Foto: Gustaaf Verswijver, 1991

Mebêngôkre (Kayapó)

  • Autodenominação
  • Where they are How many

    MT, PA11.675 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
  • Linguistic family


The language spoken by the Kayapó belongs to the Gê linguistic family, a branch of the Macro-Gê trunk. Differences in dialect exist between the various Kayapó groups emerging after the splits that gave rise to these groups, but in all of them language is a feature of wider ethnic reach, leading to recognition that they make up part of a common culture. The Kayapó, for whom oratory is a highly-valued social practice, define themselves as those who speak well, beautifully (Kaben mei), in opposition to all the groups who do not speak their language.

On certain occasions, such as council or ceremonial discourses, the Kayapó men speak in a tone of voice as though someone was punching them in the stomach (ben), thereby differentiating this type of oratory from normal speech.

Kayapó knowledge of Portuguese varies greatly from group to group, depending on the depth of contact and the degree of isolation particular to the history of each group.