The Morpheme of M-

In the Taino language, the morpheme of m- is similar to that of k- because it is used in three principal ways: 1) to modify a noun or adjective; 2) as a verb; and 3) as a verb modifier. However, in all three instances it is used to express the negative. In this sense, the use of m- is identical in Taino/Karifuna, Garifuna/Loko/Wayuu, except that it appears to me that it seems to be less relied upon in Karifuna, Garifuna, and if this is indeed true it may be due to the broader base from which the language derived its grammar.

Use of M- in Nouns and Adjectives

The use of m- as a modifier of nouns and adjectives is quite simple; it is essentially used the way un-, non-, or in- would be used in English. At the same time, the use is broader in the sense that it can be used to express the absence of a trait or thing, or even its inverse or opposite. Examples are more instructive, so best to look towards them.

As for creating an inverse of an adjective, take for example the word for “hair” in Loko– “Barah(u)”. The word for “bald” is simply “Mabara”. At the same time, m- can  be used to express a deeper sense of something that is lacking in an individual. For example, “Loko” in Loko means one of the tribe, an indigenous. However, “Malokon~” goes deeper, meaning “Inhuman”. There are many examples in Taino. One example in Taino is “Ahi”, which means “tooth”. “Mahiti” means “toothless”.

M- as a Verb

M- as a verb is quite simple. It simple means “is not” or “does not have”. The use is just as simple as the above described rule, but the connotation can be different. Let’s look at some examples.

In Wayuu, for example, we could say “Mashi nia”, or “He does not have a father” (Ashi=father). Similarly in Taino, we could say “Maku shi”, or “He does not have eyes” (Aku=eye). You should remember this from the comment on the morpheme of k-.

For examples in Karifuna, please looks at the post on the Uses of K-.

M- as a Verb Modifier

M- is also used to conjugate verbs. For example, Garifuna “Arihin (to see)” and “Marihin (to not see)”; or in Loko “D’aitha (I know)” and “M’aichin~ da (lit. Someone that does not know I am)”; Wayuu “Ainha (to do)” and “Mainhani (to not do”); and Taino “Aniya (Do)” and “Maniyani (Do not do)”.


From what I have written, the use of m- is very simple in day-to-day life. However, so as not to get confused keep in mind some key points. First, the examples I listed are simple, and m- will not always sound off as “ma”, but can sound off as “Mo, mu, mi, etc” depending on the word, language, and accent. Second, remember that there are different ways of making the expressions listed above, at least two other ways to be exact. This is just a short article on the use of m-, and it is not intended as a chapter on negation. Lastly, it is crucial to keep in mind that m- is always a prefix, and it does not have any meaning on its own. Remember as well that words are not always the some of their parts, and just because the letters “ma” are seen it does not mean that it is the prefix of “m-“. There are other words and morphemes that are pronounced identically in many cases, and this is another article altogether. As one Dutch priest put it, the high level of vowels and need for precision in stressing vowels is what made them say that no one could learn Loko unless his mother was Arawak. I hope to tackle this issue one day and write about orthography, but that would best be left for down the road.




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