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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Endangered Garifuna Language & Arawak Language

Graduate students in linguistics leaving legacy for speakers of endangered language of Garifuna
by Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations
April 17, 2012

Under the guidance of Michael and native Garifuna (pronounced Ga-RIF-foo-nah) speaker Philip Tim Palacio of Rocklin, Calif., nine students have spent the fall and spring semesters studying the complex and little understood indigenous language of the approximately 200,000 Garinagu living in Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala as well as within Diaspora communities in Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and New York City. “This is groundbreaking work that we are doing, and it will leave a lasting legacy for the world, and for everyone who has an interest in learning Garifuna,” said Palacio. The Garifuna people, also known as the Garinagu, are descendants of West African, Carib and Arawak people and trace their origins to a wrecked African slave ship that washed ashore in the Caribbean in 1675, and the Calinago, Carib and Arawaks who inhabited Eastern Caribbean Islands including St. Vincent. Intermingling of the Caribs, Africans and indigenous Arawaks resulted in the Garifuna language, which also was influenced by English, Spanish and French. Garifuna belongs to the Arawak linguistic family, whose members are mostly found in the Amazon Basin.

Palacio acknowledged that Garifuna can be challenging to translate. “For example, when my dad used to see any of his seven children were wasting time and not working as hard as they should, he would tell us that we were ‘ataha gañé’ (drinking eggs), ‘éleha mesu’ (peeling cats), or ‘adimureha dabarasi’ (talking pan). These expressions are similar to the English expression of ‘being in la-la land.’”