Wayuu language

This article is about the language spoken in South America. For the language of Nepal, see Wayu language.
Pronunciation [wajunaiki]
Native to Venezuela, Colombia
Ethnicity Wayuu people
Native speakers
320,000 (2001–2007)[1]
Latin script
Official status
Regulated by Centro Etnoeducativo Kamusuchiwo’u
Language codes
ISO 639-3 guc
Glottolog wayu1243[2]

Extent of both the Wayuu people and language.

The Wayuu language, or Goajiro (Wayuu: Wayuunaiki), is spoken by 305,000 indigenous Wayuu people in northwestern Venezuela and northeastern Colombia on the Guajira Peninsula.

Wayuu is one of the major Arawakan languages. There are minimal differences depending on the region of La Guajira in which speakers live. Most of the younger generations speak Spanish fluently. The extinct Guanebucan language may actually have been a dialect of Wayuu.

To promote cultural integration and bilingual education among Wayuu and other Colombians, the Kamusuchiwo’u Ethno-educative Center or Centro Etnoeducativo Kamusuchiwo’u came up with the initiative of creating the first illustrated Wayuunaiki–Spanish, Spanish–Wayuunaiki dictionary.[3]

Less than 1% of Wayuu speakers are literate in Wayuu while 5 to 15% are literate in Spanish. There are 200,000 speakers in Venezuela and 120,000 in Colombia. Smith (1995) reports that a mixed Guajiro-Spanish language is replacing Wayuu in both countries. However, Campbell (1997) could find no information on this.

Recent developments

In December 2011, the Wayuu Tayá Foundation and Microsoft presented the first ever dictionary of technology terms in the Wayuu language,[4][5] after having developed it for three years with a team of technology professionals and linguists.



Front Central Back
Close i [i] ü [ɨ] u [u]
Mid e [ɛ] o [ɔ]
Open a [a]

Note: "e" and "o" are more open than in English. "a" is slightly front of central, and "ü" is slightly back of central.


Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m [m] n [n]
Plosive p [p] t [t̪] ch [t͡ʃ] k [k] ' [ʔ]
Fricative s [s] sh [ʃ] j [ɨ]
Flap l [ɺ]
Trill r [ɾ]
Approximant w [w] y [j]

"l" is a lateral flap pronounced with the tongue just behind the position for the Spanish "r," and with a more lateral airflow.


The personal pronouns are:[6]

singular plural
1st person taya waya
2nd person pia jia (hia)
3rd person nia (he)

shia (she)



  1. Wayuu at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Wayuu". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. (Spanish) El Wayuunaiki impreso
  4. Fundación Wayuu Tayá y Microsoft Venezuela presentan Diccionario de Computación en Wayuunaiki (Spanish)
  5. Tatiana Chang (2011-12-27). "Venezuela: New computing dictionary enriches Wayuu language". Infosur hoy. Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  6. Mansen, Kais and Mansen, Richard. Aprendamos Guajiro. http://www-01.sil.org/americas/colombia/pubs/capitulo%2002_Guajiro.pdf
Wayuu language test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator
Wayuu language test of Wiktionary at Wikimedia Incubator
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