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Warao (also known as Guarauno, Guarao, Warrau) is the native language of the Warao people. A language isolate, it is spoken by about 33,000 people primarily in northern Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname. It is notable for its unusual object–subject–verb word order.[3] The 2015 Venezuelan film Gone with the River was spoken in Warao.[4]

Native toVenezuela, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago
Native speakers
32,800 (2005-2011)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3wba
Warao language.png



The language had an estimated 28,100 speakers in Venezuela as of 2007. The Warao people live chiefly in the Orinoco Delta region of northeastern Venezuela, with smaller communities in southwestern Trinidad (Trinidad and Tobago), western Guyana and Suriname.[5] The language is considered endangered by UNESCO.[6]


The language's basic word order has been analyzed as object–subject–verb, a very rare word order among nominative–accusative languages such as Warao.[7]


Warao phonology is similar to that of Japanese. The Warao consonant inventory is relatively simple:

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
plain labialized
Plosive p t k
Fricative s h
Nasal m n
Flap ɾ
Approximant j w

[b] and [d, l̆] are allophones of /p/ and /ɾ/. There are five oral vowels /a, ɛ, i, ɔ, u/ and five nasal vowels /ã, ẽ, ĩ, õ, ũ/. /u/ after /k/ within the beginning of words has a sound as [ɨ].[8]


Warao appears to be a language isolate, unrelated to any recorded language in the region or elsewhere.[9] Terrence Kaufman (1994) included it in his hypothetical Macro-Paezan family, but the necessary supporting work was never done.[10] Julian Granberry connected many of the grammatical forms, including nominal and verbal suffixes, of Warao to the Timucua language of North Florida, also a language isolate.[11] However, he has also derives Timucua morphemes from Muskogean, Chibchan, Paezan, Arawakan, and other Amazonian languages, suggesting multi-language creolization as a possible explanation for these similarities. This notion has met with skepticism and described by Lyle Campbell as "in no way convincing".[12]

Granberry also finds "Waroid" vocabulary items in Guajiro (from toponymic evidence it seems that the Warao or a related people once occupied Goajiro country) and in Taino (nuçay/nozay [nosái] "gold" in Ciboney — cf. Warao naséi símo "gold" (lit. "yellow pebble") — and duho "ceremonial stool" in Classic Taino — cf. Warao duhu "sit, stool"). Granberry & Vescelius (2004) note that toponymic evidence suggests that the pre-Taino Macorix language of Hispaniola and the Guanahatabey language of Cuba may have been Waroid languages as well.


  1. ^ Warao at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Warao". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ "Warao". Retrieved 2013-09-22.
  4. ^ "Venezuelan Film in Indigenous Warao Language an Oscar Hopeful". telesurtv. 12 September 2015. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  5. ^ "WARAO: a language of Venezuela", Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 14th Edition, 2000
  6. ^ "UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in danger". Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  7. ^ Romero-Figueroa, Andrés (1985). "OSV as the basic order in Warao". Lingua. 66 (2–3): 115–134. doi:10.1016/S0024-3841(85)90281-5.
  8. ^ Osborn Jr., Henry A. (1966). Warao I: Phonology and Morphophonemics. International Journal of American Linguistics.
  9. ^ Campbell & Grondona, 2012, The Indigenous Languages of South America: A Comprehensive Guide
  10. ^ Campbell, Lyle. (1997). American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  11. ^ Julian Granberry, A Grammar and Dictionary of the Timucua Language, pp. 15-32
  12. ^ "Full text of "American Indian Languages The Historical Linguistics Of Native America"". Retrieved 2017-06-06.


  • Campbell, Lyle. 1997. American Indian languages: The historical linguistics of Native America. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509427-1.
  • Granberry Julian. 1993. A Grammar and Dictionary of the Timucua Language. University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0817307044
  • Osborn Jr, Henry A. (1966). "Warao I: Phonology and Morphophonemics". International Journal of American Linguistics. 32 (2): 108–123.
  • Osborn Jr, Henry A. (1966b). "Warao II: Nouns, Relationals, and Demonstratives". International Journal of American Linguistics. 32 (3): 253–261. doi:10.1086/464910.
  • Barral, Basilio de. 1979. Diccionario Warao-Castellano, Castellano-Warao. Caracas: UCAB
  • Figeroa, Andrés Romero. 1997. A Reference Grammar of Warao. München, Newcastle: Lincom
  • Vaquero, Antonio. 1965. Idioma Warao. Morfología, sintaxis, literatura. Estudios Venezolanos Indígenas. Caracas.
  • Wilbert, Johannes. 1964. Warao Oral Litrerature. Instituto Caribe de Antropología y Sociología. Fundación La Salle de Ciencias Naturales. Monograph no 9 Caracas: Editorial Sucre.
  • Wilbert, Johannes. 1969. Textos Folklóricos de los Indios Warao. Los Angeles: Latin American Center. University of California. Latin American Studies Vol.12