LINGUIST List 5.997

Fri 16 Sep 1994

FYI: New language, new sound

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  1. Dan Everett, New language, new sound

Message 1: New language, new sound

Date: Tue, 13 Sep 1994 14:36:31 New language, new sound
From: Dan Everett <>
Subject: New language, new sound

On recent fieldwork I made two discoveries which I thought would be
worth reporting on to readers of Linguist.

*New Language*: I was guided to a language previously unknown to any
Westerners other than six New Tribes missionaries and a similar number
of Brazilian Indian Foundation employees. Certainly the language has
never been reported in the linguistic literature. The language is
'Oro Win, spoken by approximately 25-40 speakers at the headwaters of
the Pacaas-Novos river, itself a tributary of the Mamore' river along
the Brazil-Bolivia border, in Brazil. This language is apparently
related to Wari', More', and Tora', all Chapacuran languages. There
are about 1,833 speakers of Wari', less than a dozen speakers of
More', and no remaining speakers of Tora'. Barbara Kern (New Tribes)
and I have just finished a fairly large grammar of Wari'. 'Oro Win is
apparently VOS, like Wari', but Wari', More', and 'Oro Win are
mutually unintelligible. One reason that 'Oro Win may have gone
undiscovered for so long is that the speakers are bilingual in Wari'
and the name 'Oro Win begins with 'Oro 'collective' a
quantifier/adjective which precedes all names of the eight Wari'
dialects and subgroups. So it looks like it ought to just be another
subgroup, but it is in fact another language.

*New Sound*: I also transcribed (and video-taped) a sound which I
believe to be heretofore undocumented in the literature: tp~, a
voiceless dental stop articulated simultaneously with a voiceless
bilabial trill. The most fascinating part of this discovery, is that
after recording this among the Wari', I traveled to visit the Piraha~,
where I have done a considerable amount of fieldwork in the past.
While videotaping a conversation between me and the man who had been
my main language teacher in the Piraha~, he uttered this exact sound!
Not only had I never heard this sound in 17 years working with the
Piraha~, Piraha~ is not related to Wari'. However, I then remembered
that the Piraha~ had told me that the Tora', speakers of the extinct
language of the same name, had intermarried with the Piraha~ several
decades ago. Since Tora' is related to Wari', it is possible that it
is the source of tp~ in Piraha~, although it is unlikely that one
could ever really know. It is especially strange since Piraha~ only
has 7 consonants and 3 vowels anyway (the smallest segmental inventory

This was a long posting, but I thought it was the best way
to get out discoveries which, while not necessarily worth
publishing on, might still be of interest to linguists.

-- Dan Everett
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