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Caribs or Island Carib is the name of the native indigenous people of the Lesser Antilles islands called The Windward Islands, which is also called the Islands of Barlovento, which include the islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Dominica, Martinique and Saint Kitts. The Caribbean Sea was named after the Caribs or Island Caribs]] ; The islands form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. The Island Caribs referred to themselves as Kalinago for men and Kallipuna for women. They are an Amerindian people whose origins lie in the southern West Indies. The men either speak a Carib language or a pidgin. The Caribs are believed to have displaced the Arawakan-speaking Igneri people from the southern Lesser Antilles. Their legends (as recorded by Fr. Breton in the seventeenth century) say that they killed (and ate) all the Igneri men and took their women as wives. Anthropologists are divided as to how true these legends are, but the fact that the Island Carib women spoke an Arawakan language gives credence to this idea. The Caribs were skilled boatbuilders and sailors, and seem to have owed their dominance in the Caribbean basin to their mastery of the arts of war which is evident in the numerous Carib wars with the British. The carib community and there decadents are still thriving today in the windward islands , the Black Carib and their descendants are still evident today in the anglophone Windward Islands islands and strongly alive within the Garifuna population, primarily in Central America.

Island Carib
Native toWindward Islands, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines , (Guadeloupe to Grenada, except Barbados)
EthnicityIsland Caribs, Garifuna, Black Carib
Native speakers
1 L1 speakers
20 L2 speakers
  • Island Carib
Language codes
ISO 639-3crb
Languages of the Caribbean.png
  Iñeri (Island Carib) among other Pre-Columbian languages of the Windward Islands



At the time of European contact, the Island Caribs lived throughout the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, from Guadeloupe to Grenada. Contemporary traditions indicated the Caribs (or Kaliphuna) had conquered these islands from their previous inhabitants, the Igneri. Because the Island Caribs were thought to have descended from the mainland Caribs (Kalina) of South America, it was long assumed that they spoke Carib or a related Cariban language. [2]

Modern scholars have proposed several hypotheses accounting for the prevalence of an Arawak language among the Island Caribs. Scholars such as Irving Rouse suggested that Caribs from South America conquered the Igneri but did not displace them, and took on their language over time.[2] Others doubt there was an invasion at all. Sued Badillo proposed that Igneri living in the Lesser Antilles adopted the "Carib" identity due to their close economic and political ties with the rising mainland Carib polity in the 16th century.[3] In any event, the fact that the Island Caribs' language evidently derived from a pre-existing Arawakan variety has led some linguists to term it "Igneri". It appears to have been as distinct from Taíno as from mainland Arawak varieties.[2]

During the period of French colonization in the 17th century, and possibly earlier, male Island Caribs used a Cariban-based pidgin in addition to the Arawakan Island Carib language. The pidgin was evidently similar to one used by mainland Caribs to communicate with their Arawak neighbors. Berend J. Hoff and Douglas Taylor hypothesized that it dated to the time of the Carib expansion through the islands, and that males maintained it to emphasize their origins.[4] However, scholars who doubt the existence of a Carib invasion suggest this pidgin was a later development acquired by contact with the Caribs of the mainland.[3]

Island Carib Garifuna, is still spoken by the Garifuna people living mainly in Central America.


This is a reconstruction based on previous evidence and present-day observations of the Garifuna made in 1955.[5]


Front Back
plain nasalized plain nasalized
Close i ĩ u ũ
Mid e o õ
Open a ã

Vowels /i, u/ may also be realized as brief vowel sounds, or even as semivowels /j, w/.


Igneri has 14 consonants.

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop voiceless p t k
voiced b d g
Fricative f s h
Nasal m n
Approximant l
Flap ɾ

The palatal stop /tʃ/ may be realized as a /ʃ/ when unstressed. Two semivowels /w, j/ may have also been included, but were mainly heard as allophones of vowels /u, i/.


The women's Island Carib language was revived in 2018 by a man known as Jerry Roman, a Boricua. The first native speaker since the 1920s is a Yamaye child. There is a slightly larger group of L2 speakers in Canada, United States, and the Caribbean.[6][7][8]


  1. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Island Carib". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. ^ a b c Rouse, Irving (1992). The Tainos. Yale University Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0300051810. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Hill, Jonathan David; Santos-Granero, Fernando (2002). Comparative Arawakan Histories: Rethinking Language Family and Culture Area in Amazonia. University of Illinois Press. p. 54. ISBN 978-0252073847. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  4. ^ Rouse, Irving (1992). The Tainos. Yale University Press. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-0300051810. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  5. ^ Taylor, Douglas (1955). Phonemes of the Hopkins (British Honduras) Dialect of Island Carib. International Journal of American Linguistics: The University of Chicago Press.
  6. ^ Feliciano‐Santos, Sherina (2017). "How do you speak Taíno? Indigenous Activism and Linguistic Practices in Puerto Rico". Journal of Linguistic Anthropology. 27 (1): 4–21. doi:10.1111/jola.12139. ISSN 1548-1395.
  7. ^ "The Eyeri Language | Language Exchange Amino". Language Exchange | Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  8. ^ Saunders, Nicholas J. (2005). The Peoples of the Caribbean: An Encyclopedia of Archeology and Traditional Culture. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781576077016.