Foto: Thomas Gregor, 1983

Mehinako

  • Other names
    Meinaco, Meinacu, Meinaku
  • Where they are How many

    MT286 (Siasi/Sesai, 2014)
  • Linguistic family
    Aruak

Language

mehinako_5

In the midst of many similarities among the peoples of the upper Xingu, the most relevant feature which differentiates them is their language. "Only those who speak our language are like us", a Mehinako chief once said in a speech on the plaza of the village. Speakers of a language of the Arawak family, the only group who speaks a close language are the Waujá, often referred to by the Mehinako as "our others", an expression of kinship and proximity. The other peoples of the Xingu, for their part, can simply be called "others".

The question of common speech is very important to the Mehinako, since they only feel at ease in speaking other languages that they really know. Men and women who marry in other villages resist speaking a new language in an incorrect way, seeking to learn it beforehand. Even when they totally dominate the language, the Mehinako are reticent to use it in public situations.

The waujá variant of Aruak is intelligible to speakers of Mehinako, but the languages have several differences. Many terms of basic vocabulary are distinct, as well as verb endings and the phonetic system.