Originally the name Arawak was used exclusively for a powerful tribe in netherlands antilles,Guyana and Suriname. The tribe became allies of the Spanish because they traditionally were enemies of the Carib groups with whom the Spanish were at war. Forms of the Arawak language are still spoken in Suriname.
The term Arawakan has been used in two senses. In one usage Arawakan is synonymous to what has recently been called the Maipurean or Maipuran family, a core family of undoubtedly related languages. In other words, Arawakan and Maipurean are interchangeable.
However, in recent years, the two terms are no longer synonymous where Maipurean refers to the core family of undoubtedly related languages and Arawakan refers to a larger and hypothetical phylum at a level above Maipurean. In this sense, Maipurean is a sub-grouping under a (macro-)Arawakan stock along with Guajiboan, Arauan, Candoshi, Harákmbut, and the extinct Puquina.
Kaufman (1990: 40) relates the following:
[The Arawakan] name is the one normally applied to what is here called Maipurean. Maipurean used to be thought to be a major subgroup of Arawakan, but all the living Arawakan languages, at least, seem to need to be subgrouped with languages already found within Maipurean as commonly defined. The sorting out of the labels Maipurean and Arawkan will have to await a more sophisticated classification of the languages in question than is possible at the present state of comparative studies.
Taíno, commonly called Island Arawak, was spoken on the Caribbean islands of Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. Many of the Taino descendants today speak English or Spanish peppered with a few Taino words. The Taíno language has been very poorly preserved, yet it is undergoing a process of restoration by its community members, and its membership in the Arawakan family is generally accepted. Its closest relative among the better attested Arawakan languages seems to be the Goajiro language, spoken in Colombia. It has been suggested that the Goajiro are descended from Taíno refugees, but the theory seems impossible to prove or disprove.
The Carib people (after whom the Caribbean was named) formerly lived throughout the Lesser Antilles. In the seventeenth century, the language of the Island Carib was described by European missionaries as two separate unrelated languages — one spoken by the men of the society and the other by the women. The language spoken by the men was a language of the Carib family very similar to the Galibi language spoken in what later became French Guyana. The language spoken by the woman belonged to the Arawakan language family. One might conclude, though there is a minimum of supporting evidence, that the Carib language was first spoken in eastern Venezuela and the Guyanas. Also, because this peculiar dual gender-specific language arrangement was unstable and dynamic and cannot have been very old, the Carib speakers had only recently migrated north into the Lesser Antilles at the time of European contact, displacing or assimilating the Arawaks in the process.
The Island Carib language is now extinct, although Caribs still live on Dominica, Trinidad, St. Lucia and St. Vincent. Despite its name, Island Carib was an Arawak language, as is its derived modern language Garífuna (or Black Carib), which is thought to have about 590,000 speakers in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Belize. The Garifuna are the descendants of Caribs and black escaped slaves of African origin, transferred by the British from Saint Vincent to islands in the Bay of Honduras in 1796. The Garifuna language continues the women's Arawak-based Island Carib language and only a few traces remain of the men's Carib speech.
There are, in addition, 9 unclassified Maipuran languages.