Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Tania Granadillo

2nd Supervisor

Dr. David J. Heap

Joint Supervisor

3rd Supervisor

Dr. Françoise Rose

Joint Supervisor


This dissertation focuses on the documentation and description of Mako, an indigenous language spoken in the Venezuelan Amazon by about 1000 people and for which the only available published material at the start of the project were 38 words. The main goals of the project were to create a collection of annotated ethnographic texts and a grammar that could serve as a starting point for both language maintenance in the community and for further linguistic research. Additionally, the project sought to assess the language’s vitality in the communities where it is spoken and to understand the relationship of Mako to the two other extant Sáliban languages, namely Piaroa and Sáliba.

This research has thus led to an assessment of language vitality in the Mako communities of the Ventuari River, a comprehensive description of the Mako language—heretofore undescribed—, and an evaluation of the genetic relationship between the three Sáliban languages. Aside from facilitating the study of other members of the Sáliban family and reconstruction of the common ancestral language, the description of Mako also contributes to the typology of Amazonian languages and to our understanding of the pre-history of this area of the Orinoco basin. The products of this project also have the potential to be mobilized in language literacy efforts in the Mako communities.