Uaragua Wamamuga Luagu
Lab?r?d?niwa Wererun

June, 1992



Chapter 1. Writing Garifuna

Chapter 2. The Three Orthographic Traditions

The Taylor Tradition

The SIL Tradition

The St. John’s College Tradition

Chapter 3. Towards A New Orthography

Chapter 4. Summary of Proposed Orthography



This paper is the result of a study done while I was a Pearson Fellow at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto, Canada.  It was something of an aside since it had nothing to do with the Fellowship, but being in Toronto gave me easy access to the University of Michigan which I had left four and a half years earlier with two credit hours short of a Master’s Degree in Linguistics.  Having also done my undergraduate work in Anthropology and Linguistics there I had done just about all the Linguistics courses the University had to offer.  That, coupled with being resident in Toronto, meant that I had to settle for an independent study course.

This work is something that I had always wanted to do but somehow never had the time to begin.  There has long been a need to standardize Garifuna Orthography.  This is a task that only Garifuna People can undertake for, as history has shown, the work done by others is not intended for our temporal benefit and has therefore not done us much good.

It was my hope when I completed this paper in the Winter of 1981 that it would serve to initiate the search for a common orthography and that it would serve as a major contribution to the process.  To that end, I distributed it as widely as my means would allow especially to interested acquaintances from Honduras and Guatemala.  Pamela Wright, an Anthropologist friend, even presented it on my behalf at a Linguistics Conference in England!!

Today, one decade later, the National Garifuna Council of Belize has unearthed the paper and I am confident that the Garifuna Nation which cuts across national boundaries, is ready to pursue the matter of a standard orthography as a part of the common concern for preserving the language, retaining the identity, and promoting the general welfare of our people.  It is expected that the spirit of cooperation that is sure to pervade the Garifuna Summit to be held in Los Angeles in July, 1992, will move the process forward.

I wish to acknowledge my debt of gratitude to Professor Ken Hill under whose supervision I undertook this study, and to IDRC, the Canadian Agency that awarded me the Pearson Fellowship that enabled me to take on this ‘side’ project.

My compadre Dr. Joseph Palacio has also been supportive, giving honest feedback on my occasional humble efforts and, in this case, he even kept his copy thus enabling the National Garifuna Council to ‘unearth’ it for an orthography course sponsored by the National Garifuna Council Secretariat when I could not find my last copy which I must have given out as an indefinite loan.  I also wish to thank my wife, Phyllis, whose patience and endurance have been stretched to the limit these past two decades and not just to satisfy my need for a ‘naive’ native speaker.  Finally, I must acknowledge the indirect contribution of CODE.  That organization’s generous support to the Garifuna Dictionary Project of the National Garifuna Council has facilitated and given new impetus to Belizean literacy efforts in Garifuna.

E. Roy Cayetano