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Other names

Chirripó, kabékar

Spoken in ...

Costa Rica: there are Cabécar settlements in three parts of the country, to the east of the city of Turrialba:

- in the Moravia area, between Limón and the Cerro Chirripó mountain;
- in three indigenous reservations along the upper reaches of the Estrella and Telire rivers, in the province of Limón, in the canton of Talamanca;
- in the province of Puntarenas, in the canton of Buenos Aires.

Number of speakers

Approximately 6,000-9,000.

Legal status

Non-specific protection.

Spanish is Costa Rica's official language. The country's constitution establishes that the state is to ensure the preservation and cultivation of its indigenous languages and recognises six such tongues, specifically Bribrí, Cabécar, Guaymí (Ngäbere and Buglere), Guatuso (also known as Maléku Jaíka), Boruca and Térraba. In practice, this takes the form of bilingual education programmes in which students are taught to read and write in their own language and Spanish is subsequently introduced as a second tongue. Only Spanish is used in secondary education.


CAMPBELL, L. (1997) American Indian Languages. The Historical Linguistics of Native America, Oxford University Press, New York-Oxford.

CONSTENLA UMAÑA, A. (2004) 'Migraciones e identidad cultural en Costa Rica: examen de la tesis de la identidad cultural mestiza', III Congreso Internacional de la Lengua Española, Rosario, 17-20 November 2004.

FABRE, A. (2005) Diccionario etnolingüístico y guía bibliográfica de los pueblos indígenas sudamericanos.

GRINEVALD, C. (2007) 'Endangered Languages of Mexico and Central America', in BRENZINGER. M. (ed.), Language Diversity Endangered, Trends in Linguistics, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin-New York.

LECLERC, J. L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde, Quebec, TLFQ, Université Laval.

MARGERY, E. (1997) 'Perfiles religiosos de los pueblos indígenas de Costa Rica', Mitológicas, vol. 12, Argentine Centre of American Ethnology, Buenos Aires, Argentina, pages 19-31.

ROJAS, C. La enseñanza de las lenguas indígenas en Costa Rica.

Produced by the Endangered Language Study Group (Grup d'Estudi de Llengües Amenaçades or GELA) of the General Linguistics Department of the Universitat de Barcelona.


The remains at the Turrialba archaeological site, which was inhabited between 1000 BC and 1400 AD, indicate that the Cabécar culture boasted a remarkable degree of technological development. The finds made at the site include an aqueduct, a dyke, the remains of large temples and other structures built using huge stones, and a stone road that runs for some 80 kilometres. Nobody knows why the zone's inhabitants vanished from or deserted it, although a plague or a conflict with another group may have been to blame.

Nonetheless, the Cabécar ethnic group still exists today.

Despite speaking different languages, the Cabécar and the Bribrí make up a single ethnic group, traditionally known as the Talamancan group. They share territory, a clan system, beliefs, etc.

Number system

Direction in which language is written

Left to right



  • Family:
  • Branch:
  • Group:


  • Continents:
  • Countries:
    Costa Rica

Online resources

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