Miskito (Miskitu in the Miskito language) is a Misumalpan language spoken by the Miskito people in northeastern Nicaragua, especially in the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, and in eastern Honduras.

Native toHonduras, Nicaragua
RegionNorth Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, neighbouring areas
EthnicityMiskito people
Native speakers
150,000 (2015–2021)[1]
  • Miskito
Language codes
ISO 639-3miq
Geographic distribution

With around 150,000 speakers, Miskito is the most widely spoken of a family of languages of Nicaragua and Honduras that has come to be known as Misumalpan. This name is formed from parts of the names of the family's subgroups: Miskito, Sumo, Matagalpan. The relationship of some aspects of the internal family tree to the family is uncertain. However, it is clear that: (1) Miskito is apart from Sumo and Matagalpan, which seem to share a common lower node, and (2) in the past Miskito was heavily influenced by other languages like English, German and Dutch. Sumo is thought to have been dominant in the area before the period of Miskito ascendancy. Today the relationship has been reversed: many former Sumo speakers have shifted to Miskito, which has in turn heavily influenced the Sumo dialects. Several of these (Tawahka, Panamahka and Tuahka) constitute the Mayangna sub-branch of Sumo, while the Ulwa language is in another sub-branch. The Matagalpan branch of Misumalpan contains two languages that are now extinct: Matagalpa and Cacaopera. The latter was formerly spoken in parts of eastern El Salvador.

In addition to many elements borrowed from other Misumalpan languages, Miskito has many loanwords from Germanic languages like English, German and Dutch. Even though Spanish is the official language of Nicaragua and Honduras, its influence on Miskito is much more recent and hence more superficial. Many other languages appear to have had influence on Miskito vocabulary and grammar, including various Sumi dialects, Arawak, Rama, Carib, and certain Western African languages.

Miskito Alphabet Edit

The alphabet for Miskito consists of 19 letters, and includes vowels and consonants.

A (a), B (be), D (de), G (ge), H (ha), I (i), J (je), K (ka), L (el), M (em), N (en), P (pe), Q (ku), R (ar), S (es), T (te), U (u), W (dubilu), Y (yei).

History Edit

Many of the Miskitos are native American and also mixed with British, Chinese, Dutch, German, North American, Latinos and African. The Miskito people had a strong relationship with the British and they signed the Treaty of Friendship and Alliance. Eventually, the British began to lose interest in the region, and Britain allowed Nicaragua to have uncontested claim over the Mosquito Coast. A treaty was signed in which a Miskito reserve, a self-governing entity that enjoyed semi-sovereign rights, was given to the Miskito people, but Honduras eventually took over the area.

In the 20th century the Miskito language started to dwindle. Honduras, being a former Spanish colony, officially used the Spanish language, and this stifled the proliferation of the Miskito language in the 20th century. In schools, children were forbidden from speaking Miskito for most of the 20th century and could only speak Spanish; young generations had less of an opportunity to practice the language.

In the 1990s, many groups lobbied against the rule and promoted bilingual schools to preserve the Miskito language. Twenty such bilingual schools exist.

Orthography and phonology Edit

G. R. Heath wrote on Miskito grammar in American Anthropologist in 1913 and describes its orthography and phonology as follows:

The vowels a, e, i, o, u correspond almost exactly to the same sound of those letters in German.

The consonants g, j, s, w, y represent the sounds heard in the English words get, jet, set, wet, and yet; and the combination ch stands for the sound heard in the word chest. C by itself will not be used. The other letters have the same power as in English, except that the aspirate h is always to be pronounced, even at the end of a syllable.

The stress accent in Miskito is almost invariably on the first syllable.

When the grave and acute accents occur on the same vowel, will be imaginary accentuated just like English.

Nasalized vowels are sometimes met with: they resemble the ordinary vowels followed by a sound corresponding to the French n in mon. But as this nasal sound seems to be pronounced not after, but simultaneously with, the vowels, it seems better to mark the vowels with the tilde (˜), to indicate that the vowels themselves are nasalized. Such nasalized vowels are always long, thus: ã, , ĩ, õ, ũ.

