About

Hello Taino language enthusiasts! I am El Isbani, a human, Muslim, academic, Boricua, and language advocate. I hope to share with the other lovers of the Taino language my chronicling and advancing of the spoken and written Taino language. Because there are so many blogs and online dictionaries on Taino vocabulary, I hope to focus on my findings concerning grammar and my musings on a writing system. Also, I hope to compile an online bibliography on handy references. I hope others will enjoy, benefit, disagree, and contribute.

Peace,

Isbani

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58 thoughts on “About

  1. Thanks for your work..it means a lot for people like me interested in our forgotten language.

    Good luck with your research!

    Milton (a Quisqueyan neighbor) 😉

    • I’m happy every time that I hear someone has an interest in the language. Most people are content to leave it buried, which is fine, but the main purpose of the blog is to let every body know that it does not have to be. Haven’t posted in a while, feel free to post a question or subject that you think needs to be addressed. Peace.

  2. Hello Isbani,

    I am learning Berbice Dutch and would like to incorporate more Arawak words because there are only about two thousand words attested and Berbice Dutch already has a high percentage of Arawak words in it.

    • Much success to you. I’ve never heard of this language until now! Just Wiki’d it. Well, if you want to get more words, I’d suggest “Pet, Willem Jan Agricola, Lokono Dian, The Arawak Language of Suriname: A Sketch of its Grammatical Structure and Lexicon” for two reasons. The first is that Arawakan languages are sonically diverse, as you can tell from that so many of them look the same on paper and sound much different. The second reason relates to the first, that in the language of Loko, the dialects on each side of the Courantyne River separating Guyana and Suriname are a bit different, assigning different connotations to the same words. This book is on the Suriname dialect.

  3. Berbice Dutch has less phonemes than Arawakan languages have and for that the words got simplified. I should be careful and not take to many of them because they couldn’t be distinguished after the sound changes.

    My blog is about plans for houses for mini language revivals, which means that the language would only be spoken in and around one house and visitors could take a look at he languages and the chosen language would be used in every days live. Inhabitants should be interested in linguistics but would not need to be fluent speakers and they can change to another house to try another language. I want to show that it can work with any language.

    Thank you for suggesting a book and answering so quickly.

  4. Today I was thinking about how far the project is. Some of my friends help me making plans and I ask them what there opinion is about this and that. About three or for would probably participate and live there or nearby.

    The houses should be self sufficient, because then one could use the house’s language the whole day. Besides working in the garden we keep comping up with other activities like making paper and inventing songs and synchronising cartoons.

    Not everything has got to do much with language and language learning and we hope people will see the opportunity for using there special interests.

    • Wow! Thanks for contacting me Dr. Melendez. I guess I’ll write back to the ourtainoland address. Sounds like an awesome idea. I haven’t posted in ages. I read, but I have been working on a chart that won’t be publishable even for a blog for a while. I’ll be happy to help on another project as I can.

  5. Hello, I am doing research for a piece of fiction writing, and cannot locate a definitive answer to this question — What is the Arawak Taino phrasing that would have been used for “Thank you” in the late 1400s? Please let me know if you can point me in the right direction. Many thanks!

  6. Somebody found me who wants to learn Berbice Dutch badly. This way I am motivated to do more for the revival project too. He is learning very much and keeps asking me for sentences and words. I told him that I want to keep up using Arawak names for plants and animals. Sooner or later I will need an Arawak dictionary to learn more of them. The book I use does have word lists, but no exact descriptions.

  7. Hello, Isbani. I am a Dominican trying to find some words in Taino. Me and my friends are starting a company and we’re trying to base our identity on Taino culture because we are all dominicans. My email is serulleelias06@gmail.com, if it is not too much bother I would love to ask you a few things via email. Anyhow, I love your blog and it’s proven really interesting in what I’ve read. Hope you keep on doing this.

  8. Hello,

    Came across your great site while doing research on the word ‘Batabano’.
    Do you have any information on the translation, origins or history of the name of the town Batabano, or Gulf of Batabano, Cuba? From early 1800’s Caymanian people have a history of migrating to and fro and settling on the Isle a Pines [Isla de la Juventud] so therefore a familiarity with Batabano, Cuba. In Grand Cayman there is also an area and Carnival named ‘Batabano’. I have suspected the word to be Taino in origin and not Spanish. It is said the word means “turtle tracks’. I would be grateful for any information you can share on this subject that sheds light on this claim.

