Papiamento: Aruba’s language

Aruba is truly a fascinating place. It is a polyglots paradise. Learning four languages is required for every resident who goes to school: Dutch, Papiamento, Spanish and English. However when you speak Papiamento and they know you’re a tourist, then they may think you’re attempting to speak Spanish and the way to clear up the language you intend to use if it’s Papiamento is to just straight up ask “Bo ta papia Papiamento?”. This works every time. It is a mixture of 5-7 different languages, mainly Portuguese and Spanish but also a lot of Dutch and English, with elements of French, and a sprinkle of African languages.

My wife has been speaking Spanish to everyone in the language she’s more comfortable with, and they respond comfortably in Spanish. I try whenever possible to use Papiamento. They use English with me by default unless they’re a native Spanish speaker and have been speaking with my wife in Spanish in which I’ll just join the conversation in that language. They’ll often switch back to English with me and continue with her in Spanish. It is truly amazing how Arubans can switch between the four languages.

A Lang a day: Buwandik

Buwandik is a language in the Pama-Nyungan language group and is considered extinct in that there are no native speakers. It was formerly spoken in the area around Mount Gambier, South Australia and east over the border into Victoria, Australia. Bunganditj is fairly typical of a Pama-Nyungan language in its sound system and grammar. There is a compilation of its grammar, vocabulary, and syntax in a book written by Barry Blake. It is being revitalized by Buwandik descendants and has a good amount of material documented. The community has repurposed and coined new words for everyday use in the 21st century. I have thought about making a crash course for this language based on the material, let me know if you’re interested in such a resource.

Resources for Buwandik

The Bunganditj (Buwandik) language of the Mount Gambier Region – Barry J. Blake

The reawakening of Craitbul: The revival of the Boandik language of Mount Gambier – Dr. Mary-Anne Gale

Maya language verbs, adjectives & noun forms (with pronouns (I, you, “my”, “your”, etc.))

The Mayan language has a very interesting way of conjugating verbs is very similar to the way that most European languages (like Spanish, Russian, Italian) do. Expressing an adjective using these forms uses a different system then the one for verbs and nouns. Saying “I am/You are hungry”, for example (e.g. “wi’ijen, wi’ijech”, would only use suffixes at the end to express that you are hungry.

The system for verbs is a little more complex and works like a quase-circumfix (a sort of “suffix”, but surrounding the initial word expressed, but in plural it is a full circumfix) in that to say “my door” or “his door” you would say it with “in” (my) or “u” (his) in the first position, and “otoch” (house) would be in the middle, and then the ending suffix, so the forms would come out as “in wotoch” or “u yotoch”.

Plural forms like saying “our house” or “their house” would surround the entire word like “in wotocho’on” and “u wotocho’ob”. There are additional rules depending on if the word begins in a consonant, or ends in a vowel but we will cover this in future blog posts. This is the general declension of forms in Mayan pronouns.


Regular adjective forms in Maya

Pronoun Word (“high”, “tall”)
Tene (I) ka’analen
Teche (You singular) ka’analech
Leti’e (He/she) ka’anal
To’one (We/us) ka’analo’on
Te’exe ka’anale’ex
Leti’ob ka’analo’ob (final “b” not pronounced)

Regular noun forms in Maya

Possessive prefix Word (“House”)
In wotoch
A wotoch
U yotoch
In (We/us) wotocho’on
A wotoche’ex
U yotocho’ob (final “b” not pronounced)

The same forms used for expressing a state with an adjective (“I am high up”, “I am hungry”) is also used for verbs.

Regular verb forms in Maya

Possessive prefix Word (“To say”)
In wa’alik
A wa’alik
U ya’alik
In (We/us) wa’aliko’on
A wa’alike’ex
U ya’aliko’ob (final “b” not pronounced)


Tuvaluan (Te Ggana/Gagana Tuuvalu) 

Te Gagana Tuuvalu is the native and official language of Tuvalu, having influence from the Samoan and Gilbertese/Kiribati languages, it has molded these languages’ influences into itself. It has about 10,000 speakers in Tuvalu, and 2,000 or more in other countries outside of Tuvalu.  


