Arawakan Languages

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Table 1: Languages considered by Crevels and Van der Voort (2008) Name Family Baure ARAWAKAN Aymara AYMARAN Wari' CHAPACURAN Arikapu MACRO-JE (JABUTI) Moseten MOSETENAN Lakonde NAMBIKWARAN Chacobo PANOAN Bol.
Heckenberger, Michael (2002) "Rethinking the Arawakan diaspora: hierarchy, regionality, and the Amazonian formative" In Comparative Arawakan histories: rethinking language family and culture area in Amazonia, 99-122.
(21) Vease, entre otros, Terrell Malone "Chimila: Chibchan, Chocoan, Carib, or Arawakan?", Ponencia en el XLVII Congreso Internacional de Americanistas (Nueva Orleans, 1991), 14-15 y Adolfo Constenla Umana, "La familia chibcha", en Estado actual de la clasificacion de las lenguas indigenas de Colombia, ed.
The full story is of course complicated by the mediation of some words through Spanish, Portuguese, and French; a subject which is touched on here in the chapter 'First Words from the New World', which deals with the earliest borrowings from the West Indies (such as 'canoe' and 'cannibal') and South America, with sections detailing loanwords from the Arawakan, Cariban, Nahuatl, Tupian, and Quechuan languages.
For three provinces-I01 (Sea Gypsies or Boat People), S07 (Eastern Arawakan Peoples), and S17 (Guarani and Coastal Tupi Peoples)--all of the available societies had missing data on both property variables and thus could not be used in this study.
Deliberate mistranslation of the word carib in Arawakan and Cariban languages into Caliban via the Spanish word Canibalis is cited as another instance of the failure as well as the violence of translation (41).
The ancestors also gave the Garifuna their characteristic music, which incorporates both African and Native American drum rhythms and song patterns, and an expressive language made up of Arawakan and Cariban (the original languages of the Caribs) and Yoruba, a West African language.
Benoit Berard defines the material world and settlement patterns of Saladoid peoples in the Caribbean and outlines their connections with mainland Arawakan traditions.
(18) More specifically: Afro-Asiatic, Arawakan, Australian, Austronesian, Aymaran, Dravidian, Japanese, Kartvelian, Khoisan, Matacoan, Mayan, Indo-European, Niger-Congo, Sino-Tibetan, Siouan and Uralic.