Nominalizing Beings in Taino: “-L”, “-Sh”, and “-Ti”

Just as a boxer performs thousands of left jabs, jogs thousands of miles, and practices bobbing and weaving thousands of times before he is of any merit as a professional, I advocate learning these basic linguistic functions ahead of anything else: 1) conjugations; 2) verbalizing concepts; 3) nominalizing real concepts; 4) nominalizing abstract concepts; and 5) orthography. This note deals with nominalizing real concepts, but more specifically, living beings. Its focus is the morphemes of -l, -sh, and -ti.

The Use of -l

-l in Taino comes from the Loko suffice of -li. It creates both nouns, and some adjectives. It is also used in an equal manner, and some words of antiquity maintain the old form. The word is used also most often for living beings; however, this includes those things with a personality of their own to the people, such as certain types of trees or landmarks. We do the same in English, like “Mount Rushmore”, or “the Devil’s Armchair”.

-l is technically masculine–but there are many words that include -l that may be applied to women. Perhaps the truest statement is that it has been applied when referring to traits and activities normally considered rough, ugly, difficult, those requiring strength, or usually occupied by men, or by animals.

Lastly, -l is almost always used agglutinatively with adjectives, rather than attached to simple traits. I do not find any examples of its use to nominalize verbs. Presumably, -l would transform to -li for older words, or for the cases where it would require nasalization or not be fixed in the final position due to pluralization or other reasons. Also, it does not have an equivalent in English or in any other language that I know. Because of this, perhaps the best way to master the use of -l is to break down some examples of -l and -li. Feminine in Loko is -ro. It may also be used in Taino.

Loko: Kabarali (Hairy one, ka-bara-li); kanili (owner, ka-ani-li); kautabali (type of tree); mabuk(u)li (lightning).

Kari/Garifuna: Abalatali (sea turtle); Abirichaali (lighting); Naheupouli (my aunt).

Taino: warokoel (grandfather, wa-rokoel); karakarakol (one with a skin condition, k-ura-ura-ko-l); kuriel (mouse).

Th Use of -sh

-sh is a Taino morpheme, indeed one of the most famous, and is directly related to the Loko suffix -chi and -shi Wayuu. Thus, to learn the use of -chi is to learn the use of -sh. -sh is personal, and it is masculine. That is to say that it is neither used for animals or inanimate objects, nor for a woman. At times, its use can be compared to the English suffix “man”, such as “journeyman”, “foreman”, etc. However, it is also used in place of the indefinite article “a”. Although it does not have similar meaning, the function is equivalent. For example, bethechi (a friend), yochi (a comrade) (both Loko). -sh also is also used to create a host of proper nouns in Taino found in many names and town names. Lastly, -sh is often added as a term of respect or affection for the one being spoken about, such as “don”, “sir”, or the diminutive for a loved one in Spanish “ito” (although -sh is not diminutive) (such as : da’yochi (Loko, my comrade), da’chinachi (Loko from ichi, my father). In conclusion, -sh is similar used for humans only, and in nominalizing a characteristic, it is never used for ignoble traits. Its feminine equivalent is -tho in Loko and -t in Taino and Wayuu.

 The Use of -ti

The morpheme of -ti is used on order to create both nouns and adjectives that can be applied to living beings, and less so to inanimate objects. -ti is used in Taino and Kari/Garifuna extensively. It is found in thousands of words, and even Roman words are found Arawakanized by conforming pronunciation and adding a -ti. -ti is a suffix. It is used in largely in the same manner as -rin~ is used in Loko. In fact, many of the same words that are found in Loko are the same in Taino and Kari/Garifuna except that -rin~ is replaced with -ti. Therefore, to learn the use of -rin~ in Loko is to also learn the use of -ti.

-ti is used in similar manner as “er” in English, meaning that it is added to a verb in order to denote the name of one associated with that particular action. For example, in Loko “ajia” means “to talk” and “ajiarin~” means “speaker”. There are thousands of examples. For example, in Garifuna, “nadagimeiti” means worker.

-ti is also used to create adjectives from words that are not used as such, or to express that word in a light that connotes the intrinsic association of the person or thing to that trait. Often in English, we would use the participle to accomplish this task; however, -ti does not create a participle. For example, “aji” (tooth), and “ajiti” (toothed).

Lastly, -ti can also be used in combination with k- and -m, in which cases these words will serve as either 1) a positive or negative copula, or 2) an excess nominalizer that connotes abstract or real possession of the trait or concept. See note on the uses of K-. Examples would include: Kamourourati (Garifuna- it has alot of force); Kanaganti (Garfuna- he’s fat, from Anagani), and many others.

Lastly, as applied to inanimate objects, -ti is most useful as an adjective, but this needs more exploration. Also, some people have argued that “-ri” is Taino variation of “-ti”. There is evidence to support this.


In conclusion, -l, -sh, and -ti are super important to understand to use. However, they are not the only means of nominalizing concepts. (For example, look at the notes on k- and m-). Even so, they are indispensible if we are to understand Taino, Loko or any other Arawakan language. Therefore, we should be bold in using these words to express ourselves, expanding Taino and Arawakan concepts using these morphemes and others, before attempting to incorporate and Arawakanize European vocabulary. In closing:


kajiati ajiahu tayi daka,

teketa wasikafa lun bure Wakia.    



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