Huaorani / Waorani
Wao Terero
Native toEcuador, Peru
RegionOriente or Ecuadorian Amazon
Ethnicity1,800 Huaorani people (2012)[1]
Native speakers
2,000 (2004)[2]
Official status
Official language in
Ecuador: indigenous languages official in own territories
Language codes
ISO 639-3auc

The Waorani (Huaorani) language, commonly known as Sabela (also Wao, Huao, Auishiri, Aushiri, Ssabela ; autonym: Wao Terero; pejorative: Auka, Auca) is a vulnerable language isolate spoken by the Huaorani people, an indigenous group living in the Amazon rainforest between the Napo and Curaray Rivers in Ecuador. A small number of speakers with so-called uncontacted groups may live in Peru.

Huaorani is considered endangered due to growing bilingualism in Quechua and Spanish and diminishing Huaorani usage among youth.[1][3]


Huaorani has three dialects: Tiguacuna (Tiwakuna), Tuei (Tiwi Tuei, Tiwi), and Shiripuno.

Language relations

Sabela is not known to be related to any other language. However, it forms part of Terrence Kaufman's Yawan proposal.

Jolkesky (2016) also notes that there are lexical similarities with Yaruro.[4]


Huaorani distinguishes nasal vowels from oral ones. Syllable structure is (C)V, with frequent vowel clusters. The allophones of /o/ range from [ɵ, o, ʊ, ɤ] and the allophones of /õ/ have a similar range, [ɵ̃, õ, ʊ̃, ɤ̃], and allophones of /e, ẽ/ can be heard as [ɪ, ɪ̃]. The alveolar tap [ɾ] is an allophone of /d/ and the palatal glide [j] is an allophone of /ɟ/.

Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive Voiceless p t k
Voiced b d~ɾ ɟ~j ɡ
Continuant w
Oral Nasal Oral Nasal
Close i ĩ
Mid e o õ
Open æ æ̃ a ã


Loukotka (1968) lists the following basic vocabulary items for Sabela and Tiwituey.[5]

gloss Sabela Tiwituey
one iríng aruki
two méa
head u-kabu u-kubo
eye a-wínka a-winga
woman ohíña unkia
fire chúnga tua
sun nánki neinghi
star nemu
maize kad'ínghu
house húnku
white kúri mia


  1. ^ a b Sabela at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Waorani". UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger. UNESCO. Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  3. ^ Fawcett, Alexia Zandra (May 2012). "Documenting Language, Culture, and Cognition: Language and Space among the Waorani" (PDF). Anthropology and Linguistic Department, Bryn Mawr College. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  4. ^ Jolkesky, Marcelo Pinho de Valhery (2016). Estudo arqueo-ecolinguístico das terras tropicais sul-americanas (Ph.D. dissertation) (2 ed.). Brasília: University of Brasília.
  5. ^ Loukotka, Čestmír (1968). Classification of South American Indian languages. Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center.