Pluralization of Nouns in Taino and Arawakan Languages

Pluralization in Taino generally follows two main rules: 1) Loko-type pluralization and 2) Igneri-type pluralization.

Loko-Type Plurals

1. Suffix of -No

As for Loko-type plurals, this rule will apply to words that are not derived with the suffixes of “-ti”.

In Loko, there are three main ways to make plurals. First, for nouns that describe human beings, the plural is done simply by adding the suffix “-no”. Therefore, we see the very word that the Lokono use to describe themselves uses this suffix (Loko + no). The obvious example in Taino is (Tai + no).

Other examples include the following:


Da’chilikichi, Da’chilikichino (My brother, my brothers); Wajili, Wajilino (man, men); Hiaro, Hiarono (Woman, Women)


hiñaru, hiñáruñu (Woman, Women); Chumagü, chumagünu (castellano, castellanos); itu, itunu (hermana, hermanas); adari, adárinu (novi@, novi@s)


Ínaru, Ínaruno (Woman,women); Makuri, makurino (foreigner, foreigners); Tiyawo, tiyawono (friend, friends).


Majáyülü, majáyünnu (young women, group of young women); jimóolu, jimóonnú (young girl, group of young girls)

Keep in mind, that because of pronunciation differences over the years, “-no” can also be seen as “-yo, -lo-, or ñu”, as well as other ways. Keep an eye out for this in all of the Arawakan family. Also, occasionally, the plural may be seen before the suffix –sh (Loko –chi), making the plural –nosh (-nochi). This ending is also used to emphasize familiarity and may not signify plurality. Keep a look out.

2. Suffix of –Be

In Loko, most non-human plurals are mad by adding –be. In Spanish, this would be pronounced “-Bi”. This includes animals and objects. In Taino, notice that one name for a savage individual is in fact “Bi”.

Examples would include:


Baka, bakabe (cow, cows); hime, himebe (fish); ada, adabe (tree, trees)


Bi, Bibi (savage, savages); mawey, maweybe (drum, drums); manati, manatibe (manatee, manatees)

3. Irregular: No suffix

The final rule is that, just as in English and other languages, some words do not have a plural to signify “more than one”.


Igneri-Type Plurals

This rule of pluralization applies to nouns and adjectives that are derived from the suffix “-Ti”. Keep in mind, “-Ti” can both nominalize and verbalize a concept. So for a complete treatment of the rule, see the post entitled “To Be or Not to Be in Taino”.

However, I will include the most pertinent examples in this note (pay attention to bold suffix):


Buhi: Medicine
Buhiti: “a doctor”
Buhito: “a female doctor”
Buhitino: “doctors”
Buhitina: “female doctors”
akútiha: to investigate/research
akútihati: an investigator/researcher
akútihatu: a female investigator/researcher
akútihatiñu: investigator/researchers
akúkihatiña: female investigators/researchers
In conclusion, the rules of plurals in Taino are fairly regular and similar to what is found in other languages in the family. Pluralization is one of the easier rules to learn, and by mastering them, we can easily add to our existing vocabulary. Feel free to post new words.

5 thoughts on “Pluralization of Nouns in Taino and Arawakan Languages

  1. Greetings… Good post. Another example of a plural in Taino using “no” is matinino which is like the Lokono form Mathinino meaning “without fathers or fatherless”… I am also happy you noted that some words do not need the suffix to be considered plural… In Loko for example some words that can be used in singular form as well as in plural are hime (fish), ada (tree), shibakaro (pebbles), kudibiu (birds)…

    Also, in our work we have seen the need to acknowledge the previously underestimated influence of Karina within the language as a significant number of loan words from the unrelated mainland Carib were incorporated into the language.

    This sometimes causes some exceptions to the general rules. An example is the word Bibi – (mother/grandmother)… Besides that word, it has been noted that in Taino “bi” is the sound for small as in Bieke translated by some to mean small land or small covering. Eke is a lokono word denoting covering, covered, or even container.

