Guarani language


Guaraní (), specifically the primary variety known as Paraguayan Guarani ( "the people's language"), is a
South American South America is a continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered f ...

South American
language that belongs to the Tupi–Guarani family of the Tupian languages. It is one of the official languages of Paraguay (along with Spanish language, Spanish), where it is spoken by the majority of the population, and where half of the rural population is monolingual. It is spoken by communities in neighboring countries, including parts of northeastern Argentina, southeastern Bolivia and southwestern Brazil, and is a second official language of the Provinces of Argentina, Argentine province of Corrientes Province, Corrientes since 2004; it is also an official language of Mercosur. Guaraní is one of the most widely spoken indigenous languages of the Americas, American languages and remains commonly used among the Paraguayan people and neighboring communities. This is unique among American languages; language shift towards European colonial languages (in this case, the other official language of Spanish language, Spanish) has otherwise been a nearly universal phenomenon in the Americas, Western Hemisphere, but Paraguayans have maintained their traditional language while also adopting Spanish. Jesuit priest Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, who in 1639 published the first written grammar of Guarani in a book called ''Tesoro de la lengua guaraní'' (Treasure of the Guarani Language / The Guarani Language Thesaurus), described it as a language "so copious and elegant that it can compete with the most famous [of languages]". The name "Guarani" is generally used for the official language of Paraguay. However, this is part of a dialect chain, most of whose Guarani dialects, components are also often called Guarani.


The persistence of Guarani is, contrary to popular belief, not exclusively, or even primarily, due to the influence of the Jesuits in Paraguay. While Guaraní was the only language spoken in the expansive missionary territories, Paraguayan Guaraní has its roots outside of the Jesuit Reductions. Modern scholarship has shown that Guarani was always the primary language of colonial Paraguay, both inside and outside the reductions. Following the Suppression of the Society of Jesus, expulsion of the Jesuits in the 18th century, the residents of the reductions gradually migrated north and west towards Asunción, a demographic shift that brought about a decidedly one-sided shift away from the Jesuit dialect that the missionaries had curated in the southern and eastern territories of the colony. By and large, the Guaraní of the Jesuits shied away from direct phonological loans from Spanish. Instead, the missionaries relied on the agglutinative nature of the language to formulate calque terms from native morphemes. This process often led the Jesuits to employ complicated, highly synthetic terms to convey Western concepts. By contrast, the Guarani spoken outside of the missions was characterized by a free, unregulated flow of Hispanicisms; frequently, Spanish words and phrases were simply incorporated into Guarani with minimal phonological adaptation. A good example of that phenomenon is found in the word "communion". The Jesuits, using their agglutinative strategy, rendered this word "", a calque based on the word "", meaning God. In modern Paraguayan Guaraní, the same word is rendered "". Following the out-migration from the reductions, these two distinct dialects of Guarani came into extensive Language contact, contact for the first time. The vast majority of speakers abandoned the less colloquial, highly regulated Jesuit variant in favor of the variety that evolved from actual use by speakers in Paraguay. This contemporary form of spoken Guaraní is known as Jopará, meaning "mixture" in Guarani.

Political status

Widely spoken, Paraguayan Guaraní has nevertheless been repressed by Paraguayan governments throughout most of its history since independence. It was prohibited in state schools for over 100 years. However, populists often used pride in the language to excite nationalistic fervor and promote a narrative of social unity. During the autocratic regime of Alfredo Stroessner, his Colorado Party used the language to appeal to common Paraguayans although Stroessner himself never gave an address in Guaraní. Upon History of Paraguay#Modern Paraguay, the advent of Paraguayan democracy in 1992, Guarani was established in the new constitution as a language equal to Spanish. Jopará, the mixture of Spanish and Guaraní, is spoken by an estimated 90% of the population of Paraguay. Code-switching between the two languages takes place on a spectrum in which more Spanish is used for official and business-related matters, and more Guarani is used in art and in everyday life. Guarani is also an official language of Bolivia and of Corrientes Province in Argentina.

