Frequently Asked Questions

Caribbean Stuff


A. Of the 51 countries or separate political entities of the Americas, 31 (over 50%) belong to the Caribbean, in both the archipelago and on the American mainland, or rimlands, to use Richard Allsopp's term. They are arranged below on the basis of official language.

List A.1 - Countries of the Caribbean
Dutch-official (5) (N = Netherlands) (10% distribution)
Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten (also English-official), the Dutch Caribbean: Bonaire, Saba and Statia (Sint Eustatius) (N), Suriname

English-official (19) (BWI below = British West Indies) (66% distribution)
Anguilla (BWI), Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands or BVI (BWI), Cayman Islands (BWI), Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat (BWI), St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos Islands (BWI), U.S. Virgin Islands, or USVI (USA)

French-official (4) (F = France) (14% distribution)
Haiti/Haïti, French Guiana/Guyane Française (F), Guadeloupe (F), Martinique (F)

Spanish-official (3) (10% distribution)
Cuba, Dominican Republic/Republica Dominicana (DR), Puerto Rico (USA (also English-official)

A. The majority are independent (including four republics - Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guyana, and Trinidad & Tobago), 5 are colonies of Great Britain (BWI), 5 belong to the Netherlands (N), and 3 are overseas departments (départements d'outre-mer) of France (F).

A. Yes, they are part of the continental or Greater Caribbean. They are traditionally seen as part of Latin America (to which the insular Hispanic territories of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic also belong).

These eight Spanish-speaking countries are not traditionally included in the above listing (A.1) of Caribbean countries. List A.1 includes the physical islands of the archipelago (regardless of language affiliation), and the four "linguistic islands" (English, French and Dutch) in an Iberian "sea." (Latin America should really be called Iberian America, since although French is also a Latin language, French Guiana is not included in Latin America.) The four non-Iberian continental "islands" are Belize in Central America, and Guyana, Suriname and Guyane (French Guiana) in South America. (Note that Spanish is also spoken in English-official Belize.)

South and Central America are often thought to be synonymous with Latin America, but they are not. Trinidad, for example, is geologically part of both the Caribbean and South America, but ceased to belong to Latin America upon British takeover in 1797-1802.

The Association of Caribbean States (ACS-AEC) includes as member states most territories whose shores are washed by the Caribbean Sea. Included also are El Salvador on the Pacific side of Central America, and France because of its three overseas Départements ("departments") in the Caribbean and South America. (The USA is not included, although southern Florida, especially Miami, has strong cultural connections with the anglophone, francophone, hispanophone and créolophone Caribbean, and Georgia and the Carolinas share strong historical and sociolinguistic ties with the English-speaking Caribbean, and Louisiana with the French-speaking Caribbean.)

Bermuda is not part of the Caribbean due to its location in the Atlantic, but is sometimes included in a listing of Caribbean countries because of common historical links with the Caribbean islands.

Pre-Colombian Amerindians, including those who gave their name to the region, no doubt had their own worldview and way of organising their world.



A. The Greater Antilles comprise Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Jamaica and Puerto Rico. The Lesser Antilles comprise the Leeward Islands , the Windward Islands , and Trinidad & Tobago. Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands and Turks & Caicos to the north, and the ABC Islands to the south do not belong to any of these groupings. .
A. The Windward Islands comprise Grenada, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Martinique, and also Barbados. The Leeward Islands comprise Dominica (which was sometimes grouped with the Windwards), Guadeloupe and her dependencies (St. Martin, Marie-Galante and St. Barths), Montserrat, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Kitts-Nevis, Anguilla, the SSS Islands, and the Virgin Islands. The terms Windward and Leeward are also political terms.
The term Eastern Caribbean often refers to the nine-member Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) which share a common currency, the EC dollar (Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Lucia, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and also Anguilla, and the BVI).
A. The ABC Islands of the Southern Caribbean comprise Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. The latter two belong to the Netherlands Antilles (Aruba is independent), as do the SSS Islands - Saba, Statia (Sint Eustatius), and Sint Maarten/Saint Martin - which are further to the north.
A. 'In Antigua', or 'on the island of Antigua', never 'on Antigua'. Similarly, one would say 'in Europe' or 'on the continent of Europe', but never 'on Europe'. It so happens that the country of (the Commonwealth of) Dominica, and the country of (the Commonwealth of) Australia to take another example, occupy the whole of their respective islands, whereas the country of Canada occupies part of the land mass of North America. Therefore, the capital of Roseau is in Dominica, the capital Canberra is in Australia, and the capital of Ottawa is in Canada. The same holds for other islands that are not (independent) countries, but places that you live in not on. Prepositions are small but powerful words. .
A. Search for Caribbean maps at Expedia or Google Maps.


