|One of the world's primary language families
Yanomaman, also as Yanomam, Yanomáman, Yamomámi, and Yanomamana (also Shamatari, Shirianan), is a family of languages spoken by about 20,000 Yanomami people in southern Venezuela and northwestern Brazil (Roraima, Amazonas).
Ferreira, Machado & Senra (2019) divide the Yanomaman family into two branches, with six languages in total.
Sanumá is the most lexically distinct. Yanomamö has the most speakers (20,000), while Yãnoma has the fewest (178).
Internal classification by Jolkesky (2016):
(† = extinct)
Yanomaman is usually not connected with any other language family. Joseph Greenberg has suggested a relationship between Yanomaman and Macro-Chibchan. Migliazza (1985) has suggested a connection with Panoan and Chibchan. Neither proposal is widely accepted.
Jolkesky (2016) notes that there are lexical similarities with the Irantxe, Taruma, Katukina-Katawixi, Puinave-Kak, Tupi, Arawa, Guahibo, and Jivaro language families due to contact.
Yanomami is not what the Yanomami call themselves and is instead a word in their language meaning "man" or "human being". The American anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon adopted this term with the transcription Ya̧nomamö to use as an exonym to refer to the culture and, by extension, the people. The word is pronounced with nasalisation of all the vowels. As the phoneme indicated by the spelling 'ö' does not occur in English, variations in spelling and pronunciation of the name have developed, with Yanomami, Yanomamö, Ya̧nomamö, and Yanomama all being used. Some anthropologists have used the spelling Yanomamɨ to indicate the vowel [ɨ], but because many presses and typesetters eliminate the diacritical marks, the pronunciation /i/ and spelling of the name with ⟨i⟩ has emerged.
Yanomaman languages have a phonological distinction between oral and nasal vowels. There are seven basic vowel qualities: /a e i o u ɨ ə/, which can occur as oral or nasal sounds.
|ɨ ⟨y⟩ or ⟨ö⟩
In the table above, the practical orthography is shown in angle brackets below the phoneme, if different.
The Yanomaman languages present extensive nasal harmony. When in Yanomaman words, a vowel is phonetically nasalized, all vowels that follow within the same word are also nasalized. The consonants of Yanomama are shown in the table below:
Yanomaman languages are SOV, suffixing, predominantly head-marking with elements of dependent-marking. Its typology is highly polysynthetic. Adjectival concepts are expressed by means of stative verbs, there are no true adjectives. Adjectival stative verbs follow their noun.
There are five demonstratives which have to be chosen according to distance from speaker and hearer and also according to visibility, a feature shared by many native Brazilian languages such as Tupian ones including Old Tupi. Demonstratives, numerals, classifiers and quantifiers precede the head noun.
There is a distinction between alienable and inalienable possession, again a common areal feature, and a rich system of verbal classifiers, almost a hundred, they are obligatory and appear just before the verb root. The distinction between inclusive and exclusive 1st person plural, a feature shared by most Native American languages, has been lost in Yanam and Yanomam dialects, but retained in the others.
Yanomami morphosyntactic alignment is ergative–absolutive, which means that the subject of an intransitive verb is marked the same way as the object of a transitive verb, while the subject of a transitive verb is marked differently. The ergative case marker is -ny. The verb agrees with both subject and object.
Evidentiality in the Yanomami dialect is marked on the verb and has four levels: eyewitness, deduced, reported, and assumed. Other dialects have fewer levels.
The object of the verb can be incorporated into it, especially if it not in focus:
'I want an/the axe'
'I want [it], the axe'
Relative clauses are formed by adding a relativizing ('REL' below) suffix to the verb:
'the man who killed the tapir ate it'
Sanuma dialect also has a relative pronoun ĩ.
Loukotka (1968) lists the following basic vocabulary items for Yanomaman language varieties.
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