Writing system

Guarani became a written language relatively recently. Its modern alphabet is basically a subset of the Latin script (with "J", "K" and "Y" but not "W"), complemented with two diacritics and six digraph (orthography), digraphs. Its orthography is largely phonemic, with letter values mostly similar to those of Spanish language, Spanish. The tilde is used with many letters that are considered part of the alphabet. In the case of Ñ/ñ, it differentiates the palatal nasal from the alveolar nasal (as in Spanish), whereas it marks stressed nasalization, nasalisation when used over a vowel (as in Portuguese language, Portuguese): ã, ẽ, ĩ, õ, ũ, ỹ. (Nasal vowels have been written with several other diacritics: ä, ā, â, ã.) The tilde also marks nasality in the case of G̃/g̃, used to represent the nasalized velar approximant by combining the velar approximant "G" with the Nasalisation, nasalising tilde. The letter G̃/g̃, which is unique to this language, was introduced into the orthography relatively recently during the mid-20th century and there is disagreement over its use. It is not a precomposed character in Unicode, which can cause typographic inconveniences – such as needing to press "delete" twice – or imperfect rendering when using computers and fonts that do not properly support the complex layout feature of glyph composition. Only stressed nasal vowels are written as nasal. If an oral vowel is stressed, and it is not the final syllable, it is marked with an acute accent: á, é, í, ó, ú, ý. That is, stress falls on the vowel marked as nasalized, if any, else on the accent-marked syllable, and if neither appears, then on the final syllable. For blind people there is also a Guarani Braille.


Guarani syllables consist of a consonant plus a vowel or a vowel alone; syllables ending in a consonant or two or more consonants together do not occur. This is represented as ''(C)V''. In the below table, the IPA value is shown. The orthography is shown in angle brackets below, if different.


The voiced consonants have oral allophones (left) before oral vowels, and nasal allophones (right) before nasal vowels. The oral allophones of the voiced stops are prenasalized. There is also a sequence (written ). A trill (written ), and the consonants , , and (written ) are not native to Guarani, but come from Spanish. Oral is often pronounced , depending on the dialect, but the nasal allophone is always . The dorsal fricative is in free variation between and . , are approximants, not fricatives, but are sometimes transcribed , as is conventional for Spanish. is also transcribed , which is essentially identical to . All syllables are open, viz. CV or V, ending in a vowel.

Glottal stop

The glottal stop, called 'puso' in Guarani, is only written between vowels, but occurs phonetically before vowel-initial words. Because of this, Ayala (2000:19) shows that some words have several glottal stops near each other, which consequently undergo a number of different dissimilation techniques. For example, "I drink water" ''auy'' is pronounced ''hauy''. This suggests that irregularity in verb forms derives from regular sound change processes in the history of Guarani. There also seems to be some degree of variation between how much the glottal stop is dropped (for example ''aruuka'' > ''aruuka'' > ''aruka'' for "I bring"). It is possible that word-internal glottal stops may have been retained from fossilized compounds where the second component was a vowel-initial (and therefore glottal stop–initial) root.Ayala, Valentín (2000). ''Gramática Guaraní''. Asunción: Centro Editorial Paraguayo S.R.L.


correspond more or less to the Spanish and IPA equivalents, although sometimes the allophones , are used more frequently. The grapheme represents the vowel (as in Polish language, Polish).

Nasal harmony

Guarani displays an unusual degree of nasal harmony. A nasal syllable consists of a nasal vowel, and if the consonant is voiced, it takes its nasal allophone. If a stressed syllable is nasal, the nasality spreads in ''both'' directions until it bumps up against a stressed syllable that is oral. This includes affixes, postpositions, and compounding. Voiceless consonants do not have nasal allophones, but they do not interrupt the spread of nasality. For example, : → : → However, a second stressed syllable, with an oral vowel, will not become nasalized: : → : → That is, for a word with a single stressed vowel, all voiced segments will be either oral or nasal, while voiceless consonants are unaffected, as in oral vs nasal .


Guaraní is a highly agglutinative language, often classified as polysynthetic. It is a fluid-S type active language, and it has been classified as a 6th class language in Milewski's typology. It uses subject–verb–object (SVO) word order usually, but OV language, object–verb when the subject is not specified. The language lacks Grammatical gender, gender and has no definite article, but due to influence from Spanish, la is used as a definite article for singular reference, and lo for plural reference. These are not found in Classical Guarani (''Guaraniete'').


Guarani exhibits nominal tense: past, expressed with ''-kue'', and future, expressed with ''-rã''. For example, ''tetã ruvichakue'' translates to "ex-president" while ''tetã ruvicharã'' translates to "president-elect." The past morpheme ''-kue'' is often translated as "ex-", "former", "abandoned", "what was once", or "one-time". These morphemes can even be combined to express the idea of something that was going to be but didn't end up happening. So for example, ''pairãgue'' is "a person who studied to be a priest but didn't actually finish", or rather, "the ex-future priest". Note that some nouns use ''-re'' instead of ''-kue'' and others use ''-guã'' instead of ''-rã''.


