On Languages and Labels
The Guarani people and language in Bolivia are often called Chiriguano in
academic literature. The term Chiriguano originated in colonial myth, and I
see no reason to replicate it for academic purposes. Guarani call themselves
Guarani. They call their language Guarani ( guaraní), ‘‘our language’’ (ñan-
deñee) or ‘‘mbIa language’’ (mbJa iñee). I use the alphabet approved by the
Assembly of Guarani People in 1989 and spelling conventions adopted in
1997. There are three dialect regions (Ava,
Isoso, Simba) and some spelling
debates. I use the unified form as a nod to the unity of the Guarani. Bolivian
Guarani is closely related to indigenous Mbya, Chiripá, and the Guarani
languages of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. It is also related to Paraguayan
yopará, or Guarani criollo, the most widely spoken of these languages. The
orthographic unification of these languages is under discussion, but it has yet
to become reality.
The pronunciation of Guarani vowels a, e, i, o, and u is like that in
Spanish. The high central vowel y, written ‘‘I’’ (‘‘y’’ in Paraguay) is a bit
tighter and higher than the ‘‘oo’’ sound in soot. All vowels occur in nasal
forms, written ‘‘ä,’’ ‘‘ë,’’ ‘‘ï,’’ ‘‘ö,’’ ‘‘ü,’’ and ‘‘N.’’ For example, tëta (house, com-
munity, nation), is pronounced ‘‘tenta’’; and tüpa (god, deity), is pronounced
‘‘toompa.’’ The j is like Spanish j (written ‘‘h’’ in Paraguay): jëe (sweet or
tasty). The y is similar to the Spanish y or ñ when nasalized (written ‘‘j’’ in
Paraguay): yemboe or ñemboe, (school learning, knowledge).
Though perhaps tiresome for readers, I include Guarani and Spanish
words and texts to highlight aural, aesthetic, and semantic textures of lin-
guistic di√erence that are locally significant. Words frequently repeated are
used without translation. For example, arakuaa, Guarani knowledge; yemboe,
school knowledge; capitán captain; and kereJmba, warrior. I indicate word
origins by language with Q (Quechua), A (Aymara), S (Spanish), or G
(Guarani). A glossary follows chapter seven.
Labels are contentious things. I use Guarani country, much as I would
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