Foto: Paula Morgado, 1989

Aparai

  • Autodenominação
    Aparai
  • Where they are How many

    PA466 (Siasi/Sesai, 2012)
    Guiana Francesa40 (Eliane Camargo, 2011)
    Suriname10 (Eliane Camargo, 2011)
  • Linguistic family
    Karib

Name and language

Name

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The Aparai are mentioned in the literature as: Appirois, Aparathy, Apareilles and Apalaii, by the travelers; Aparis and Apalaís, more recently, by government representatives; and finally, Aparai, which is the way the group calls themselves today. For their part, the Wayana are known in the literature as: Ojana, Ajana, Aiana, Ouyana, Uajana, Upurui, Oepoeroei, Roucouyen, Oreocoyana, Orkokoyana, Urucuiana, Urukuyana, Alucuyana and Wayana.

The terms Roucouyennes or Roucouyen (from rocou, "urucum", in French), as well as the corrupted forms Urucuiana or Rucuiana in Portuguese, terms employed in the 18th and 19th centuries, originated from the frequent use of urucu (red dye) body painting by this population. The etymology of the word Wayana, the present-day self-designation of this population, is unknown. It is only known that it is a Karib word, as the suffix –yana, which means "people" in many languages of this family, shows.

Both the more general designations Aparai and Wayana, and the names of the various other primordial groups (Pirixiyana, Kumakai, Ahpamano, Arakaju, Upurui, Kukuyana and Kumarawana, for example) are employed on the basis of genealogical references, physical and behavioral characteristics, besides geographical origin. In this way, the Upurui are supposed to be more corpulent and of darker skin, originating from the upper Jarí River; the Apama, lighter-skinned and shorter, are supposed to have come from the lower Jari River; the Pirixiyana, from the Maicuru River, speak more rapidly, and so on.

Language

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Like the rest of the region, the situation on the East Paru river is one of multi-lingualism. Every adult individual speaks at least two or three languages, including Aparai, Wayana, Português, Tiriyó and, in several cases, Wajãpi, Aluku and criollo. Nevertheless, the distribution of speakers and the use of each of the languages are uneven.

In Brazil, the Aparai language is employed preferentially in the dialogues between individuals belonging to distinct groups, which is due in large part to missionary activity between 1968 and 1992. Literacy teaching of this population is done in the Portuguese and Aparai languages, making the latter the language of books and religious services. However, despite the predominance of the Aparai language, over the last decade the Wayana language has gained an enormous prestige among the younger people, since it is used in communication with Wayana and Tiriyó residing in Surinam and French Guiana.