- Arawakan languages
or Maipuran languagesLargest family of American Indian languages.The family comprises an estimated 65 known languages, of which at least 30 are now extinct. They stretch from the Caribbean coast of Central America to the Gran Chaco and southern Brazil, and from western Peru to the Guianas and central Brazil. Taino, a now-extinct Arawakan language of the Antilles, was the first American Indian language encountered by Europeans. Arawakan languages that are still viable include Goajiro in Colombia and Venezuela; Amuesha, Machiguenga, and the Campa languages in Peru; and Terena in Brazil.
* * *most widespread of all South American Indian language groups. Before the Spanish conquest, Arawakan languages were spoken in a number of disconnected areas from what is now Cuba and the Bahamas southward to the present Gran Chaco and the sources of the Xingu River in southern Brazil, and from the mouth of the Amazon River to the eastern foothills of the Andes. A great many communities still speak Arawakan languages in Brazil, and other groups of speakers are found in Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname. Taino, a now-extinct Arawakan language, once predominated in the Antilles and was the first Indian language to be encountered by Europeans. Spoken languages of importance are Goajiro in Colombia, Campa and Machiguenga in Peru, and Mojo and Bauré in Bolivia.
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