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Other names

A’uwe, a'we, akwen, chavante, shavante, tapacua

Spoken in ...

Brazil: in the east of the state of Mato Grosso, on the banks of the Rio das Mortes.

Number of speakers

Between 8,000 and 9,600.

Legal status

Non-specific protection.

Portuguese is Brazil's only official language. The country's only linguistic legislation concerning other tongues refers to schooling and is restricted to bilingual and intercultural primary education (exclusively in indigenous communities), although there are actually few trained bilingual teachers.


CAMPBELL, L. (1997) American Indian Languages. The Historical Linguistics of Native America. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press; chapter 6.

Enciclopédia dos Povos Indígenas no Brasil.

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

LECLERC, J. (2007) L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde. Quebec: TLFQ, Université Laval.

SOUSA FILHO, S.M. de (2007) Aspectos Morfossintáticos da Língua Akwe-Xerente (Jê). Doctoral Thesis, Universidade Federal de Goiás.

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.


For centuries, the Xavante and the Xerénte formed a single people, the Akwe. The two groups lived together alongside the Tocantins River until 1824, when the Xavante migrated to the plains of the Rio das Mortes in Mato Grosso. They did so to avoid contact with the area's non-native inhabitants, thus earning themselves the name Sacreqúa, meaning 'unfriendly' or 'unwelcoming'.

The Xavante resumed contact (under duress) with the Brazilian government in 1940 and private concerns began to take an interest in their land. The Xavante tongue should not be confused with Ofaié-Xavante (an extinct language from the Ge family) or Oti-Xavante (an extinct isolated language). In the past, a number of peoples from inland Brazil have been called Xavante. The language itself is in a good state of health at present.

Number system

Direction in which language is written

Left to right



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