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Title: The Arawack Language of Guiana in its Linguistic and Ethnological Relations
Author: Brinton, Daniel Garrison, 1837-1899
Language: English
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Transcriber’s Note

A number of typographical errors have been maintained in this version of
this book. They have been marked with a [TN-#], which refers to a
description in the complete list found at the end of the text.

The following codes for less common characters were used:

  œ     oe ligature
  [lr]  l printed over r



  Linguistic and Ethnological Relations.

  By D. G. BRINTON, M. D.

  237-9 DOCK STREET.





The Arawacks are a tribe of Indians who at present dwell in British and
Dutch Guiana, between the Corentyn and Pomeroon rivers. They call
themselves simply _lukkunu_, men, and only their neighbors apply to them
the contemptuous name _aruac_ (corrupted by Europeans into Aroaquis,
Arawaaks, Aroacos, Arawacks, etc.), meal-eaters, from their peaceful
habit of gaining an important article of diet from the amylaceous pith
of the _Mauritia flexuosa_ palm, and the edible root of the cassava

They number only about two thousand souls, and may seem to claim no more
attention at the hands of the ethnologist than any other obscure Indian
tribe. But if it can be shown that in former centuries they occupied the
whole of the West Indian archipelago to within a few miles of the shore
of the northern continent, then on the question whether their
affiliations are with the tribes of the northern or southern mainland,
depends our opinion of the course of migration of the primitive
inhabitants of the western world. And if this is the tribe whose
charming simplicity Columbus and Peter Martyr described in such poetic
language, then the historian will acknowledge a desire to acquaint
himself more closely with its past and its present. It is my intention
to show that such was their former geographical position.

While in general features there is nothing to distinguish them from the
red race elsewhere, they have strong national traits. Physically they
are rather undersized, averaging not over five feet four inches in
height, but strong-limbed, agile, and symmetrical. Their foreheads are
low, their noses more allied to the Aryan types than usual with their
race, and their skulls of that form defined by craniologists as
orthognathic brachycephalic.

From the earliest times they have borne an excellent character.
Hospitable, peace-loving, quick to accept the humbler arts of
civilization and the simpler precepts of Christianity, they have ever
offered a strong contrast to their neighbors, the cruel and warlike
Caribs. They are not at all prone to steal, lie, or drink, and their
worst faults are an addiction to blood-revenge, and a superstitious
veneration for their priests.

They are divided into a number of families, over fifty in all, the
genealogies of which are carefully kept in the female line, and the
members of any one of which are forbidden to intermarry. In this
singular institution they resemble many other native tribes.


The earliest specimen of their language under its present name is given
by Johannes de Laet in his _Novus Orbis, seu Descriptio Indiæ
Occidentalis_ (Lugd. Bat. 1633). It was obtained in 1598. In 1738 the
Moravian brethren founded several missionary stations in the country,
but owing to various misfortunes, the last of their posts was given up
in 1808. To them we owe the only valuable monuments of the language in

Their first instructor was a mulatto boy, who assisted them in
translating into the Arawack a life of Christ. I cannot learn that this
is extant. Between 1748 and 1755 one of the missionaries, Theophilus
Schumann, composed a dictionary, _Deutsch-Arawakisches Wœrterbuch_,
and a grammar, _Deutsch-Arawakische Sprachlehre_, which have remained
in manuscript in the library of the Moravian community at Paramaribo.
Schumann died in 1760, and as he was the first to compose such works,
the manuscript dictionary in the possession of Bishop Wullschlägel,
erroneously referred by the late Professor von Martius to the first
decade of the last century, is no doubt a copy of Schumann’s.

In 1807 another missionary, C. Quandt, published a _Nachricht von
Surinam_, the appendix to which contains the best published grammatical
notice of the tongue. The author resided in Surinam from 1769 to 1780.

Unquestionably, however, the most complete and accurate information in
existence concerning both the verbal wealth and grammatical structure of
the language, is contained in the manuscripts of the Rev. Theodore
Schultz, now in the library of the AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY. Mr.
Shultz[TN-1] was a Moravian missionary, who was stationed among the
Arawacks from 1790 to 1802, or thereabout. The manuscripts referred to
are a dictionary and a grammar. The former is a quarto volume of 622
pages. The first 535 pages comprise an Arawack-German lexicon, the
remainder is an appendix containing the names of trees, stars, birds,
insects, grasses, minerals, places, and tribes. The grammar,
_Grammattikalische Sätze von der Aruwakkischen Sprache_, is a 12mo
volume of 173 pages, left in an unfinished condition. Besides these he
left at his death a translation of the Acts of the Apostles, which was
published in 1850 by the American Bible Society under the title _Act
Apostelnu_. It is from these hitherto unused sources that I design to
illustrate the character of the language, and study its former


The Arawack is described as “the softest of all the Indian tongues.”[2]
It is rich in vowels, and free from gutturals. The enunciation is
distinct and melodious. As it has been reduced to writing by Germans,
the German value must be given to the letters employed, a fact which
must always be borne in mind in comparing it with the neighboring
tongues, nearly all of which are written with the Spanish orthography.

The Arawack alphabet has twenty letters: a, b, d, e, g, h, i, j, k, l,
m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, w.

Besides these, they have a semi-vowel written [lr] the sound of which in
words of the masculine gender approaches l, in those of the neuter
gender r. The o and u, and the t and d, are also frequently blended. The
w has not the German but the soft English sound, as in _we_. The German
dipthongs[TN-2] æ, œ, eu, ei, ü, are employed. The accents are the
long ^, the acute `, and that indicating the emphasis ´. The latter is
usually placed near the commencement of the word, and must be carefully


Like most Indians, the Arawack rarely uses a noun in the abstract. An
object in his mind is always connected with some person or thing, and
this connection is signified by an affix, a suffix, or some change in
the original form of the word. To this rule there are some exceptions,
as _bahü_ a house, _siba_ a stone, _hiäru_ a woman. _Dáddikân hiäru_, I
see a woman. Such nouns are usually roots. Those derived from verbal
roots are still more rarely employed independently.

NUMBERS. The plural has no regular termination. Often the same form
serves for both numbers, as is the case in many English words. Thus,
_itime_ fish and fishes, _siba_ stone and stones, _känsiti_ a lover and
lovers. The most common plural endings are _ati_, _uti_, and _anu_,
connected to the root by a euphonic letter; as _uju_ mother, _ujunuti_
mothers, _itti_ father, _ittinati_ fathers, _kansissia_ a loved one,
_kansissiannu_ loved ones.

Of a dual there is no trace, nor does there seem to be of what is called
the American plural (exclusive or inclusive of those present). But there
is a peculiar plural form with a singular signification in the language,
which is worthy of note. An example will illustrate it; _itti_ is
father, plural _ittinati_; _wattinati_ is our father, not our fathers,
as the form would seem to signify. In other words, singular nouns used
with plural pronouns, or construed with several other nouns, take a
plural form. _Petrus Johannes mutti ujúnatu_, the mother of Peter and

GENDERS. A peculiarity, which the Arawack shares with the Iroquois[3]
and other aboriginal languages of the Western continent, is that it only
has two genders, and these not the masculine and feminine, as in French,
but the masculine and neuter. Man or nothing was the motto of these
barbarians. Regarded as an index of their mental and social condition,
this is an ominous fact. It hints how utterly destitute they are of
those high, chivalric feelings, which with us centre around woman.

The termination of the masculine is _i_, of the neuter _u_, and, as I
have already observed, a permutation of the semi-vowels _l_ and _r_
takes place, the letter becoming _l_ in the masculine, _r_ in the
neuter. A slight difference in many words is noticeable when pronounced
by women or by men. The former would say _keretin_, to marry; the latter
_kerejun_. The gender also appears by more than one of these changes:
_ipillin_, great, strong, masculine; _ipirrun_, feminine and neuter.

There is no article, either definite or indefinite, and no declension of


The demonstrative and possessive personal pronouns are alike in form,
and, as in other American languages, are intimately incorporated with
the words with which they are construed. A single letter is the root of
each: _d_ I, mine, _b_ thou, thine, _l_ he, his, _t_ she, her, it, its,
_w_ we, our, _h_ you, your, _n_ they, their; to these radical letters
the indefinite pronoun _ükküahü_, somebody, is added, and by
abbreviation the following forms are obtained, which are those usually

  dakia, dai,                     I.
  bokkia, bui,                    thou.
  likia,                          he.
  turreha,                        she, it.
  wakia, wai,                     we.
  hukia, hui,                     you.
  nakia, nai,                     they.

Except the third person, singular, they are of both genders. In
speaking, the abbreviated form is used, except where for emphasis the
longer is chosen.

In composition they usually retain their first vowel, but this is
entirely a question of euphony. The methods of their employment with
nouns will be seen in the following examples:

  _üssiquahü_,                    a house.
  dássiqua,                       my house.
  bússiqua,                       thy house.

  lüssiqua,                       his house.

  tüssiqua,                       her, its house.
  wássiqua,                       our house.

  hüssiqua,                       your house.
  nássiqua,                       their house.

  _uju_,                          mother.
  daiju,                          my mother.
  buju,                           thy mother.
  luju,                           his mother.
  tuju,                           her mother.
  waijunattu,                     our mother.
  hujuattu,                       your mother.
  naijattu,                       their mother.
  waijunuti,                      our mothers.
  hujunuti,                       your mothers.
  naijunuti,                      their mothers.

