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Writing system

Guarani became a written language relatively recently. Its modern alphabet is basically a subset of the Latin script (with "J", "K" and "Y" but not "W"), complemented with two diacritics and six digraphs. Its orthography is largely phonemic, with letter values mostly similar to those of Spanish. The tilde is used with many letters that are considered part of the alphabet. In the case of Ñ/ñ, it differentiates the palatal nasal from the alveolar nasal (as in Spanish), whereas it marks stressed nasalisation when used over a vowel (as in Portuguese): ã, ẽ, ĩ, õ, ũ, ỹ. (Nasal vowels have been written with several other diacritics: ä, ā, â, ã.) The tilde also marks nasality in the case of G̃/g̃, used to represent the nasalized velar approximant by combining the velar approximant "G" with the nasalising tilde. The letter G̃/g̃, which is unique to this language, was introduced into the orthography relatively recently during the mid-20th century and there is disagreement over its use. It is not a precomposed character in Unicode, which can cause typographic inconveniences – such as needing to press "delete" twice – or imperfect rendering when using computers and fonts that do not properly support the complex layout feature of glyph composition.

Only stressed nasal vowels are written as nasal. If an oral vowel is stressed, and it is not the final syllable, it is marked with an acute accent: á, é, í, ó, ú, ý. That is, stress falls on the vowel marked as nasalized, if any, else on the accent-marked syllable, and if neither appears, then on the final syllable..


Guarani only allows syllables consisting of a consonant plus a vowel or a vowel alone; syllables ending in a consonant or two or more consonants together are not possible. This is represented (C)V.

  • Vowels: /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/ correspond more or less to the Spanish and IPA equivalents, although sometimes the allophones [ɛ], [ɔ] are used more frequently; the grapheme y represents the vowel Template:IPAslink.
Oral and nasal vowels
Front Central Back
Close /i/, /ĩ/ /ɨ/, /ɨ̃/ /u/, /ũ/
Mid /e/, /ẽ/ /o/, /õ/
Open /a/, /ã/


IPA value is shown. The orthography is shown in angle brackets below, if different.

Labial Alveolar (Alveolo
Velar Lab. velar Glottal
Stop Voiceless p t k
Nasal/Voiced ᵐb ~ m
mb ~ m
ⁿd ~ n
nd ~ n
ɟ/ᵈj ~ ɲ
j ~ ñ
ᵑɡ ~ ŋ
ᵑɡʷ ~ ŋʷ
Fricative s ɕ
x ~ h
Approximant ʋ ~ ʋ̃
ɰ ~ ɰ̃
g ~
w ~ w̃
gu ~ g̃u
Flap ɾ ~ ɾ̃

The voiced consonants have oral allophones (left) before oral vowels, and nasal allophones (right) before nasal vowels. The oral allophones of the voiced stops are prenasalized.

There is also a sequence /nt/ (written nt). A trill /r/ (written rr), and the consonants /l/, /f/, and /j/ (written ll) are not native to Guarani, but come from Spanish.

Oral [ᵈj] is often pronounced [dʒ], [ʒ], [j], depending on the dialect, but the nasal allophone is always [ɲ].

The dorsal fricative is in free variation between [x] and [h].

g, gu are approximants, not fricatives, but are sometimes transcribed [ɣ], [ɣʷ], as is conventional for Spanish. gu is also transcribed [ɰʷ], which is essentially identical to [w].

All syllables are open, viz. CV or V, ending in a vowel.

Glottal stop

The glottal stop is only written between vowels, but occurs phonetically before vowel-initial words. Because of this, Ayala (2000:19) shows that some words have several glottal stops near each other, which consequently undergo a number of different dissimilation techniques. For example, "I drink water" 'a'y'u is pronounced hay'u. This suggests that even irregular verbs in Guarani are regular underlyingly. There also seems to be some degree of variation between how much the glottal stop is dropped (for example aru'uka > aruuka > aruka for "I bring"). It is suspected that the glottal stop was not an original phoneme but that word-internal glottal stops are only fossilized compounds where the second component was a vowel-initial (and therefore glottal stop–initial) root.

Nasal harmony

Guarani displays an unusual degree of nasal harmony. A nasal syllable consists of a nasal vowel, and if the consonant is voiced, it takes its nasal allophone. If a stressed syllable is nasal, the nasality spreads in both directions until it bumps up against a stressed syllable that is oral. This includes affixes, postpositions, and compounding. Voiceless consonants do not have nasal allophones, but they do not interrupt the spread of nasality.

For example,


However, a second stressed syllable, with an oral vowel, will not become nasalized:


That is, for a word with a single stressed vowel, all voiced segments will be either oral or nasal, while voiceless consonants are unaffected, as in oral /mbotɨ/ vs nasal /mõtɨ̃/.


Guaraní is a highly agglutinative language, often classified as polysynthetic. It is a fluid-S type active language, and it has been classified as a 6th class language in Milewski's typology. It uses subject–verb–object word order usually, but object–verb when the subject is not specified.

The language lacks gender and has no definite article, but due to influence from Spanish, la is used as a definite article for singular reference, and lo for plural reference. These are not found in pure Guarani (Guaraniete).