    Considering this, can you share how you translated “bi” to “savage”? I understand how you translated Makuris – from Makoris – the other community in Kiskeia (Dominican Republic)…

    • Mukaro! Interesting comments. The general rule of No/Bi for plural is on pages 8/9 of Bennett’s “28 Lessons in Loko Arawak”. I took the examples from page 9. I took “bibi” from chapter 10 in “Languages of the Pre-Columbian Antilles”. That section is a small English/Taino lexicon. The editor mentions that the authors rely on the original Spanish documents, so the question for me is “where did they get it?” The bibliography is excellent, but like most social science books, they rarely use pinpoint references.

      Bennett’s dictionary does mention “Bebe” (same word, as he is an English speaker. BTW, is he still alive?) as a term of affection for an elderly man. Of course, Bennet is a first-language Loko speaker and a scholar, so his statement is authoritative.

      The authors above are thorough, and I wouldn’t downgrade any of there research. However, it would not be the only time I found a mistake in an otherwise good book. On the other hand, if they read the source correct, and the source read the language correct, then it could still be reconciled as a question of accent, or of the same word being used for different things. For example, “Mono” between Mexican and Puerto Rican Spanish (monkey/crybaby). Or “jibaro” between Puerto Rican/Cuban Spanish (Countryman/wild). Or “Block” in US/UK English (a street/an apartment building).

      On the other hand, the matter could be one of accent as well. As Bennett himself makes a constant point (Bara=hair versus Bará for sea). Or, on the other hand, it could be the difference in accent of pronunciation altogether, meaning, are we saying (English pronunciation)– Beebee, behbeh, beebeh, behbee, etc. Even sometimes, we see a switch between ee and ay (as in “Hay”).

      My vote is tentatively to state that because “bi” is a nonhuman plural, it was taken colloquially to describe the noncivilized. Pluralizing it with another “bi” (as in “to be”). I say tentative until I sift through the new book I mentioned that is an anthology of those old journals. “Bibi” (bebe) on the watchlist!

      • As always, thank you for the response and your work. In the research that we are doing, we find that “Languages of the Pre-Columbian Antilles” is the least helpful as far as glossary as the writers have changed a number of accepted definitions to suit their hypothesis on origin. When I say accepted definitions I mean even some of the known or obvious cognates between Lokono and Taino.

        They state in the very beginning of the work that “”the present volume is oriented toward analysis of language forms not for their own sake but, instead, as a pragmatic tool toward the elucidation of the physical, ethnic, and linguistic origins of their users.”

        I have had the honor to meet Father Bennett while in Guyana. I also have copies of his precedent-setting works as well. On pg. 7 of his “An Arawak-English Dictionary” he noted that “bebe” is a term of respect used when addressing an older person. Bennett does not specify male or female there. This fits with the definition of “Bibi” as mother/grandmother. In Karina “Pipi” is used for grandmother. On pg. 26 of the “28 Lessons” book Bennett also notes bebe as “my dear” for either sex.

        When I last communicated with Bennett he was in poor health and had suffered a debilitating stroke. I have heard rumor recently that he has passed on but I have not confirmed as yet. He was a gentleman indeed. I will let you know when I hear back on this.

        So I agree that ‘be’ (bee) or rather “bi” as word final is correct for non-human plural. There is no debate there.

        What I am stating is that the particular term “Bibi” is, in my view, an anomaly as it is an incorporation from mainland Karina. Bibi is long accepted as Mother in the language and is a common, affectionate “nickname” for females in Boriken.

      • This is why I think we can speak this language one day. We have to keep up these exchanges. Please keep me informed as to Bennett. And keep me informed as to TCTP research so I can stay on track. Subjects for the next posts should be Particles and Prepositions, Numbers and Superlatives, and word Order and Agreement. If you have anything for me, it will be appreciated. Also, I am want to put up a references tab, if you have any books that you think you be on my reading list, please let me know.

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