Language

The Kalinago Language, Words & Expression

by Prosper Paris

 

Language is the primary means of perpetuating culture.

Its presence is a living representation of a people’s way of life. The disappearance or destruction of a language usually signals the replacement of one cultural system by another.

The most devastating impact on the Kalinago culture by the invasion of the European was on the Kalinago language. Within four decades of Columbus’ landing, the entire Caribbean had been renamed. The flow of European immigrants, along with forced labour imposed on the indigenous people, helped diffuse the language and culture. Until the 1920s, few Kalinago could speak or remember the language, while much emphasis was placed on learning the white man’s strange behavior. The Kalinago language was rapidly replaced by French Kwéyol and, to a lesser extent, English.

Today, most Kalinago say they can’t speak a word in their native language. But many Kalinago names and words are in common use today.

Village Names

Many villages in Waitukubli have retained their Kalinago names:

  • Barakua
  • Bataca
  • Calibishie
  • Layou
  • Coulibistrie
  • Toucarie

 

Additionally, Kalinago words are used for plants, fruits, animals, and everyday objects.

Traditional Kitchen Utensils

Buildings

Fruits

  • Couis – Calabash
  • Cou-Cou – Type of calabash
  • Kaim Bouk
  • Pikan – Small stick used to take out from the Canari
  • Ajoupa
  • Mwena
  • Karbet
  • Cachiman
  • Papaya

Karbet

Fish

Trees & Plants

Animal

Birds

  • Coulirou
  • Cacador
  • Humma
  • Book
  • Lipi
  • Chato
  • Laursh
  • Té Ta
  • Acajou
  • Balata
  • Cachibou
  • Manioc
  • Simarouba
  • Mapou
  • Cacao
  • Karata
  • Agouti
  • Manicou
  • Anoli
  • Mabouya
  • Fou-Fou
  • Gli-gli
  • Si Si Zeb
  • Si Si Rou

 

 

Kalinago Word List (Body)

Common Expressions

  • My Body – Na Nocobou
  • Head – Ichie
  • Nose – Icherie
  • Ear – Aricae
  • Hair – Itibouri
  • Face – Isubu/Icibou
  • Teeth – Ari
  • Eye – Acou
  • Mabpwika – Greeting
  • Ni Lamaha Tina – I am hungry
  • Ita Bia – How are you
  • Aitina Kalinago – I am Kalinago
  • Irufu Tina – I am Good
  • Ka Yamatetina – I have a basket
  • Itali? – What is the matter?
  • Tiamatu Teiha – She is pretty

 

 

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