Guarani exhibits nominal tense: past, expressed with -kue, and future, expressed with -rã. For example, tetã ruvichakue translates to "ex-president" while tetã ruvicharã translates to "president-elect." The past morpheme -kue is often translated as "ex-", "former", "abandoned", "what was once", or "one-time". These morphemes can even be combined to express the idea of something that was going to be but didn't end up happening. So for example, pa'irãgue is "a person who studied to be a priest but didn't actually finish", or rather, "the ex-future priest". Note that some nouns use -re instead of -kue and others use -guã instead of -rã.


Guarani distinguishes between inclusive and exclusive pronouns of the first person plural.

first second third
singular che nde ha'e
plural ñande (inclusive),
ore (exclusive)
peẽ ha'ekuéra/ hikuái (*)
  • Hikuái is a Post-verbal pronoun (oHecha hikuái – they see )

Reflexive pronoun: je: ahecha ("I look"), ajehecha ("I look at myself")


Guarani stems can be divided into a number of conjugation classes, which are called areal (with the subclass aireal) and chendal, respectively. The names for these classes stem from the names of the prefixes for 1st person singular.

The areal conjugation is used to convey that the participant is actively involved, whereas the chendal conjugation is used to convey that the participant is the undergoer. Note that intransitive verbs can take either conjugation, transitive verbs normally take areal, but can take chendal for habitual readings. Nouns can also be conjugated, but only as chendal. This conveys a predicative possessive reading.

Furthermore, the conjugations vary slightly according to the stem being oral or nasal.

person areal aireal chendal
walk use be.big
1s a-guata ai-puru che-tuicha
2s re-guata rei-puru nde-tuicha
3s o-guata oi-puru i-tuicha
1pi ja-guata jai-puru ñande-tuicha
1px ro-guata roi-puru ore-tuicha
2p pe-guata pei-puru pende-tuicha
3p o-guata oi-puru i-tuicha

Verb root ñe'ẽ ("speak"); nasal verb.

Conjugation of the verb root ñe'ẽ ("speak")
Singular Plural
Person Prefix Person Prefix
1 che
a- a-ñe'ẽ 1 ñande (incl.)
'we all'
1 ore (excl.)
'we (just us)'




2 nde
re- re-ñe'ẽ 2 peẽ
'You all'
pe- pe-ñe'ẽ
3 ha'e
o- o-ñe'ẽ 3 ha'ekuéra
o- o-ñe'ẽ


Negation is indicated by a circumfix n(d)(V)-...-(r)i in Guarani. The preverbal portion of the circumfix is nd- for oral bases and n- for nasal bases. For 2nd person singular, an epenthetic e is inserted before the base, for 1st person plural inclusive, an epenthetic a is inserted.

The postverbal portion is -ri for bases ending in -i, and -i for all others. However, in spoken Guarani, the "-ri" portion of the circumfix is frequently omitted for bases ending in "-i".

Oral verb

japo (do, make)

Nasal verb

kororõ (roar, snore)

With ending in "i"

jupi (go up, rise)

nd-ajapó-i n-akororõ-i nd-ajupí-ri
nde-rejapó-i ne-rekororõ-i nde-rejupí-ri
nd-ojapó-i n-okororõ-i nd-ojupí-ri
nda-jajapó-i na-ñakororõ-i nda-jajupí-ri
nd-orojapó-i n-orokororõ-i nd-orojupí-ri
nda-pejapó-i na-pekororõ-i nda-pejupí-ri
nd-ojapó-i n-okororõ-i nd-ojupí-ri

The negation can be used in all tenses, but for future or irrealis reference, the normal tense marking is replaced by mo'ã, resulting in n(d)(V)-base-mo'ã-i as in Ndajapomo'ãi, "I won't do it".

There are also other negatives, such as: ani, ỹhỹ, nahániri, naumbre, na'anga.

Tense and aspect morphemes

  • -ramo: marks extreme proximity of the action, often translating to "just barely": Oguahẽramo, "He just barely arrived".
  • -kuri: marks proximity of the action. Ha'ukuri, "I just ate" (ha'u irregular first person singular form of u, "to eat"). It can also be used after a pronoun, ha che kuri, che po'a, "and about what happened to me, I was lucky".
  • -va'ekue: indicates a fact that occurred long ago and asserts that it's really truth. Okañyva'ekue, "he/she went missing a long time ago".
  • -ra'e: tells that the speaker was doubtful before but he's sure at the moment he speaks. Nde rejoguara'e peteĩ ta'angambyry pyahu, "so then you bought a new television after all".
  • -raka'e: expresses the uncertainty of a perfect-aspect fact. Peẽ peikoraka'e Asunción-pe, "I think you lived in Asunción for a while". Nevertheless, nowadays this morpheme has lost some of its meaning, having a correspondence with ra'e and va'ekue.

The verb form without suffixes at all is a present somewhat aorist: Upe ára resẽ reho mombyry, "that day you got out and you went far".

  • -ta: is a future of immediate happening, it's also used as authoritarian imperative. Oujeýta ag̃aite, "he/she'll come back soon".
  • -ma: has the meaning of "already". Ajapóma, "I already did it".

