Taino Phonemes and Orthography

UPDATE: 11/23/2012: I mentioned before (see below) that I wanted to avoid using double and triple letter combinations as much as possible. One of the primary reasons is to avoid confusion where a diphthong or triphthong was not to be pronounced. I realized that this is not ideal (I would spell words like “wakia” as “wakiya” and “bohio” as “bo’iyo”. After getting feedback, and consulting the book “Cuba Indigena”, I realized that this is not the best route. First, the diphthongs and triphthongs are readily known, according to “Cuba Indigena”, a book written over a hundred years ago. So for a word like “wakia”, there should be no confusion because “ia” is not a a Taino diphthong. So, I decided to use the apostrophe where a diphthong could occur, but does not.

This page is intended to show how I intend to write Taino words on this blog as of April 2012. It is based mostly on the Roman alphabet.

I do not favor the Roman alphabet, but it does have its advantage in that most people interested in the language are familiar with it. It is not intended as an authority apart from this blog. My goal is to make the writing as simple, avoiding special characters and double or triple letter combinations as much as possible.

I shall add and subtract to this page as issues arise. When using a spelling based on this orthography, I shall try to note other known spellings. Where possible, I conformed to Loko and Garifuna orthography.

Consonants

  1. B : As in English and Spanish.
  2. C : “Ch”, as in English and Spanish.
  3. D: As in English and Spanish, and also for the medial “R” in Spanish.
  4. F: As in English and Spanish.
  5. G: “Ng” in English or ” Ñ” in Spanish.
  6. H: As in English.
  7. K: As in English, and sometimes “G” as in English.
  8. J: As in English.
  9. L: As in English and Spanish. Traditionally had a thick pronunciation that could be confused with a “Ya” sound.
  10. M: As in English and Spanish.
  11. N: As in English and Spanish.
  12. Q: “Kw” in Loko or “Qu” as in English. Expressed as “Gua” in Spanish and K/Garifuna.
  13. R: As in English or Spanish.
  14. S: As in English or Spanish.
  15. T: As in English or Spanish.
  16. W: As in English.
  17. X: “Sh” as in English or Medieval Spanish.
  18. Y: As the consonant in English.
  19. ‘ (apostrophe): The glottal stop.

Vowels

  1. A : As in Spanish and the English short-form vowel.
  2. E : As in Spanish and the English short-form vowel.
  3. I : As in Spanish and the English long-form vowel “E”.
  4. O : As in Spanish and the English long-form vowel.
  5. U : As in Spanish and the English long-form vowel.
  6. V : As in the English short-form vowel “U”.

Long vowels or accented vowels are simply represented by a double vowel. I.e., “aa, ee, ii, oo, uu, vv”.

Remember that sometimes vowels act as consonants as well. In the words “apple” and “agua”, the first “A” is acting as a consonant. When this is the case in the first syllable of a word, there will be no extra mark. However, when this is the case in apart from the first syllable, then an apostrophe (‘) will be  used before the vowel.

Diphthongs

  1. Ai : As in the long form “I” in English.
  2. Ao : As in “Ow” (That hurt).
  3. Ei : As in the long form “A” in English, “Ey” in Spanish.
  4. Ie :
  5. Iu :
  6. Oa :
  7. Ui : As in the town of “Camuy” in Puerto Rico.
  8. Uo :

Long and stress diphthongs shall be written with an extra second vowel. I.e.,  “Aii, Aoo, Eii, Iee, Uoo”.

Triphthongs

There are several triphthongs common in K/Garifuna. They are “uai, uaü, iei”. It seems premature to add them on to the page as of today because I have not encountered a word that uses such a combination of letters. Stay tuned.

11 thoughts on “Taino Phonemes and Orthography

    • They’re all attested in the language. In the old documents though, you have letters like “c” and “x”; however, which have different sounds depending where the writer is coming from (c, ch, h, sh, etc). When that arises, I would approach it by looking at similar words in related languages.

  1. I think those are borrowings. I don’t think /f/ is native to Taino. I would need to research more to know where those are borrowed from, perhaps ‘fulesi’ is ultimately from English.

  2. i just checked the Wayuu and Garifuna dictionaries–I didn’t find an /f/ word (pun intended) in Wayuu, but there are a bunch in Garifuna. I have to check my book for the meaning, but the suffix /fa/ is definitely a conjugation in Loko, which Taino is most similar to.

  3. The nineteenth century Loko dictionary edited by Theophilus Schumann prefers /p/ for /f/. The only words spelled with are the three loans ‘flauta’, ‘fortalíssa’ and ‘fridaka’. They wrote the future suffix as ‘pa’.

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