Friday, September 28, 2007

UNESCO Nominates Garifuna Andy Palacio as Artist for Peace

Thanks to Michael Polonio for circulating this news:

He has one of the most celebrated world music albums of the year, and Andy Palacio has received one more honor. But this one isn't just an award, it's a distinction presently afforded to only 40 artists worldwide. Palacio has been nominated to act as a UNESCO artist for peace.

In the field of music, he joins Canada's Celine Dion, Brazil's Gilberto Gil, Cameroon's Manu Dibango and Peru's Tania Libertad.

In Belize to make the announcement, was UNESCO Secretary General Koichiro Matsuura. After the Secretary General spoke, Palacio reflected on his career from his boyhood in Barranco to the bright lights of stages worldwide.

After the speeches, Palacio presented Matsuura with a copy of his Watina CD. He also announced that Watina has been honored by the jury of the prestigious World Music Expo as the number one world music album of the past year.

Along with producer Ivan Duran, Palacio will go to pick up the award on October 28, when he will perform a number of European dates.

Palacio is also scheduled to perform on November 19th for the Garifuna community in Oronico Nicaragua.

Joan Lucas Lopez
Waruguma miritu

The “Gua” Prefix: Working Hypotheses on the Resilience of the Taíno Language

The “Gua” Prefix: Working Hypotheses on the Resilience of the Taíno Language

Antonio Yaguarix de Moya [i]
Guabancex Wind & Water Taíno Society [ii]


Objective: To start “excavating” some of the hidden secrets about the present use of Taíno, a supposedly extinct polysynthetic Caribbean Arawak language, through the analysis of the frequently used “gua” prefix. The analysis purports to show how much of original Taíno “became” Spanish, is still in use, or has fallen into disuse.
Methods: One-hundred and seventy-one Taíno morphemes that start with “gua” were found and analyzed. Controversial hybrid or obviously misspelled words were excluded from the analysis. The syllabic composition of the morphemes, their presence or absence from Spanish dictionaries, and their presence in today’s Dominican speech were explored.
Results: Out of the 171 documented Taíno morphemes, 44 (26 percent of the total) were adopted by the Spanish language. Thirty-two (73 percent) of those adopted are presently used in Dominican speech; only 27 percent are in disuse. One-hundred and twenty-seven Taíno words were never adopted by Spanish (76 percent of the total). Forty-four of such Taíno morphemes (26 percent of all; 35 percent of those non-adopted), are used today in the D.R. Eighty-three non-adopted Taíno morphemes (49 percent of the total; 65 percent of those non-adopted) are probably extinct. Only one monosyllabic word starting with “gua”; 31 two-syllabic words (18 percent of the total); 71 three-syllabic words (42 percent); and 68 tetra-syllabic words (40 percent) were found.
Conclusions: These findings provide evidence that around half of the original Taíno lexicon related to the important “gua” prefix survived the notion of extinction. The polysynthetic nature of Taíno morphemes is demonstrated by the fact that around four-fifths of them are either three-syllabic or tetra-syllabic. These characteristics suggest that Spanish adopted the simplest Taíno lexicon, while Taíno descendants have kept the more complex lexical parts. The resilience of words may be associated with older age, higher education and social class, and individuals’ regional origin.

Key words: Taíno, lexicon, polysynthesis, resilience, Dominican Republic

In 1993, for the first time, an internationally authorized English-language dictionary, the Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, asserted that the Taíno were an ancient people of the Greater Antilles, eliminating the eroded cliché about the old myth of their extinction. Ever since, for this and other dictionaries, the term “extinction” has continued to be applied to the language, but not to the population.

In the following exercise, which has no intentions other than opening an urgent debate among linguistic scholars and students, as well as inciting rigorous research on our language and culture, we ask ourselves whether it has any sense, thinking it over, that a population such as the Dominican Republic’s (D.R.), could survive, while its language vanishes. This could be no more than a childish historical misnomer.