The combination ng is a single sound: the double sound in the English word "longer" will be represented by ngg.[2]

There is still much controversy about Miskito orthography and it cannot be considered settled, even with printed Miskito grammars, Bible translations, and other texts.

Basic words Edit

Miskito English
yul dog
matis rat
pus cat
dildil butterfly
tairi mosquito
tuisa tongue
maya waitna husband
maya mairin wife


Old Miskito numbers Edit

Number Miskito
0 apu, nul, zero
1 kumi
2 wal
3 yumhpa
4 walhwalh (2+2)
5 matsip
6 Matlalkahbi
7 matlalkahbipurakum (6+1)
8 matlalkahbipurawal (6+2)
9 matlalkahbipurayumhpa (6+3)
10 matawalsip
11 matawalsippurakumi (10+1)
12 matawalsippurawal (10+2)
20 yawanaiska
21 yawanaiskapurakum
30 yawanaiskapuramatawalsip
40 yawanaiska wal
100 dusa kum
200 dusa wal
1,000 lal kum
1,000,000 slilma kum

[citation needed]

Modern Miskito numbers Edit

Number Miskito
0 zero
1 wan
2 tu
3 tri
4 for
5 faip
6 siks
7 sem
8 et
9 nain
10 ten
11 lem
12 tuelp
13 tartin
14 futin
15 fiftin
16 sikstin
17 semtin
18 itin
19 naintin
20 tuinhti
21 tuinhtiwan
22 tuinhtitu
23 tuinhtitri
24 tuinhtifor
25 tuinhtifaip
26 tuinhtisiks
27 tuinhtisem
28 tuinhtiet
29 tuinhtinain
30 tarti
40 fati
50 fifti
60 siksti
70 semti
80 iti
90 nainti
100 andat or wan handat
101 wan handatwan
102 wan handattu
200 tu handat
300 tri handat
400 for handat
500 faip handat
600 siks handat
700 sem handat
800 et handat
900 nain handat
1,000 wan tausin o tausin
1,001 wan tausinwan
2,000 tu tausin
3,000 tri tausin
4,000 for tausin
5,000 faip tausin
6,000 siks tausin
7,000 sem tausin
8,000 et tausi
9,000 nain tausin
10,000 ten tausin
100,000 wan handat tausin
200,000 tu handat tausin
300,000 tri handat tausin
400,000 for handat tausin
500,000 faip handat tausin
600,000 siks handat tausin
700,000 sem handat tausin
800,000 et handat tausin
900,000 nain handat tausin
1,000,000 wan milian
10,000,000 ten milian
100,000,000 wan handat milian
500,000,000 faip handat milian
1,000,000,000 wan bilian

By Felix Ramsin.[citation needed]

Months of the year Edit

English Miskito
January Siakua kati
February Kuswa kati
March Kakamuk kati
April Lihwainhka kati
May Lihmairin kati
June Li kati
July Pastara kati
August Sikla kati
September Wis kati
October Waupasa kati
November Yahbra kati
December Trisu kati, Krismis kati

[citation needed]

Days of the week Edit

English Miskito
Monday Mundi
Tuesday Tusdi
Wednesday Winsdi
Thursday Tausdi
Friday Praidi
Saturday Satadi
Sunday Sandi

By Felix Ramsin.[citation needed]

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ Miskito at Ethnologue (24th ed., 2021)  
  2. ^ Heath, G. R. (3 January 1913). "Notes on Miskuto Grammar and on Other Indian Languages of Eastern Nicaragua". American Anthropologist. 15 (1): 48–62. doi:10.1525/aa.1913.15.1.02a00060.
  3. ^ Young, Thomas (1847). Narrative of a residence on the Mosquito Shore: with an account of Truxillo, and the adjacent islands of Bonacca and Roatan; and a vocabulary of the Mosquitian language. pp. 180–181.

Further reading Edit

External links Edit