to Colombia
Region Andes
Ethnicity 120,000 Páez (2007)[1]
Native speakers
40,000 (2007)[1]
Paezan ?
  • Páez
  • Pitayo
  • Paniquita
Language codes
ISO 639-3 pbb
Glottolog paez1247[2]

Páez (also Paez, Paes; the autonym Nasa Yuwe 'Nasa language' is becoming increasingly used) is a language isolate of Colombia spoken by the Páez people. Ethnologue estimates 71,400 to 83,300 speakers, including 40,000 monolingual, out of an ethnic population of 140,000.

It is spoken by the second largest Colombian indigenous community, the Páez, in the north of the Cauca Department, in southwestern Colombia. However, the people had to move to other departments of Colombia like Huila, Tolima and Valle del Cauca.


Although many Colombian indigenous languages have disappeared since colonial times, there are still more than 60 languages in Colombia, classified into 10 linguistic families: Chibcha, Arawak, Caribe, Quichua, Tukano, Guahibo, Makú-Puinave, Witoto-Bora, Sáliba, and Chocó. Currently, the Chibcha family has languages from Santa Marta: Arhuaco, kogui, Wiwa, Tunebo, Motilone, Chimila and Cuna, but it used to be believed that Nasa Yuwe was part of the Chibcha family.

Agriculture is the basis of the people's economy and so they have been fighting to expand their fields. With territorial expansion, they could spread out their own language. For instance, Nasa Yuwe speakers could recently develop their culture in the east and the west of their own township.

The language has been endangered for many centuries. The first threat against the language was in the 17th century, with the imposition of Spanish for education in Colombia.

In the 20th century, people believed that Nasa Yuwe had roots from Chibcha, but the former language is now considered an isolate. Also, in the Páez townships, there are many groups of Guambianos that allow the creation of some linguistic variations and bilingualism.

In education, the Nasa Yuwe were oppressed by the dominant culture, which wanted them to become Colombian citizens. Schooling was partly to civilize the indigenous; children who spoke in their native language were punished such as by being forced to kneel on grains of corn for hours. Thus, people were forced to avoid their native language.


With the General Law of Education, ethnoeducation is the opportunity of education for ethnic groups, but education needs to be related to the culture, traditions, language, and native elements of ethnic groups. To achieve the goal to give importance to indigenous languages, it is important to ensure that future indigenous generations preserve and relearn languages that do not have social privilege in Colombian society. Thus, it was necessary to implement booklets and original content material in the different languages.

Although the government proposed the introduction of education of native languages in some communities, the preservation of languages and identities has been neglected. It is important to revitalize the language because it is part of the identity of many people who have been not considered part of Colombian society.

The first step is for the native teachers to know all the academic aspects and the sociocultural aspects of the ethnic group. The next is the creation of a campaign to promote the importance of the language in a minority community to maintain identity. The goal of the campaign is to reinforce the use of the language in the education environment and the family environment because they are children's first and most influential contacts. The last step is to promote the project to being used with other endangered languages of our country and revitalize them. Also, it is also necessary to create a conscience in the rest of the society to avoid the marginalization of the people who speak these native languages.

Nasa yuwe tale


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


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