There are two dialects, the Northern and the Southern ones. Most of the speakers are concentrated in the city and capital of Tuvalu, Funafiti. It is said that the sentence order is Verb-Subject-Object but is said to have free sentence order as well. It is considered a more distant relative of general Polynesian languages like Hawaiian or Maori. There are 11 consonants and five vowels.  Below are some resources to get started learning, or familiarizing yourself with Te Ggana Tuuvalu below, and a grammar! 

Resources : (A short course) (phrases)  

[PDF] – a full descriptive grammar of Te Gagana Tuuvalu 

A short intro to Cabo Verdiano (Sao Vicente)

Cabo-verdiano, also known as Cape Verdean Creole, Kriolu or Kriol is a language spoken in Cabo Verde, an archipelago country of 10 inhabited islands, with an estimate of roughly half a million speakers in the country itself, and possibly several hundred thousand more in the US and its diaspora around the world. There are two main groups, the northern variety called Barlavento, is spoken in the city of Mindelo, and all the northern islands as far south as Sal. The southern variety is known as Sotavento, and is spoken in the capital city, Praia and the islands as far west as Brava and to the north in Maio. Cabo-verdiano derives its vocabulary mainly from an older form of Portuguese, that was spoken in the 17th century, most words reflect this such as “papia”, meaning “to speak, to talk”, comes from Portuguese “papear”, also present in Papiamentu (Creole language spoken on Aruba). Although at first glance it may seem completely intelligible with Portuguese, or even read as such, don’t be fooled, because the grammar is literally completely different from Portuguese. Some basic prepositions are very different from Portuguese, and the syntax (sentence order/rules) is not the same either. 

Many words appear to be jumbled together with many vowels removed, like in the words for “Monday” and “Tuesday”, originally from Portuguese’s “Domingo” and “Segunda-Feira”, have morphed into [dmiŋ] and [sguːnd]. Words like this that are written with two consonants following and others are not pronounced with vowels in between them, it isn’t like “diming” or “segund”, it is literally a [d]/[s] followed by an [m]/[d] sound. A pattern we notice is that the original Portuguese verb suffix “r” of Sao Vicente Cabo-verdiano verbs is removed, and the verb stem generally ends in a vowel, examples of this:

Chamar > [tʃma] (txma in Kriol)
Aprender > [prɛnde]
Achar > [otʃa]
Ir > vai > [bɑi]/[bɑ]

There are many other features of this creole, the world’s oldest continuously spoken creole that can be discussed further, but that will warrant many more blog posts to fully cover. Email us to hear more about Cabo-verdiano and other lesser-known languages! Thanks for reading.

Ethnologue. (n.d.). Kabuverdianu. Retrieved February 01, 2018

Mayan personal pronoun declensions pt. 1

Mayan has verb conjugations like most languages, which most of us find to be a pain. Something that Maya does have that many languages don’t is a straightforward tense marker system, one example of this is if one is doING an action right now you’d say something like:

“t`aan [in/a/u] {bin/verb} [(verb)o’on/e’ex/o’ob]. “

What this precise sentence means is that someone is going, as in going as this moment to some place. What makes the Mayan verb/possessive system simpler than other languages with conjugations is that the first part of the circum-conjugation is the same for each person, so “in” is for first person, “a” is for second person, and “u” is for third person. The plurals use the same “in”, “a”, and “u” in the first part of the circum-conjugation but the last part marks its plurality, so “we” would be “in bin o’on”, “you guys” or “y’all” would be “a bin e’ex” and “they” would be “u bin o’ob”, however the “b” at the end of Mayan words are never pronounced so the third person plural (they/them) would be prnounced “u bino’o”. 

The verb is always combined with the second portion of the circum-conjugation, so it would be these:

“in bino’on”,
“a bine’ex” and
“u bino’ob”, respectively.

When a word starts with any vowel (a, e, i, o, and u), then there is only a slight difference in the circum-conjugation. The first, and second persons (both plural and singular) will receive a “w” in front of the vowel of the verb stem, and the third person will place a “y” there, so the conjugation or declension (for nouns) would work like this:

Otoch (house)
in Wotoch
a Wotoch
u Yotoch
in WotochO’ON
a WotochE’EX
u YotochO’OB

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