Arawakan languages

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The Arawakan languages are an indigenous language family of South America and the Caribbean.

Originally the name Arawak belonged exclusively to a powerful tribe in Guyana and Surinam. The tribe became allies of the Spanish because they traditionally were enemies of the Carib groups with whom the Spanish were at war. There are older descriptions of the Arawak language and it is still spoken in Surinam.

The languages called Arawakan or Maipuran were originally recognized as a separate group in the late nineteenth century. Almost all the languages now called Arawakan share a first-person singular prefix nu-, but Arawak proper has ta-. Other commonalities include a second-person singular pi-, relative ka-, and negative ma-. In recent years this core family of undoubtedly related languages has been renamed Maipuran by North American taxonomists, to distinguish it from a larger and hypothetical phylum also called Arawakan.

The Arawakan languages are spoken over a large swath of territory, from the eastern slopes of the central Andes Mountains in Peru and Bolivia, across the Amazon basin of Brazil, southward into Paraguay and northward into to Surinam, Guyana, Venezuela, and Colombia on the northern coast of South America.

Taíno, commonly called Island Arawak, was spoken on the Caribbean islands of Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. All the descendents of Taíno speakers now speak English or Spanish. The Taíno language has been very poorly preserved, but its membership in the Arawakan family is generally accepted. Its closest relative among the better attested Arawakan languages seems to be the Goajiro language, spoken in Colombia. It has been suggested that the Goajiro are descended from Taíno refugees, but the theory seems impossible to prove or disprove.

The Carib people (after whom the Caribbean was named) formerly lived throughout the Lesser Antilles. In the seventeenth century, the language of the Island Carib was described by European missionaries as two separate unrelated languages — one spoken by the men of the society and the other by the women. The language spoken by the men was a language of the Carib family very similar to the Galibi language spoken in what later became French Guyana. The language spoken by the woman belonged to the Arawakan language family, but was not closely related to the Taíno language or to the Arawak language proper. Rather it resembles, although not too closely, the languages of the Llanos de Orinoco such as Achagua. One might conclude, though there is a minimum of supporting evidence, that the Carib language was first spoken in eastern Venezuela and that, because the dual language arrangement was unstable and cannot have been very old, the Carib speakers had only recently moved into the lesser Antilles.

The Island Carib language is now extinct, although Caribs still live on Dominica. Garífuna (or Black Carib), which is thought to have about 190,000 speakers, is spoken on the north coast of Honduras and in Belize, by the descendants of Caribs and escaped slaves of African descent brought from Saint Vincent to the mainland in 1796. The Garifuna language continues the women's language of the Island Carib and only a few traces remain of the men's speech.

Internal classification remains controversial. Few Arawakan languages are well attested, and there are considerable difficulties in distinguishing geneological relatedness from areal features with current data. For now, only the lowest levels of classification are reliable. Two hypothetical classifications follow.

Classification, with Maipuran from Aikhenvald

Arawakan (73 languages)

  • Guahiban (5 languages; Guahibo proper has 20,000 speakers)
  • Arauán (8 languages; Culina has 1300 speakers)
  • Maipuran (60 languages)
    • Northern Maipuran
      • Palikur (1 language, c. 1200 speakers)
      • Wapishana-Caribbean (includes Ta-Arawak. 7 languages; Wayuu [Goajiro] c. 300,000 speakers, Garífuna [Black Carib] c. 100,000 speakers)
      • Inland (15 languages; Baniwa has 3-4000 speakers, Piapoco c. 3000)
    • Southern Maipuran
      • Campa (10 languages; Asháninca or Campa proper has 15-18,000 speakers, Ashéninca 18-25,000)
      • Central (6 languages; Piro has c. 300 speakers)
      • Amuesha (2 languages; Yanesha' has 6-8,000 speakers)
      • Purus-Parana (10 languages, inc. Apurinã, Moxo, Terêna; Terêna has 10,000 speakers)

There are, in addition, 9 unclassified Maipuran languages.

Classification, from Ethnologue

   Central Maipuran (northern Mato Grosso in Brazil) 
   Eastern Maipuran  (extreme north on the Atlantic Coast of Brazil
   Northern Maipuran (north of the Amazon) 
      Caribbean I 
         Arawak (Suriname) 
         Wayuu  (Guajira Penisula, Colombia) 
         Paraujano (Western Venezuela) 
         Taino  (Greater Antilles and Bahamas) 
      Caribbean II
         Garifuna (Belize, Honduras) 
         Island Carib (Lesser Antilles) 
      Inland I (Southern Venezuela)
      Inland II (Llanos de Orinoco, mostly Colombia)
      Inland III (north-west Amazonian tributaries) 
         Baniwa (Brazil) 
         Cabiyari (Colombia) 
         Guarequena (Venezuela) 
         Curripaco (Colombia) 
         Tariano (Brazil) 
      Inland IV (Amazonian)
         Bare  (Venezuela) 
         Carutana (Brazil)
         Guipunave (Brazil) 
         Ipeka-Tapuia (Brazil) 
         Manau (Brazil)	
         Mandahuaca (Venezuela) 
         Resigaro (Peru) 
         Tubarao (Brazil)
         Uainuma (Brazil) 
         Yucuna (Colombia) 
         Yabaana (Brazil) 
      Wapishanan (Southern Guyana and Brazil)
         Atorada (Guyana) 
         Mapidian (Brazil) 
         Wapishana (Guyana) 
   Southern Maipuran  
      Southern I (Bolivia)
      Southern II (Brazil)
      Pre-Andine (Peru) 
         Ashéninka Pajonal  
         Ashéninka, Ucayali-Yurúa  
         Ajyíninka Apurucayali  
         Ashéninka, Pichis  
         Ashéninka, South Ucayali  
         Ashéninka Perené  
      Purus River (Brazil and Peru)
         Mashco Piro  
      Unclassified (Brazil)
   Western Maipuran (Peru, status in dispute) 
   Unclassified (same area as Wapishanan but said to be entirely different)

See also

et:Aravakid fr:Arawak nl:Arowakken zh:阿拉瓦语


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