Many of these forms suffer elision in speaking. _Itti_ father, _datti_
my father, _wattínatti_ our father, contracted to _wattínti_ (_watti_
rarely used).

When thus construed with pronouns, most nouns undergo some change of
form, usually by adding an affix; _báru_ an axe, _dábarun_ my axe,
_iulí_ tobacco, _dajulite_ my tobacco.


The verb is the primitive part of speech in American tongues. To the
aboriginal man every person and object presents itself as either doing
or suffering something, every quality and attribute as something which
is taking place or existing. His philosophy is that of the extreme
idealists or the extreme materialists, who alike maintain that nothing
_is_, beyond the cognizance of our senses. Therefore his adjectives are
all verbal participles, indicating a state of existence. Thus _üssatu_
good, is from _üssân_ to be good, and means the condition of being good,
a good woman or thing, _üssati_ a good man.

Some adjectives, principally those from present participles, have the
masculine and neuter terminations _i_ and _u_ in the singular, and in
the plural _i_ for both genders. Adjectives from the past participles
end in the singular in _issia_ or _üssia_, in the plural in _annu_. When
the masculine ends in _illi_, the neuter takes _urru_, as _wadikilli_,
_wadikurru_, long.

Comparison is expressed by adding _bén_ or _kén_ or _adin_ (a verb
meaning to be above) for the comparative, and _apüdi_ for the
diminutive. _Ubura_, from the verb _uburau_ to be before in time, and
_adiki_, from _adikin_ to be after in time, are also used for the same
purpose. The superlative has to be expressed by a circumlocution; as
_tumaqua aditu ipirrun turreha_, what is great beyond all else;
_bokkia üssá dáuria_, thou art better than I, where the last word is a
compound of _dai uwúria_ of, from, than. The comparative degree of the
adjectives corresponds to the intensive and frequentative forms of the
verbs; thus _ipirrun_ to be strong, _ipirru_ strong, _ipirrubîn_ and
_ipirrubessabun_ to be stronger, _ipirrubetu_ and _ipirrubessabutu_
stronger, that which is stronger.

The numerals are wonderfully simple, and well illustrate how the
primitive man began his arithmetic. They are:--

  1 abba.
  2 biama, plural biamannu.
  3 kabbuhin, plural kubbuhinínnu.
  4 bibiti, plural bibitinu.
  5 abbatekkábe, plural abbatekabbunu.
  6 abbatiman, plural abbatimannínu.
  7 biamattiman, plural biamattimannínu.
  8 kabbuhintiman, plural kabbuhintimannínu.
  9 bibitiman, plural bibititumannínu.
  10 biamantekábbe, plural biamantekábunu.

Now if we analyze these words, we discover that _abbatekkábe_ five, is
simply _abba_ one, and _akkabu_, hand; that the word for six is
literally “one [finger] of the other [hand],” for seven “two [fingers]
of the other [hand],” and so on to ten, which is compounded of _biama_
two, and _akkabu_ hands. Would they count eleven, they say _abba
kutihibena_ one [toe] from the feet, and for twenty the expression is
_abba lukku_ one man, both hands and feet. Thus, in truth, they have
only four numerals, and it is even a question whether these are
primitive, for _kabbuhin_ seems a strengthened form of _abba_, and
_bibuti_ to bear the same relation to _biama_. Therefore we may look
back to a time when this nation knew not how to express any numbers
beyond one and two.

Although these numbers do not take peculiar terminations when applied to
different objects, as in the languages of Central America and Mexico,
they have a great variety of forms to express the relationship in which
they are used. The ordinals are:

  atenennuati,                    first.
  ibiamattéti,                    second.
  wakábbuhinteti,                 our third, etc.

To the question, How many at a time? the answer is:

  likinnekewai,                   one alone.
  biamanuman,                     two at a time, etc.

If simply, How many? it is:

  abbahu,                         one.
  biamahu,                        two.

If, For which time? it is:

  tibíakuja,                      for the first time.
  tibíamattétu,                   for the second time.

and so on.


The verbs are sometimes derived from nouns, sometimes from participles,
sometimes from other verbs, and have reflexive, passive, frequentative,
and other forms. Thus from _lana_, the name of a certain black dye,
comes _lannatün_ to color with this dye, _alannatunna_ to color oneself
with it, _alannattukuttun_ to let oneself be colored with it,
_alanattukuttunnua_ to be colored with it.

The infinitive ends in _in_, _ün_, _ùn_, _ân_, _unnua_, _ên_, and _ûn_.
Those in _in_, _ün_, _ùn_, and _ân_ are transitive, in _unnua_ are
passive and neuter, the others are transitive, intransitive, or neuter.

The passive voice is formed by the medium of a verb of permission, thus:

  amalitin,                       to make.
  amalitikittin,                  to let make.
  amalitikittunnua,               to be made.
  assimakin,                      to call.
  assimakuttün,                   to let call,
  assimakuttùnnua,                to be called.

The personal pronouns are united to the verbs as they are to the nouns.
They precede all verbs except those whose infinitives terminate in _ên_,
_in_, and _ân_, to which they are suffixed as a rule, but not always.
When they follow the verb, the forms of the pronouns are either _de_,
_bu_, _i_ he, _n_ she, it, _u_, _hu_, _je_ or _da_, _ba_, _la_, _ta_,
_wa_, _ha_, _na_. The latter are used chiefly where the negative prefix
_m_, _ma_ or _maya_ is employed. Examples:

  hallikebben, to rejoice.

  hallikebbéde,                   I rejoice.
  hallikebbébu,                   thou rejoicest.
  hallikebbéi,                    he rejoices.
  hallikebbên,                    she rejoices.
  hallikebbéu,                    we rejoice.
  hallikebbéhü,                   you rejoice.
  hallikebbéje,                   they rejoice.

  majauquan, to remain.

  majáuquada,                     I remain.
  majáuquaba,                     thou remainest.
  majáuquala,                     he remains.
  majáuquata,                     she remains.
  majáuquawa,                     we remain.
  majáuquaha,                     you remain.
  majáuquana,                     they remain.

MOODS AND TENSES. Their verbs have four moods, the indicative, optative,
imperative, and infinitive, and five tenses, one present, three
preterites, and one future. The rules of their formation are simple. By
changing the termination of the infinitive into _a_, we have the
indicative present, into _bi_ the first preterite, into _buna_ the
second preterite, into _kuba_ the third preterite, and into _pa_ the
future. The conjugations are six in number, and many of the verbs are
irregular. The following verb of the first conjugation illustrates the
general rules for conjugation:

  _ayahaddin,_                    to walk.


Present tense:

  dayahadda,                      I walk.
  bujahadda,                      thou walkest.
  lujahadda,                      he walks.
  tüjahadda,                      she walks.
  wayahádda,                      we walk.
  hujahádda,                      you walk.
  nayuhádda,                      they walk.

First preterite--of to-day:

  dayaháddibi,                    I walked to-day.
  bujaháddibi,                    thou walked to-day.
  lijaháddibi,                    he walked to-day.
  tujaháddibi,                    she walked to-day.
  wayaháddibi,                    we walked to-day.
  hujaháddibi,                    you walked to-day.
  nayaháddibi,                    they walked to-day.

Second preterite--of yesterday or the day before.

  dayahaddibüna,                  I walked yesterday or the day before.
  bujaháddibüna,                  thou walked yesterday or the day before.
  lijaháddibuna,                  he walked yesterday or the day before.
  tujaháddibüna,                  she walked yesterday or the day before.
  wayaháddibüna,                  we walked yesterday or the day before.
  hujaháddibüna,                  you walked yesterday or the day before.
  nayaháddibüna,                  they walked yesterday or the day before.

Third preterite--at some indefinite past time:

  dayaháddakuba,                  I walked.
  bujaháddakuba,                  thou walked.
  lijaháddakuba,                  he walked.
  tujaháddakuba,                  she walked.
  wayaháddakuka,                  we walked.
  hujaháddakuba,                  you walked.
  nayaháddakuba,                  they walked.


  dayaháddipa,                    I shall walk.
  bujaháddipa,                    thou wilt walk.
  lijaháddipa,                    he will walk.
  tujaháddipa,                    she will walk.
  wayaháddipa,                    we shall walk.
  hujahaddipa,                    you will walk.
  nayahaddipa,                    they will walk.



  dayahaddama or dayahaddinnika,  I may walk.

First preterite:


Second preterite[TN-3]


Third preterite:



  bujahaddáte or bujahaddalte,    walk thou.
  hüjahaddáte or hujahaddalte,    walk ye.
  nayahaddáte,                    let them walk.
  wayahaddali,                    let us walk.


  ayahaddinnibi,                  to have walked to-day.
  ayahaddinnibüna,                to have walked yesterday.
  ayahaddínnikuba,                to have walked.
  ayahaddínnipa,                  to be about to walk.



The following forms also belong to this verb:

  ayahaddinnibiakubáma,           to may or can walk.
  ayahaddahálin,                  one who walks there (infinitive form).