    Also the correct Taino spelling of ‘Caiman’ if you can?

    Thanks in advance,

    Cayman Islands National Museum

    • Apologies for the late reply. I haven’t been researching for a while, and have folks I said I’d check into things for going back for a few months now, but I will eventually get to all questions. As Caiman, since the Taino were unlettered and there is no real convention, I say Caiman or Cayman is fine. I prefer Caiman.

  9. The Arawak dictionary says for ‘caiman ‘kayakothi’, ‘kayokothi’, ‘kaikothi’ and ‘arharhâ’ and ‘durhudurhu’. I couldn’t find ‘Batabano’.

    • I’ve thought about this before. It could would with other Arawakan languages, but from the Taino language standpoint, it seems premature because it’s not spoken. The speakers right now are elementary age and not going to write and speak strictly according to the rules the adults write–they need to teach us pretty soon.

  10. Are you waiting until the children speak Taino well because their language would be more natural than the language of adult learners? I thought about that because used and claimed language would defer anyway one could still work on reconstructed versions while most people are using what they are able to speak. More versions would even make the languages richer but maybe introducing a standard so early could cause trouble.

    • Just seems like, yes I have enough knowledge of morphology to write and to list language principals and address neologisms, but due to the separateness we rarely understand what the other writes without a translation to look at and say “ohhhh, I see.” Now, the young people that use the language here in there in there summer camps and what not, they will be the masters and maybe the stuff like this blog and others will help them take it to the next level. Though, if you start a wiki, I’d contribute with some Taino/English articles; perhaps each page could have the same content in Berbice Dutch, Taino, Englsih, Spanish, etc in very brief essays for comparison. Speaking exercises are very useful.

  11. On my blog I have three short fables I translated into Negerhollands, the Negro Dutch from the Virgin Islands. I made a translation of one of them into Berbice Dutch today but it may need some corrections. The Negerhollands standard language is well documented but words for the natural world are lacking. As Berbice Dutch here got words from Arawak Negerhollands could be given words from Taíno but maybe I better start using Virgin Islands English instead which would make it easier for the people who are learning. As a first article I could write about Taíno and its revival.

  12. About Taíno I wrote that it is an amerindian language from the Caribbean islands, that it died in colonial times but that people slowly begin to talk it again. This is short for an article but you can tell me what you would like me to include else.

  13. I too have been trying to find a concise place to find Taíno terms/grammar, as I write a lot of stories and recently I’ve attempted to incorporate my Borinken heritageinto the settings and environment, as well as using some Taíno mythology.
    There’s not a whole lot of information out there especially on conjunctions (as, of, about, like, and, ect..) as well as a somewhat concise Dictionary of terms, which is extremely helpful to authors to look upon for possible usage in novels.

    For a few years now I’ve worked on a Puerto Rican Spanish/Taíno Dictionary, where I’ve gone through the Internet and collected words, sentences and grammar specific to Puerto Rico, as well as watched YouTube videos of Spanish speaking people, and documenting phrases, expressions and words which my family uses on a daily basis since I’m first generation born in thestates and Spanish is my second language.
    Anyway, your site has always been very useful to me. I hope you continue your work, as if I’ve had access to some resources I would also be contributing. I work a lot on the Ancient Egyptian Language, andpretty mmuch have come up with a way of reconstructing the Ancient Egyptian Language, so it’s cool looking at this.
    Thanks for your work and insight.
    By the way if you know how to say “Fountain of Youth” in Taíno, I would be abliged, I doubt anyone would know this as I can’t find the word for fountain (or puente) or juventud (youth) anywhere, not even in Garufina, Loko, Wayuu or Carib.

    • Thanks for the comment. You know, with words like that you have to find an analogous term to “fountain” because they never really had any. So, a word for “spring”, “pool”, or “pond”, etc. would suffice, or by using that word and adding some inflection you would have a neologism, which I consider legitimate. Somehow, I find myself pretty dictionary-less nowadays, but I plan on fixing that. Hopefully I can contribute then, and if you ever want to share your stories with Taino words on your work on Ancient Egyptian on this site, do not be shy to post links in the comments.

    • Joven: Maweiyan Garifuna (adjective);
      Wayuu: Joven (Masculine Noun) Jima’ai; (Feminine Noun) Majayülü. Fuente: Ekii

      So maybe in Wayuu: Jima’ai Ekii (???). Note sure.

