Native toChile, Peru, Bolivia
RegionAtacama Desert
Extinctca. 1950s
Language codes
ISO 639-3kuz

Kunza is an extinct language isolate once spoken in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile and southern Peru by the Atacama people, who have since shifted to Spanish. The last speaker was documented in 1949.

Other names and spellings include Cunza, Likanantaí, Lipe, Ulipe, and Atacameño.


The language was spoken in northern Chile, specifically in the Chilean villages of Peine, Socaire (near the Salar de Atacama), and Caspana, and in southern Peru.

The last Kunza speaker was found in 1949, although some have been found since according to anthropologists.[clarification needed] There are 2,000 Atacameños (W. Adelaar).

Unattested varieties listed by Loukotka (1968):

A revitalization effort was initiated in the 21st century.[1]


Further information: Macro-Paesan languages

Kaufman (1990) found a proposed connection between Kunza and the likewise unclassified Kapixaná to be plausible; however, the language was more fully described in 2004, and the general consensus among linguists was that both languages are isolates.[citation needed]

Language contact

Jolkesky (2016) notes that there are lexical similarities with the Mochika, Kandoshi, Jaqi, Kechua, Mapudungun, and Uru-Chipaya language families due to contact.[2]


Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
plain sibilant
Nasal m n
voiceless p t t͡s t͡ʃ k q ʔ
ejective t͡ʃʼ
Fricative voiceless ɬ s x χ h
voiced β ɣ
Approximant l j w
Trill r
Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e (ə) o
Open a

See also


  1. ^ Bartlett, John; Dixon, Greg (2024-05-17). "Saving a Language in Chile". State of the World. Retrieved 2024-05-18.
  2. ^ Jolkesky, Marcelo Pinho de Valhery (2016). Estudo arqueo-ecolinguístico das terras tropicais sul-americanas (Ph.D. dissertation) (2 ed.). Brasília: University of Brasília.
  3. ^ a b Adelaar, Willem; Muysken, Pieter (2004). The Languages of the Andes. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 380.