As in all polysynthetic languages, other words and particles can be
incorporated in the verb to modify its meaning, thus:

  dayahaddáruka,                   as I was walking.
  dayahaddakanika,                 I walk a little.
  dayahaddahittika,                I walk willingly.

In this way sometimes words of formidable length are manufactured, as:

  massukussukuttunnuanikaebibu,    you should not have been washed to-day.

Negation may be expressed either by the prefix _m_ or _ma_, as
_mayahaddinikade_, I do not walk (where the prefix throws the pronoun to
the end of the word, and gives it the form appropriate for that
position), or else by the adverb _kurru_, not. But if both these
negatives are used, they make an affirmative, as _madittinda kurru
Gott_, I am not unacquainted with God.


“In general,” remarks Prof. Von Martius, “this language betrays the
poverty and cumbrousness of other South American languages; yet in many
expressions a glimpse is caught of a far reaching, ideal background.”[4]
We see it in the composition and derivation of some words; from _haikan_
to pass by, comes _haikahu_ death, the passing away, and _aiihakü_
marriage, in which, as in death, the girl is lost to her parents; from
_kassan_ to be pregnant, comes _kassaku_ the firmament, big with all
things which are, and _kassahu behü_, the house of the firmament, the
sky, the day; from _ükkü_ the heart, comes _ükkürahü_ the family, the
tribe, those of one blood, whose hearts beat in unison, and _üküahü_ a
person, one whose heart beats and who therefore lives, and also,
singularly enough, _ükkürahü_ pus, no doubt from that strange analogy
which in so many other aboriginal languages and myths identified the
product of suppuration with the _semen masculinum_, the physiological
germ of life.

The syntax of the language is not clearly set forth by any authorities.
Adjectives generally, but not always, follow the words they qualify, and
prepositions are usually placed after the noun, and often at the end of
a sentence; thus, _peru_ (Spanish _perro_) _assimakaku naha à_, the dog
barks her at. To display more fully the character of the tongue, I shall
quote and analyze a verse from the _Act Apostelnu_, the 11th verse of
the 14th chapter, which in the English Protestant version reads:

And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices,
saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the
likeness of men.

In Arawack it is:

Addikitti uijuhu Paulus anissiäbiru, kakannaküku na assimakâka hürküren
Lÿcaonia adiân ullukku hiddin: Amallitakoananutti lukkunu dia na buté
wakkarruhu, nattukuda aijumüneria wibiti hinna.


They--seeing (_addin_ to see, gerund) the--people Paulus what--had been
done (_anin_ to do, _anissia_ to have been done), loudly they called
altogether the--Lycaonia speech in, thus, The--gods (present participle
of _amallitin_ to make; the same appellation which the ancient Greeks
gave to poets, [Greek: poiêtai] makers, the Arawacks applied to the
divine powers) men like, us to now (_buté_ nota præsentis)
are--come--down from--above--down--here ourselves because--of.


The Arawacks are essentially of South American origin and affiliations.
The earliest explorers of the mainland report them as living on the
rivers of Guiana, and having settlements even south of the Equator.[5]
De Laet in his map of Guiana locates a large tribe of “Arowaceas” three
degrees south of the line, on the right bank of the Amazon. Dr. Spix
during his travels in Brazil met with fixed villages of them near
Fonteboa, on the river Solimoes and near Tabatinga and Castro
d’Avelaes.[6] They extended westward beyond the mouth of the Orinoco,
and we even hear of them in the province of Santa Marta, in the
mountains south of Lake Maracaybo.[7]

While their language has great verbal differences from the Tupi of
Brazil and the Carib, it has also many verbal similarities with both.
“The Arawack and the Tupi,” observes Professor Von Martius, “are alike
in their syntax, in their use of the possessive and personal pronouns,
and in their frequent adverbial construction;”[8] and in a letter
written me shortly before his death, he remarks, in speaking of the
similarity of these three tongues: “Ich bin überzeugt dass diese [die
Cariben] eine Elite der Tupis waren, welche erst spät auf die Antillen
gekommen sind, wo die alte Tupi--Sprache in kaum erkennbaren Resten
übrig war, als man sie dort aufzeichnete.” I take pleasure in bringing
forward this opinion of the great naturalist, not only because it is not
expressed so clearly in any of his published writings, but because his
authority on this question is of the greatest weight, and because it
supports the view which I have elsewhere advanced of the migrations of
the Arawack and Carib tribes.[9] These “hardly recognizable remains of
the Tupi tongue,” we shall see belonged also to the ancient Arawack at
an epoch when it was less divergent than it now is from its primitive
form. While these South American affinities are obvious, no relationship
whatever, either verbal or syntactical, exists between the Arawack and
the Maya of Yucatan, or the Chahta-Mvskoki of Florida and the northern
shore of the Gulf of Mexico.

As it is thus rendered extremely probable that the Arawack is closely
connected with the great linguistic families of South America, it
becomes of prime importance to trace its extension northward, and to
determine if it is in any way affined to the tongues spoken on the West
India Islands, when these were first discovered.

The Arawacks of to-day when asked concerning their origin point to the
north, and claim at some not very remote time to have lived at _Kairi_,
an island, by which generic name they mean Trinidad. This tradition is
in a measure proved correct by the narrative of Sir Walter Raleigh, who
found them living there in 1595,[10] and by the Belgian explorers who in
1598 collected a short vocabulary of their tongue. This oldest monument
of the language has sufficient interest to deserve copying and comparing
with the modern dialect. It is as follows:

  LATIN.            ARAWACK, 1598.        ARAWACK, 1800.
  pater,            pilplii,              itti.
  mater,            saeckee,              uju.
  caput,            wassijehe,            waseye.
  auris,            wadycke,              wadihy.
  oculus,           wackosije,            wakusi.
  nasus,            wassyerii,            wasiri.
  os,               dalerocke,            daliroko.
  dentes,           darii,                dari.
  crura,            dadane,               dadaanah.
  pedes,            dackosye,             dakuty.
  arbor,            hada,                 adda.
  arcus,            semarape,             semaara-haaba.
  sagittæ,          symare,               semaara.
  luna,             cattehel,             katsi.
  sol,              adaly,                hadalli.

The syllables _wa_ our, and _da_ my, prefixed to the parts of the human
body, will readily be recognized. When it is remembered that the dialect
of Trinidad no doubt differed slightly from that on the mainland; that
the modern orthography is German and that of De Lact’s[TN-4] list is
Dutch; and that two centuries intervened between the first and second,
it is really a matter of surprise to discover such a close similarity.
Father and mother, the only two words which are not identical, are
doubtless different expressions, relationship in this, as in most native
tongues, being indicated with excessive minuteness.

The chain of islands which extend from Trinidad to Porto Rico were
called, from their inhabitants, the Caribby islands. The Caribs,
however, made no pretence to have occupied them for any great length of
time. They distinctly remembered that a generation or two back they had
reached them from the mainland, and had found them occupied by a
peaceful race, whom they styled _Ineri_ or _Igneri_. The males of this
race they slew or drove into the interior, but the women they seized for
their own use. Hence arose a marked difference between the languages of
the island Caribs and their women. The fragments of the language of the
latter show clearly that they were of Arawack lineage, and that the
so-called Igneri were members of that nation. It of course became more
or less corrupted by the introduction of Carib words and forms, so that
in 1674 the missionary De la Borde wrote, that “although there is some
difference between the dialects of the men and women, they readily
understand each other;”[11] and Father Breton in his Carib Grammar
(1665) gives the same forms for the declensions and conjugations of

As the traces of the “island Arawack,” as the tongue of the Igneri may
be called, prove the extension of this tribe over all the Lesser
Antilles, it now remains to inquire whether they had pushed their
conquests still further, and had possessed themselves of the Great
Antilles, the Bahama islands, and any part of the adjacent coasts of
Yucatan or Florida.

All ancient writers agree that on the Bahamas and Cuba the same speech
prevailed, except Gomara, who avers that on the Bahamas “great diversity
of language” was found.[12] But as Gomara wrote nearly half a century
after those islands were depopulated, and has exposed himself to just
censure for carelessness in his statements regarding the natives,[13]
his expression has no weight. Columbus repeatedly states that all the
islands had one language though differing, more or less, in words. The
natives he took with him from San Salvador understood the dialects in
both Cuba and Haiti. One of them on his second voyage served him as an
interpreter on the southern shore of Cuba.[14]

In Haiti, there was a tongue current all over the island, called by the
Spaniards _la lengua universal_ and _la lengua cortesana_. This is
distinctly said by all the historians to have been but very slightly
different from that of Cuba, a mere dialectic variation in accent being
observed.[15] Many fragments of this tongue are preserved in the
narratives of the early explorers, and it has been the theme for some
strange and wild theorizing among would-be philologists. Rafinesque
christened it the “Taino” language, and discovered it to be closely akin
to the “Pelasgic” of Europe.[16] The Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg will
have it allied to the Maya, the old Norse or Scandinavian, the ancient
Coptic, and what not. Rafinesque and Jegor von Sivors[17] have made
vocabularies of it, but the former in so uncritical, and the latter in
so superficial a manner, that they are worse than useless.

