Expressing Abstract Concepts in Taino: -Hu, -Wa, -Ya, and -Ni

This note is concerning abstract concepts in Taino, the importance of which cannot be ignored. Fortunately, Arawakan language morphology is regular (although, pronunciation often is not). The use of these suffixes concords almost perfectly across the Arawakan dialects. However, because of its elaborate rules of inflection, Wayuu words are not instructive in such a short note. Therefore, Wayuu examples are left out in this note.

The Suffix -hu*

The suffix -hu is used for abstract concepts in Loko, Taino, and sometimes in Wayuu. However, as Bennet confirms in his Loko/English dictionary, there are thousands of examples. The use of the suffix is simple, merely add it to the base of a verb or an adjective, and you will have a concept associated with that word. It can also be inflected with the “owa”-type suffixes to yield several -hu-type words from the same root. Some are as follows: Buhitihu (Taino: Shamanism. From Buhiti: Shaman); Ajiahu (Loko/Taino: Speech. From Ajia: To Talk); Aiyahu (Loko: Weeping (the act of). From Aiya: To weep). There are thousands of more examples; -hu is of great utility in deriving more words from our existing Taino vocabulary. Such as maybe, “yamonkahu” or “yamonkohe” (meaning “double” or  “duality”. From “yamonko” (two) and “-hu”).

The Suffix -wa

The suffix of -wa is affixed to nouns and adjectives in order to express descriptive words. So far, I have not found this suffix expressed in order Arawakan dialects. Some English equivalents could include  -ly, -al, -ive, or -y in words such as “heavenly”, “ephemeral”, “adhesive”, or “sticky”. Taino examples include “tureiwa (heavenly or celestial)” and “neibowa (adhesive or sticky)”. As mentioned in another note, there is often little distinction between nouns, adjective, and adverbs in Taino; so how is it that we distinguish between the use of -ti and of -wa? In short, -wa is not nominalized, unlike -ti. Take for example the use of the Spanish words delagado and delgadez. We could say 1) Es flaco or 2) Es el flaco.  We could not say, “El es delgadez”, or “El es la delgadez.” Similarly, in Taino we could say, 1) “Kaneiboti” (“It is a sticky thing ” and “the sticky stuff”); 2) “Neiboti tora” (“It is a sticky thing”); or 3) “Neibowa tora” (“It is sticky.”). But we would not nominalize the word and say “Kaneibowa” (“It is a sticky.”). One writer describes -wa as meaning “in the state of”. Therefore, we could use it in similar ways as the present participle, but it is not a participle.

The Suffix -ya

While the suffix -ya exists in other Arawakan dialects, I have not found it to be used in the same way as in Taino. In Taino, -ya is a nominalizer, but it has an abstract, special purpose. The suffix demonstrates the intrinsic nature of an object, so it is because, well, it is, rather than because of its own action. For example, “Abu” means “a knot or a bind” (often seen as “Kabu” (It is tied)).** In its inflected -ya form we have “Kabuya”, or “rope”, which is the very thing necessary to make knots. Another example is “Bori”, most often translated wrongly as “worker”. It is a name indicating that the person is a helpful and good individual.*** Then we have “Boriya”, which is also erroneously translated as “worker” or “servant”. “Boriya” is also a term of goodness, meaning that “Bori” is part of that individual’s station; he helps, he makes the world run smoothly and easily for the people, he provides, and he plays his part. So whilst “Bori”, is given to an individual, “Boriya” is a station or calling necessary for any community to have a good life.

The Suffix -ni

I have not found the use of -ni in Taino; however, I include it because of its extensive use in Gari/Karifuna (Literally thousands of words).  It is used in essentially the same way as -hu in Loko, and they share many words whose only difference is the replacement of -hu with -ni. I am unsure whether -ni comes from either the language’s Galibi influence, or from its Igneri influence, which it shares with Taino. It seems to come from the latter, so for that reason I advocate adopting the use of -ni, and adopting its useful vocabulary from Gari/Karifuna, in order to add variety to the Taino language, as well as to encourage the use of ancient Igneri.**** Furthermore, it is predictable that words from Gari/Karifuna will contribute to Taino once it becomes spoken, so it is vital to understand the use of a suffix of such utility.


Dadan~kehui Hun datiyawonash Daka. I hope this note is helpful. These are already rules, for the most part, that we already know–so let’s start to use them and never resort to making up mindless sounds in order to restore the Antilles language. For example, we know “hekiti” means the number “1” in Taino. Therefore, based on this note, there is no problem with me saying “heketiwa” (heketi + wa), in order to mean “primarily”, or “firstly” or, better yet, “ancient”. Maybe no Taino ever said this word, but it is supported by the rules of Taino, so it is not my mindless creation. It is a Taino word just as “Skypear” became a Spanish word from the “Skype” (Or just as “bootylicious” became an English word, lamentably 😐 ). So we can continue adding to our vocabulary from what we already know–the possibilities are great! But one catch–state your proof; if you have none, then state the rule and the logic that you used to derive a term. Feel free to list words on comments below.


* Also pronounced as -hi or -he, like many Arawakan morphemes, pronunciation varies depending on the other letters in the sentence, as well as the accent of the speaker. It makes the languages difficult to learn for outsiders, but also gives it its richness and smooth sound. I intend to tackle this issue in a note on orthography, and one reason why I advocate the use of the Ajami script is because it will allow for differences in accent where the vowelar sound is of secondary importance.

** “Apu” and “Kapu”, respecively, in Wayuu.

*** According to Mr. William Bennett in his dictionary of Loko, “Budi” is a term of love and respect for older men, meaning “brother”. Hundreds, if not thousands of Arawakan words are written interchangeably with “u” or “o”, as the “o” is pronounced softly in many words. Also, Mr. Bennett is an English speaker, while the spelling “Bori” is of Spanish derivation. Given that they are phonetically indistinct, and their uses concord, it is apparent that Bori and Budi are indeed the same word. Of course, in 2011, changing of the spelling of Bori to, say, “Bodi” or “Buri” would meet with no success and might provoke violent rage against such an unmindful reformist.

**** Note that Igneri, which means “men”, is a common ancestor of both the Taino and Gari/Karifuna. The ending -ri is apparent. Recall that -ri is a morpheme that appears in Taino and is similar in use to other nominalizers (-l, -ti).


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