Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Native peoples > Mapuche


The Mapuche tongue is known as Mapudungu (“language of the land”) or Mapudungun (“the people’s tongue”). Typologically, it is polysynthetic and agglutinative, with frequent use of suffixes. Its nouns can be verbalized and subjectivized to form complex words that are equivalent to an entire phrase in English. For example, the word katrümamüllmean means “I will go to chop firewood” (from mamüll=firewood and katrü=cut, the action of the subject). When the Spanish arrived, Mapudungu was in use from Coquimbo to Chiloé, and from the Andes Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. It is still the most widely spoken aboriginal language in Chile today.