Inside the Garifuna community.


    inside the Garifuna community

The Garinagu are the only surviving speakers of an indigenous language spoken in any Caribbean island before the coming of the Europeans. They are, however, of visibly African descent and they live mainly on mainland Central America. As a group, the Garinagu represent several linguistic and cultural layers of Caribbean history. The language they speak, Garífuna, is an Arawakan language. Its closest relative is Arawak (Lokono) spoken in Guyana and Suriname. Important items of its vocabulary, however, come from Carib (Karinya), also spoken in Guyana and Suriname but belonging to the Cariban language family. This Karinya influence comes as a result of interaction between original speakers of an Arawakan language living in the Lesser Antilles and incoming Karina from South America.

Frequently referred to as 'Black Caribs', the modern day Garinagu originate in the island of St. Vincent. The original Garinagu were the offspring of Africans who escaped slavery and of indigenous peoples of the Lesser Antilles with whom they intermarried. They constituted an independent community on the island of St. Vincent (Yurumein) throughout the 18th century. Having been defeated in an uprising against the British in 1796 to 1797, the bulk of the Garinagu community were sent to Central America where they now live in the countries of Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and Nicaragua. They preserved the original language they spoke in St. Vincent, a country they continue to regard as their spiritual home.


Classifications: Arawakan, Maipuran, Northern Maipuran, Caribbean.

Population: 98,000 in Honduras (1993 Ramón D. Rivas). Population total all countries possibly 190,000 (1997 SIL).

Region: Mainly of the north coast between Masca, Cortes department and Plaplaya, Gracias a Dios Department. 40 towns in Honduras, at least 54 in Central America. Also spoken in Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, USA.


Additional Information and Articles on Garifuna:

1. Links related to Garifuna

2. Select SIL Gari­funa Bibliography

3. Article: On the Interface between Morphology and Syntax

4. Article: Notes on Gender, Ethnicity and Language_ The Case of Indigenous Languages in the Caribbean

5. Some Features of the Morpho-Syntax of Simple Sentences in Garifuna

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