These two suffixes can be added together: ahátama, "I'm already going".

  • -va'erã: indicates something not imminent or something that must be done for social or moral reasons, in this case corresponding to the German modal verb sollen. Péa ojejapova'erã, "that must be done".
  • -ne: indicates something that probably will happen or something the speaker imagines that is happening. It correlates in certain way with the subjunctive of Spanish. Mitãnguéra ág̃a og̃uahéne hógape, "the children are probably coming home now".
  • -hína, ína after nasal words: continual action at the moment of speaking, present and pluperfect continuous or emphatic. Rojatapyhína, "we're making fire"; che ha'ehína, "it's ME!".
  • -vo: it has a subtle difference with hína in which vo indicates not necessarily what's being done at the moment of speaking. amba'apóvo, "I'm working (not necessarily now)".
  • -pota: indicates proximity immediately before the start of the process. Ajukapota, "I'm near the edge in which I will start to kill". (A particular sandhi rule is applied here: if the verbs ends in "po", the suffix changes to mbota; ajapombota, "I'll do it right now").
  • -pa: indicates emphatically that a process has all finished. Amboparapa pe ogyke, "I painted the wall completely".

This suffix can be joined with ma, making up páma: ñande jaikuaapáma nde remimo'ã, "now we became to know all your thought".

  • -mi: customary action in the past: Oumi, "He used to come a lot".

These are unstressed suffixes: ta, ma, ne, vo, "mi"; so the stress goes upon the last syllable of the verb or the last stressed syllable.

Other verbal morphemes

  • -se: desiderative suffix: "(Che) añemoaranduse", "I want to study".
  • te-: desiderative prefix: Ahasa, "I pass", Tahasa, "I would like to pass." Note that te- is the underlying form. It is similar to the negative in that it has the same vowel alternations and deletions, depending on the person marker on the verb.[2]Template:Rp


Guarani English Spanish
1 – Demonstratives:
(a) With near objects and entities (you see it)
Ko this este, esta
Pe that ese, esa
Amo that/yonder aquel, aquella
Peteĩ-teĩ (+/- va) each cada uno
Ko'ã, ã, áã these estos, estas
Umi those esos, esas, aquellos, aquellas
(b) Indefinite, with far objects and entities (you do not see it -remembering demonstratives ):
Ku that (singular) aquel, aquella
Akói those (plural) aquellos, as
(c) Other usual demonstratives determiners:
Opa all todo, toda, todos, todas (with all entities)
Mayma all todos, todas (with people)
Mbovy – some, a few, determinate unos, unas
Heta a lot of, very much muchos, muchas
Ambue ( +/- kuéra) other otros, otras
Ambue another otro, otra
Ambueve: The other el otro, la otra
Ambueve other, another otro, otros, (enfático) –
Oimeraẽ either cualquiera
Mokoĩve both ambos, ambas
Ni peteĩ (+/- ve) neither ni el uno ni el otro

Spanish loans in Guarani

The close and prolonged contact Spanish and Guarani have experienced has resulted in many Guarani words of Spanish origin. Many of these loans were for things or concepts unknown to the New World prior to Spanish colonization. Examples are seen below:

Semantic category Spanish Guarani English
animals vaca vaka cow
caballo kavaju horse
cabra kavara goat
religion cruz kurusu cross
Jesucristo Hesukrísto Jesus Christ
Pablo Pavlo Paul (saint)
place names Australia Autaralia Australia
Islandia Iylanda Iceland
Portugal Poytuga Portugal
foods queso kesu cheese
azúcar asuka sugar
morcilla mbusia blood sausage
herbs/spices canela kanéla cinnamon
cilantro kuratũ coriander
anís ani anise

Guarani loans in English

English has adopted a small number of words from Guarani (or perhaps the related Tupi) via Portuguese, mostly the names of animals. "Jaguar" comes from jaguarete and "piranha" comes from pira aña. Other words are: "agouti" from akuti, "tapir" from tapira, "açaí" from ïwasa'i, and "warrah" from aguará meaning "fox". Ipecacuanha (the name of a medicinal drug) comes from a homonymous Tupi-Guaraní name that can be rendered as ipe-kaa-guene, meaning a creeping plant that makes one vomit.

The name of Paraguay is itself a Guarani word, as is the name of Uruguay. However, the exact meaning of either placename is up to varied interpretations. (See: List of country-name etymologies.)

"Cougar" is borrowed from the archaic Portuguese çuçuarana; the term was either originally derived from the Tupi language susua'rana, meaning "similar to deer (in hair color)" or from the Guaraní language term guaçu ara while puma comes from the Peruvian Quechua language.

Sample text

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Guarani:

Mayma yvypóra ou ko yvy ári iñapyty'yre ha eteĩcha tekoruvicharenda ha akatúape jeguerekópe; ha ikatu rupi oikuaa añetéva ha añete'yva, iporãva ha ivaíva, tekotevẽ pehenguéicha oiko oñondivekuéra.

(All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.)

  1. ^ Walker (2000) Nasalization, neutral segments, and opacity effects, p. 210
  2. ^ Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Graham, 1969