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Documentation of Tinigua


Language Tinigua
Depositor Katherine Bolaños
Affiliation The University of Texas at Austin
Location Colombia
Collection ID 0464
Grant ID IPF0268
Funding Body ELDP
Collection Status Collection online
Landing Page Handle




Summary of the collection

Tinigua [ISO 639-3:tit] is the last surviving member of an independent South American Tiniguan family whose other member has disappeared without substantial documentation. Today, Sixto Muñoz is the last remaining speaker of the language, who, according to our calculations, is around 90-95 years old. Sixto lives by himself in a house in a remote area of the Serranía de la Macarena (in the Departamento del Meta, in Colombia), at approximately 5-7 hours by boat from the closest town in La Macarena. He has the frequent company of a granddaughter who now lives nearby to the other side of a lake that separates the two houses. The lake is known by people in the surrounding area as Sixto’s Lake.

During his early adulthood until around the 1960’s Sixto lived among another ethnic group, namely Guayabero (or Jib), a Guahiboan language spoken mainly in the Departamento del Guaviare, in Colombia. During those years Sixto mastered Guayabero and used it as his daily language of communication. His granddaughter, who recognizes herself as Guayabero, claims not to speak, nor understand, Tinigua, and uses Guayabero as the language to communicate with Sixto. She also says that Sixto speaks Guayabero like any other native Guayabero speaker.

During the 1950’s, the Tiniguan ethnic group had to endure a massive massacre that wiped out almost all of the Tiniguas. Only a handful of individuals survived and those survivors have passed away within the last decades. Until the early 2000’s, Sixto and his brother Criterio were the last speakers of the language left. Today, more than 10 years have passed since Sixto was last able to have a partner with whom to have a conversation in Tinigua.

The material found in this collection consists of a transcribed, translated and annotated audio-visual corpus of the language, a grammatical description, and a lexicon. Additionally, the documentation of Tinigua had focused on gathering further historical and cultural data on the Tiniguan culture, providing audio and visual data both in Spanish and in Tinigua.


Group represented



Special characteristics

The limited prior work on Tinigua by Tobar (1995, 2000) offers the following typological profile of the language: The phonological system includes 22 consonants, which include a series of aspirated voiceless stops /ph/, /th/, /kh/, and series of 6 vowels, with glottalized and long counterparts. The syllabic structure of the language, as reported by Tobar, is preferentially CV, and the language has a generally agglutinative morphology. Tinigua also has a system of noun classification, a widespread feature in languages of the Northwest Amazonian region. A gender distinction is explicit in 3rd person singular pronouns, and a feminine morpheme is added to feminine animate referents. Both verbal and nominal morphology seem to be fairly complex. Little information is available about the grammatical categories encoded in the Tiniguan verbal morphology.


Collection contents

The collection gathered for this project contains narratives of Tinigua recorded with Sixto Muñoz, the last survivor of a language that once belonged to a Tiniguan linguistic family (which included Tinigua and Pamigua, this last one disappeared before substantial documentation was ever made). The data collected for this project focuses on narratives aiming for a reconstruction of the ethnic memory of the group. Narratives also include stories about Sixto’s life and the many different individuals who Sixto represents in his narratives. The collection includes some narratives also in Spanish and some discussions held between Sixto and his granddaughter regarding the story and reconstruction of the memory of his ethnic group; some of these discussions were held in Guayabero.

The available data ever gathered on Tinigua is extremely scarce. We now know of some data that were collected but never made available. This project aims to collect as much as possible of that data (which includes field notes, translations, descriptions and perhaps audio or video recordings) ever made in order to make it available in one same place together with the data made available in this collection. Most of the available literature on Tinigua has focused on describing the extermination of the ethnic group, with very little information given for us to understand the cultural practices, cosmogony or the history of the Tiniguas. With very little time left on our side, this collection aims to provide as much information as possible on the Tinigua ethnic group that, from a more holistic point of view, can help us to better understand the different paths of evolution that were once taken by ethnic groups that preceded us.


Collection history

The data found in this collection is being collected since 2016 when fieldwork began. In 2017 Katherine Bolaños started collecting data as part of a postdoctoral research being the principal investigator of the project. Ricardo Palacio Hernández, as a staff member of the research project, has also contributed in collecting data found in this collection.


Acknowledgement and citation

Users of any part of the collection should acknowledge Katherine Bolaños as the principal investigator and Ricardo Palacio as the data collector and researcher, as well as Berenice Flor as data collector. Users should also acknowledge the Endangered Languages Documentation Programme as the funder of the project. Individual speakers whose words and/or images are used should be acknowledged by name. Any other contributor who has collected, transcribed or translated the data or was involved in any other way should be acknowledged by name. All information on contributors is available in the metadata.

To refer to historical and cultural data collected in Spanish found in this collection, please cite that data in this way:

Palacio Hernández, Ricardo. 2017. Documentation of Tinigua. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

To refer to any other data from the collection, please cite the collection in this way:

Bolaños, Katherine. 2017. Documentation of Tinigua. Endangered Languages Archive. Handle: Accessed on [insert date here].

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