Island Carib language

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Island Carib
Native to Dominica, St Vincent, Trinidad
Ethnicity Igneri
Extinct 1920
Language codes
ISO 639-3 crb
Linguist list

Island Carib, also known as Iñeri (Igñeri, Inyeri), was an Arawakan language of the Lesser Antilles related to Taíno. It went extinct about 1920, but an offshoot survives as Garifuna.

Despite its name, it was not a Carib language. Before the arrival of Europeans, Caribs had conquered the Arawakan population of the islands, cousins of the Taino and Palikur peoples. Carib men killed the Arawak men and married the women. Their children were thus raised by their mothers speaking Arawak, but as boys came of age, their fathers taught them Carib. When European missionaries described the Island Carib people in the seventeenth century, they recorded two unrelated languages—Carib spoken by the men and Arawak spoken by the women. However, while the boys acquired much of the Carib vocabulary, they retained the Arawakan grammar of their mother tongue. Thus Island Carib as spoken by the men was genetically either a mixed or a relexified Arawakan language. Over the generations, men substituted fewer Arawak words, and many Carib words diffused to the women, so that the amount of distinctly male vocabulary gradually diminished. In modern Garifuna, only a handful of male vocabulary remains.