“To be on a quest is nothing more or less than to become an asker of questions.” -Sam Keen

Friday, April 1, 2011

With some time to kill

In a strange turn of events, my site contact (the person with whom I'll live and work for at least the next three months) has left me in the house of an acquaintance while she takes care of God-knows-what. We had our formal orientation today at a retreat center, and now we're supposed to travel together to San Pedro. This evening I believe we're going to take the red-eye bus to my site, assuming she comes to collect me sometime soon. Right now I think I'm in the same city as the retreat center, but I can't say for sure. It's a weird situation, but I'm just gonna go with it because these people are nice and have Internet. I think it says a lot about this culture that you can drop off a random North American at someone's house and they'll happily baby-sit you without asking too many questions.

Since I have some time on my hands, I'll take this time to reflect on the strange language that is Guaraní.

First of all, it's important to know that Guaraní is almost exclusively an oral language. Yes, there are technically set spellings and formations, but the vast, vast majority of people are unfamiliar with them. There is debate as to why Guaraní survived while other indigenous languages did not, but mostly we've been told that it's because the Guaraní Indians were not war-like and readily intermarried with their Spanish conquerers. After the initial conquest, Jesuit missionaries came to Paraguay and accepted the indigenous language so long as the people speaking it converted to Catholicism. They were the first to record Guaraní in writing and provide a comprehensive guide to the language for future generations. In fact, modern Guaraní-Spanish dictionaries still use the Jesuit recordings as a base for their translations and spellings.

Guaraní does not sit easily on an English speakers tongue. Words are formed by connecting prefixes and suffixes to a root, which often results in very long words. The Guaraní "y" exists in neither Spanish nor English. I, personally, cannot pronounce it. This makes speaking a real pain because "y" is a popular letter and some words, like mombyry (lejos/far away) contain them in close succession. Guaraní, however, pronounces both the "h" and the "j" in the English manner.

Guaraní makes up for its impossible pronunciation by not having a subjunctive mood or most of the other complicated grammar structures...

My people just walked in. Peace out, cyberspace.

1 comment:

  1. I find very interesting your mini lecture about Guarani. I will like to hear something. Have you heard any music in Guarani?

    Soon you will be at San Pedro de Ycuamandyyu. I am sure I spell it wrong...

    Miss you. c