Nadahup languages

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Linguistic classification: One of the world's primary language families
  • Nadëb–Kuyawi
  • Daw
  • Hupda–Yuhup
  •  ? Kakua–Nukak
Glottolog: nada1235[1]

The Nadahup languages, AKA Makú (Macú) or Vaupés–Japurá, form a small language family in Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. The name Maku is pejorative, being derived from an Arawakan word meaning "without speech". Nadahup is an acronym of the constituent languages.[2]

The Nadahup family should not be confused with several other languages which go by the name Maku, including the Maku language of Roraima. There are proposals linking this unclassified language with Nadahup, but also with other languages.


Nadahup consists of about four languages, based on mutual intelligibility. Nadeb and Kuyawi, Hup and Yahup, and Nukak and Kakwa, however, share 90% of their vocabulary and are mutually intelligible, and so are separate languages only in a sociolinguistic sense. These four branches are not close: Although the family was first suggested in 1906, only 300 cognates have been found, which include pronouns but no other grammatical forms.

gloss Nadëb Hup Dâw Nïkâk
father ʔɨb ʔip ʔiːp ʔiːp (Kakwa ʔip)
egg tɨb tip tɨp tip (Kakwa)
water mi mĩh mĩʔ mah (Kakwa)
tooth təɡᵑ (Kuyawi) təɡᵑ təɡ
house mõj mɔ͂j mɨ͂

Nadëb may be the most divergent; of the other languages, there is disagreement on the placement of Nïkâk. Martins (1999) propose two classifications, pending further research:

Martins, proposal A

Nadëb (AKA Kaburi; plus Kuyawi dialect)


Nïkâk (AKA Nukak, plus dialect Kakwa)

Dâw (AKA Kuri-Dou, pejorative Kamã)

Hup (AKA Jupdá; plus dialect Yuhup/Yahup)

Martins, proposal B

Nadëb (with Kuyawi dialect)



Hup (with Yuhup dialect)

Nïkâk (with Kakwa dialect)

However, Epps considers Hup and Yahup to be distinct languages, and maintains that the inclusion of the poorly attested Nukak and Kakwa has not been demonstrated and is in fact highly dubious:[3]


Nadëb (with Kuyawi dialect)






Dâw and Hup—especially Hup—have undergone grammatical restructuring under Tucano influence. They have lost prefixes but acquired suffixes from grammaticalized verb roots. They also have heavily monosyllabic roots, as can be seen by the reduction of Portuguese loan words to their stressed syllable, as in Dâw yẽl’ "money", from Portuguese dinheiru. Nadëb and Nïkâk, on the other hand, have polysyllabic roots. Nïkâk allows a single prefix per word, whereas Nadëb, which lies outside the Vaupés language area, is heavily prefixing and polysynthetic: Up to nine prefixes per word (which is highly unusual for the Amazon), with incorporation of nouns, prepositions, and adverbs.

Genetic relations

Rivet (from 1920), Kaufman (1994) and Pozzobon (1997) include Puinave within the family. However, many of the claimed cognate sets are spurious.[4]

Henley, Mattéi-Müller and Reid (1996) present evidence that the Hodï language (AKA Yuwana) is related.

Puinavean forms part of a hypothetical Macro-Puinavean family along with the Katukinan and Arutani–Sape families and the Maku language of Roraima.

Macro-Puinavean is included in Joseph Greenberg's larger Macro-Tucanoan stock, but this is generally rejected. Another larger grouping is Morris Swadesh's Macro-Makú.


  1. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Nadahup". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Epps. P. A Grammar of Hup. Mouton de Gruyter. 2008. ISBN 978-3-11-019588-0.
  3. Patience Epps, The Vaupés Melting Pot: Tucanoan Influence on Hup. In Aikhenvald & Dixon, Grammars in contact: a cross-linguistic typology, 2006:130
  4. Patience Epps, 2008. A Grammar of Hup. Mouton de Gruyter.

External links


  • Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. (1987). Language in the Americas. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Henley, Paul; Marie-Claude Mattéi-Müller y Howard Reid (1996): "Cultural and linguistic affinities of the foraging people of North Amazonia: a new perspective"; Antropológica 83: 3–37. Caracas.
  • Kaufman, Terrence. (1990). Language history in South America: What we know and how to know more. In D. L. Payne (Ed.), Amazonian linguistics: Studies in lowland South American languages (pp. 13–67). Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-70414-3.
  • Kaufman, Terrence. (1992) Guta
  • Kaufman, Terrence. (1994). The native languages of South America. In C. Mosley & R. E. Asher (Eds.), Atlas of the world's languages (pp. 46–76). London: Routledge.
  • Pozzobon, Jorge (1997). Langue, société et numération chez les Indiens Makú (Haut Rio Negro, Brésil). Journal de la Société de Américanistes de París 83: 159–172. París.
  • Rivet, Paul y Constant Tastevin 1920: "Affinités du Makú et du Puinave"; Journal de la Société des Américanistes de París, n.s. t XII: 69–82. París.
  • Rivet, Paul; P. P. Kok y C. Tastevin 1925: "Nouvele contributión a l'étude de la langue Makú; International Journal of American Linguistics, vol. 3, n. 24, p.p. 129–132. New York.