Languages of South America

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Map of South America

South America includes 14 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Falkland Islands (United Kingdom), French Guinea (France), Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela. Spanish is the official languages in all South American countries except Brazil, Guyana, Suriname and French Guinea, and is spoken even in country that are not historically Spanish. Portuguese is the official language in Brazil. Official languages in Guyana, Suriname and French Guinea are respectively English, Dutch and French.

Before colonization from European nations, South America was inhabited by several Aboriginal nations speaking a wide variety of languages from different language families, most of them being long forgotten now, but a lot are still known by few and are currently in danger of extinction. At the time of European contact, it is estimated that 1,500 languages were spoken in South America; only 350 of those languages are still spoken today. Quechua is the native language family with the most speakers.

The classification and studies of indigenous languages in South America is not very advanced compared to the classification of North American indigenous languages. As such, it is difficult to determine what languages are related to each other to develop proper language families.

List of indigenous languages[edit]

Extensive language families (more than 5 languages) of South America; dark spots are language isolates or quasi-isolates and grey spots are unclassified languages; Queucha, the language family with the most speakers, is not shown

This list only includes languages with living speakers.

  • Akawaio (Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela)
  • Arawak (French Guinea, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela)
    • Achagua
    • Alto Perene
    • Amuesha
    • Apuriña
    • Asháninka/Ashéninka
    • Baniva
    • Barawana
    • Baure
    • Cabiyari
    • Caquinte
    • Chamicuro
    • Enawene Nawe
    • Iñapari
    • Kinikinau
    • Kurripako
    • Lokono Dian
    • Machiguenga
    • Maliwan
    • Marawa
    • Mehináku
    • Moxos: Trinitario, Ignaciano
    • Nomatisguenga
    • Palikúr
    • Paraujano
    • Paresí
    • Piro
    • Resígaro
    • Saraveka
    • Taíno (revitalization efforts)
    • Tariana
    • Terena
    • Wapishana
    • Waraikú
    • Warekena
    • Waurá
    • Wayuunaíki
    • Yavitero
    • Yawalapiti
  • Arutani (Brazil, Venezuela)
  • Barí (Colombia, Venezuela)
  • Carib (French Guinea, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela)
    • Amonap
    • Apalaí
    • Arára
    • Akuriyó
    • Atruahí
    • Bacairí
    • Carijona
    • Cumanagoto
    • Galibi
    • Hianákoto
    • Hixkaryána
    • Japréria
    • Kapóng
    • Macushi
    • Mapoyo
    • Opon
    • Panare
    • Pemon
    • Salumá
    • Tamanaku
    • Tiriyó
    • Txikão
    • Waiwai
    • Wayana
    • Ye'kuana
    • Yukpa
  • Chaima (Venezuela)
  • Cuiba (Colombia, Venezuela)
  • Cumanagoto (Venezuela)
  • E’ñapa Woromaipu (Venezuela)
  • To be completed...

Other languages[edit]

  • German, Colonia Tovar (Venezuela)
  • To be completed...

Extinct languages[edit]

  • Baniva
  • To be completed...