Although it is said there were in Haiti two other tongues in the small
contiguous provinces of Macorix de arriba and Macorix de abajo, entirely
dissimilar from the _lengua universal_ and from each other, we are
justified in assuming that the prevalent tongue throughout the whole of
the Great Antilles and the Bahamas, was that most common in Haiti. I
have, therefore, perused with care all the early authorities who throw
any light upon the construction and vocabulary of this language, and
gathered from their pages the scattered information they contain. The
most valuable of these authorities are Peter Martyr de Angleria, who
speaks from conversations with natives brought to Spain by Columbus, on
his first voyage,[18] and who was himself, a fine linguist, and
Bartolomé de las Casas. The latter came as a missionary to Haiti, a few
years after its discovery, was earnestly interested in the natives, and
to some extent acquainted with their language. Besides a few printed
works of small importance, Las Casas left two large and valuable works
in manuscript, the _Historia General de las Indias Occidentales_, and
the _Historia Apologetica de las Indias Occidentals_. A copy of these,
each in four large folio volumes, exists in the Library of Congress,
where I consulted them. They contain a vast amount of information
relating to the aborigines, especially the _Historia Apologetica_,
though much of the author’s space is occupied with frivolous discussions
and idle comparisons.

In later times, the scholar who has most carefully examined the relics
of this ancient tongue, is Señor Don Estevan Richardo, a native of
Haiti, but who for many years resided in Cuba. His views are contained
in the preface to his _Diccionario Provincial casi-razonado de Voces
Cubanas_, (Habana, 2da ed, 1849). He has found very many words of the
ancient language retained in the provincial Spanish of the island, but
of course in a corrupt form. In the vocabulary which I have prepared for
the purpose of comparison, I have omitted all such corrupted forms, and
nearly all names of plants and animals, as it is impossible to identify
these with certainty, and in order to obtain greater accuracy, have
used, when possible, the first edition of the authors quoted, and in
most instances, given under each word a reference to some original

From the various sources which I have examined, the alphabet of the
_lengua universal_ appears to have been as follows: a, b, d, e, (rarely
used at the commencement of a word), g, j, (an aspirated guttural like
the Catalan j, or as Peter Martyr says, like the Arabic ch), i (rare), l
(rare), m, n, o (rare,) p, q, r, s, t, u, y. These letters, it will be
remembered, are as in Spanish.

The Spanish sounds z, ce, ci (English th,) ll, and v, were entirely
unknown to the natives, and where they appear in indigenous words, were
falsely written for l and b. The Spaniards also frequently distorted the
native names by writing x for j, s, and z, by giving j the sound of the
Latin y, and by confounding h, j, and f, as the old writers frequently
employ the h to designate the _spiritus asper_, whereas in modern
Spanish it is mute.[19]

Peter Martyr found that he could reduce all the words of their language
to writing, by means of the Latin letters without difficulty, except in
the single instance of the guttural j. He, and all others who heard it
spoken, describe it as “soft and not less liquid than the Latin,” “rich
in vowels and pleasant to the ear,” an idiom “simple, sweet, and

In the following vocabulary I have not altered in the least the Spanish
orthography of the words, and so that the analogy of many of them might
at once be preceived,[TN-5] I have inserted the corresponding Arawack
expression, which, it must be borne in mind, is to be pronounced by the
German alphabet.


Aji, red pepper. Arawack, _achi_, red pepper.

Aon, dog (Las Casas, Hist. Gen. lib. I, c. 120). Island Ar. _ánli_, dog.

Arcabuco, a wood, a spot covered with trees (Oviedo, Hist. Gen. de las
Indias, lib. VI, c,[TN-6] 8). Ar. _arragkaragkadin_ the swaying to and
fro of trees.

Areito, a song chanted alternately by the priests and the people at
their feasts. (Oviedo, Hist. Gen. lib. V, c. 1.) Ar. _aririn_ to name,

Bagua, the sea. Ar. _bara_, the sea.

Bajaraque, a large house holding several hundred persons. From this
comes Sp. _barraca_, Eng. _barracks_. Ar. _bajü_, a house.

Bajari, title applied to sub-chiefs ruling villages, (Las Casas, Hist.
Apol. cap. 120). Probably “house-ruler,” from Ar. _bajü_, house.

Barbacoa, a loft for drying maize, (Oviedo, Hist. Gen. lib. VII, cap.
1). From this the English barbacue. Ar. _barrabakoa_, a place for
storing provisions.

Batay, a ball-ground; bates, the ball; batey, the game. (Las Casas,
Hist. Apol. c. 204). Ar. _battatan_, to be round, spherical.[21]

Batea, a trough. (Las Casas, Hist. Apol. c. 241.)

Bejique, a priest. Ar. _piaye_, a priest.

Bixa, an ointment. (Las Casas, Hist. Apol. cap. 241.)

Cai, cayo, or cayco, an island. From this the Sp. _cayo_, Eng. _key_, in
the “Florida keys.” Ar. _kairi_, an island.

Caiman, an alligator, Ar. _kaiman_, an alligator, lit. to be strong.

Caona or cáuni, gold. (Pet. Martyr, Decad. p. 26, Ed. Colon, 1564). Ar.
_kaijaunan_, to be precious, costly.

Caracol, a conch, a univalve shell. From this the Sp. _caracol_.
(Richardo, Dicc. Provin. s. v). Probably from Galibi _caracoulis_,
trifles, ornaments. (See Martius, Sprachenkunde, B. II, p. 332.)

Caney or cansi, a house of conical shape.

Canoa, a boat. From this Eng. _canoe_. Ar. _kannoa_, a boat.

Casique, a chief. This word was afterwards applied by Spanish writers to
the native rulers throughout the New World. Ar. _kassiquan_ (from
_ussequa_, house), to have or own a house or houses; equivalent,
therefore, to the Eng. landlord.

Cimu or simu, the front, forehead; a beginning. (Pet. Martyr, Decad. p.
302.) Ar. _eme_ or _uime_, the mouth of a river, _uimelian_, to be new.

Coaibai, the abode of the dead.

Cohóba, the native name of tobacco.

Conuco, a cultivated field. (Oviedo, Hist. Gen. lib. VII, cap. 2.)

Duhos or duohos, low seats (unas baxas sillas, Las Casas, Hist. Gen.
lib. I, cap[TN-7] 96. Oviedo, Hist. Gen. lib. V. cap. 1. Richardo, _sub
voce_, by a careless reading of Oviedo says it means images). Ar.
_dulluhu_ or _durruhu_, a seat, a bench.

Goeiz, the spirit of the living (Pane, p. 444); probably a corruption of
_Guayzas_. Ar. _akkuyaha_, the spirit of a living animal.

Gua, a very frequent prefix: Peter Martyr says, “Est apud eos articulus
et pauca sunt regum praecipue nominum quae non incipiant ab hoc articulo
_gua_.” (Decad. p. 285.) Very many proper names in Cuba and Hayti still
retain it. The modern Cubans pronounce it like the English w with the
_spiritus lenis_. It is often written _oa_, _ua_, _oua_, and _hua_. It
is not an article, but corresponds to the _ah_ in the Maya, and the
_gue_ in the Tupi of Brazil, from which latter it is probably

Guaca, a vault for storing provisions.

Guacabiua, provisions for a journey, supplies.

Guacamayo, a species of parrot, macrocercus tricolor.

Guanara, a retired stop. (Pane, p. 444); a species of dove, columba
zenaida (Richardo, S. V.)[TN-8]

Guanin, an impure sort of gold.

Guaoxeri, a term applied to the lowest class of the inhabitants (Las
Casas, Hist. Apol. cap. 197.) Ar. _wakaijaru_, worthless, dirty,
_wakaijatti lihi_, a worthless fellow.

Guatiao, friend, companion (Richardo). Ar. _ahati_, companion, playmate.

Guayzas, masks or figures (Las Casas, Hist. Apol. cap. 61). Ar.
_akkuyaha_, living beings.

Haba, a basket (Las Casas, Hist. Gen. lib. III, cap. 21). Ar. _habba_, a

Haiti, stony, rocky, rough (Pet. Martyr, Decades). Ar. _aessi_ or
_aetti_, a stone.

Hamaca, a bed, hammock. Ar. _hamaha_, a bed, hammock.

Hico, a rope, ropes (Oviedo, Hist. Gen. lib. V, cap. 2).

Hobin, gold, brass, any reddish metal. (Navarrete Viages, I, p. 134,
Pet. Martyr, Dec. p. 303). Ar. _hobin_, red.

Huiho, height. (Pet. Martyr, p. 304). Ar. _aijumün_, above, high up.

Huracan, a hurricane. From this Sp. _huracan_, Fr. _ouragan_, German
_Orkan_, Eng. _hurricane_. This word is given in the _Livre Sacré des
Quichès_ as the name of their highest divinity, but the resemblance may
be accidental. Father Ximenes, who translated the _Livre Sacrè_, derives
the name from the Quiché _hu rakan_, one foot. Father Thomas Coto, in
his Cakchiquel Dictionary, (MS. in the library of the Am. Phil. Soc.)
translates _diablo_ by _hurakan_, but as the equivalent of the Spanish
_huracan_, he gives _ratinchet_.

Hyen, a poisonous liquor expressed from the cassava root. (Las Casas,
Hist. Apol. cap. 2).

Itabo, a lagoon, pond. (Richardo).

Juanna, a serpent. (Pet. Martyr, p. 63). Ar. _joanna_, a lizard;
_jawanaria_, a serpent.