According to Emilio Tejera (1988), [1] at the beginning of the European conquest of America, the Spanish chronicler Pedro Mártir de Anglería wrote that the “gua“ syllable was the most frequent word particle used by the Taíno people. He and other authors in the 16th and 17th centuries, also quoted by Tejera, say that “gua” was the “equivalent of a determinative article… which could be translated as ‘he/she who is,’ ‘this who is’” (Zayas, pp. 21, 24). The priest Velasco (1562-1613) also states that “some people say that it denotes ownership of something signified by the name to whom it is attached, some others say that it is a particle of respect…. [2] Four centuries later, Febres Cordero (p. 162), quoted by Tejera, wrote that in 1892 he published “a list of 500 [Amerindian] geographical words in which gua appears as a radical, and more than 200 words where it is a suffix.”

Taking into account the apparent resilience of this grammar particle and its frequent use in present–day Dominican speech, it was decided to make a brief incursion into a handful of documents, with the objective of starting to “excavate” some of the possibly hidden secrets about the use of our speech. In this way, it was possible to inductively explore both Tejera’s quoted text and the List of Places in the D.R. that start with the prefix “gua” (, [3] in order to unveil this language’s vitality as we examine it more closely.


One-hundred and seventy-one morphemes [4] with obvious Taíno, Arawak, or possibly Guarani origins, which start with “gua” were found and analyzed Those words whose linguistic origin could be controversial (because of likely hybridization with Spanish or with African languages) or that are obviously misspelled were excluded from the analysis. The syllabic composition of the morphemes vis-à-vis their likely polysynthetic characteristic, [5] their presence or absence from the Windows Modern-Spanish Dictionary, [6] and their presence in today’s Dominican speech were explored. It is important to recognize that the truth of this last assertion could be highly variable and controversial, due to its likely association to variables such as age, education, social class, and individual regional origin.


The analysis unveiled the following findings:

Forty-four (26 percent of the total) Taíno words entered the Spanish lexicon; 127 words (74 percent) were not incorporated into Spanish. Only one monosyllabic morpheme with the prefix “gua” was found that had not been adopted by the European Spanish-language that is still used in the D.R.: “guay,” a heavily loaded emotional interjection that seems to be a death cry.

Eighteen disyllabic morphemes that entered the Spanish lexicon were detected. Twelve of them are still used today in the D.R., namely: guaba, guaca, guacal, guagua, guaicán, guama, guanín, guao, guaro, guasa, guate, and guayo. Six have tended to fall into disuse: guaco, guama, guamo, guana, guaní, and guara. Thirteen disyllabic Taíno morphemes were not incorporated into Spanish; of them, 8 morphemes are still used in the D.R.: guací, guaicí, guaigüey, guaigüí, guaiza, guano, guatiao, and guaucí. Five words not adopted by Spanish apparently have fallen into disuse in the country: guabá, guacón, guaibá, guamí, and guarey.

Eighteen three-syllabic morphemes entered the Spanish lexicon. Thirteen are used nowadays in the D.R.: guabina, guácima, guajaca, guajiro, guanaja, guaraná, guaraní, guarapo, guásima, guataca, guayaba, guayacán, and guayana. Five are not used anymore: guaniquí, guaruma, guayaco, guaguanche, and guaguaza. Fifty-three words were not incorporated by Spanish; 18 of them are presently used in the D.R.: Guabancex, Guabate, guácara, guanima, Guanuma, guárana, guararé, Guarionex, Guaroa, guarúa, Guayama, guáyiga, guaymama, Guaymate, Guaynabo, Guayubín, guayuyo, and guázuma. Thirty five words are not presently used: guacaica, guacana, guacaox, guacayo, guagaica, guaguací, guaguari, guaiquía, guajaba, guajagua, guajayán, gualete, guamira, guanabax, guanabo, guanabrei, guanaguax, guanama, guanara, guanía, guanibán, guaoxerí, guaquía, guaragüey, guaraiba, guaraje, guarianón, guaurabo, guavanaán, guayagan, guayagua, guayaro, guaybana, guaymosa, and guázara.

