Arawakan Languages

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Arawakan Languages


one of the largest families of Indian languages, widespread in the northern part of South America (in the Orinoco, Rio Negro, and Amazon river basins), on the islands of the West Indies, and in southern Florida. There are up to 40 Arawakan languages forming either four or eight large subgroups depending on the system of classification. The most well-known languages are Lokono (Arawak proper), Guajiro, Island Carib, Maipuri, Achagua, Ipuriná, Taino, Piro, Mojo, Paressí. The phonological system of the Arawakan languages is of the so-called Atlantic type: although the vowel system is well-developed (six or seven phonemes), there are relatively few consonants (usually 12—14 phonemes). Their morphological structure is basically agglutinative with some tendencies toward polysynthesism. Suffixation is predominant, but prefixation (possessive prefixation in the noun, subject prefixation in the verb, preverbs, and so forth) also plays a large role. There are both prepositions and postpositions. The pronominal subject often follows the verb, and the demonstrative pronoun follows the word which is modified. There is considerable lexical divergence among the languages. The system of word formation is well developed.


Alden Mason, J. “The Languages of South American Indians,” in Handbook of South American Indians, vol. 6. Washington, D. C, 1950.
Kingsley Noble, G. Proto-Arawakan and Its Descendants. The Hague, 1965.