Macana, a war club. (Navarrete, Viages.[TN-9] I, p. 135).

Magua, a plain. (Las Casas, Breviss. Relat. p. 7).

Maguey, a native drum. (Pet. Martyr, p. 280).

Maisi, maize. From this Eng. _maize_, Sp. _mais_, Ar. _marisi_, maize.

Matum, liberal, noble. (Pet. Martyr, p. 292).

Matunheri, a title applied to the highest chiefs. (Las Casas, Hist.
Apol. cap. 197).

Mayani, of no value, (“nihili,” Pet. Martyr, p. 9). Ar. _ma_, no, not.

Naborias, servants. (Las Casas, Hist. Gen. lib. III, cap. 32).

Nacan, middle, center. Ar. _annakan_, center.

Nagua, or enagua, the breech cloth made of cotton and worn around the
middle. Ar. _annaka_, the middle.

Nitainos, the title applied to the petty chiefs, (regillos ò guiallos,
Las Casas, Hist. Apol. cap,[TN-10] 197); _tayno_ vir bonus, _taynos_
nobiles, says Pet. Martyr, (Decad. p. 25). The latter truncated form of
the word was adopted by Rafinesque and others, as a general name for the
people and language of Hayti. There is not the slightest authority for
this, nor for supposing, with Von Martius, that the first syllable is a
pronominal prefix. The derivation is undoubtedly Ar. _nüddan_ to look
well, to stand firm, to do anything well or skilfully.

Nucay or nozay, gold, used especially in Cuba and on the Bahamas. The
words _caona_ and _tuob_ were in vogue in Haiti (Navarrete, Viages, Tom.
1, pp. 45, 134).

Operito, dead, and

Opia, the spirit of the dead (Pane, pp. 443, 444). Ar. _aparrün_ to
kill, _apparahun_ dead, _lupparrükittoa_ he is dead.

Quisquéia, a native name of Haiti; “vastitas et universus ac totus. Uti
Græci suum Panem,” says Pet. Martyr (Decad. p. 279). “Madre de las
tierras,” Valverde translates it (_Idea del valor de la Isla Espanola_,
Introd. p. xviii). The orthography is evidently very false.

Sabana, a plain covered with grass without trees (terrano llano, Oviedo,
Hist. Gen. lib. vi. cap. 8). From this the Sp. _savana_, Eng.
_savannah_. Charlevoix, on the authority of Mariana, says it is an
ancient Gothic word (Histoire de l’Isle St. Domingue, i. p. 53). But it
is probably from the Ar. _sallaban_, smooth, level.

Semi, the divinities worshipped by the natives (“Lo mismo que nosotros
llamamos Diablo,” Oviedo, Hist. Gen. lib. v. cap. 1. Not evil spirits
only, but all spirits). Ar. _semeti_ sorcerers, diviners, priests.

Siba, a stone. Ar. _siba_, a stone.

Starei, shining, glowing (relucens, Pet. Martyr, Decad. p. 304). Ar.
_terén_ to be hot, glowing, _terehü_ heat.

Tabaco, the pipe used in smoking the cohoba. This word has been applied
in all European languages to the plant nicotiana tabacum itself.

Taita, father (Richardo). Ar. _itta_ father, _daitta_ or _datti_ my

Taguáguas, ornaments for the ears hammered from native gold (Las Casas,
Hist. Apol. cap. 199).

Tuob, gold, probably akin to _hobin_, q. v.

Turey, heaven. Idols were called “cosas de _turey_” (Navarrete, Viages,
Tom. i. p. 221). Probably akin to _starei_, q. v.

The following numerals are given by Las Casas (Hist. Apol. cap. 204).

1 hequeti. Ar. _hürketai_, that is one, from _hürkün_ to be single or

2 yamosa. Ar. _biama_, two.

3 canocum. Ar. _kannikún_, many, a large number, _kannikukade_, he has
many things.

4 yamoncobre, evidently formed from yamosa, as Ar. _bibiti_, four, from
_biama_, two.

The other numerals Las Casas had unfortunately forgotten, but he says
they counted by hands and feet, just as the Arawacks do to this day.

Various compound words and phrases are found in different writers, some
of which are readily explained from the Arawack. Thus _tureigua hobin_,
which Peter Martyr translates “rex resplendens uti orichalcum,”[23] in
Arawack means “shining like something red.” Oviedo says that at
marriages in Cuba it was customary for the bride to bestow her favors on
every man present of equal rank with her husband before the latter’s
turn came. When all had thus enjoyed her, she ran through the crowd of
guests shouting _manícato, manícato_, “lauding herself, meaning that she
was strong, and brave, and equal to much.”[24] This is evidently the Ar.
_manikade_, from _mân_, _manin_, and means I am unhurt, I am
unconquered. When the natives of Haiti were angry, says Las Casas,[25]
they would not strike each other, but apply such harmless epithets as
_buticaco_, you are blue-eyed (anda para zarco de los ojos),
_xeyticaco_, you are black-eyed (anda para negro de los ojos), or
_mahite_, you have lost a tooth, as the case might be. The termination
_aco_ in the first two of these expressions is clearly the Ar. _acou_,
or _akusi_, eyes, and the last mentioned is not unlike the Ar.
_márikata_, you have no teeth (_ma_ negative, _ari_ tooth). The same
writer gives for “I do not know,” the word _ita_, in Ar. _daitta_.[26]

Some of the words and phrases I have been unable to identify in the
Arawack. They are _duiheyniquen_, dives fluvius, _maguacochíos_ vestiti
homines, both in Peter Martyr, and the following conversation, which he
says took place between one of the Haitian chieftians[TN-11] and his

She. Teítoca teítoca. Técheta cynáto guamechyna. Guaibbá.

He. Cynáto machabuca guamechyna.

These words he translated: _teitoca_ be quiet, _técheta_ much, _cynato_
angry, _guamechyna_ the Lord, _guaibba_ go, _machabuca_ what is it to
me. But they are either very incorrectly spelled, or are not Arawack.

The proper names of localities in Cuba, Hayti and the Bahamas, furnish
additional evidence that their original inhabitants were Arawacks.
Hayti, I have already shown has now the same meaning in Arawack which
Peter Martyr ascribed to it at the discovery. Cubanacan, a province in
the interior of Cuba, is compounded of _kuba_ and _annakan_, in the
center;[27] Baracoa, the name of province on the coast, is from Ar.
_bara_ sea, _koan_ to be there, “the sea is there;” in Barajagua the
_bara_ again appears; Guaymaya is Ar. _waya_ clay, _mara_ there is none;
Marien is from Ar. _maran_ to be small or poor; Guaniguanico, a province
on the narrow western extremity of the island, with the sea on either
side, is probably Ar. _wuini wuini koa_, water, water is there. The
names of tribes such as Siboneyes, Guantaneyes, owe their termination to
the island Arawack, _eyeri_ men, in the modern dialect _hiaeru_,
captives, slaves. The Siboneyes are said by Las Casas, to have been the
original inhabitants of Cuba.[28] The name is evidently from Ar. _siba_,
rock, _eyeri_ men, “men of the rocks.” The rocky shores of Cuba gave
them this appellation. On the other hand the natives of the islets of
the Bahamas were called _lukku kairi_, abbreviated to _lukkairi_, and
_lucayos_, from _lukku_, man, _kairi_ an island, “men of the islands;”
and the archipelago itself was called by the first explorers “las islas
de los Lucayos,” “isole delle Lucaí.”[29] The province in the western
angle of Haiti was styled Guacaiarima, which Peter Martyr translates
“insulae podex;” dropping the article, _caiarima_ is sufficiently like
the Ar. _kairuina_, which signifies _podex_, Sp. _culata_, and is used
geographically in the same manner as the latter word.

The word Maya frequently found in the names of places in Cuba and Haiti,
as Mayaba, Mayanabo, Mayajigua, Cajimaya, Jaimayabon, is doubtless the
Ar. negative _ma_, _mân_, _mara_. Some writers have thought it
indicative of the extension of the Maya language of Yucatan over the
Antilles. Prichard, Squier, Waitz, Brasseur de Bourbourg, Bastian and
other ethnologists have felt no hesitation in assigning a large portion
of Cuba and Haiti to the Mayas. It is true the first explorers heard in
Cuba and Jamaica, vague rumors of the Yucatecan peninsula, and found wax
and other products brought from there.[30] This shows that there was
some communication between the two races, but all authorities agree that
there was but one language over the whole of Cuba. The expressions which
would lead to a different opinion are found in Peter Martyr. He relates
that in one place on the southern shore of Cuba, the interpreter whom
Columbus had with him, a native of San Salvador, was at fault. But the
account of the occurrence given by Las Casas, indicates that the native
with whom the interpreter tried to converse simply refused to talk at
all.[31] Again, in Martyr’s account of Grijalva’s voyage to Yucatan in
1517, he relates that this captain took with him a native to serve as an
interpreter; and to explain how this could be, he adds that this
interpreter was one of the Cuban natives “quorum idioma, si non idem,
consanguineum tamen,” to that of Yucatan. This is a mere fabrication, as
the chaplain of Grijalva on this expedition states explicitly in the
narrative of it which he wrote, that the interpreter was a native of
Yucatan, who had been captured a year before.[32]

Not only is there a very great dissimilarity in sound, words, and
structure, between the Arawack and Maya, but the nations were also far
asunder in culture. The Mayas were the most civilized on the continent,
while the Arawacks possessed little besides the most primitive arts, and
precisely that tribe which lived on the extremity of Cuba nearest
Yucatan, the Guanataneyes, were the most barbarous on the island.[33]

The natives of the greater Antilles and Bahamas differed little in
culture. They cultivated maize, manioc, yams, potatoes, corn, and
cotton. The latter they wove into what scanty apparel they required.
Their arms were bows with reed arrows, pointed with fish teeth or
stones, stone axes, spears, and a war club armed with sharp stones
called a _macana_. They were a simple hearted, peaceful, contented race,
“all of one language and all friends,” says Columbus; “not given to
wandering, naked, and satisfied with little,” says Peter Martyr; “a
people very poor in all things,” says Las Casas.

