Warao language

Native to Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname
Native speakers
28,000 in Venezuela (2007)[1]
few elsewhere
Language codes
ISO 639-3 wba
Glottolog wara1303[2]

Warao (also known as Guarauno, Guarao, Warrau) is the native language of the Warao people. A language isolate, it is spoken by about 28,000 people primarily in northern Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname. It is notable for its unusual object–subject–verb word order.[3] The 2015 Venezuelan film Gone with the River was spoken in Warao.[4]


The language had an estimated 28,100 speakers in Venezuela as of 2007. The Warao people live chiefly in the Orinoco Delta region of northeastern Venezuela, with smaller communities in western Guyana and Suriname.[5]


The language's basic word order has been analyzed as object–subject–verb, a very rare word order among nominative–accusative languages such as Warao.[6]


Warao appears to be a language isolate, unrelated to any recorded language in the region or elsewhere.[7] Terrence Kaufman (1994) included it in his hypothetical Macro-Paezan family, but the necessary supporting work was never done.[8] Julian Granberry connected many of the grammatical forms, including nominal and verbal suffixes, of Warao to the Timucua language of north Florida, also a language isolate, suggesting creolization as a possible explanation for these similarities.[9]

There are "Waroid" vocabulary items in Guajiro (from toponymic evidence it seems that the Warao or a related people once occupied Goajiro country) and in Taino (nuçay/nozay [nosái] "gold" in Ciboney — cf. Warao naséi símo "gold" (lit. "yellow pebble") — and duho "ceremonial stool" in Classic Taino — cf. Warao duhu "sit, stool"). Granberry & Vescelius (2004) note that toponymic evidence suggests that the pre-Taino Macorix language of Hispaniola and Guanahatabey language of Cuba may have been Waroid languages as well.


  1. Warao at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Warao". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. "Warao". www.jorojokowarao.de. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
  4. "Venezuelan Film in Indigenous Warao Language an Oscar Hopeful". telesurtv. 12 September 2015. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  5. "WARAO: a language of Venezuela", Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 14th Edition, 2000
  6. Andrés Romero-Figueroa, "OSV as the basic order in Warao", Lingua Volume 66, Issues 2-3, July 1985, Pages 115-134
  7. Campbell & Grondona, 2012, The Indigenous Languages of South America: A Comprehensive Guide
  8. Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  9. Julian Granberry, A Grammar and Dictionary of the Timucua Language, pp. 15-32


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