      • Thank you kindly (-:
        I also searched for the possible word/phrase in Taíno last night.
        I found several words in Taíno, for example :

        Guaili = niño, pequeño infant
        Mini = fuente o quebrada de agua (ni – agua)
        Calichi – fuente de la montaña alta

        So, also using your grammar notes I would assume ‘fuente de juventud ” would be something like
        ” mini guaili + (possible suffix)”

        Thanks for your quick response. In reference to adding a link to Ancient Egyptian or Puerto Rican Spanish grammar, I have yet to organize the research cohesively and edit out possible error. One dday I will organize my research and share it.

        Also, excuse any spelling errors in this comment or above comment, I’m on an android device and it has a mind of it’s own.

  14. Only a few days ago I thought I should have somebody to take the Egyptian part of the general language revival wiki I am planing. It is a rare coincidence you comment here. What are you doing about the vowels? Which Egyptian era do yo prefer?

    • I have attempted to base a lot of reconstruction within the Classic/Middle Egyptian Era.
      Personally, I believe, majorily speaking the 3 vowels (a, i, u) were the tools used originally to indicate vowels but (e, the schwa – upside down a, and o were used as alophomes in certain syllable positions colloquially).

      I definitely thought about doing a separate Ancient Egyptian language Grammar in Wikipedia using hypothesized-reconstruced examples and renaming some of the grammatical functions to better associate Middle Egyptian with Coptic and to simplify grammar.

      I am stuck on a few verb forms which are extremely difficult to reconstruct though (those utilizing Coptic ‘H’ which I can’t seem to figure out how this vowel came into being or what it originally represented. So I’m at a standstill with a few verb reconstructions and some words with the Coptic vowel ‘H’).

  15. In the Gothic revival they mostly try to write something very similar to what is attested and not to make mistakes because they would become very difficult to correct. Modern Hebrew suffers from this. Others are trying to make versions of Gothic how it could be if it would have been spoken until now. For me both is interesting.

    Is Egyptian like Arabic in the way that the word class can be changed if you fill in the vowels in different places?

    On this page you can find an article about traditional Coptic pronunciation. I am interested in your theories but I don’t know enough to have opinions myself. Do you have a blog on your own?
    https://coptist.wordpress.com

    • What does modern Hebrew suffer from? Do you mean the revival, in terms of not being 100% sure what some of the original sounds were?

      Egyptian does have vowel patterning like Arabic and Hebrew, but it’s not near as intricate and sophisticated and it tends to be restricted and limited to mostly verb forms. The Egyptologists exaggerate the amount of vowel patterning templates (which leads to “too many verb forms”) because they rely too heavily on Arabic to fill in information which they can’t explain, but that’s just my opinion, I’m not an expert.

      I don’t have a blog, but I would want nothing more to share my research and possibly have others add on to it and expand on it.

  16. Hebrew was revived a great part by people who did not know so much about it. The pronunciation is Spanish and Portuguese but for me that doesn’t matter. I read that colloquial modern Hebrew is partly based on a Hebrew pidgin spoken by early settlers. So it is quite mixed. Small revival groups can, if they want, base their affords more linguistically.

    You could make a guest post on my blog. It is about languages and language revivals. You could even translate one of my posts. I would be happy about it.

  17. I made a deal with a soft drink manufacturer that they will put word lists from revived and endangered languages together with pictures on the bottles. If you want to participate I will tell you which words are needed.

  18. I am learning how to draw and paint, discussing Germanic languages in a chat and enjoying summer. I will try to draw a picture for each language where everything got its name written on it. About twenty more words with translations would be just spread here and there on the lable. But it will only be on the inner side so that you can look at it when you emptied the bottle. The words could be something like that: cassava, cat, cook, cotton, dog, drink, eagle, eat, go, glass, gold, human, iron, moon, no, oil, quick, the phrase for ‘it’s raining’, say, sour, sugar, sun, sweet, swim, water, wood, word and yes. We also need some plants and animal typical to your region and some cultural items.

    • Figured it’s better to start sending you stuff as I think of it rather than wait until I make my lists. I was inviting paritcipation from readers, but haven’t heard back. Here’s my first 9 so you can draw, more to come very soon!

