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Wirá-poná, winá põrã, umukomasã

Other names

Boleka, desâna, dessano, kusibi, oregu, wina, wirã

Spoken in ...

Brazil: several locations in the municipalities of São Gabriel da Cachoeira and Iauarete, in the northwestern area of the state of Amazonas, between the Tiquié and Papurí rivers and the low reaches of the Vaupés River.

Colombia: several locations in the departments of Vaupés, Guainía and Guaviare, in the area of the Papurí River and its tributaries.

Number of speakers

Brazil: 960-990.

Colombia: 1,700-2,140.

Total: 2,660-3,130.

Legal status

Official language in the territory in which it has traditionally been spoken in Colombia. Non-specific protection in Brazil.

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.

Colombia's official language is Spanish, along with the tongues and dialects of the ethnic groups in their territories, but this is merely symbolic recognition.


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

DIXON, R.M.W. and A.Y. AIKHENVALD (1999) The Amazonian Languages, Cambridge University Press.

Enciclopédia dos Povos Indígenas no Brasil. Instituto Socioambiental, Brazil.

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

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

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


The Desano are part of the Amazonian Vaupés region's multilingual exogamous system. The region comprises Colombian and Brazilian territory and is home to a number of ethnic groups whose members intermarry, among other forms of interaction. Most of the groups in question speak languages from the Tucanoan family, although some speak Arawakan tongues. Under the aforementioned system, each individual may only marry someone who speaks a different language from their own (i.e. from that of their father). When they get married, women go to live in the village of their husband, but teach their children their tongue. The result is a multilingual system in which everybody speaks two languages (that of their mother and that of their father), as well as Tucano in many cases. Most Desano also speak Portuguese and, in some cases, Spanish.

The word desano or desana comes from Tariana (a language of the Arawakan family). The indigenous name Wirá-poná or Winá põrã means 'sons of the wind'.

Some experts consider that Desano and Siriano are variants of a single tongue.

Number system

Direction in which language is written

Left to right



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  • Continents:
  • Countries:
    Colombia, Brazil
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