Taíno is an Arawakan language that was spoken by the Taíno people of the Caribbean. At the time of Spanish contact, it was the principal language throughout the Caribbean. Classic Taíno (Taíno proper) was the native language of the northern Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and most of Hispaniola, and it was expanding into Cuba. The Ciboney dialect is essentially unattested, but colonial sources suggest it was very similar to Classic Taíno and was spoken in the westernmost areas of Hispaniola, the Bahamas, Jamaica, and most of Cuba.
|Native to||Bahamas, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, Leeward Islands|
|Ethnicity||Taíno, Ciboney, Lucayan, Yamaye|
|30 (?) L2 Speakers|
Possibly 1 Native Speaker
Taíno dialects, among other Pre-Columbian languages of the Antilles
By the late 15th century, Taíno had displaced earlier languages except in western Cuba and pockets in Hispaniola. As the Taíno culture declined during Spanish colonization, the language was replaced by Spanish and other European languages. It is believed to have been extinct within 100 years of contact but possibly continued to be spoken in isolated pockets in the Caribbean until the late 19th century. As the first indigenous language encountered by Europeans in the New World, it was a major source of new words borrowed into European languages.
Granberry & Vescelius (2004) distinguish two dialects, one on Hispaniola and further east, and the other on Hispaniola and further west.
- Classic (Eastern) Taíno, spoken in Classic Taíno and Eastern Taíno cultural areas. These were the Leeward Islands north of Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, central Hispaniola, and the Turks & Caicos (from an expansion in ca. 1200). Classic Taíno was expanding into eastern and even central Cuba at the time of the Spanish Conquest, perhaps from people fleeing the Spanish in Hispaniola.
- Ciboney (Western) Taíno, spoken in Ciboney and Lucayan cultural areas. These were most of Cuba, Jamaica, western Hispaniola, and the Bahamas.
Columbus says that from Bahama to Cuba, Boriquen to Jamaica, the same language was spoken in various slight dialects, but understood by all.
There was also a flap [ɾ], which appears to have been an allophone of /d/.
A distinction between /ɛ/ and /e/ is suggested by Spanish transcriptions of e vs ei/ey, as in ceiba "ceiba". The /e/ is written ei or final é in modern reconstructions. There was also a high back vowel [u], which was often interchangeable with /o/ and may have been an allophone.
There was a parallel set of nasal vowels. The only consonant at the end of a syllable or of a word was /s/.
Taíno is not well attested. However, from what can be gathered, nouns appear to have had noun-class suffixes, as in other Arawakan languages. Attested Taíno possessive prefixes are da- 'my', wa- 'our', li- 'his' (sometimes with a different vowel), and to-, tu- 'her'.
Verb-designating affixes are a-, ka-, -a, -ka, -nV in which "V" is an unknown or changeable vowel. This suggests that, like many other Arawakan languages, verbal conjugation for a subject resembled the possessive prefixes on nouns.
The negation prefix is ma- meanwhile the attributive prefix is ka- as in makabuka "it is not important or not important". This has been compared to Kalinago's -bouca suffix which designates the past tense. Hence, the sentence can be interpreted as meaning "without a past." However, makabuka could also be compared to Kalinago's aboúcacha 'to scare'. This verb is shared in various Caribbean Arawakan languages such as Lokono (bokaüya 'to scare, frighten') and Parauhano (apüüta 'to scare').
Some conjugated verbs include Daka (I am), Waiba (We go), Warike (We see)
Attested object suffix includes -wo (we, us) as in ahiyawoka ("speak to us").
English words derived from Taíno include: canoe, cassava, cay, hammock, hurricane, iguana, macana, maize, and potato, as well as mangrove, tobacco, and savanna.:229
Taíno loanwords in Spanish include: agutí, ají, cacique, maguey, nigua, tiburón, and tuna (the prickly pear cactus, not the fish), as well as the previous English words in their Spanish form: canoa, casabe (although in Dominican Spanish it is the name of a fish), cayo, hamaca, huracán, iguana, macana, maíz, patata, manglar, tabaco and sabana.
Place names of Taíno origin include:
- Haiti: ha-yi-ti 'land of mountains'
- Quisqueya: kis-ke-ya 'great thing' or 'native land'
- Bahamas: ba-ha-ma 'large-upper-middle'
- Bimini: bimini 'twins'
- Inagua: i-na-wa 'small eastern land'
- North Caicos: ka-i-ko 'near-northern-outlier'
- Boriken (confederated kingdom of Puerto Rico): boriken, boriquen, bori ("native") -ke ("land") 'native land'
- Jamaica: Ya-mah-ye-ka 'great spirit of the land of man'
- Cuba: cu-bao 'great fertile land'
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- Derbyshire D.C., "Arawakan languages", in: Bright, William (ed.), International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, vol. 1, New York, 1992.
- Aikhenvald, Alexandra Y. (2012). The Languages of the Amazon. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Taíno". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Reyes, David (2004). "The Origin and Survival of the Taíno Language" (PDF). Issues in Caribbean Amerindian Studies. 5 (2). Retrieved February 19, 2017.
- Constantine Samuel Rafinesque (1836), "The Haytian or Taino language", The American Nations, 1, pp. 215–253
- Granberry, Julian; Vescelius, Gary (2004). Languagues of the Pre-Columbian Antilles. The University of Alabama Press. p. 92.
- Estevez, Jorge. "Origins of the word "taíno"". Retrieved 10 June 2018.
- Ballew, Dora (2017-10-05). "The Freaky Mexican Fruit That Can Give You Splinters". OZY. Retrieved 2020-01-26.
- ASALE, RAE-; RAE. "casabe - Diccionario de la lengua española". «Diccionario de la lengua española» - Edición del Tricentenario (in Spanish). Retrieved 2019-11-18.
- ASALE, RAE-; RAE. "macana - Diccionario de la lengua española". «Diccionario de la lengua española» - Edición del Tricentenario (in Spanish). Retrieved 2019-11-18.