      Cassava=Yuca;
      Bread (partiuclarly cassava bread)=Casabi;
      Heavens, space:Turey;
      Pepper: Ahi;
      Aon: Dog;
      Ingeri: Man, human
      Bohio: House
      Iguana= Iguana
      Kokuyo= Lightening bug

  19. Hi there!

    This seems like the most comprehensible, or perhaps, the only one truly initiative of “reconstructing” the taino language with grammar et all,at least, the only was I could find. Neat, very neat.

    I would really like to enjoy all the work done on this website already, but seems the navigation on the site is kind of arbitrary and messy? well, I myself, dont know where it properly starts. Is it a collection of articles with no specific order? I cant find a way of displaying all articles in a chronological order in order to further comprehend all the work done from this site, and to kind of be “up to date”, or is there a “learning the language” list of article in progressive order?

    Also, what I really would like to know is the status of this initiative. So far, I understand, that due to taino’s close ties with the wayuu and loko languages, you seem to use them for reference but to which exten and with what criteria? (which seems to be the only viable option as I see) Is it like a mixture of everything of the language that survived plus filling gaps with hints and actual grammatical rules of closely related dialects?

    I would like to know a bit more, if you (El Isbani) could direct me in the right path for knowing more about all this, essentially saving time and energy, and avoiding researching whats already researched, that would also be neat. My Spanish is native, in case you prefer to speak in it.

    I wish to learn more about the taino language.

    Thanks!

    • Yeah the blog could use a lot of work. I’ve been pretty much inactive the last two or three years and wouldn’t have much motivation except stats showing that lots of folks still read this. I posted one lesson, and made a second, but never posted it. That was for a cool program in PR where young kids were learning about their indigenous heritage. We’re far from done, one of reasons I slowed on the blog was work on a dictionary containing the 5000 most frequently used words in any language along with my etymology. I’ve barely made a dent. The best place for you to start in my opinion, is get a decent understanding of Loko, because that’s to Arawak languages almost what Latin is to Spanish. Check out my bibliography for a reading list on that, but start with “28 Lessons by John Peter Bennett”. After that, all the various Taino dictionaries will make more sense. Thanks for the comment and feel free to engage more.

  20. I may go my way into knowing more of the loko people, but as the latin comparison, seems not so useful, but I see why you kind of recommended it, at least in romance languages, grammar logic is consistent.

    I read about the idea of wayuu and taino being a bit more alike among the Arawak language, wouldn read a bit more about this be better than loko?

    Also, would you be able to express how “complex” taino sentences can be constructed, based on solid information and based on what you added to it? I cant say i will start studying it now, but I feel intrigued to know more about it.

    Thanks for the response

    • Start with that book 28 Lessons, trust me. Between the five Arawakan languages I’ve studied, each one has more in common with Lokono than the other. I heard the same about Wayuu, and used to repeat that statement, but after my readings, I now take the opinion that Taino is most like Loko and Karifuna (that is to say the Arawakan aspect of Karifuna); so much so that I imagine that they would’ve understood each other very much. As for more complex sentence structure, I’ll try to make a blog about it, so get subscribed😁. Check out my bibliography page, and read up. Several of those books are available for free on PDF.

    • The benefit of learning Wayuu is there’s a huge community of speakers in Colombia. But I no longer see that as the most analogous to Taino. But it’s a really cool language. They all sound very beautiful, and you can hear the Caribbean in each one.

  21. El Isbani, thanks for the neat guidance, hopefully that interaction would help other visitors too. Already subscribed, I hope you find your motivation or time to continue this.

  22. Is there already an orthography to which all the words could be adapted? I would like to write ‘kasabi’ instead of ‘casabi’ because ‘kokuyo’ has ‘k’ too.

    • I like ‘kasabi’ personally, because I like to use C for another sound. I just used the spelling ‘casabi’ because it’s the commonly used spelling. If you have a better design for the word ‘kasabi’, I’m fine with that.

    • No, no need. I suppose that most people interested are Spanish speakers, so occasionally they’ll put accents for clarity, but I wouldn’t say that there is a need. I experimented with using double vowels for length (aa, ee, uu, etc), but it never caught on.

  23. The Arawak orthography I know uses circumflex to mark long vowels but stress is unmarked. The stress in Arawak depends on if you say the word on its own or in a sentence. I don’t understand how it works.

    • Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. But Taino never made it to the level of having grammars written by high-level speakers. So the majority of people that read it recognize words according to the way the Spaniards recorded the words.

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