Wayuu language

This article is about the language spoken in South America; for the language of Nepal, see Wayu language.

The Wayuu language (Wayuu: wayuunaiki) is spoken by 305,000 indigenous Wayuu people in northwestern Venezuela and northeastern Colombia on the Guajira Peninsula.

Wayuu is part of the Maipurean linguistic family predominant in different parts of the Caribbean. They have some minimal differences in dialect depending on the region of La Guajira in which they live; northern, central or southern zones of this region. Most of the new generations speak Spanish fluently but they understand the importance of preserving their traditional native tongue.

To promote cultural integration and bilingual education among Wayuu and other Colombians, the Kamusuchiwo’u Ethno-educative Center or Centro Etnoeducativo Kamusuchiwo’u came up with the initiative of creating the first illustrated Wayuunaiki-Spanish, Spanish-Wayuunaiki dictionary.

Less than 1% of Wayuu speakers are literate in Wayuu while 5 to 15% are literate in Spanish. There are 105,000 speakers in Colombia and 170,000 in Venezuela. Alternate names include: Guajiro, Guajira, Goajiro.


Front Central Back
Close i [i] ü [ɯ] u [u]
Mid e [ɛ] o [ɔ]
Open a [a]

Note: "e" and "o" are more open than in English. "a" is slight front of central, and "ü" is slightly back of central.


Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m [m] n [n] ñ [ɲ]
Plosive p [p] t [t̪] ch [tʃ] k [k] ' [’]
Fricative s [s] sh [ʃ] j [h]
Flap l [ɺ]
Trill r [r]
Approximant w [w] y [j]

"l" is a lateral flap pronounced with the tongue just behind the position for the Spanish "r," and with a more lateral airflow.



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