Eight tetra-syllabic morphemes entered the Spanish lexicon; 7 are still in use in the D.R.: guacamayo, guachupita, guanábana, guaraguao, guatemala, guayacanes, and guazábara. One has fallen into disuse: guanabina. Sixty tetrasyllabic words were not incorporated into Spanish; of these, 17 are used today in the D.R.: guaconejo, guagugiona, guajimía, guanahaní, guananico, guaraguanó, guaranate, guaricano, guariquitén, guarocuya, guatapanal, guataúba, guatíbere, guacanagarí, guacarapita, guacayarima, and guayajayuco. Forty-four words not adopted by Spanish are extinct: guabanimo, guabarete guabonito guacacuba guacamarí guacaniquín guacaraica, guacaraca, guacuamarex, guainamoca, guajabona, guamacaje, guamaonocon, guamiquina, guamorete, guanabites, guanaguana, guanahibo, guanajuma, guananagax, guanatuví, guanavate, guanayvico, guaniabano, guaragüey, guaraiba, guaramatex, guarianón, guarizaca, guasabacoa, guasábalo, guaticavá, guatiguaná, guayabacón, guayamico, and guayaronel (four syllables); and guabaniquinax, guanahatabey, guanaoconel, guaninicabón, guaragüeibana, guavaenechin, and guavavoconel (five syllables).

In sum, the existence of 44 Taíno morphemes starting with “gua” that have been adopted by the European Spanish socio-lexicon (26 percent of the total; 18 two-syllabic, 18 three-syllabic, and 8 tetra-syllabic) is documented. Thirty-two (73 percent) of them are presently used in Dominican speech. Twelve (27 percent) are extinct. One-hundred and twenty-seven Taíno words were never adopted by Spanish (76 percent of the total). Forty-four of such Taíno morphemes (26 percent of all, 35% of those non-adopted; 1 monosyllabic, 8 two-syllabic, 18 three-syllabic, and 17 tetra-syllabic), are used today in the D.R. Eighty-three non-adopted Taíno morphemes (49 percent of the total, 65 percent of those non-adopted; 5 two-syllabic, 35 three-syllabic, and 43 tetra-syllabic) are probably extinct. Only one monosyllabic word; 31 two-syllabic words (18 percent of the total); 71 three-syllabic words (42 percent); and 68 tetra-syllabic words (40 percent) were found.


The polysynthetic nature of 171 Taíno morphemes that start with the prefix “gua” documented in this analysis is demonstrated by the fact that only one of them is monosyllabic, 18 percent are two-syllabic, 42 percent are three-syllabic, and 40 percent are tetra-syllabic. One fourth (26 percent) of those Taíno morphemes were adopted by the European Spanish socio-lexicon. Almost three-fourths (73 percent of those adopted; 19 percent of the total) of these “Spanish” morphemes are still in use in present-day Dominican speech. Only a minority has experienced extinction (7 percent of the total). Three-fourths (74 percent) of the Taíno lexicon were not incorporated into the Spanish language. One-fourth of all morphemes not adopted by Spanish (26 percent of the total; one-third of those non-adopted), continue to be used by the Dominican population, not knowing their Taíno origin. Two-thirds of those morphemes not adopted by Spanish (half of the words) have become extinct in the D.R.

On the basis of these findings, the following hypotheses [7] are advanced:

1. The more complex the syllabic structure of a morpheme is (higher contraction of prefixes or higher polysynthetic agglutination), the lower is the trend to adopt the morpheme to Spanish.

2. The more complex the syllabic structure of a morpheme is, the higher is the trend to know and to continue using this morpheme in Dominican speech today, despite its absence from Spanish dictionaries.

3. The more complex the syllabic structure of a morpheme not adopted by Spanish is, the higher the trend of extinction is of this morpheme in Dominican speech today.

