Maxakalí language

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(Tikmũ'ũn) Yĩy'ax
Native toBrazil
RegionMinas Gerais
Native speakers
1,270 (2011)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3mbl
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Maxakalí (Yĩy'ax 'language', Tikmũ'ũn Yĩy'ax 'Maxakalí language') is a Maxakalían language spoken in fourteen villages in Minas Gerais, Brazil, by fewer than a thousand people.


Mason identifies six varieties of Maxakali. All but Maxakalí proper are extinct:

  • Maxakalí
  • Caposhó (Kapoxo) (†)
  • Cumanashó (Kumanaxo) (†)
  • Maconí (Makuni) (†)
  • Monoshó (Monaxo, Monocho) (†)
  • Panyame (†)


Maxakalí has five vowels, occurring in both oral and nasal form.


Front Central Back
High i, ĩ ɯ, ɯ̃
Mid ɛ, ɛ̃ o, õ
Low a, ã


Bilabial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop p t k ʔ
Nasal m ~ b n ~ d ɡ ~ ŋ
Fricative ʃ j ~ ʒ h



Word order[edit]

The most common word order in Maxakalí is SOV.

    Kakxop te xokhep xo’op
child SUB milk drink
"The child drinks milk"

Morphosyntactic alignment[edit]

Maxakalí is an ergative language. The ergative case covers transitive subjects as well as indirect objects. The absolutive case covers intransitive subjects and transitive objects.

Person Ergative Absolutive
1st sing ã ũg
2nd sing xa ã
3rd sing tu ũ
1st plur incl yũmũ’ã yũmũg
1st plur excl ũgmũ’ã ũgmũg
    ũgmũg mõg nãpet ha nũy xa hãpxop ũm pop
1pl:excl:ABS go market to in-order-to 2sg:ERG food some buy
"We (excluding you) are going to the market to buy you (indirect object) some food."


Suppletive verb number[edit]

For some verbs, number is shown not by conjugation, but by suppletive verb stems. These verb stems can show number differences either for the subject or for the object.

Subject number

    tik yũm
man sit (singular)
"The man sits/sat."
    tik mãm
man sit (plural)
"The men sit/sat."

Object number

    tik te koktix putex
man SUB monkey kill (singular)
"The man killed a monkey."
    tik te koktix kix
man SUB monkey kill (plural)
"The man killed the monkeys."

Word shortening and expanding[edit]

Noun compounding[edit]

Maxakalí nouns readily form compounds, here are some examples:

    yĩy kox xax
speak hole cover
    ãmot xuxpex
sand tasty
    yĩm kutok
hand child

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Maxakalí". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-07-22.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Western Maxakali". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

External links[edit]