Taíno language

Taíno language
Spoken in Caribbean
Ethnicity Taíno, Igneri, Lucayan
Extinct (survives in Garífuna)
Language family
  • North
    • Ta-Arawakan
      • Taíno
Baicawa (Hispaniola)
Cayaba (Haiti and Florida Keys)
Cubaba (Cuba and Hispaniola)
Eyeri (Puerto Rico)
Lucayo (Bahamas)
Descendent: Garifuna (modern Central America)
Language codes
ISO 639-3 tnq

Taíno, an Arawakan language, was the principal language of the Caribbean islands at the time of the Spanish Conquest, including the Bahamas, Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Florida Keys, and the Lesser Antilles. The Taíno had largely displaced the non-Arawakan Ciboney, of which only pockets remained in the Greater Antilles (the Guanajatabey in western Cuba, the Ciguayo and Macorix in eastern Hispaniola), and in turn had been conquered by the Caribs in the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico.

As the language of first contact, Taíno was one of the most important sources of Native American vocabulary in Spanish, involving hundreds of words for unfamiliar plants, animals, and cultural practices, and through Spanish to other European languages such as English. English words of Taíno derivation include canoe, potato, cay/key, barbecue, hurricane, hammock, maize, cassava, Caribbean, cannibal, Cuba, Jamaica, Bahamas, iguana, savannah, papaya/pawpaw, guava, yucca, maguey, manatee, mangrove, chigger, and maybe tobacco.

In the Greater Antilles, the decimated Taíno soon shifted to the Spanish language, though some in the Bahamas still speak a Spanish–Taíno mixed language which is unintelligible to Spanish speakers (Ethnologue).

In the Lesser Antilles, the Carib conquest (which had advanced to Puerto Rico by the time of the Spanish conquest, and is still occurring to some extent among the Carib and Arawak in South America) created a sociolingistically interesting situation. Carib warriors invading from South America took Taíno wives, or raided north and took female Taíno captives back to the southern Antilles. The women continued to speak Taíno, but the men taught their sons Carib. This resulted in a situation where the women spoke an Arawakan language and the men an unrelated Cariban language. However, because boys' maternal language was Arawak, their Carib became mixed, with Carib vocabulary on an Arawak grammatical base. Over time the amount of distinct male Carib vocabulary was eroded, both as boys retained more and more Arawak from their first language and as women adopted male Carib words, so that both sexes came to speak Arawak (Taíno) with a strong Carib component and a decreasing amount of exclusively male Carib vocabulary.

In the interiors of the Lesser Antilles, escaped slaves bolstered the remnant Taíno–Carib population, gradually changing the racial makeup but retaining the language. This mixed population, called Black Carib, took their Arawakan language (now pronounced Garifuna, from Galibi 'Carib') with them when the Saint Vincent population was deported to the Bay of Honduras by the British in 1796. The Taíno language is now extinct in the Lesser Antilles, but Garífuna is the most numerous indigenous language in Central America. It retains the gender distinction in vocabulary, though to a minimal extent, primarily in the personal pronouns and in the choice of grammatical gender agreement of abstract words.


Carrada (2003) lists five dialects, though three of them occur in Hispaniola:

  • Baicagua (Baykawa) on Hispaniola. Bay means 'house, dwelling' and kawa means 'cave'.
  • Cayaba on Hispaniola (Haiti) and on "islands".[clarification needed] From cay 'small island' and -ba locative.
  • Cubaba on Cuba and Hispaniola (Haiti). From cuba 'Cuba' and -ba locative.
  • Lucayo / Yucayo in the Bahamas. From lu ~ yu 'white', cay 'small island', and -o 'where'.
  • Eyeri on Puerto Rico (and the lesser Antilles?), the dialect of the Igñeri Taino.[citation needed] The word for 'man' in Island Carib.

Lucayo dialect has n where other dialects have r. Haitian and Eyeri had a for o. There was variation between e ~ i and o ~ u, perhaps reflecting the three stable vowels of Arawakan.

Place names

The following are the major geographic features of the Caribbean, with their Taíno names (Carrada 2003):

  • Antigua: Yaramaqui
  • Cuba: Cuba ~ Coba
  • Florida keys: Matacumbe
  • Gonaive: Guanabo, Guanahibe
  • Granada: Beguia
  • Grand Turk: Abawana
  • Great Inagua: Babeque
  • Guadalupe: Curuqueira, Guacana, Tureyqueri, Turuqueira
  • Hispaniola: Quisqueya/Haiti
  • Isle of Youth/Pines: Siguanea
  • Jamaica: Jamaica, Amayca
  • Long Island, Bahamas: Yuma
  • Martinique: Iguanacaire
  • North Caycos: Kayco
  • Puerto Rico: Boriquen
  • San Salvador (isl.): Guanahani
  • St. Croix: Ayay, Cibuquiera
  • St. Vincent: Bayaruco
  • Tortuga (Haiti): Cajimi, Guaney
  • Vieques: Bieque

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Taíno — The Taínos were pre Columbian inhabitants of the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and the northern Lesser Antilles. It is believed that the seafaring Taínos were relatives of the Arawakan people of South America. Their language is a member of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Taino — [tī′nō] n. pl. Tainos or Taino [< Taino nitayno, the first, the good] 1. a member of an aboriginal Indian people of the West Indies, extinct since the 16th cent. 2. the Arawakan language of this people …   English World dictionary

  • Taino — /tuy noh/, n., pl. Tainos, (esp. collectively) Taino for 1. 1. a member of an extinct Arawakan Indian tribe of the West Indies. 2. the language of the Taino. * * * Extinct Arawak Indian group of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea. They …   Universalium

  • Taíno — Grupos taínos a la llegada de los europeos, al final del siglo XV. En verde, ubicación de los caribes, pueblo belicoso de origen arahuaco como los taínos. Al occidente de la isla de Cuba se encontraban los últimos reductos de los guanahatabeyes o …   Wikipedia Español

  • Taino — noun (plural Taino or Tainos) Etymology: Taino nitaino, tayno noble, lesser chief Date: 1836 1. the language of the Taino people 2. a member of an aboriginal Arawakan people of the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Taino — Original name in latin Taino Name in other language Taino State code IT Continent/City Europe/Rome longitude 45.76249 latitude 8.61654 altitude 261 Population 3185 Date 2012 02 15 …   Cities with a population over 1000 database

  • Taino — [ tʌɪnəʊ] noun an extinct Caribbean language of the Arawakan group. Origin from Taino taino noble, lord …   English new terms dictionary

  • taino — ˈtī(ˌ)nō noun (plural taino or tainos) Usage: usually capitalized Etymology: Spanish, of American Indian origin 1. a. : an extinct aboriginal Arawakan people of the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas, especially of Hispaniola …   Useful english dictionary

  • Taino — /ˈtaɪnoʊ/ (say tuynoh) noun 1. a people of Arawakan linguistic stock of the West Indies, now extinct. 2. (plural Tainos or Taino) a member of this people. 3. the language of this people. –adjective 4. of or relating to this people or their… …   Australian English dictionary

  • Taino — n. member of an extinct American Indian people who lived on the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas n. language of the Taino people …   English contemporary dictionary

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