To Be or Not to Be in Taino

One of the most important words of any language is the one that describes state. In English “to be”, in Spanish “Ser and Estar”, in Arabic “Kan”, and so on and so forth. Almost every Taino speaker knows that the verb “to be” in Taino is Ka, as in Loko. However, there are actually several ways of expressing this concept in Taino.

Use of Ka and Omission of Ka

In Loko, the verb Ka is no always used. In fact, sometimes it is used and omitted in opposites. For example, in Loko, “Sakwa da (I am well)” versus “In aboa ka de (I am ill)”. Taino is no different, and it appears from the data that the copula is rarely necessary if at all. I have two theories for this. The first is that the pronouns in Taino evolved to include the copula, thus making use of Ka redundant (e.g. “Daka“).

The second reason is that “ti”, a suffix found at the end of many adjectives, is actually a form of the verb “to be”. In conclusion, in Taino, Ka is used with nouns that are what I will call “strong based”, meaning that they are not derived by use of “ti”. Examples would be “kasike”, “dokoel”, and “bodi”. Lastly, in keeping with the use in Loko, if I were to use Ka rather than omit it, I would use the accusative pronoun in order to avoid redundancy. (ie “Ka de” rather than “Ka daka”) (“Be me” rather than “Be I”).

Description with Adjectives

As described in a previous post, one of the strongest links that Taino and Garifuna have, which is absent in the other languages in the family, is use of the phoneme “ti”. However, while “ti” performs the functions named in the previous post, it is also a form of the word “to be”. As the rule goes in Garifuna, “ti” is conjugated as follows per this example:

iñu:                   Tall
iñutina:          I am tall
iñutibu:         You are tall
iñuti:               He is tall
iñutu:              She is tall
iñutiü:            You all are tall
iñutiwa:         We are tall
iñutiñu:         They (men) are tall
iñutiña:          They (women) are tall
Compare to how we would conjugate in Taino:
Buhi:                 Medicine
Buhitida:         I am a doctor
Buhitibu:        You are a doctor
Buhitihu:       You all are doctors
Buhiti:              He is a doctor (or “a doctor”)
Buhito:             She is a doctor (or “a female doctor”)
Buhitiwa:       We are doctors
Buhitino:        They (men) are doctors (or “doctors”)
Buhitina:         They (women) are doctors (or “female doctors”)
“Ti” is used in this manner in 4 instances: 1) In order to serve as a copula for adjectives (ie I am (tall, fat, tired, well, etc); 2) Converting substantives and nouns into adjectives (as in the Taino example above); 3) Converting verbs into adjectives (such as ajia (to talk) and ajiati (speaker); and 4) converting adverbs into adjectives (as in the Garifuna example above).
Lastly, in Taino at least, it appears that “ti” can be omitted at times and conjugated with “ka”. Using the example above: Buhi (medicine) and Buhike (Doctor) (Buhike daka, I am a doctor; Buhike shi, He is a doctor). Now you are probably asking “how do you say: It is medicine”. It appears that it would be determined by context and intonation. I would say either: “kabuhi” or ” buhi ka” (Both “It is medicine”), or just by omitting the copula to avoid confusion (“Buhi tora” literally “Medicine it”). On the other hand, it does not sound wrong to say Buhiti daka or Buhiti ka de (I am a doctor (male)). It makes good sense, and it comports with how Taino speakers think. However, we would not be redundant and say Buhitida daka or Buhitida ka de.
Lastly, neither Ka nor Ti are conjugated as other verbs in Taino. This is the same in Loko with some exceptions for the gerund, which I hope to address later. We determine the tense by context and describing words such as (then, back then, on this day, soon, not long ago, etc.). A needed project will be to create a standard list of these words in order to make speaking and writing standard for us. (In the works God Willing :))



One thought on “To Be or Not to Be in Taino

  1. Pingback: Pluralization of Nouns in Taino and Arawakan Languages « Notes on the Taino Language

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