Four Parts of Arawakan Speech

In order to analyze the Taino Language, it is necessary to understand the four basic parts of Arawakan speech. While they have different names according to different writers, the definitions are the same. For purposes of this post, I shall call them: 1) Nominals; 2) Verbals; 3) Postpositions; and 4) Functors.


Nominals are those words that are classified as nouns in their most basic form. They can serve as the subject of a sentence or the object of a verb. They can be inflected for number or possession, but not for tense, perspective, or position. One example is “ako”, also seen spelled as “aku”. This means “eye” and is not a verb, though it could potentially be verbalized by the addition of an appropriate suffix. So, we would not say, “Dakobo” (I am eyeing), but we would have to verbalize the base of “ako”. (Dakoda, “I stare” or “I peer” perhaps).


Verbals are those words that are verbs in their most basic form. In other words, in order to be classified as nouns, they must have an added prefix or suffix. These words may serve as a predicate of a sentence, and they may be inflected for tense, perspective, or position, but not for number or possession. The classic example is “Sika”, which by itself expresses the verb “give”, but not the noun of “giving” or “gift”. Therefore, we would not say “to sika”, (literally “the give). Instead we would have to nominalize “sika” with an appropriate suffix or prefix. Most adjectives will fall into this category because they can serve as a predicate and can be conjugated for tense. For example, “Sinato wadokoel” and “Sinatofa wadokoel.” (Our grandfather is upset; Our grandfatherwill beupset).


While in English we have prepositions, the norm in Arawakan languages is that these types of words describing position come after the object that it attaches to. While these words can be conjugated for tense, they cannot serve as the predicate of a sentence. For example, “Domafa Isbani”, (I will be with Isbani), but “Omafa Isbani” means nothing, unless it is understood in reply to a question, which in that case should just be “Oma Isbani.”


Functors are words that can neither serve as a subject or predicate, nor can they be conjugated. They cannot be inflected for number, tense, perspective, etc. These words cannot even receive prefixes or suffixes, in stark contrast to most Taino words. These are words that are almost in particle form, such as definite and indefinite articles, conjunctions, and certain adverbs. For example, words for “no” (Yaa, Uuwa).

In conclusion, it is important to understand the classification of any base-word because it affects its morphology. For example, we word not add the suffix “da” to “sika” in order to verbalize it because that would be a bit redundant as “da” is used to verbalize nouns. (Imagine adding an “ar” to the verb “ser” in Spanish, “Serear”). Also, keep in mind that some words are both Nominals and Verbals, and this was mentioned in another post.




2 thoughts on “Four Parts of Arawakan Speech

  1. Pingback: Bounded versus Unbounded Verb « Notes on the Taino Language

  2. Pingback: Verb Creation in Taino and Arawakan Languages « Notes on the Taino Language

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