In conclusion, in contrast with the received view, these findings provide evidence that Taíno language lexicon related to the important “gua” prefix survived the notion of extinction. This exercise suggests that about one-fourth of the Taíno vocabulary was adopted by Spanish, and another fourth is used today in Dominican speech. The loss in the Taíno lexicon, five centuries after the encounter among the cultures and languages of America, Europe, and Africa, seems to amount to half of the original vocabulary. Agglutinative polysynthetic characteristics of this language, such as contraction and incorporation, suggest that the Spanish language was able to adopt the simplest and more closely related Taíno lexicon, while Taíno descendants have tended to keep the more complex and elaborate lexical parts. Lost and found opportunities of linguistic development in these 500 years must be studied seriously by the national and international scientific community.


[1] Tejera, Emilio (ed.). Indigenismos. Santo Domingo, Sociedad Dominicana de Bibliófilos, 1988.
[2] We realize that the present-day meaning or meanings of the prefix may have experienced changes throughout time. Only empirical research could answer this question.
[3] In no way should this search be regarded as exhaustive of polysynthetic Amerindian languages.
[4] In human language, a phoneme is the smallest unit of speech that distinguishes meaning. Phonemes are not the physical segments themselves, but abstractions of them. In morpheme-based morphology, a morpheme is the smallest linguistic unit that has semantic meaning. In spoken language, morphemes are composed of phonemes, the smallest linguistically distinctive units of sound. The concept morpheme differs from the concept word, as many morphemes cannot stand as words on their own. A morpheme is free if it can stand alone, or bound if it is used exclusively alongside a free morpheme. A lexeme is an abstract unit of morphological analysis in linguistics that roughly corresponds to a set of words that are different forms of the same word (Wikipedia 2007).
[5] Polysynthetic languages are highly synthetic languages, i.e. languages in which words are composed of many morphemes. The degree of synthesis refers to the morpheme-to-word ratio. Languages with more than one morpheme per word are synthetic. Polysynthetic languages lie at the extreme end of the synthesis continuum, with a very high number of morphemes per word (at the other extreme are isolating or analytic languages with only one morpheme per word). These highly synthetic languages often have very long words that correspond to complete sentences in less synthetic languages (Wikipedia 2007).
[6] More sophisticated and inclusive dictionaries could reveal a slightly larger percentage of Taíno morphemes adopted by the Spanish language.
[7] The inductive approach does not try to make generalizations, but to advance hypotheses that could guide further research.

About the authors

[1] Dominican social psychologist (M.A.) and epidemiologist (M.P.H.). Professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo (UASD) from 1976. Since 1987 he has been studying the polysynthetic parameter of Taino language and mythology.
[2] Guabancex Wind & Water Taino Society was founded the 9th of August, 2006, by Lynne Guitar, Fátima Portorreal, Irka Mateo, Geo Ripley and the author of this article in Santo Domingo, and by Jorge Baracutei Estévez , Valerie Nanaturey Vargas, Taino Almestica and José Barreiro in the United States of America.

Against Recolonization: Australian Anthropologists Speak Out

As reported previously in The CAC Review, the government of Australia has taken a severe turn against indigenous rights in Australia, and internationally, having joined other settler states in voting against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The beleaguered discipline of anthropology in Australia, represented by the Australian Anthropological Society (AAS) has, after much debate, produced the following statement directed to the government of Australia:

Statement on recent policy trends in Indigenous affairs

The Australian Anthropology Society registers deep concerns at the policy direction the Australian nation is taking towards its Indigenous citizens. As a group of scholars, many with long-standing and ongoing professional experience of remote as well as rural and urban Aboriginal communities, we offer the following comments:

Australia has refused to sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a document that was many years in the making. The Declaration does not provide an alternative set of laws to those of Australia or of any other nation. What it does do is oblige nation states to support the capacity of Indigenous populations to act. It aims to enhance the capacity of those populations, and individuals within them, to determine their modes of life within the laws and institutions of the states of which they are citizens. We and our Indigenous colleagues and friends cannot help but wonder at Australia’s ungenerous response to the non-binding but uplifting principles contained in the UN Declaration.

