Western Venezuela
Linguistic classificationOne of the world's primary language families
Pre-contact distribution of the Jirajaran languages

The Jirajaran languages are group of extinct languages once spoken in western Venezuela in the regions of Falcón and Lara. All of the Jirajaran languages appear to have become extinct in the early 20th century.[1]


Based on adequate documentation, three languages are definitively classified as belonging to the Jirajaran family:[1]

Loukotka includes four additional languages, for which no linguistic documentation exists:[2]

Mason (1950) lists:[3]


The Jirajaran languages are generally regarded as isolates. Adelaar and Muysken note certain lexical similarities with the Timotean languages and typological similarity to the Chibchan languages, but state that the data is too limited to make a definitive classification.[1] Jahn, among others, has suggested a relation between the Jirajaran language and the Betoi languages, mostly on the basis of similar ethnonyms.[4] Greenberg and Ruhlen classify Jirajaran as belonging to the Paezan language family, along with the Betoi languages, the Páez language, the Barbacoan languages and others.[5]

Language contact

Jolkesky (2016) notes that there are lexical similarities with the Sape, Timote-Kuika, and Puinave-Kak language families due to contact.[6]


Based on the little documentation that exists, a number of typological characteristics are reconstructable:[7]

1. VO word order in transitive clauses
apasi mamán (Jirajara)
I.cut my.hand
I cut my hand
2. Subjects precede verbs
depamilia buratá (Ayamán)
the.family is.good
The family is good
3. Possessors which precede the possessed
shpashiú yemún (Ayamán)
arc its.rope
the arc of the rope
4. Adjectives follow the nouns they modify
pok diú (Jirajara)
hill big
big hill
5. Numerals precede the nouns they quantify
boque soó (Ayamán)
one cigarette
one cigarette
6. Use of postpositions, rather than prepositions
angüi fru-ye (Jirajara)
I.go Siquisique-to
I go to Siquisique.

Vocabulary comparison

Jahn (1927) lists the following basic vocabulary items.[4]

Comparison of Jirajaran vocabulary, based on Jahn (1927)
English Ayomán Gayón Jirajara
fire dug dut, idú dueg
foot a-sengán segué angán
hen degaró digaró degaró
house gagap hiyás gagap
snake huhí, jují jují túb
sun yivat yuaú

Loukotka (1968) lists the following basic vocabulary items.[2]

Comparison of Jirajaran vocabulary, based on Loukotka (1968)
gloss Jirajara Ayomán Gayón
one bógha
two auyí
three mongañá
head a-ktegi a-tógh is-tóz
ear a-uñán a-kivóugh himigui
tooth a-king
man iyít yúsh yus
water ing ing guayí
fire dueg dug dut
sun yuaú yivat
maize dos dosh dosivot
bird chiskua chiskua
house gagap gagap hiyás

Further reading


  1. ^ a b c Adelaar, Willem F. H.; Pieter C. Muysken (2004). The Languages of the Andes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 129–30. ISBN 0-521-36275-X.
  2. ^ a b Loukotka, Čestmír (1968). Classification of South American Indian Languages. Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center. pp. 254–5.
  3. ^ Mason, John Alden (1950). "The languages of South America". In Steward, Julian (ed.). Handbook of South American Indians. Vol. 6. Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office: Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 143. pp. 157–317.
  4. ^ a b Jahn, Alfredo (1973) [1927]. Los Aborígenes del Occidente de Venezuela (in Spanish). Caracas: Monte Avila Editores, C.A.
  5. ^ Greenberg, Joseph; Ruhlen, Merritt (2007-09-04). "An Amerind Etymological Dictionary" (PDF) (12 ed.). Stanford: Dept. of Anthropological Sciences Stanford University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-25. Retrieved 2008-06-27. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ Jolkesky, Marcelo Pinho de Valhery (2016). Estudo arqueo-ecolinguístico das terras tropicais sul-americanas (Ph.D. dissertation) (2 ed.). Brasília: University of Brasília.
  7. ^ Costenla Umaña, Adolfo (May 1991). Las Lenguas del Área Intermedia: Introducción a su Estudio Areal (in Spanish). San José: Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica. pp. 56–8. ISBN 9977-67-158-3.