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Sociolingüística internacional

Analysis of the term ‘pariente’ as a form
of address in the Sikuani community of Puerto Gaitán (Colombia), by John Alexander Roberto Rodríguez


The different regions of Colombia recognize different ways of understanding and applying the word ‘pariente’, but they are always founded on basic traits that we get superficially from their etymology. In Puerto Gaitán the use of the term has a special factor that gives it a diatopic identity which is precisely that of the Sikuani ethnic group of the region. Without a doubt, social factors are one of the main factors in establishing varieties in dialect, and in Puerto Gaitán this fact has acquired transcendental relevance when it comes to cultures in contact.

The percentages below show an increased influence in the selection of forms of address in view of the people participating in the conversation according to the three possible varieties of interaction: Native – native, native – white man, or white man – native (the group white man – white man is not relevant to this study).

Table 1. Frequency of use of the forms of address ‘usted’ and ‘pariente’ between the colonists and natives of Puerto Gaitán


Native – Native

Native –
White man

White man - Native









The missing percentages correspond to the forms of address by name or title

The white man has unarguably taken the place of preeminence in the social system which has forced the establishment of ‘power semantics’ that favors the white man. But, on the other hand, the recognition of this fact on behalf of the native has compelled him to adopt a linguistic formula of self-recognition of identity and unity that is based on the principle of ‘solidarity semantics’. At this level you can see much more clearly the variety of use of ‘pariente’ because it has a motive of social or vertical courtesy:

(white man)


(white man)

(white man)

fletxa_avall.jpg (920 bytes)       fletxa_amunt.jpg (973 bytes)
pariente usted





Reciprocal System
Same standing

In normal situations white men use ‘usted’ for interactions or, if there is greater intimacy, ‘tú’.

Non-reciprocal System
Different standing

The term ‘pariente’ used by the white man has a pejorative connotation to the native that confirms his state of cultural inferiority.

Reciprocal System
Same standing

Among natives the euphemistic value of the term ‘pariente’ is substituted by a sense of solidarity and fraternity that characterizes the ethnic group in intimate situations.

In special cases, when a white man has lived with the Sikuani for a long time and they begin to esteem him, they may use the term ‘pariente’ to refer to this white man in an expression of their respect and friendship.

In conclusion, the natives of the Sikuani ethnic group in Puerto Gaitán have adopted the form of address ‘pariente’ to solve the lack of a term that expresses fraternity and that identifies them as a community, thus, its use is restricted to among themselves and is not extended to the white man. ‘Pariente’ is, therefore, a synonym of family and only one who has Sikuani blood is worthy of being treated as such.

6. Bibliography

BROWN and GILMAN. The pronouns of power and solidarity, 1960. (Reproduced in Fishman, J. (ed.) 1968, 1970.)

CISNEROS, M. E. "Hacia un estudio del voceo: aspectos históricos, pragmáticos y morfológicos de los tratamientos de segunda persona singular". En: Litterae. Santafé de Bogotá: Instituto Caro y Cuervo, no 7, 1998.

CUERVO, R. J. Diccionario de construcción y régimen (Tomo IV). Barcelona: Herder, 1998.

FONTANELLA DE WEINBERG, M. B. Analogía y confluencia paradigmática en formas verbales de voceo. Bogotá: Instituto Caro y Cuervo, 1976.


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