Verb Creation in Taino and Arawakan Languages

So how do you verbalize a concept in the Taino language? It is quite simple, as in English or Spanish. For example, in English, when Google became a cultural phenomenon we verbalized the action: I google, he googles, she googled, etc. Similarly in Spanish, when Skype became a whole different mode of communication we verbalized the action and began to use “skypear” and its respective conjugations and participles. In this note, I want to show that in the Taino language and Arawakan family, we do the same thing. I will just give some examples and explanations as proof, and then incorporate the wider set of rules into a larger note on morphology God Willing.

Suffix “-da”

The suffix of -da is one of the suffixes used to create verbs from nominals (see Four Parts of Arawakan Speech). Some say that these can only be intransitive; however, there are many examples of transitive verbs derived from nominals using -da. Let’s look at some examples.

Starting with Loko, the word “arwa” means “cat”, and the verb “arwada” means “to creep”. Another example is “madiseda”, which means to strip or leave barren. It comes from the root word “madise”, which means “desert”, “dried up”, “barren”, etc. And last Loko example, “aboa” means “sick” and “aboada” means “to destroy”.

Some examples in Garifuna are “ibagari”, which means life and gives the root to the verb “abagarida”, which means “to become alive”. Another Garifuna example is “aredehani”, meaning “an impediment”, which gives rise to the word “arederagüda”, which means “to detain”. And the word “iri” means “name” and “irida” means “to name or to mention”.

Suffix of “oa”, “kwa”, “koa”, “gua”, “guda”, and similar sounds

Verbs that end in “-owa” and its derivatives are almost always intransitive and often are deeply personal.

For example, in Loko, “Ayoñ” means “high”, and “Ayoñtowa” means “to fly or to soar”. Similarly, in Garifuna, ” íñuti” means “high”, and “iñuragua” means “to soar or to rise”.

There are just too many examples to keep listing for Loko/Kari-Garifuna, so I will leave this suffix with those examples.

No Suffix

Many words are just conjugated without morphing into a verb from its noun or adjective root. For example, in Loko, “Dan~ki” means both an expression of gratitude (eg “thanks”), and is also a verb meaning “to give thanks”. In Garifuna, “suamein” means both “love” and “to love”. In Wayuu, “Ayu’rrula” means both “to extend” and “extension”. In Taino, “nahe” meaning “a paddle” and “to paddle”.

Other Suffixes

The suffix of -ta is used mostly for transitive verbs. For example, in Loko there is the word “adubichita” means “to sweat”, a transitive verb, comes from the word “adubuchi”, which means “sweat”.

Also many verbs are derived using -ka. For example, in Loko “Ani” means “thing”, and “anika” means “to do something”. In Garifuna “biti” means “a cut”, and this is the root of “íbiga”, which means “to cut”. This is also sometimes placed at the front of the word, such as the Loko word “Anshihi” for “love” and “Kanshi” for “to want”.*

Other suffixes in Garifuna include: ha, ra, ma, and cha.

Suffixes in Loko are less diverse, and almost always are derived from “ta, da, ka” and the “oa”-type sounds. However, many verbs are often formed from a change in the position of the accent of the word.

Lastly, suffixes in Wayuu are complex, given different suffixes for the same root based on the frequency of the action, as well as its proximity to the actor. Although Loko is to Taino, Kari-Garifuna, and Wayuu, like what Vulgar Latin is to Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, Wayuu’s differences in terms of its verbal morphology and rules of pronunciation could make one skeptical until he studied the language thoroughly. For that reason, I have left the Wayuu examples as few because they are not instructive in such a short note.


In conclusion, verbalizing new thoughts in the Arawakan family is easy, and it is necessary to master if they are to be of modern use. I want to emphasize, that this is just a small note concerning a larger concept, and other means exist to verbalize a concept aside from those described. Furthermore, as I will continue to emphasize, words are not merely the some of their parts, and the same word may mean different things in the other Arawakan languages. As a note, in Taino, the suffixes include “ma” and “ra” as in Gari-Karifuna, but the morphology follows Loko more closely. Lord Willing, I will be compiling a great list of Taino verbs in the future. Finally, if you have any questions then please, baskayibadaya Deh Buyi– wajiyafa Wakia!

* In Garifuna, the “k” sound is almost always sounded as “g”. This is due to the African influence, and in the Karifuna dialect speakers will pronounce the same words with “k”.


4 thoughts on “Verb Creation in Taino and Arawakan Languages

  1. I enjoyed your article. It was very informative. However, there is a common myth that Garifuna sounds G, D, B which are K, T, P in Karifuna are due to African influence. The fact that the languages of West Africa use the letters K, T, P proves that Garifuna is not affected by African speech patterns and pronunciation. If we look at other languages around the world especially Germanic languages and Latin languages we see something similar Chat – Gato – Cat, City – Ciudad, Trois – two – dos

  2. Hi,
    How would one say “help you get better” or “not be sick” in Tiano? or better,

    how would a Tiano say “This will help you feel better” or “This will help you get better.”?

    wondering what Taino/Arawak use to say “sick” and “not sick or better” or “heal” and “healed”

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