ASUNCION – Paraguay’s Academy of the Guarani Language has approved a definitive alphabet for the idiom, a milestone in the process of standardizing an indigenous tongue spoken by almost 90 percent of the country’s population.
The alphabet comprises 33 phonemes and a similar number of graphemes, with 12 vowels, including nasal vowels typical of the Guarani language, and characteristic digraphs such as “mb,” “nd,” “ng” or “nt,” and double consonants such as “rr.”
During its next session, the Academy plans to consider the inclusion of “d,” “f,” “ll,” and “x,” which do not occur in Guarani but could be used to represent words acquired from other languages, mostly Spanish.
The Academy members described the approval of an alphabet as a “transcendental step” both for the Guarani language and the institution.
Among the Academy’s 30 members are writers, anthropologists, artists, linguists and teachers.
The next challenges for the Academy will be to create an authoritative Guarani dictionary and grammar, and a bilingual Guarani-Spanish dictionary.
The Academy of the Guarani Language, created in 2010, took shape in 2012 with the appointment of the 15 first members, who were joined in June by 15 others.
Guarani enjoys parity with Spanish as an official language in Paraguay and is also spoken in regions of Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil.
An estimated 90 percent of the Paraguayan population is bilingual in Spanish and Guarani and data from the country’s most recent census – in 1992 – show that 57 percent speak only Guarani.
Even so, the Bureau of Linguistic Policies reports that Guarani-speaking people face persistent discrimination, notably in government offices and public hospitals.