Yet they had some arts. Statues and masks in wood and stone were found,
some of them in the opinion of Bishop Las Casas, “very skilfully
carved.” They hammered the native gold into ornaments, and their rude
sculptures on the face of the rocks are still visible in parts of Cuba
and Haiti. Their boats were formed of single trunks of trees often of
large size, and they managed them adroitly; their houses were of reeds
covered with palm leaves, and usually accommodated a large number of
families; and in their holy places, they set up rows of large stones
like the ancient cromlechs, one of which is still preserved in Hayti,
and is known as _la cercada de los Indios_.

Physically they were undersized, less muscular than the Spaniards, light
in color, with thick hair and scanty beards. Their foreheads were
naturally low and retreating, and they artificially flattened the skull
by pressure on the forehead or the occiput.[34]

Three social grades seem to have prevailed, the common herd, the petty
chiefs who ruled villages, and the independent chiefs who governed
provinces. Of the latter there were in Cuba twenty-nine; in Haiti five,
as near as can be now ascertained.[35] Some of those in Cuba had shortly
before the arrival of the Spaniards moved there from Haiti, and at the
conquest one of the principal chiefs of Haiti was a native of the

The fate of these Indians is something terrible to contemplate. At the
discovery there were probably 150,000 on Cuba, Haiti, and the
Bahamas.[37] Those on the latter were carried as slaves to Haiti to work
in the mines, and all of the Lucayos exterminated in three or four years
(1508-1512).[38] The sufferings of the Haitians have been told in a
graphic manner by Las Casas in an oft-quoted work.[39] His statements
have frequently been condemned as grossly exaggerated, but the official
documents of the early history of Cuba prove but too conclusively that
the worthy missionary reports correctly what terrible cruelties the
Spaniards committed. Cuba was conquered in 1514, and was then quite
densely populated. Fourteen years afterwards we find the Governor,
Gonzalo de Guzman, complaining that while troops of hunters were
formerly traversing the island constantly, asking no other pay than the
right of keeping as slaves the natives whom they captured, he now has to
pay patrolmen, as the Indians are so scarce.[40] The next year (1529)
the treasurer, Lope de Hurtado, writes that the Indians are in such
despair that they are hanging themselves twenty and thirty at a
time.[41] In 1530 the king is petitioned to relinquish his royalty on
the produce of the mines, because nearly all the Indians on the island
are dead.[42] And in 1532 the licentiate, Vadillo, estimates the total
number of Indians on the island, including the large percentage brought
from the mainland by the slavers, at only 4,500.[43]

As a specimen of what the treatment of the Indians was, we have an
accusation in 1522 against Vasco Porcallo, afterwards one of the
companions of Hernando de Soto. He captured several Indians, cut off
their genitals, and forced them to eat them, cramming them down their
throats when they could not swallow. When asked for his defence,
Porcallo replied that he did it to prevent his own Indians from
committing suicide, as he had already lost two-thirds of his slaves in
that way. The defence was apparently deemed valid, for he was

The myths and traditions of the Haitians have fortunately been
preserved, though not in so perfect a form as might be wished. When
Bartholomew Columbus left Rome for the Indies, he took with him a lay
brother of the order of the Hermits of St. Jerome, Ramon Pane by name, a
Catalan by birth, a worthy but credulous and ignorant man.[45] On
reaching Haiti brother Pane was first sent among the natives of the
small province called Macorix de abajo, which had a language peculiar to
itself, but he was subsequently transferred to the province of Guarinoex
on the southeastern part of the island where the _lengua universal_
prevailed. He remained there two years, and at the request of Columbus
collected and wrote down the legends and beliefs of the natives.

He is not a model authority. In the first place, being a Catalan he did
not write Spanish correctly; he was very imperfectly acquainted with the
native tongue; he wrote hastily, and had not enough paper to write in
full; he is not sure that he commences their legends at the right end.
Moreover his manuscript is lost, and the only means we have of knowing
anything about it is by a very incorrectly printed Italian version,
printed in 1571, and two early synopses, one in Latin in the Decades of
Peter Martyr, the other in Italian, by Messer Zuane de Strozi of
Ferrara, which has been quite recently published for the first time.[46]
By comparing these we can arrive at the meaning of Brother Pane with
considerable accuracy.

His work contains fragments of two distinct cycles of legends, the one
describing the history of the gods, the other the history of the human

Earliest of creatures was the woman, Atabéira or Ataves, who also bore
the other names Mamóna, Guacarapíta, Iiélla, and Guimazóa. Her son was
the supreme ruler of all things, and chiefest of divinities. His names
were Yocaúna, Guamaónocon, and Yocahu-vaguaniao-vocoti. He had a brother
called Guaca, and a son Iaiael. The latter rebelled against his father,
and was exiled for four mouths and then killed. The legend goes on to
relate that his bones were placed in a calabash and hung up in his
father’s house. Here they changed into fishes, and the calabash filled
with water. One day four brothers passed that way, who had all been born
at one time, and whose mother, Itaba tahuana, had died in bringing them
into the world. Seeing the calabash filled with fish the oldest of the
four, Caracaracol, the Scabby, lifted it down, and all commenced to eat.
While thus occupied, Yocaúna suddenly made his appearance, which so
terrified the brothers that they dropped the gourd and broke it into
pieces. From it ran all the waters of the world, and formed the oceans,
lakes, and rivers as they now are.

At this time there were men but no women, and the men did not dare to
venture into the sunlight. Once, as they were out in the rain, they
perceived four creatures, swift as eagles and slippery as eels. The men
called to their aid Caracaracol and his brothers, who caught these
creatures and transformed them into women. In time, these became the
mothers of mankind.

The earliest natives of Haiti came under the leadership of the hero-god,
Vaguoniona, a name applied by Las Casas to Yocahu, from an island to the
south called in the legend Matininó, which all the authors identify, I
know not why, with Martinique. They landed first on the banks of the
river Bahoboni in the western part of Haiti, and there erected the first
house, called Camotéia. This was ever after preserved and regarded with
respectful veneration.

Such, in brief, were their national myths. Conspicuously marked in them
we note the sacred number four, the four brothers typifying the cardinal
points, whose mother, the Dawn, dies in giving them birth, just as in
the Algonkin myths. These brothers aid the men in their struggles for
life, and bring to them the four women, the rain-bringing winds. Here,
too, the first of existences is the woman, whose son is at once highest
of divinities and the guide and instructor of their nation. These
peculiarities I have elsewhere shown to be general throughout the
religions of America.[47]

The myth of the thunder storm also appears among them in its triplicate
nature so common to the American mind. God of the storm was Guabancex,
whose statue was made of stones. When angry he sent before him as
messenger, Guatauva, to gather the winds, and accompanied by
Coatrischie, who collected the rain-clouds in the valleys of the
mountains, he swept down upon the plain, surrounded by the awful
paraphernalia of the thunder storm.[48]

Let us place side by side with these ancient myths the national legend
of the Arawacks.[49] They tell of a supreme spiritual being Yauwahu or
Yauhahu. Pain and sickness are the invisible shafts he shoots at men,
_yauhahu simaira_ the arrows of Yauhahu, and he it is whom the priests
invoke in their incantations. Once upon a time, men lived without any
means to propitiate this unseen divinity; they knew not how to ward off
his anger or conciliate him. At that time the Arawacks did not live in
Guiana, but in an island to the north. One day a man named Arawanili
walked by the waters grieving over the ignorance and suffering of his
nation. Suddenly the spirit of the waters, the woman Orehu, rose from
the waves and addressed him. She taught him the mysteries of _semeci_,
the sorcery which pleases and controls Yauhahu, and presented him with
the _maraka_, the holy calabash containing white pebbles which they
rattle during their exorcisms, and the sound of which summons the beings
of the unseen world. Arawanili faithfully instructed his people in all
that Orehu had said, and thus rescued them from their wretchedness. When
after a life of wisdom and good deeds the hour of his departure came, he
“did not die, but went up.”

Orehu accompanied the Arawacks when they moved to the main, and still
dwells in a treeless, desolate spot, on the banks of the Pomeroon. The
negroes of the colony have learned of her, and call her in their broken
English, the “watra-mamma,” the water-mother.

