The Wari’ language (also Orowari, Wari, Pacaá Novo, Pacaás Novos, Pakaa Nova, Pakaásnovos) is the sole remaining vibrant language of the Chapacuran language family of the Brazilian–Bolivian border region of the Amazon. It has about 1300–1800 speakers, also called Wari’.
Wari’ has two phonetic oddities: its "skewed" vowel inventory, and the voiceless bilabially post-trilled dental stop [t͡ʙ̥], which is only reported from four other languages, and is only phonemic in Wari' and two neighbouring languages.
Wari’ syllables range in complexity from CV to CVVC. The only exceptions appear to be final consonant clusters involving a glottal stop (see below).
Wari’ has words ending in the consonant clusters /mʔ/ and /nʔ/. These have been analysed as single sounds, but apparently only to avoid complicating the Wari’ syllable structure.
Vowels are generally expected to be somewhat evenly distributed in vowel space (that is, spread out rather than bunched up when represented on a vowel chart). Additionally, when a language has few vowels, they will normally be unrounded when front and rounded when back. Usually rounded front vowels and unrounded back vowels are only found in languages with large inventories such as German and Vietnamese. However, while Wari’ has only six vowels, four of these are high/mid front vowels, of which two are rounded (although /ø/ is somewhat rare). These contrast to only a single back vowel. The front vowels are so close that it is sometimes difficult for a non-native speaker to distinguish them. This results in what is probably the most asymmetrical vowel system known.
- Daniel Everett and B. Kern (1996). Wari’: The Pacaas Novos language of western Brazil. London: Routledge.
- Peter Ladefoged and Daniel Everett (1996). The status of phonetic rarities. Language, 72 (4), 794-800.
- Margaret MacEachern, Barbara Kern, Peter Ladefoged (1996). "Wari’ phonetic structures". In UCLA Working Papers in Phonetics 93: Fieldwork Studies of Targeted Languages IV.
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