Timbira language

Last updated
Native to Brazil
Region Maranhão, Pará, Tocantins
Ethnicity Timbira
Native speakers
5,000 (2005–2008) [1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
ram    Canela
xra    Krahô
gvp    Pará Gavião
xri    Krĩkatí
xre    Krẽje
Glottolog timb1253

Timbira is a dialect continuum of the Northern Jê language group of the Jê languages ̣(Macro-Jê) spoken in Brazil. The various dialects are distinct enough to sometimes be considered separate languages. The principal varieties, Krahô /ˈkrɑːh/ [2] (Craó), and Canela /kæˈnɛlə/ [2] (Kanela), have 2000 speakers apiece, few of whom speak Portuguese. Pará Gavião has 600–700 speakers. Krẽje, however, is nearly extinct, with only 30 speakers in 1995.


Timibira has been intensive contact with various Tupi-Guarani languages of the lower Tocantins-Mearim area, such as Guajajára, Tembé, Guajá, and Urubú-Ka'apór. Ararandewára, Turiwára, Tupinamba, and Nheengatu have also been spoken in the area. Some of people in the area are also remembers of Anambé and Amanajé. [3]


Linguistic varieties of Timbira include: [4]

Loukotka (1968)

Loukotka (1968) divides the Timbira tribes into two groups, Timbirá (Canela) and Krao. [5] The majority are included under Timbira:

Timbira (Canela)

Ramirez et al. (2015)

Ramirez et al. (2015) considers Timbira-Kayapó to be a dialect continuum, as follows: [6]

Canela-Krahô ↔ Gavião-Krĩkati ↔ Apinajé ↔ Kayapó ↔ Suyá-Tapayuna ↔ Panará-Kayapó do Sul

Apart from Kapiekran, all Krao varieties are recognized by the ISO. Under the Timbira group, Loukotka included several purported languages for which nothing is recorded: Kukoekamekran, Karákatajé, Kenpokatajé, Kanakatayé, Norokwajé (Ñurukwayé). The Poncatagê (Põkateye) are likewise unidentifiable.

Another common convention for division, though geographic rather than linguistic, is Western Timbira (Apinayé alone) vs Eastern Timbira (Canela, Krikatí, Krahô, Gavião, and others).

Gurupy is a river, sometimes used to refer to the Krenye.

Nikulin (2020)

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  1. Canela at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Krahô at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Pará Gavião at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Krĩkatí at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
    Krẽje at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. 1 2 Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  3. Cabral, Ana Suelly Arruda Câmara; Beatriz Carreta Corrêa da Silva; Maria Risolta Silva Julião; Marina Maria Silva Magalhães. 2007. Linguistic diffusion in the Tocantins-Mearim area. In: Ana Suelly Arruda Câmara Cabral; Aryon Dall’Igna Rodrigues (ed.), Línguas e culturas Tupi, p. 357–374. Campinas: Curt Nimuendaju; Brasília: LALI.
  4. Nikulin, Andrey (2020). Proto-Macro-Jê: um estudo reconstrutivo (PDF) (Ph.D. dissertation). Brasília: Universidade de Brasília.
  5. Loukotka, Čestmír (1968). Classification of South American Indian languages . Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center.
  6. Ramirez, H., Vegini, V., & França, M. C. V. de. (2015). Koropó, puri, kamakã e outras línguas do Leste Brasileiro. LIAMES: Línguas Indígenas Americanas, 15(2), 223 – 277. doi : 10.20396/liames.v15i2.8642302