The proper names which occur in these myths, date back to the earliest
existence of the Arawacks as an independent tribe, and are not readily
analyzed by the language as it now exists. The Haitian Yocauna seems
indeed identical with the modern Yauhahu. Atabes or Atabéira is probably
from _itabo_, lake, lagoon, and _era_, water, (the latter only in
composition, as _hurruru_, mountain, _era_, water, mountain-water, a
spring, a source), and in some of her actions corresponds with Orehu.
Caracaracol is translated by Brother Pane, as “the Scabby” or the one
having ulcers, and in this respect the myth presents a curious analogy
with many others in America. In modern Arawack _karrikala_ is a form, in
the third person singular, from _karrin_, to be sick, to be pregnant.
Arawanili, which one might be tempted to suppose gave the name Arawack
to the tribe, did not all writers derive this differently, may be a form
of _awawa_, father. In the old language, the termination _el_, is said
to have meant son.

Of the two remaining languages said to have been spoken in the small
provinces of Macorix de arriba and Macorix de abajo, in Hayti, we have
no certain knowledge.[50] Las Casas gives one word from the former. It
is _bazca_, no, not. I cannot identify it. There is reason, however, to
suppose one of them was the Tupi or “lengua geral,” of Brazil. Pane
gives at least two words which are pure Tupi, and not Arawack. They are
the names of two hideous idols supposed to be inimical to men. The one
was Bugi, in Tupi, _ugly_, the other Aiba, in Tupi, _bad_. It is
noteworthy, also, that Pigafetta, who accompanied Magellan on his voyage
around the world, gives a number of words, ostensibly in the language of
the natives of Rio Janeiro, where the Tupi was spoken, which are
identical with those of Haiti, as _cacich_, chief, _boi_, house,
_hamac_, bed, _canoe_, boat. But Pigafetta acknowledges that he obtained
these words not from the natives themselves, but from the pilot Juan
Carvalhos, who had been for years sailing over the West Indian seas, and
had no doubt learned these words in the Antilles.[51]

The remaining idiom may be supposed to have been Carib, although we have
actually no evidence that the Caribs had gained a permanent foothold on
any of the Great Antilles at the period of the discovery, some careless
assertions of the old authors to the contrary, notwithstanding.

The investigation which I here close, shows that man in his migrations
on the Western Continent followed the lead of organic nature around him.
For it is well known that the flora and fauna of the Antilles are South
American in character, and also, that the geological structure of the
archipelago connects it with the southern mainland. So also its earliest
known human inhabitants were descended from an ancestry whose homes were
in the far south, and who by slow degrees moved from river to river,
island to island, until they came within a few miles of the northern


[Footnote 1: Since reading this article before the Society, Prof. S. S.
Haldeman has shown me a copy of a work with the title: “_Die Geschichte
von der Marterwoche, Auferstehung und Himmelfahrt unsers Herrn und
Heilandes Jesu Christi. Uebersetzt in die Aruwackische Sprache und
erklärend umschrieben. Philadelphia: Gedruckt bey Carl List, 1799_,”
8vo. pages 213, then one blank leaf, then 40 pages of “Anmerkungen.”
There is also a second title, in Arawack, and neither title page is
included in the pagination. The Arawack title begins: “_Wadaijahun
Wüüssada-goanti, Wappussida-goanti baddia Jesus Christus_,” etc. The
remarks at the end are chiefly grammatical and critical, and contain
many valuable hints to the student of the language. I have no doubt this
book is the Life of Christ mentioned in the text. The name of the
translator or editor is nowhere mentioned, but I have no doubt Mr.
Schultz wrote the “Anmerkungen,” and read the proof, as not only are his
grammatical signs and orthography adopted throughout, but also we know
from other sources that he was in Philadelphia at that time.]

[Footnote 2: Brett, _The Indian Tribes of Guiana_, p. 117 (London,

[Footnote 3: _Etudes Philologiques sur quelquee[TN-12] Langues Sauvages
de l’Amerique_, p. 87 (Montreal, 1866).]

[Footnote 4: _Beiträge zur Ethnographie und Sprachenkunde Amerika’s
zumal Brasiliens_, B. I., p. 705 (Leipzig, 1867).]

[Footnote 5: De Laet. _Novus Orbis_, lib. xvii., cap. vi.]

[Footnote 6: Martius, _Ethnographie und Sprachenkunde Amerika’s_, B. I.,
S. 687.]

[Footnote 7: Antonio Julian, _La Perla de la America, la Provincia de
Santa Marta_, p. 149.]

[Footnote 8: _Ethnographie, etc._, B. I., S. 714.]

[Footnote 9: _The Myths of the New World; a Treatise on the Symbolism
and Mythology of the Red Race of America_, p. 32 (New York, 1868).]

[Footnote 10: _The Discoverie of Guiana_, p[TN-13] 4 (Hackluyt, Soc.,
London, 1842).]

[Footnote 11: _Relation de l’Origine, etc., des Caraibes_, p. 39 (Paris,

[Footnote 12: “Havia mas policia entre ellos [los Lucayos,] i mucha
diversidad de Lenguas.” _Hist. de las Indias_, cap. 41.]

[Footnote 13: Las Casas, in the _Historia General de las Indias
Occid[TN-14]_, lib. III, cap. 27, criticizes him severely.]

[Footnote 14: Columbus says of the Bahamas and Cuba: “toda la lengua es
una y todos amigos” (Navarrete, _Viages_, Tomo I, p. 46.) The natives of
Guanahani conversed with those of Haiti “porque todos tenian una
lengua,” (_ibid_, p. 86.) In the Bay of Samana a different dialect but
the same language was found (p. 135).]

[Footnote 15: Gomara says the language of Cuba is “algo diversa,” from
that of Espanola. (_Hist. de las Indias_, cap. 41.) Oviedo says that
though the natives of the two islands differ in many words, yet they
readily understand each other. (_Hist. de las Indias_, lib. XVII. cap.

[Footnote 16: The American Nations, chap. VII, (Philadelphia, 1836.)]

[Footnote 17: _Cuba, die Perle der Antillen_, p. 72. (Leipzig, 1831.)
The vocabulary contains 33 words, “_aus dem Cubanischen_.” Many are
incorrect both in spelling and pronunciation.]

[Footnote 18: When Columbus returned from his first voyage, he brought
with him ten natives from the Bay of Samana in Haiti, and a few from

[Footnote 19: See the remarks of Richardo in the Prologo to his
_Diccionario Provincial_.]

[Footnote 20: The remarks of Peter Martyr are; “posse omnium illarum
linguam nostris literis Latinis, sine ullo discrimine, scribi compertum
est,” (_De Rebus Oceanicis et Novo Orbe_, Decades Tres, p. 9.)
“Advertendum est, nullam inesse adspirationem vocabulis corum, quae non
habeat effectum literae consonantis; immo gravius adspirationem
proferunt, quam nos f consonantem. Proferendumque est quicquid est
adspiratum eodum halitu quo f, sed minime admoto ad superiores dentes
inferiore labello, ore aut aperto ha, he hi, ho, hu, et concusso
pectore. Hebraeos et Arabicos eodem modo suas proferre adspirationes
vides,” (id. pp. 285, 286.)]

[Footnote 21: There was a ball-ground in every village. It was “tres
veces mas luenga que ancha, cercada de unos lomillos de un palmo o dos
de alto.” The ball was “como las de viento nuestras mas no cuanto al
salto, que era mayor que seis de las de viento.” (Las Casas, _Historia
Apologetica_, caps. 46, 204.) Perhaps the ball was of India rubber.]

[Footnote 22: “Gue ou Gui, signal de vocativo, mas so empregado pelos
homems.” Dias _Diccionario da Lingua Tupy chamada Lingua Geral dos
Indigenas do Brazil_, p. 60 (Lipsia, 1858).]

[Footnote 23: _De Rebus Oceanicis_, p. 303.]

[Footnote 24: _Hist. de las Indias_, lib. xvii. cap. 4, Las Casas denies
the story, and says Oviedo told it in order to prejudice people against
the natives (_Hist. Gen. de las Indias_, lib. iii. cap. xxiv). It is,
however, probably true.]

[Footnote 25: _Historia Apologetica_, cap. 198.]

[Footnote 26: He compares the signification of _ita_ in Haytian to _ita_
in Latin, and translates the former _ita_ by _no se_; this is plainly an
error of the transcriber for _yo se_ (_Hist. Apologetica_, cap. 241).]

[Footnote 27: _Kuba_ in Arawack is the sign of past time and is used as
a prefix to nouns, as well as a suffix to verbs. _Kubakanan_ ancestors,
those passed away, those who lived in past times.]

[Footnote 28: “Toda la mas de la gente de que estaba poblaba aquella
isla [Cuba] era passada y natural desta ysla Espanola, puesto que la mas
antigua y natural de aquella ysla era como la de los Lucayos de quien
ablamos en el primero y segundo libro ser como los seres que parecia no
haber pecado nuestro padre Adan en ellos, gente simplicissima,
bonissima, careciente de todos vicios, y beatissima. Esta era la natural
y native de aquella ysla, y llamabanse en su lengua, Ciboneyes, la
penultima silaba luenga; y los desta por grado o por fuerza se apodearon
de aquella ysla y gente della, y los tenian como sirvientes suyos.” (Las
Casas _Hist. Gen. de las Indias_, MSS. lib. iii, cap. 21). Elsewhere
(cap. 23) he says this occurred “mayormente” after the Spaniards had
settled in Haiti.]

