The Taino language spoken in the former Caribbean Islands

Taino is an Arawakan language that was originally spoken in what is now the Caribbean islands. This includes the region that now covers Puerto Rico, Cuba, Bahamas, Jamaica, Florida, Hispaniola and the Dominican Republic. Ethnic populations can currently be found in New Jersey, United States and Santa Domingo. Taino was the original language spoken at the time of the Spanish conquest by the inhabitants of these regions. The Taino people had largely displaced the Ciboney people, who were non-Arawakan and the original inhabitants of the region. There are currently no native Taino speakers. The Taino language became extinct even before any efforts had been made to study or preserve it. That is why you may never find Taino listed as one of the indigenous languages of the Caribbeans. Most native Taino speakers shifted to using the Spanish language or English.

There are various language revitalization efforts that have been put in place, especially in Puerto Rico to try and revive the language. There are two varieties of the Taino language. The first variety is the original language that was spoken by the Taino’s as their mother tongue. This variety is what is currently being taught to children in an effort to revive the language. The second variety of Taino is a combination of Spanish-Taino. This is the variety that is mostly spoken. It uses Spanish grammar, with most of its vocabulary being Taino. Most Spanish speakers cannot understand this variety of Taino-Spanish Creole.

Taino was one of the first languages to come into contact with the Native Spanish population. This resulted in a lot of Taino words being adopted into Spanish. Hundreds of words were adopted. This included names of fauna and flora and cultural practices. These Taino words eventually found their way to other European languages such as English. Some of the Taino words which English speakers can recognize include potato, Cuba, Jamaica, hurricane, barbecue, tobacco, cassava and maize.

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