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Languages of Argentina

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Title: Languages of Argentina  
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Languages of Argentina

Languages of Argentina
Official languages de facto Spanish
Regional languages Araucano, Guaraní, Quechua[1]
Sign languages Argentine Sign Language
Dialectal variants of the Spanish language in Argentina.

The spoken languages of Argentina number at least 40 although Spanish is dominant. Others include native and other immigrant languages; two languages are extinct and others are endangered, spoken by elderly people whose descendants do not speak the languages.[2] According to WorldHeritage statistics, the most known/used languages in Argentina having their own WorldHeritage are in order: Spanish, English, Portuguese, Italian, French and German.[3]


Argentina is predominantly a Spanish-speaking country — the fourth largest after Mexico, Spain, and Colombia (according to a compilation of national census figures and United Nations estimates, see List of countries with Spanish-speaking populations). Based on the 2010 national census and supporting research, there are about 40.9 million Spanish speakers in Argentina (almost the entire population).[4][5]

Argentines are amongst the few Spanish-speaking countries (like Uruguay, El Salvador and Honduras) that almost universally use what is known as voseo—the use of the pronoun vos instead of (the familiar "you"). The most prevalent dialect is Rioplatense, whose speakers are located primarily in the basin of the Río de la Plata.

A phonetic study conducted by the Laboratory for Sensory Investigations of [CONICET] and the University of Toronto showed that the accent of the inhabitants of Buenos Aires (known as porteños) is closer to that of the Neapolitan dialect of Italian than to that of any other spoken language. Italian immigration influenced Lunfardo, the slang spoken in the Río de la Plata region, permeating the vernacular vocabulary of other regions as well.

As in other large countries, the accents vary depending on geographical location. Extreme differences in pronunciation can be heard within Argentina. One common accent notable to Argentina is the “sh” sounding y and ll. In most Spanish speaking countries the letters y and ll are pronounced like “y” in yo-yo, however in most parts of Argentina will be pronounced like “zh”

As previously mentioned voseo is commonly used in Argentina while with its own slight variation. These variations are most obvious in informal commands. When using the Spanish tú form the following sentence would look like this, “venid” (for vosotros, "come [here] [you all]") or “ven tú” [come you], in Argentine Castellano it would be “vení vos” (the imperative form of the verb is illustrated here). Usually, the vos form of verb conjugation (in the indicative) is simply done by dropping the “i” from the vosotros conjugation. See the article on voseo for more details.

In many of the central and north-eastern areas of the country the “rolling r” takes on the same sound as the ll and y ('zh' - a voiced palatal fricative sound, similar to the "s" in the English pronunciation of the word "vision".) For Example, “Río Segundo” sounds like “Zhio Segundo” and “Corrientes” sounds like “Cozhientes”. For those looking to learn this specific dialect, General Linguistics offers a program focusing on "Voseo" Spanish [1].

The ISO639 code for Argentinian Spanish is "es-AR".


Argentina has more than 1,500,000 Italian speakers; this tongue is the second most spoken language in the nation. Italian immigration, which effectively began in the middle of the 19th century and reached its peak in the first two decades of the 20th century, made a lasting and significant impact on the pronunciation and vernacular of Argentina's variety of Spanish, giving it an Italian flair. In fact, Italian dialects (not Standard Italian) have contributed so much to Rioplatense that many foreigners mistake it for Italian.

Levantine Arabic

There are around one million Levantine Arabic speakers in Argentina,[2] as a result of immigration from the Middle East, mostly from Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine.

More than 100,000 speakers


South Bolivian Quechua is a Quechuan language spoken by some 800,000 people, mostly immigrants who have arrived in the last years. There are 70,000 estimated speakers in Salta Province. The language is also known as Central Bolivian Quechua, which has six dialects. It is classified as a Quechua II language and is referred to as Quechua IIC by linguists.


Standard German is spoken by between 400,000[2] and 500,000[6] Argentines of German ancestry, though it has also been stated that there could be as many as 1,800,000.[7]


There are around 200,000 Yiddish speakers in Argentina.[6]


Mapudungun is spoken by 100,000 Mapuche people in the provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut, Buenos Aires, and La Pampa.

