Maíz, tobaco, hamaca – the words of dead languages continue to live in other languages.

The language of the Tainos has been considered extinct since the mid-16th century. Nevertheless, many of today’s well-known words have come out of this language which has disappeared almost 500 years ago. Among the best known words are maíz (corn) and batata (sweet potato), plants that explorers and settlers urgently needed for their diet. But also tobacco (tobaco), hurricane (huracán), canoe (canoa), caiman (caimán) and barbecue (barbacoa) were taken over into Spanish. And one invention of the Taínos is still used all over the world: the hammock. The Spanish word “hamaca” comes from the Taíno language.

“In relation to the size of the group, the Taíno language has influenced the Spanish in America and many other languages very intensively,” says linguist Sabine Jansen, a professor at the Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, which reconstructed the idiom from ancient documents. The words spread over the reports of sailors and chroniclers, were first in Spanish, and later adopted in other languages.

Read the whole article (in German) here:

See as well the following article (in English) on 12 Taino words in the English language:

Photo: Granberry & Vescelius (2004) / The Decolonial Atlas

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