Basic information

Flag of Argentina Argentina
Flag of Bolivia Bolivia

Number of speakers

40,000-50,000 (probable)

Language family Mataco-Guaicuru
Language codes

Wichí is a Matacoan language spoken among the Wichí people of Argentina and Bolivia. It is known as being the most widely spoken Matacoan language, and though the amount of speakers can only be estimated, the comparison of several sources suggests anywhere from 40,000-50,000 people speak the language.


The National Institute of Statistics and Census in Argentina (INDEC) gives a figure of 36,315 Wichí speakers only in Argentina. In Rosario, the third largest city in the country has a community of about 10,000 Wichí people, all of which are fluent in the Wichí language, and even some native speakers. In the city there are even some bilingual primary schools.

For the population of speakers in Bolivia, Alvarsson estimated anywhere from 1,700-2,000 speakers in 1988, while a census reported 1,912, and Diez Astete & Riester estimated between 2,300 and 2,600 Weenhayek wichí in sixteen communities.



According to Najlis and Gordon, three main dialects are from the Wichí language: southwestern or Vejós (Wehwós), northeastern or Güisnay (Weenhayek), and northwestern or Nocten (Oktenay). Tovar and other authors suggest only two dialects exist, northeastern and southwestern, while Braunstein identifies eleven ethnical groups. Another dialect, Matahuayo is suggested.


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Wichí is dominantly suffixing and polysynthetic; verbal words have 2-15 morphemes. Alienable and inalienable possession is distinguished. The phonological inventory is large, with simple, glottal and aspirated stops and sonorants. The amount of vowels is dependent on the dialect (five or six).


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