Spanish Overwhelmed by Guarani in Paraguay

Che Castro   Mon Jan 26, 2009 9:32 am GMT
Paraguaigua noñe'êkuaáiva guarani pytaguarôguáicha hetâme

May 1, 2001

"A Paraguayan who can't speak Guaraní," opines this proverb, "is like a foreigner in his own land." In fact, between 90% and 95% of Paraguay's 5 million inhabitants speak Guaraní (pronounced "wa-ra-NEE," with a guttural rasp on the "wa"). That makes this indigenous language not just Paraguay's dominant language (by comparison, only 75% of Paraguayans speak Spanish), but also the only First Nations language on the planet to enjoy majority-language status, as well as the only one spoken on a large scale by non-aboriginals. (About half of Guaraní speakers are of European descent.) Finally, Guaraní earns Paraguay membership in that most restricted of clubs, the Officially Bilingual Nations of the Americas, a distinction it shares only with Canada and Haïti.

Victory in conquest
At contact, Guaraní cultures dominated northern Argentina, eastern Bolivia, and southern Brazil and Paraguay. In fact, after Arawakan, Guaraní may have been the most geographically widespread language in Latin America. But unlike every other native people in the Americas, the Guaraní managed to remain influential in Paraguay even after Spanish conquest. So influential were they in fact that the newcomers found they had to learn the local language to get by. Modern Paraguayans call Guaraní ñe'engatú ("dear speech"), or abá ñe'é ("common man's speech"). Traditionally relegated to a vernacular role in Paraguayan society, until recently Guaraní was not taught in schools or used in formal contexts in spite of its superior demographics. Today, thanks to a growing Paraguayan identity movement, it is poised to assume more substantial responsibilities in Paraguay and in the world.

The term "Guaraní" actually refers to a group of dialects of the Andean-Equatorial language family. (In addition to Guaraní, Andean-Equatorial languages include Quechua, Aymara, and Tupi, indigenous tongues that remain influential across most of modern South America.) Paraguay encloses several Guaraní dialects, among which two dominate. Mby'a is the dialect of rural aboriginals; most European and mixed-race Paraguayans speak Yopará. Although Yopará has absorbed many Spanish influences, it remains squarely Guaraní and is mostly intelligible to Mby'a speakers. And although Yopará accounts for most Guaraní communication on the national level, Mby'a is considered the "pure" tradition, insofar as it remains largely unadulterated by hispanicisms.

Though more Paraguayans speak Guaraní than Spanish, and songs and popular literature have been composed in it since colonial times, Guaraní had no official status in Paraguay until the 1992 Constitution recognised it as an official language. Though some Paraguayans still consider Guaraní a vulgar medium, many have embraced it as a patriotic touchstone. (The Paraguayan monetary unit is also called the guaraní.) Increasingly, Guaraní scholars are refuting old canards about its supposed inadequacy for 21st century communication, and are calling for academic supervision to halt the entry of Spanish words and bad neologisms into the language. Others propose that Mby'a be accepted as the scholarly standard (Guaraní has heretofore had none), that Yopará become the language of national life, and that Castellano (Spanish) be taught chiefly as a means of enabling Paraguayans to communicate with foreigners, rather than as a national medium. A Congreso Nacional de Lengua y Cultura Guaraní has been founded to oversee these and other issues, such as developing media and academic models.
ex-castellano   Wed Jan 28, 2009 1:56 am GMT
Spanish beaten by a native language on its own turf?
The ultimate humiliation!

Chiquito, you have no future.
Eat shit and die.