A. See Table 2 below. (See Table 2 also for some of the reputedly original indigenous (Amerindian) names of CARIBbean territories. Linguistic origins are specified where possible.

Go to Montray Kréyol for an article in French on indigenous names in the Caribbean, "Du nom indigène des îles de l’archipel des Antilles," by Thierry L'Etang.

Select Phonemic Guide (with reference to one variety of English, i.e., Trinidadian):

/j/ as in 'yes'
/ŋ/ as in 'sing'
/ʃ/ as in 'ship'

/a/ as in 'bat'
/ɑ/ as in 'bath'
/e/ as in 'bait'
/i/ as in 'bean'
/ɪ/ as in 'bit'
/ɒ/ as in 'bottle'
/ɜ/ as in 'burn'
/ʌ/ as in 'but'


Here are some general pronunciation rules.

Tobago is pronounced like 'sago', 'plumbago' and 'winnebago'. Here's a limerick of interest:

There was an old man of Tobago,
Who lived on rice, gruel and sago
Till, much to his bliss,
His physician said this —
"To a leg, sir, of mutton you may go."
(Edward Lear's Limericks 1812—1888)

Like the 'a' in Tobago, the second 'a' in Barbados and the first 'a' in Grenada are pronounced /e/, as in 'bay' and 'neigh'. The second 'a' in Bahamas is pronounced /ɑ/ as in 'father', but /e/ in Bahamian (the 'a' in Trinidad /a/, as in 'bat', remains the same in Trinidad and Trinidadian, though some Trinidadians are known to say /trɪnɪˡdediʌnz/, like TriniDAYdians).

The last syllable in Haitian, St. Lucian, Vincentian, Kittitian, Montserratian and Nevisian is pronounced /ʃʌn/.

*In terms of numbers of Caribbean nations, most speak non-rhotic varieties of English — Trinidad & Tobago, the Windward Islands, and most of the Leeward Islands. (Rhotic — from the Greek letter 'rho', transliterated as 'r' in English — refers to varieties of English that pronounce the /r/ at the end of a syllable, or after a vowel.) However, in terms of actual numbers of speakers, it can be said that the majority of Caribbean speakers of English speak semi-rhotic or fully rhotic dialects of English, since most come from Jamaica (2.3 million people), Antigua, Barbados, the Cayman Islands, and Guyana.

A. No, they don't. It is an archaic or obsolete use of the word in modern Caribbean English. As a proper noun, the word "Caribbean" is reserved for the geographic region of the Caribbean. It is used as an adjective for both people and things Caribbean, hence 'a Caribbean woman' and 'Caribbean people'. It would sound decidedly odd to Caribbean ears to say "I'm a Caribbean living in the Caribbean" or "We are Caribbeans living in the Caribbean." 'Caribbean' is never used as a noun by Caribbean people in the Caribbean to describe or refer to themselves, and is in fact considered strange, and/or viewed negatively as non-standard usage. Similarly, one would say 'an Englishman' and 'English people', but never 'an English' or 'Englishes' (for people, although the latter is a neologism used in reference to varieties of English). Anglophone Caribbean people call themselves 'West Indians' or 'Caribbean people'; francophone Caribbean people call themselves 'antillais'; hispanophone Caribbean people call themselves 'caribeños', and Dutch-speaking Caribbean people call themselves 'Caraïbisch' or 'Antillean' in English (this is subject to correction!). We have many names. Gilberto Freyre had a great deal to say on naming oneself and being named.
A. Both. Anglophone Caribbean people say either one or the other or both, sometimes both in one sentence. The British tend to say /karɪˡbiʌn/ 'CaribBEan', and Americans tend to say /kəˡrɪbiʌn/ 'CaRIBbean'.


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