Open Access Articles- Top Results for Island Carib language

Island Carib language

For the language of the mainland Carib of South America, see Carib language.
Island Carib
Native to Tobago, Dominica, St Vincent, Trinidad
Ethnicity Island Caribs, Igneri
Extinct 1920
Early forms
  • Island Carib
Language codes
ISO 639-3 crb
Linguist list
Glottolog isla1278[1]

Island Carib, also known as Igneri (Iñeri, Inyeri, etc.), was an Arawakan language historically spoken by the Island Caribs of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. It went extinct about 1920, but an offshoot survives as Garifuna, primarily in Central America.

Despite its name, Island Carib was not closely related to the Carib language of the mainland Caribs. Instead, it appears to have been a development of the Arawakan language spoken by the islands' earlier Igneri inhabitants, which incoming Caribs adopted before the historical era. During the French colonial period, Carib men also spoke a Cariban-derived pidgin language amongst themselves.


At the time of European contact, the Island Caribs lived throughout the southern Lesser Antilles, including Dominica, St Vincent and Trinidad. Contemporary traditions indicated the Caribs had conquered these islands from their previous inhabitants, the Igneri. Because the Island Caribs were thought to have descended from the mainland Caribs (Kalina) of South America, it was long assumed that they spoke Carib or a related Cariban language. However, studies in 20th century determined that the language of the Antillean Caribs was not Cariban, but Arawakan, related to the Taíno language of the Greater Antilles.[2]

Modern scholars have proposed several hypotheses accounting for the prevalence of an Arawak language among the Island Caribs. Scholars such as Irving Rouse suggested that Caribs from South America conquered the Igneri but did not displace them, and took on their language over time.[2] Others doubt there was an invasion at all. Sued Badillo proposed that Igneri living in the Lesser Antilles adopted the "Carib" identity due to their close economic and political ties with the rising mainland Carib polity in the 16th century.[3] In any event, the fact that the Island Caribs' language evidently derived from a pre-existing Arawakan variety has led some linguists to term it "Igneri". It appears to have been as distinct from Taíno as from mainland Arawak varieties.[2]

During the period of French colonization, and possibly earlier, male Island Caribs also used a Cariban-based pidgin language. It was evidently similar to the pidgin used by mainland Caribs to communicate with their Arawak neighbors. Berend J. Hoff and Douglas Taylor hypothesized that it dated to the time of the Carib expansion through the islands, and that males maintained it to emphasize their origins.[4] However, scholars who doubt the existence of a Carib invasion suggest this pidgeon was a later development acquired by contact with the Caribs of the mainland.[3]

Island Carib was extinct by the 1920s, but an offshoot, Garifuna, is still spoken by the Garifuna people living mainly in Central America.


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Island Carib". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ a b c Rouse, Irving (1992). The Tainos. Yale University Press. p. 21. ISBN 0300051816. Retrieved June 17, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Hill, Jonathan David; Santos-Granero, Fernando (2002). Comparative Arawakan Histories: Rethinking Language Family and Culture Area in Amazonia. University of Illinois Press. p. 54. ISBN 0252073843. Retrieved June 17, 2014. 
  4. ^ Rouse, Irving (1992). The Tainos. Yale University Press. pp. 21–22. ISBN 0300051816. Retrieved June 17, 2014. 

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