Languages of Argentina

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Languages of Argentina
Officialde facto Spanish
RegionalAraucano, Guaraní, Quechua[1]
SignedArgentine Sign Language
Dialectal variants of the Spanish language in Argentina. The most widely spoken of these variants is the "Bonaerense" that people from Buenos Aires Province and from the capital of Argentina speak, being in total 19 million; the second is the "Litoraleño" which is used by people from Santa Fe Province and from Entre Ríos who total five million, and the third is Cordoba/central spoken by people from Córdoba Province and from San Luis Province totaling 3.75 million speakers.


Spanish is the language that is predominantly understood and spoken as a first, or second language by nearly all of the population of the Republic of Argentina. According to the latest estimations, the population is currently greater than 45 million.[2]

English is another important language in Argentina and is obligatory in primary school instruction in various provinces. Argentina is the only Latin American country characterized as "high aptitude" in English, being placed 15th globally in the year 2015, according to a report from the English Aptitude Index.[3][4] In 2017, Argentina fell ten places from its best position and fell into 25th place, though it continues to be the Ibero-American country with the best English.[5]

Guarani and Quechua are other important languages in Argentina with 200,000 speakers and 65,000 speakers respectively.[6]

Fifteen Indo-American languages[6] currently exist and 5 others (today extinct) existed in different regions; the vernacular Indo-American languages (native to the Argentine territory) are spoken by very few people. In addition there is Lunfardo, a slang or a type of pidgin with original words from many languages, among these languages are ones from the Italian Peninsula, like Piedmontese, Ligurian, and others like Portuguese, etc., and have been seen in the Río de la Plata area since at least 1880. There is also Portuñol, a pidgin of Brazilian Portuguese and Spanish spoken since approximately 1960 in the areas of Argentina that border Brazil.

Another native language is Argentine Sign Language (LSA), which is signed by deaf communities, it emerged in 1885 and influenced many sign languages of the surrounding countries.

After the above-mentioned languages German follows (around 400,000, including a significant number of the Volga German dialect and of the Plautdietsch language); the languages Arabic, French, Portuguese, Russian, Basque, Galician, Catalan, Asturian, Eastern Yiddish, Chinese (some 100,000 speakers, primarily of the Fujian and Taiwan dialects), Korean, Japanese (around 50,000, with a majority of speakers of Okinawan), Romanian, Occitan, Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Croatian, Slovene, Czech, Finnish, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Irish, Dutch, Polish, Hungarian, Serbian, Bosnian, Albanian, Greek, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Hebrew, Turkish, Armenian, and Romani are also important. Most of these languages have, with the exception of Chinese and Plautdietsch, very few speakers and are usually only spoken in family environments.

Official language[edit]

The Republic of Argentina has not established, legally, an official language; however, Spanish has been utilized since the founding of the Argentine state by the administration of the Republic and is used in education in all public establishments, so much so that in basic and secondary levels there is a mandatory subject of Spanish (a subject called "language.") Since 1952, The Argentine Academy of Letters, which was founded in 1931, has regularly collaborated with The Royal Spanish Academy to register local variants.

Even though the National Constitution establishes the competence of the National Congress "to recognize the ethnic and cultural pre-existence of the Indigenous Argentina people," the native languages have not been recognized as official, except in the provinces of Chaco and Corrientes.

The primary form of Spanish that is present in Argentina is the Rioplatense dialect. There is also Cuyo Spanish and Cordobés Spanish. In the north they speak Andean Spanish and in the northeast there is a great influence from Paraguayan Spanish.[7]

Argentina is one of several Spanish-speaking countries (along with Uruguay, Paraguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica) that almost universally use what is known as voseo—the use of the pronoun vos instead of (the familiar "you") as well as its corresponding verb forms; 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[8] showed that the intonation Porteño Spanish is unlike that of other Spanish varieties, and suggested that it may be a result of convergence with Italian. 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 notable pronunciation difference found in Argentina is the “sh” sounding y and ll. In most Spanish speaking countries the letters y and ll are pronounced somewhat like the “y” in yo-yo, however in most parts of Argentina they are pronounced like “sh” in English (such as "shoe") or like "zh" (such as the sound the <s> makes in "measure").

As previously mentioned voseo is commonly used in Argentina. See the article on voseo for more details.

In many of the central and north-eastern areas of the country, the trilled /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”.

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


The Indo-European languages spoken in Argentina by stable communities fall into five branches: Romance (Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese), West Germanic (English, Plautdietsch and standard German), Brittonic languages (Welsh), and Central Indo-Aryan (Romani).

