Choco languages

Choco languages
Colombia & Panama
Linguistic classification: Chocoan
Choco languages.png
Poet and politician Eduardo Cote Lamus on his journey in Rio San Juan (Choco, Colombia) in 1958 with some of the people speaking Choco languages

The Choco languages (also Chocoan, Chocó, Chokó) are a small family of Native American languages spread across Colombia and Panama.


Family division

Choco consists of perhaps ten languages, half of them extinct.

  • The Emberá languages (also known as Chocó proper, Cholo)
  • Noanamá (also known as Waunana, Woun Meu)
  • Anserma (†)
  • Cenu (†) ?
  • Cauca (†) (not Choco?)
  • Sinúfana (Cenufara) (†) ?
  • Quimbaya (Kimbaya) (†) (not Choco?)
  • Caramanta (†) ?
  • Runa (†)

Anserma, Cenu, Cauca, Sinúfana, Runa, and Kimbaya are all extinct now. Quimbaya is known from only 8 words. Gordon (2005) states that the Arma people spoke either Cenu or Cauca, but list an Arma language in Ethnologue regardless.

The Emberá group is two languages mainly in Colombia with over 60,000 speakers that lie within a fairly mutually intelligible dialect continuum. Ethnologue divides this into 6 languages. Kaufman (1994) considers the term Cholo to be vague and condescending. Noanamá has some 6,000 speakers on the Panama-Colombia border.

Kaufman (1994) states that Quimbaya may not be a Choco language.

Genetic relations

Choco has been included in a number of hypothetical phylum relationships:

  • within Morris Swadesh's Macro-Leco
  • Antonio Tovar, Jorge A. Suárez, & Robert Gunn: related to Cariban
  • Čestmír Loukotka (1944): Southern Emberá may be related to Paezan, Noanamá to Arawakan
  • within Paul Rivet & Loukotka's (1950) Cariban
  • Constenla Umaña & Margery Peña: may be related to Chibchan
  • within Joseph Greenberg's Nuclear Paezan, most closely related to Paezan and Barbacoan

See also


  • Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  • Constenla Umaña, Adolfo; & Margery Peña, Enrique. (1991). Elementos de fonología comparada Chocó. Filología y lingüística, 17, 137-191.
  • Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (Ed.). (2005). Ethnologue: Languages of the world (15th ed.). Dallas, TX: SIL International. ISBN 1-55671-159-X. (Online version:
  • Greenberg, Joseph H. (1987). Language in the Americas. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Gunn, Robert D. (Ed.). (1980). Claificación de los idiomas indígenas de Panamá, con un vocabulario comparativo de los mismos. Lenguas de Panamá (No. 7). Panama: Instituto Nacional de Cultura, Instituto Lingüístico de Verano.
  • 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. (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.
  • Loewen, Jacob. (1963). Choco I & Choco II. International Journal of American Linguistics, 29.
  • Licht, Daniel Aguirre. (1999). Embera. Languages of the world/materials 208. LINCOM.
  • Mortensen, Charles A. (1999). A reference grammar of the Northern Embera languages. Studies in the languages of Colombia (No.7); SIL publications in linguistics (No. 134). SIL.
  • Rivet, Paul; & Loukotka, Cestmír. (1950). Langues d'Amêrique du sud et des Antilles. In A. Meillet & M. Cohen (Eds.), Les langues du monde (Vol. 2). Paris: Champion.
  • Suárez, Jorge. (1974). South American Indian languages. The new Encyclopaedia Britannica (15th ed.). Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica.
  • Swadesh, Morris. (1959). Mapas de clasificación lingüística de México y las Américas. México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
  • Tovar, Antonio; & Larrucea de Tovar, Consuelo. (1984). Catálogo de las lenguas de América del Sur (nueva ed.). Madrid: Editorial Gedos. ISBN 84-249-0957-7.

External links

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