...and I bet that got your attention, if you're the sort of person who reads this blog.
Ulwa is a language native to the eastern highlands of central Nicaragua, and now spoken mainly in Karawala on the Atlantic coast. It belongs to the small Misumalpan language family, along with Miskito; an interesting characteristic of this family is the position of nominal possessive affixes, which may be suffixed or infixed depending on the word's syllable structure. The Miskito kingdom had a longstanding relationship with the British, as a result of which English Creole is widely spoken on Nicaragua's Atlantic coast; both Miskito and English have influenced Ulwa, as has Spanish of course. You can find a nice dictionary and a brief grammar at the Ulwa Language Home Page.
Anyway, the Ulwa word for "east" turns out to be mâsara. I'm sure some readers will already be thinking of Maghrebi Arabic/Berber mâṣəṛ (from Arabic مِصْر), with reflexes in a variety of West African languages along the lines of masara - meaning Egypt! Unfortunately, a second glance reveals that "west" is mâ âwai, suggesting that maybe mâsara is some kind of compound with mâ. mâ, sure enough, turns out to mean "sun", while sara means "origin". So much for that idea; but what a good example of how a coincidental lookalike can emerge. I can't find any similar way to explain the word for "God", though - which is Alah...
So what about that African loanword I promised? There really is at least one, but it is somewhat less exciting. "Peanut", in Ulwa, is pinda. This word, referring to a post by Polyglot Vegetarian, appears to derive from Kikongo m-pinda, and was borrowed into English as pindar (various spellings) before being ousted by peanut. So this word may have been mediated by English, but is of clear Kikongo origin - sensibly enough, given that peanuts themselves come from Africa. If you want more African loanwords into Caribbean Native American languages, try Garifuna - where the word for "man" is a Bantu loanword.
Another Foxp2 article
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