Arawakan words

The following are loanwords from Arawakan languages, such as Taino. Most came to English through their Spanish loans.

barbecue (1650), from barbakoa, “framework of sticks” for sleeping or curing meat

canoe (1550), from canaoua

hammock (1650) or hamaca (1550), from hamaca, amaca, “fish nets”

hurricane (1550), via the Spanish huracan, furacan

iguana (1550), from iguana, iwana

maize (1550), from mahiz

mangrove (1610) or mangrow, via the Spanish mangle, mangue

papaya (1590), from papaya

potato (1560), from batata, specifically meaning “sweet potato.” The word was extrapolated to white potatoes in the 1590’s, which were originally called Virginia potatoes or bastard potatoes

savannah (1550), from zabana, “treeless plain”

tobacco (1580), from tabaco, originally “a roll of tobacco leaves” in Taino. However, the word already existed in Spanish from the Arabic tabbaq, used for various herbs, which probably influenced the pronunciation and connotation. 

anonymous asked:

would you happen to know anything about the 'ancient' Taíno language? I want to learn more about my heritage and was hoping maybe you would know of any websites there are out there.

Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about it. :( Where I would start is I’d go to the Wikipedia page and start hunting up references. There are dictionaries here and here. There’s a reconstruction of verb forms here. The best thing to do would be to hunt up print resources (especially older print resources) in university libraries. That requires access to a university library, though, so that might be tough. Or, maybe not. Graduate students have access to university libraries, so all you need is access to a graduate student. :) Realistically, though, this is going to be tough. To get access to a language, you need access to speakers. If there are no speakers, you need written records. If there are no written records, you need records from linguists who did have access to speakers. If there are none of those, you need records from explorers or missionaries who had access to speakers. If there are none of those you’re sunk. :( My guess is that there may be more (if not better) records in Spanish, since Spanish speakers had access to that area first, as I recall. They would’ve come in contact with those speakers. Otherwise you can also look at related languages. Again, though, I don’t know anything about this language or related languages, so I can’t be a big help. Sorry!

This week marks the beginning of hurricane season in North America, and recent storms in the mid-west have generated dozens of dangerous tornadoes. Both words entered English from Spanish in the 1550s after an intense period of worldwide exploration by Europeans. Hurricane came from the Spanish word huracan straight out of the bookHistoria General y Natural de las Indias published in 1547-1549 by Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Valdés as furacan, which itself came from the West Indies indigenous language Arawakan. This misspelling was a common occurrence-most languages have periods of growth and solidification in common with periods of political or cultural growth. Early modern English was no exception and the Oxford English Dictionary records no less than 39 different spellings of hurricane, including herrycano, forcane and harrycain.

Tornado also came to English from Spanish sailors, as a navigator’s word for violent thunderstorms in the Atlantic. The English word is another mangled and misspelled borrowing, this time from the Spanish word tronada, meaning thunderstorm, probably ultimately from the Latin word tornare meaning to thunder. It did not mean a whirlwind until around 1620. Both words were still new enough at the time of Shakespeare (and remote enough, as the words came back with explorers and sailors) that they still mostly meant storm:

Lear: Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks! You sulphurous and thought-executing fires, Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts, Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder, Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world! Crack nature’s moulds, all germens spill at once That make ingrateful man!

Image of Hurricane Daniel, September 27, 2010, courtesy NASA Marshall Space Flight Center via flickr.