The Miskito language of Nicaragua and Honduras

Miskito is a language that is spoken in Nicaragua and Honduras. It forms part of the Misumalpan family of languages, named after the languages they encompass. This includes Miskito, Sumo, and Matagalpan languages. Misumalpan is believed to be a subset of the Chilban language group. There are approximately 200,000 Miskito speakers, which makes it the largest Misulmalpan language, that was previously dominated by the Sumo language. Another 100,000 people speak Misikito Coastal Creole, which is a mixture of Miskito, Spanish, English and some African languages. Matagalpa and Cacaopera languages are part of the Misumalpan languages, which are now extinct. Miskito language speakers can also be found in Belize. Most Miskitos are bilingual and can speak Spanish and bits of English. On the other hand, most Hispanic people have learned Miskito.

As a result of 300 years of interaction with other European communities, a number of loan words from different languages have been added to the Miskito language, which has resulted in significant grammatical changes for the language. Miskito has a number of loan words from the English language. The influence of the Spanish language on Miskito is more recent and superficial even though Spanish is the official language of Nicaragua and Honduras. Miskito has a number of dialects, which are mutually intelligible but have different variations in terms of pronunciation and spelling of words. The variations can be found among the Miskito’s living along the coast of the eastern part of Nicaragua, the Miskito’s living in eastern Honduras and the Miskito’s living along Rio Coco.

The name Miskito has a foreign origin. It was derived from the name ‘musket’ as the population group was distinguished from its neighbors as a musket carrying group. Other names for Misikito include Wangki, Miskitu, Mosquito, Misquito, Bahwika, Marquito, Moustique and Tawira. Most of these other names are no longer in active use but they can be found in historic literature that was written in the 17th and 18th centuries about the Miskito community. Most Miskitos are agriculturalists, fishermen or government and education workers. Most Miskitos are Christians as they readily adopted Christianity from foreign missionaries.

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