Minority populations with different social and cultural histories are a feature of many modern nation-states, and the ability to treat such people honourably is a measure of the maturity and humanity of a nation. Despite the body of work produced by anthropologists, the varied Indigenous societies that have interacted with the radically different European settlers at various stages since 1788 are little understood in their own country. Even the simplest features of the classical Aboriginal traditions — the totemic and moiety divisions, the mutual dependence and reciprocity built into ceremonial and economic arrangements, the multilingualism evident among the wealth of languages — are less well known to educated Australians than is the Indian caste system or the Spanish bullfight. Without knowledge of the normal economic, political and family structures that comprised the everyday life of Indigenous people, there can be little appreciation of the radical destabilisation and restructuring that these societies have had to manage.

Aboriginal people have been adjusting to their changing social conditions, in some cases for over 200 years but in others within living memory. While a long-term assimilative process may be inevitable and can be constructive and even liberating, a large body of research demonstrates that forcing established social processes into a foreign mould is destructive of individuals, families and cultures. There is no doubt that the insistent pressures and stresses resulting from radical social change, without a respectful and reciprocal relationship with the nation’s authorities, have been responsible for severely destabilising family authority and informal community standards of care and protection for the young and the vulnerable. This breakdown in turn has made it difficult to maintain social control. It is the loss of a coherent community structure that has seen the emergence of some extreme examples of social pathology, which, it must be stressed, are neither typical nor representative of the majority of Indigenous people.

The despair, desperation and destructive violence that mars the social life of a substantial number of Indigenous communities does demand government action. Indeed action is long overdue, but dealing with social dysfunction in a clumsy and ill informed manner is likely to compound the level of disorder and add to estrangement. Anthropologists working in Australia are personally and painfully aware of real and urgent humanitarian needs. Only the most scandalous and shameful of these feature in the media; the chronic conditions that generate them are not so obvious. Effective policy responses require an intelligent understanding and respect for the conditions and the people involved. The language of aggressive assimilationism is not effective in dealing with culturally distinct and historically alienated people. Although initially time consuming, processes of negotiation with respected individuals and relevant organizations are far more effective and thus, in the longer term, more economical. Measures for which Aboriginal people have been pleading for years — more police and law enforcement, better housing, and effective implementation of alcohol prohibitions — should not appear as corrective measures imposed in a military-style operation.

We believe strongly that the governing of vulnerable, marginal and excluded peoples carries an added responsibility as these are people whose voices are often muted in the public arena. Rather than welfare recipients being made the target of punitive measures, there needs to be long term commitment to a stable and holistic program of providing adequate resources for these communities to come to terms with their current conditions of integration with the state’s institutions and processes. A wealthy nation such as Australia surely has the knowledge, the expertise and the resources to provide excellence in education, housing and health for the relatively few residents of remote communities, as well as for other Indigenous Australians. It is crucial that these people are listened to, and thus enabled to take responsibility for the direction of their development into the future.

[Thanks to Dr. Gillian Cowlishaw for circulating this statement]

Professor Gillian Cowlishaw,
President, AAS.
University of Technology, Sydney
Humanities & Social Sciences,
PO Box 123
Broadway, NSW, 2007
Ph. 61 2 9514 2743

Other posts of relevance:

The Binding Symbolic Value of the UN Declaration

Recolonizing Australia...or why Trojan horses never say "sorry"

Canada, the UN, and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Aboriginals in Australia: Still the Worst Off

News from Australia

Massive Protest Planned Against "Columbus Day"

On October 6, 2007, a massive national coalition of groups will descend on Denver, Colorado to protest and call for an end to Columbus Day by the state. Protesters will assemble on the west steps of the state capitol beginning at 8 am on October 6. See:

Transform Columbus Day Alliance

United Native America a national group based in Oklahoma and part of the Transform Columbus Day Alliance will be in Denver with their banners, one states:

"Christopher Columbus The Americas' first Terrorist"

Native Americans refer to the holiday as Columbus-Hitler Day. These two men's action sparked the killing of over one hundred million people each. Columbus is past racist slavery history in the Americas. His holiday should also be past history. Columbus went to hell for his sins against Indian men, women and children.

Mike Graham, Citizen Oklahoma Cherokee Nation

Founder United Native America