[Footnote 29: “Lucayos o por mejor decir Yucayos” says Las Casas,
(_Hist. Gen._ lib. ii. cap. 44) and after him Herrera. But the
correction which was based apparently on some supposed connection of the
word with _yuca_, the Haitian name of an esculent plant, is superfluous,
and Las Casas himself never employs it, nor a single other writer.]

[Footnote 30: Las Casas. _Hist. Gen. de las Indias_, lib. iv. cap. 48,
MSS. Bees were native to Yucatan long before the discovery, but not to
the north temperate zone.]

[Footnote 31: “Varia enim esse idiomata in varils Cubae provinelis
perpenderunt.” (Pet. Martyr, _De Rebus Oceanicis_, v. 42). Las Casas
says that a sailor told Columbus that he saw one Indian cacique in a
long white tunic who refused to speak, but stalked silently away.
(_Hist. de las Indias_, lib. I. cap. 95). Martyr says there were
several. Peschel suggests they were tall white flamingoes, that scared
the adventurous tar out of his wits. (_Geschichte des Zeitalters der
Entdeckungen_, p. 253). At any rate the story gives no foundation at all
for Peter Martyr’s philogical[TN-15] opinion.]

[Footnote 32: Pet. Martyr, _De Insulis Nuper Inventis_, p. 335. “Traia
consigo Grisalva un Indio per lengua de los que de aquella tierra habian
llevado consigo a la ysla de Cuba Francisco Hernandez.[TN-16] Las Casas
_Hist. Gen. de las Indias_, lib. III, cap. 108, MSS. See also the
chaplain’s account in Terneaux Compans, _Recueil de Pieces rel. a la
Conquête de Mexique_, p. 56.]

[Footnote 33: Bernal Dias says the vicinity of cape San Antonio was
inhabited by the “Guanataneys que son unos Indias como salvages.” He
expressly adds that their clothing differed from that of the Mayas, and
that the Cuban natives with him could not understand the Maya language.
_Historia Verdadera_, cap. II.]

[Footnote 34: “Presso capite, fronte lata” (Nicolaus Syllacius, _De
Insulis nuper Inventis_, p. 86. Reprint, New York, 1859. This is the
extremely rare account of Columbus’ second voyage). Six not very perfect
skulls were obtained in 1860, by Col. F. S. Heneken, from a cavern 15
miles south-west from Porto Plata. They are all more or less distorted
in a discoidal manner, one by pressure over the frontal sinus, reducing
the calvaria to a disk. (J. Barnard Davis, _Thesaurus Craniorum_, p.
236, London, 1867. Mr. Davis erroneously calls them Carib skulls).]

[Footnote 35: The provinces of Cuba are laid down on the _Mapa de la
Isla de Cuba segun la division de los Naturales_, por D. Jose Maria de
la Torre y de la Torre, in the _Memorias de la Sociedad Patriotica de la
Habana_, 1841. See also Felipe Poey, _Geografia de la Isla de Cuba_,
Habana, 1853. _Apendice sobre la Geografia Antigua._ Las Casas gives the
five provinces of Hayti by the names of their chiefs, Guarinox,
Guacanagari, Behechio, Caonabo and Higuey. For their relative position
see the map in Charlevoix’s _Histoire de l’Isle San Domingue_, Paris,
1740, and in Baumgarten’s _Geschichte von Amerika_, B. II.]

[Footnote 36: This was Caonabo. Oviedo, and following him Charlevoix,
say he was a Carib, but Las Casas, who having lived twenty years in
Haiti immediately after the discovery, is infinitely the best authority,
says: “Era de nacion Lucayo, natural de las islas de los Lucayos, que se
pasó de ellas aca.” (_Historia Apologetica_, cap. 179, MSS[TN-17]).]

[Footnote 37: I put the figures very low. Peter Martyr, whose estimates
are the lowest of any writer, says there were more than 200,000 natives
on Haiti alone. (_De Rebus Oceanicis_, p. 295.)]

[Footnote 38: More than 40,000 were brought to Haiti to enjoy the
benefits of Christian instruction, says Herrera, with what might pass as
a ghastly sarcasm. (_Historia General de las Indias_, Dec. I, lib. VIII.
cap. 3).]

[Footnote 39: _Brevissima Relacion de la Destruccion de las Indias
Occidentales par los Castellanos_, Sevilla, 1552.]

[Footnote 40: Ramon de de[TN-18] la Sagra, _Historia de la Isla de Cuba_,
Tom. II, p. 381.]

[Footnote 41: Ibid, p. 394.]

[Footnote 42: Ibid, p. 396.]

[Footnote 43: Ibid, p. 414.]

[Footnote 44: Ibid, p. 385. These references to De la Sagra’s work are
all to the original documents in his Appendix.]

[Footnote 45: Las Casas knew Pane personally, and gives his name
correctly (not _Roman_, as all the printed authorities have it). He
described him as “hombre simple y de buena intencion;” “fuese Catalan de
nacion y no habla del todo bien nuestra lengua Castellana.” Ramon came
to Haiti four or five years before Las Casas, and the latter speaks of
him in a disparaging tone. “Este Fray Ramon escudrino lo que pudó, segun
lo que alcanzo de las lenguas que fueron tres, las que habia en esta
ysia: pero no supo sino la una de una chica provincia, que arriba
dejimos llamarse Macaria de abajo, y aquella no perfectamente.[TN-19]
(_Historia Apologetica, MSS._[TN-20] cap. 120, see also cap. 162). This
statement is not quite true, as according to Las Casas’ own admission
Pane dwelt two years in the province of Guarinoex, where the _lengua
universal_ was spoken, and _there_ collected these traditions.]

[Footnote 46: Pane’s account was first published in the _Historie del
Frenando[TN-21] Colombo_, Venetia, 1571, from which it has recently been
translated and published with notes by Brasseur de Bourbourg, Paris,
1864. The version of Zuane de Strozi is in the Appendix to Harrisse’s
_Bibliotheca Primordia Americana_, p. 474.]

[Footnote 47: _The myths of the New World_, (New York, 1868).]

[Footnote 48: See the work last quoted, p. 156, for a number of similar
myths of the trinity of the storm.]

[Footnote 49: I take these as they are related in Bretts, _Indian Tribes
of Guiana_, Part ii, chap. x.]

[Footnote 50: The most trustworthy author is Las Casas. As his works are
still in manuscript, I give his words. “Tres lenguas habia en esta ysla
distintas que la una a la otra no se entendia. La una era de la gente
que llamabamos Macorix de abajo y la otra de los vecinos del Macorix de
arriba. La otra lengua fue la universal de toda la tierra, y esta era
mas elegante y mas copiosa de vocablos, y mas dulce al sonido. En esto
la de Xaragua en todo llevaba ventaja, y era mui mas prima.” (_Historia
Apologetica_, cap. 197). “Es aqui de saber que un gran pedajo de esta
costa (that of the northern part of Haiti), bien mas de veinte y cinco o
treinta leguas y quince buenas y aun veinte de ancho hasta las sierras
que haren desta parte del norte la gran Vega inclusive, era poblado de
una gente que se llamaron Mazoriges, y otras Ciguayos, y tenian diversas
lenguas de la universal de todas las islas.” (_Historia General_, lib.
I, cap. 77). “Llamaban Ciguayos porque trayan todos los cabellos mui
luengos como en Nueva Castilla las mujeres,” (id. cap. 77). The cacique
of the Ciguayos was named Mayomanex or Mayobanex, (id. lib. I, cap.
120). They went almost naked, and had no arms, “eran Gallinas almenos
para con los uños, como no tuviesen armas,” (id. cap. 120.)]

[Footnote 51: Pigafetta, _Reise um die Welt_, so. 21, 26, 247, (Gotha,
1802; a translation of the Italian original in the library at Milan).]

Transcriber’s Note

The following misspellings and typographical errors were maintained.

       Page       Error
  TN-1   2  Mr. Shultz should read Schultz
  TN-2   2  dipthongs should read diphthongs
  TN-3   7  Second preterite should read Second preterite:
  TN-4   9  Lact’s should read Laet’s
  TN-5  11  preceived should read perceived
  TN-6  11  VI, c, 8 should read VI, c. 8
  TN-7  12  lib. I, cap 96 should read lib. I, cap. 96
  TN-8  12  S. V.) should read S. V.).
  TN-9  13  Navarrete, Viages. should read Navarrete, Viages,
  TN-10 13  Apol. cap, should read Apol. cap.
  TN-11 14  chieftians should read chieftains
  TN-12 fn. 3   quelquee should read quelques
  TN-13 fn. 10  p 4 should read p. 4
  TN-14 fn. 13  Indias Occid should read Indias Occid.
  TN-15 fn. 31  philogical should read philological
  TN-16 fn. 32  Hernandez. should read Hernandez.”
  TN-17 fn. 36  MSS should read MSS.
  TN-18 fn. 40  Ramon de de should read Ramon de
  TN-19 fn. 45  perfectamente. should read perfectamente.”
  TN-20 fn. 45  _MSS._ should read MSS.
  TN-21 fn. 46  Frenando should read Fernando

Other inconsistencies:

The relative position of , and ) is not consistent.

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