Book with Purubora language written on it

Rare language spotlight: Purubora

Here at The Language Shop we like to shine a light on some of the rarer languages spoken across the world, many of which have long and fascinating histories. This month we take a closer look at Purubora.

Fact file

Native to: Rondônia, Brazil

Number of native speakers: 1

Spoken by: The Purubora people

Learn some Purubora: There exists very little written in the language, except for lists of words. The official list contains only 49 words. Included are the numbers 1 to 3, which are: ‘múm, wewáb, bokód-wewáb’.

Interesting facts:

  • Until 2020, there were two native speakers left alive. However, sadly, one of the remaining two, Eliezer Purubora, died from Covid in late 2020. He was one of six Purubora who died from the virus.
  • Purubora translates as ‘people who transform into jaguars to heal’. They believe that when someone dies, they become a jaguar. When relatively tame jaguars visited the village, they would be welcomed as the new hosts of dead people’s spirits.
  • The Purubora had been considered extinct, following a practice of marrying off the women to colonisers who had arrived to work on rubber plantations. However, in 2001 there was an assembly, bringing together its remaining people to establish a claim to their original land. This claim is still ongoing today.

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