Guarani distinguishes between Clusivity, inclusive and exclusive pronouns of the first person plural. *Hikuái is a Post-verbal pronoun (oHecha hikuái – they see ) Reflexive pronoun: ''je'': ''ahecha'' ("I look"), ''ajehecha'' ("I look at myself")


Guarani stems can be divided into a number of conjugation classes, which are called ''areal'' (with the subclass ''aireal'') and ''chendal''. The names for these classes stem from the names of the prefixes for 1st and 2nd person singular. The ''areal'' conjugation is used to convey that the participant is Agent (grammar), actively involved, whereas the ''chendal'' conjugation is used to convey that the participant is the Patient (grammar), undergoer. However, the ''areal'' conjugation is also used if an intransitive verb expresses Aktionsart, an event as opposed to a state, for example ''manó'' 'die', and even with a verb such as ''ké'' 'sleep'. In addition, all borrowed Spanish verbs are adopted as ''areal'' as opposed to borrowed adjectives, which take ''chendal''. Note that intransitive verbs can take either conjugation, transitive verbs normally take ''areal'', but can take ''chendal'' for habitual aspect, habitual readings. Nouns can also be conjugated, but only as ''chendal''. This conveys a predicative possessive reading.Caralho, Jao de(1993) Peixes de Ámérica do Sul, Universidade de Rio de Janeiro Furthermore, the conjugations vary slightly according to the stem being oral or nasal.


Negation is indicated by a circumfix ''n(d)(V)-...-(r)i'' in Guarani. The preverbal portion of the circumfix is ''nd-'' for oral bases and'' n-'' for nasal bases. For 2nd person singular, an epenthetic ''e'' is inserted before the base, for 1st person plural inclusive, an epenthetic ''a'' is inserted. The postverbal portion is ''-ri'' for bases ending in ''-i'', and ''-i'' for all others. However, in spoken Guarani, the "-ri" portion of the circumfix is frequently omitted for bases ending in "-i". The negation can be used in all tenses, but for future or irrealis reference, the normal tense marking is replaced by ''moã'', resulting in ''n(d)''(V)''-base-moã-i'' as in ''Ndajapomoãi'', "I won't do it". There are also other negatives, such as: ''ani'', ''ỹhỹ'', ''nahániri'', ''naumbre'', ''naanga''.

Tense and aspect morphemes

* -ramo: marks extreme proximity of the action, often translating to "just barely": ''Oguahẽramo'', "He just barely arrived". * -kuri: marks proximity of the action. ''Haukuri'', "I just ate" (''ha'u'' irregular first person singular form of ''u'', "to eat"). It can also be used after a pronoun, ''ha che kuri, che poa'', "and about what happened to me, I was lucky". * -vaekue: indicates a fact that occurred long ago and asserts that it's really truth. ''Okañyvaekue'', "he/she went missing a long time ago". * -rae: tells that the speaker was doubtful before but he's sure at the moment he speaks. ''Nde rejoguarae peteĩ taangambyry pyahu'', "so then you bought a new television after all". * -rakae: expresses the uncertainty of a perfect-aspect fact. ''Peẽ peikorakae Asunción-pe'', "I think you lived in Asunción for a while". Nevertheless, nowadays this morpheme has lost some of its meaning, having a correspondence with ''rae'' and ''vaekue''. The verb form without suffixes at all is a present tense, present somewhat aorist: ''Upe ára resẽ reho mombyry'', "that day you got out and you went far". * -ta: is a future tense, future of immediate happening, it's also used as authoritarian imperative mood, imperative. ''Oujeýta ag̃aite'', "he/she'll come back soon". * -ma: has the meaning of "already". ''Ajapóma'', "I already did it". These two suffixes can be added together: ''ahátama'', "I'm already going". * -vaerã: indicates something not imminent or something that must be done for social or moral reasons, in this case corresponding to the german language, German modal verb ''sollen''. ''Péa ojejapovaerã'', "that must be done". * -ne: indicates something that probably will happen or something the speaker imagines that is happening. It correlates in a certain way with the subjunctive of Spanish Language, Spanish. ''Mitãnguéra ág̃a og̃uahéne hógape'', "the children are probably coming home now". * -hína, ''ína'' after nasal words: continual action at the moment of speaking, present and pluperfect continuous or emphatic. ''Rojatapyhína'', "we're making fire"; ''che haehína'', "it's ME!". * -vo: it has a subtle difference with ''hína'' in which ''vo'' indicates not necessarily what's being done at the moment of speaking. ''ambaapóvo'', "I'm working (not necessarily now)". * -pota: indicates proximity immediately before the start of the process. ''Ajukapota'', "I'm near the point at which I will start to kill" or "I'm just about to kill". (A particular sandhi rule is applied here: if the verbs ends in "po", the suffix changes to ''mbota''; ''ajapombota'', "I'll do it right now"). * -pa: indicates emphatically that a process has all finished. ''Amboparapa pe ogyke'', "I painted the wall completely". This suffix can be joined with ''ma'', making up ''páma'': ''ñande jaikuaapáma nde remimoã'', "now we came to know all your thought". * -mi: customary action in the past: ''Oumi'', "He used to come a lot". These are unstressed suffixes: ''ta'', ''ma'', ''ne'', ''vo'', "mi"; so the stress goes upon the last syllable of the verb or the last stressed syllable.

