Tupi language

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The Tupi language (stress on the i ; Portuguese tupi , Spanish tupí ) is a language that was spoken over a large area along the entire Atlantic coast of Brazil before the Conquista and during the Portuguese colonial period . The Tupi- speaking ethnic groups are called Tupi . Variants of Tupi developed into two common languages ​​that served as the lingua franca in Brazil, namely in the area along the coast and in Amazonia .

When the Portuguese began conquering Brazil, they found that the indigenous people along the vast coast spoke closely related dialects everywhere, so they spoke of the "general language" (lingua geral) . The Jesuits wrote down the language and used it for proselytizing . Two Tupi variants developed as a lingua franca.

The basis for the Southern General Language ( Língua geral austral or Língua geral paulista ) was the Tupi of the São Paulo region (at SIL International Tupí [tpw], also Alt-Tupí or Tupí antigo ). This language was the main lingua franca of the Portuguese colony of Brazil until the 18th century, also for white immigrants. After the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1759, it lost its importance, was ousted by Portuguese in the course of increased Portuguese immigration and died out in the 19th century.

Also the general language Amazonia ( Língua geral amazônica ), which was based on the Tupi dialect of the Tupinambá (at SIL Tupinambá [tpn], spoken between Rio de Janeiro and the Amazon ) and as a means of communication between linguistically completely different indigenous ethnic groups as well as with the whites served, was pushed back by Portuguese. However, there are still about 8,000 speakers in the Rio Negro area , where it is known as Nheengatu ("good language").

The Tupi languages (or - depending on your point of view - Tupi dialects, not the Tupi language family / Tupian according to SIL) within the Tupi-Guarani languages include, in addition to the extinct languages, Old Tupi (São Paulo), Tupinambá, Tupinkin and Potiguara only have three surviving languages: Nheengatu, Omagua and Cocama . The latter two, however, are almost extinct. Guarani with its various variants is closely related to these languages .

The Tupi has added hundreds of words to the Brazilian Portuguese vocabulary , mainly from the fields of botany and zoology . The Tupi words that have made their way into German include piranha ("tooth fish"), tapir , kinkaju (also wrapped or honey bear), cashew (also cashew , "kidney tree"), passion fruit ("plant that gives fruit ”), cassava and carioca (“ house of the white man ”, the name for a resident of Rio de Janeiro). The two best-known words of the Tupi language in German are pineapple (“good smelling fruit”) and jaguar (“jungle dog ”).

The word "tupi" itself means something like "great father" or "leader" in Tupi.


  • Campbell, Lyle (1997). American Indian Languages: The historical linguistics of Native America . New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-514050-8

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. So at Ethnologue : Tupí