More than 1,000 speakers

Chinese language is spoken by at least half of the over 60,000 Chinese immigrants, mostly in Buenos Aires.[8]

Welsh language is spoken by over 5,000 people in the Chubut province.[9]

Mocoví is spoken by 4,525 people in Santa Fe Province, while Mbyá Guaraní has 3,000 speakers in the northeast.[2] Pilagá is spoken by about 2,000 people in the Chaco.[2] There are 1,500 Iyo'wujwa Chorote speakers, 50% of whom are monolingual;[2] Iyo'wujwa Chorote is spoken in the Chaco region and along the Pilcomayo river.[10]

More than 100 speakers

Several native American languages spoken in Argentina by the native people (1% of the population) are declining at rates that may result in only a handful of speakers within a generation. Kaiwá has 512 speakers, Nivaclé 200, Tapieté and Wichí Lhamtés Nocten only 100. These indigenous languages have suffered slow linguistic and cultural genocide. In this category in terms of number of speakers, one can also include some immigrant languages for instance Plautdietsch with only 140.

Endangered languages

Some languages are critically endangered, spoken only by a handful of isolated elderly people whose children do not speak the language;[2] they are likely to become dead languages once the remaining speakers die. Vilela has about 20 speakers; Puelche has 5 or 6 speakers; in 2000 Tehuelche had 4 speakers, out of about 200 ethnic Tehuelche people, (2000 W. Adelaar); and in 1991 Selknam (also known as Ona) had 1 to 3 speakers and is nearly extinct; full blooded Ona people are already extinct.

Extinct languages

Abipón, Cacán, Chané and Haush are now extinct languages that were spoken by people indigenous to Argentina before European contact. Very little is known of Cacán and Chané.

The Abipón language was a native American language of the Mataco–Guaycuru family that was spoken by the Abipón people.[11]

Cacán was spoken by Diaguita and Calchaquí aboriginals, and became extinct during the late 17th century or early 18th century; the only manuscript documenting this language was lost, and now there is not enough information to make it possible to link it to any existing language family.[12]

Chané was spoken in the Salta Province, and was either a dialect of or closely related to the Terena language of the Arawakan language family.[2]

The Haush language was an indigenous language spoken by the Haush people and was formerly spoken on the island of Tierra del Fuego.[13]

Cocoliche, a Spanish-Italian creole, was spoken mainly by first and second-generation immigrants from Italy, but is no longer in daily use; it is sometimes used in comedy. Some Cocoliche terms were adopted into Lunfardo slang.

Other languages

Catalan, Occitan, Turoyo, Ukrainian, and Vlax Romani are all reportedly spoken, but the number of speakers are not known.[2] Many Aymará speakers have migrated to Argentina for sugar mill and other work; of more than 2.2 million speakers globally, many are in Argentina.[14] There are Mandarin-, Cantonese-, Japanese-, Korean-, and Russian-speaking immigrant communities. Chiripá is also spoken.[15] There are also notable communities of Afrikaans speakers, who emigrated from South Africa during or after the Boer War. Irish (Gaelic) is also spoken by some of the estimated 500,000 Irish - Argentine descendants. The Argentinien-schwyzertütsch dialect (Argentine-Swiss German dialect) was introduced by Swiss immigrants.

If the Falkland Islands were both de jure and de facto part of Argentina, there also would be a small English-speaking population. However, English is commonly studied as a second language.

See also


  1. ^ "Argentina – Language". Retrieved 2011-06-12.  August 2013
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the world, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version: Languages of Argentina, Retrieved on 2007-01-02.
  3. ^
  4. ^ INDEC national census estimates
  5. ^ Aún hay niños que sólo hablan el guaraní y no entienden el castellano
  6. ^ a b WorldLanguage website. Retrieved on 2007-01-29
  7. ^ "Rápida recuperación económica tras la grave crisis"
  8. ^ Jóvenes Argenchinos 22 September 2006
  9. ^ Ethnologue
  10. ^ Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version: Chorote, Iyo'wujwa, Retrieved on 2007-01-02
  11. ^ John Mackenzie (ed.), Peoples, Nations and Cultures.
  12. ^ "Cacan". Retrieved 2009-01-31. 
  13. ^ Adelaar, Willen F. H. and Pieter Muysken. The languages of the Andes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-521-36275-7. Page 41
  14. ^ Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version: Aymara, Central, Retrieved on 2007-01-02
  15. ^ Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version: Chiripá, Retrieved on 2007-01-02

External links

  • Acadlmia Argentina de Letras - Argentine Academy.
  • Asociación de Centros de Idiomas - Association of Language Centres.
  • Spanish in Argentina.
  • The Dante Alighieri Society of Buenos Aires.
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