Other verbal morphemes

* -se: desiderative suffix: ''(Che) añemoaranduse'', "I want to study". * te-: desiderative prefix: ''Ahasa'', "I pass", ''Tahasa'', "I would like to pass." Note that ''te-'' is the underlying form. It is similar to the negative in that it has the same vowel alternations and deletions, depending on the person marker on the verb.


Spanish loans in Guarani

The close and prolonged contact Spanish and Guarani have experienced has resulted in many Guarani words of Spanish origin. Many of these loans were for things or concepts unknown to the New World prior to Spanish colonization of the Americas, Spanish colonization. Examples are seen below:

Guarani loans in English

English has adopted a small number of words from Guarani (or perhaps the related Tupi language, Tupi) via Portuguese, mostly the names of animals or plants. "Jaguar" comes from ''jaguarete'' and "piraña" comes from ''pira aña'' ("tooth fish" Tupi: pirá = fish, aña = tooth). Other words are: "agouti" from ''akuti'', "tapir" from ''tapira'', "açaí" from ''ĩwasai'' ("[fruit that] cries or expels water"), and "warrah" from ''aguará'' meaning "fox". Jacaranda, guarana and mandioca are words of Guarani or Tupi-Guarani origin. Ipecac, Ipecacuanha (the name of a medicinal drug) comes from a homonymous Tupi-Guaraní name that can be rendered as ''ipe-ka'a-guene'', meaning a creeping plant that makes one vomit. The name of Paraguay is itself a Guarani word, as is the name of Uruguay. However, the exact meaning of either placename is up to varied interpretations. (''See'': List of country-name etymologies#P, List of country-name etymologies.) "Cougar" is borrowed from the archaic Portuguese çuçuarana; the term was either originally derived from the Tupi language ''susuarana'', meaning "similar to deer (in hair color)" or from the Guaraní language term ''guasu ara'' while ''puma'' comes from the Peruvian Quechua language.

Sample text


The New Testament was translated from Greek into Guaraní by Dr John William Lindsay (1875–1946), who was a Scottish medical missionary based in Belén, Paraguay. The New Testament was printed by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1913. It is believed to be the first New Testament translated into any South American indigenous language. A more modern translation of the whole Bible into Guarani is known as ''Ñandejara Ñeẽ''. In 2019, Jehovah's Witnesses released the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in Guarani, both printed an
online editions
Recently a series of novels in Guarani have been published: *''Kalaito Pombero'' (Tadeo Zarratea, 1981) *''Poreỹ rape'' (Hugo Centurión, 2016) *''Tatukua'' (Arnaldo Casco Villalba, 2017)


* Ateneo de Lengua y Cultura Guaraní * Yvy Marãeỹ Foundation

See also

*Guarani languages *Nheengatu language *Jopará *Jesuit Reductions *Mbyá Guaraní language *Old Tupi *:es:Wikiproyecto:Guaraní, WikiProject Guaraní




External links

at Wikibooks
Guarani Portal from the University of Mainz
– Website about the Guarani language
Guarani and the Importance of Maintaining Indigenous Culture Through LanguageLenguas de Bolivia
(online edition) * *Duolingo]
course in Guarani


Guarani Swadesh vocabulary list
(from Wiktionary)
Guarani–English Dictionary
Webster's Online Dictionary
– The Rosetta Edition
– Online dictionary in Spanish, German and Guarani

– by Maura Velázquez
Stative Verbs and Possessions in Guarani
– University of Cologne (pdf missing)
Frases celebres del Latin traducidas al guarani

Spanish – Estructura Basica del Guarani and othersEtymological and Ethnographic Dictionary for Bolivian GuaraniGuaraní
(Intercontinental Dictionary Series) {{Authority control Guarani languages, Agglutinative languages Languages of Argentina Languages of Bolivia Languages of Brazil Languages of Paraguay, Guarani Indigenous languages of South America (Central) Subject–verb–object languages