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Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

» Shawi Language


With over 20,000 speakers, Shawi is one of the most widely spoken Indigenous language of the Peruvian Amazon. Native speakers refer to their language as Kanpunan ‘our (yours and mine) language,’ while Spanish speakers dominantly call it Chayahuita. The Shawi with whom I have consulted, prefer that non-members of the ethnic group use the name Shawi for both the people and their language.

The Shawi language is spoken in a vast territory and exhibits some dialectal variation. The varieties with the larger number of speakers are Sillay and Cahuapanas (District of Cahuapanas), as well as Balsapuerto (District of Balsapuerto). The differences concern the phonology, morphology, and lexicon, while the syntax tends to be more stable (Barraza, 2005).

The documentation and description of Shawi include a bilingual dictionary, accompanied by some grammatical information (Hart, 1988), a study on discourse organization (Hart & Hart, 1981), two accounts of the phonology (Hart & Hart, 1976; Barraza, 2007), and an analysis of the verbal morphology (Barraza, 2005). Finally, given the existence of bilingual schools, several pedagogical materials have been published.

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