Indigenous Languages

The official language in Argentina is, without a doubt, Spanish. However, it is a country that has been enriched by a vast number of languages. Though it is difficult to say exactly how many, around 35 indigenous languages are spoken. Currently only thirteen of these are officially listed, and include the following: Toba, Pilagá, Mocoví, Wichí, Nivaclé, Chorote, Ava-Chiriguano, Mbya, Guaraní, Quichua Santiagueño, Tehuelche and Mapuche.

The majority of the most important indigenous languages are not exclusive to the towns in Argentina where they are based, but do have geographical boundaries. To name one example, Quechua is spoken in Northeastern Argentina just as it is in Bolivia. The Mapuche language Mapudungun is spoken in Patagonia as it is in Chile. As far as the socio-linguistic situation is concerned the exact number of speakers of these languages is not known today. There are no real or official censuses which would reveal an exact number of speakers.

We could divide speakers into groups of monolinguals, bilinguals and receptive bilinguals. In the first group we find mainly the elderly, for whom an indigenous language is their mother tongue. The young people that belong to this group are considered monolingual, as the influence of the Spanish language on them is greater, while the receptive bilinguals don’t speak the indigenous language fluently, but understand it perfectly. Their education level is relevant in these cases. As published in the post on the Rosetta Project, a high percentage of the languages spoken around the world today are on the verge of disappearing.

So we could say that the longevity of the indigenous languages heading toward extinction is a global concern, which affects many countries regardless of their official language. Indigenous languages speak of a country’s culture, society and its beliefs.