Foto: Raimundo Silva, 1978

Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe

  • Other names
  • Where they are How many

    BA2.375 (Funasa, 2010)
  • Linguistic family
    Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe


The languages spoken by the various ethnic groups encompassed by the Pataxó Hãhãhãe ethnonym are no longer in active use, apart from isolated words from their lexicons. Until 1911 the Pataxó and Kamakã languages were undoubtedly in full use, which means that the violent contact to which the Indians were subjected through the actions of the SPI (Indian Protection Service) had a terrible impact on them, affecting the native languages too. The Pataxó language survived until at least 1938 when Curt Nimuendaju encountered speakers living in the Caramuru-Paraguaçu Reserve. M. de Wied-Neuwied, F. Martius, B. Douveille, C. Nimuendaju, Maria Aracy Lopes da Silva and Greg Urban collated word lists among the northern Pataxó or Hãhãhãe at different periods, but only Wied-Neuwied undertook the same among the so-called southern Pataxó. On this topic, Nimuendaju observed that although his vocabulary diverged considerably from that compiled by Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied among a Pataxó group in Vila do Prado in 1816, he believed that the lexicons belonged to the same nation.

A vague kinship between the Pataxó language and the Maxakali linguistic family had already been suspected since C. Loukotka. Martius grouped the Macuni, Copoxô, Cumanaxô, Panhame, Monoxô, Pataxô and Malali languages, along with a few others, in the ‘Goytacás’ linguistic family, noting an affiliation with the Ge group. Steinen reduced the Goytacá group to the Maxakali, Macuni, Capaxô, Cumanaxô and Panhame, and, with question marks, the Pataxó, identifying it as a subdivision of the Ge group. Ehrenreich, Rivet and P. Schmidt retained this classification. It was only in 1931 that C. Loukotka, re-examining in detail the sparse existing vocabularies, came to the conclusion that these languages, including Malalí but excluding Pataxó, formed a linguistic family completely separate from the Ge family. Nimuendaju agreed with this assessment, adding that the culture of these tribes “both material and spiritual” distanced them greatly from the Ge (Nimuendaju 1954:61).

In 1971, Colonel Antônio Medeiros de Azevedo provided Agostinho with a list of 71 words from the same Indians, obtained by him when he commanded the troop that subdued the Paraguaçu Post in 1936. Agostinho, for his part, obtained a  vocabulary with a total of 120 terms collected among the southern Pataxó (Porto Seguro and neighbouring areas). Copies of Azevedo’s list and of the standard questionnaires used by Agostinho, along with the magnetic tape recorded at the time, were sent to the Linguistics Section of the Museu Nacional for comparative analysis. Aryon Dall’Igna Rodrigues, who undertook the analysis, concluded that the material belonged to the Maxakali language (personal information from Pedro Agostinho). In fact, Rodrigues classifies the Pataxó language as a member of the Maxakali linguistic family and the Kamakã, Mongoiá and Menien languages as members of the Kamakã family (Rodrigues 1986). In 1983, with the data collated by Maria A. Lopes da Silva and Greg Urban directly from the last speaker of the Pataxó language, an old woman called Bahetá, CPI-SP produced the textbook ‘Bahetá’s Lessons.’