Emberá, Northern


A language of Panama

Alternate Names
Atrato, Chocó, Cholo, Darien, Darien Emberá, Ebera Bedea, Empera, Panama Embera

22,500 in Panama (2012 SIL). Population total all countries: 72,200.


East, in Darien (Chepigana district), Panama (Chiman and Chepos districts), and Emberá provinces; lowland jungle along rivers, Gulf San Miguel area.

Language Maps
Language Status

5 (Developing).


Related languages in order of closeness: Emberá-Catíoc[cto], Emberá-Baudó [bdc], Emberá-Tadó [tdc], Epena [sja], Emberá-Chamí [cmi], and Wounmeu [noa]. Panama and Colombia dialects are inherently intelligible. Northern Embera of the Upper Baudó area and downriver Emberá-Baudó are inherently intelligible.


SOV; postpositions; noun head both initial and final; 2 (human, non-human); content q-word initial; no prefixes, up to 5 suffixes; clause constituents indicated by case-marking; verbal affixation marks number; ergativity; both tense and aspect; passives and voice (by switching order of S and O); nontonal; 20 consonant and 12 vowel phonemes (6 vowels plus autosegmental nasalization).

Language Use

Home, friends, some churches. Positive attitudes. N. Emberas in Panama Province are bilingual in Spanish [spa]; those under 30 may speak only Spanish but understand Embera to some extent. In the Darien Province, men as well as women under 30 speak Spanish to a lesser degree.

Language Development
Literacy rate in L1: 10%. Literacy rate in L2: 50%. Bible reading is primary motivation for L1 literacy. Poetry. Radio programs. Dictionary. Grammar. NT: 1991–2011.

Latin script [Latn].

Other Comments

Traditional religion, Christian.

Also spoken in:

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