On the other hand, the indigenous languages of Argentina are very diverse and fall into different linguistic families...

Classification of the Indigenous Languages of Argentina
Family Groups Language Territory
Aymaran Languages
They are a family of two languages of the Central Andes that have been in contact for a long time with the Quechuan Languages and they have influenced each other greatly. In the last decades, more Aymaran speakers have migrated from neighboring countries.
Aymara Jujuy
Arawakan Languages
One of the largest families of languages in South America, it extends through a large part of the subcontinent. The Chané people do not speak Chané anymore, but rather Guarani or Spanish.
Paraná-Mamoré Chané (†) Chaco
Charruan languages
Poorly documented languages that are difficult to classify. They were believed to be extinct over a century ago, but in 2005 the last semi-speaker of Chaná was found
Chaná (†) Pampas
Charrúa (†) Pampas
Chonan languages
Family of languages from Patagonia and Tierra de Fuego. Of the four Chonan languages that are known with certainty, there are only less than ten speakers of Tehuelche left, it is possible that these languages are distantly related to Puelche or Gününa Yajüch and with Querandí.
Continental Teushen (†) Patagonia
Tehuelche Patagonia
Insular Haush (†) Tierra del Fuego
Ona (†) Tierra del Fuego
Huarpean Languages
A small family of languages or two dialects of an isolated language that became extinct in the mid 18th Century.
Allentiac (†) North of Cuyo
Millcayac (†) South of Cuyo
Lule-Vilela languages
Vilela is in imminent danger of extinction and Lule became extinct in the 18th century. The relation between the two languages is not unanimously accepted and those that deny the relation attribute the similarities to the contact between the two.
Lule (†) Gran Chaco
Vilela Gran Chaco and Santiago del Estero
Mataco-Guaicuru Languages
There are two groups of languages from Gran Chaco that are spoken in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay. It is the most represented family of languages in Argentina.
Mataco/Mataguayo Chorote Formosa
Maká Formosa
Nivaclé Formosa
Wichí Gran Chaco, Formosa and Salta
Guaicuru Abipón (†) Gran Chaco
Mocoví Gran Chaco and Santa Fe
Pilagá Gran Chaco and Formosa
Toba or Qom Gran Chaco and Formosa
Quechuan Languages
These languages, of the Central Andes, have had prolonged contact with the Aymaran languages and, therefore, have influenced each other. They were introduced to the current Argentine territory during the expansion of the Incan Empire and the evangelization of Catholic missionaries; the recent migration from neighboring countries has increased the number of Southern Quechuan speakers.
Quechua II Santiagueño Quechua Santiago del Estero
Southern Quechua Jujuy, Salta y Tucumán
Tupian Languages
The Tupian languages are primarily spoken in the Amazon Basin, but also in Chaco and neighboring areas. Within the Argentine territory, they speak languages from the Guarani groups, some of which come from recent migration from neighboring countries.
Tupi-Guarani languages Ava Guarani Misiones
Correntino Guarani Corrientes
Misiones Guarani (†) Gran Chaco
Eastern Bolivian Guarani Formosa and Salta
Kaiwá Misiones
Mbyá Misiones
Tapiete Salta
Isolated Languages
Many have tried to group these languages into more appropriate families but the results have been inconclusive. For example, people have tried to group Mapuche with the Mayan languages and the Penutian languages of South America, and with the Arawakan languages, Uru-Chipaya languages and various other language families of South America.
Kunza (†) Northwest
Mapuche Patagonia
Puelche (†) Patagonia
Yaghan (1 speaker in Chile) Tierra del Fuego
Unclassified Languages
Additionally there exists a combination of languages with rare documentation and references to languages of extinct villages, that cannot be classified because of a lack of information.
Cacán (†) Northwest
Comechingon (†) Sierras Pampeanas
Old Mapuche (†) Patagonia
Querandí (†) Pampas
Sanavirón (†) Northwest and Sierras Pampeanas

(†): Extinct language

Living languages[edit]

In addition to Spanish, the following living languages are registered in Argentina with local growth:

Other European languages[edit]

Sign language[edit]

Argentine Sign Language, understood by around two million deaf people of Argentina, their instructors, descendants, and others. There are different regional variants, such as in Cordoba.

Quechuan languages[edit]

Southern Quechua distribution.

Southern Quechua: from the family of Quechuan languages. There are seven variations present that are marked by their geographical origin, detailed here are South Bolivian Quechua and Santiagueño Quechua:

  • South Bolivian Quechua is spoken by inhabitants of Puna and their descendants. This same variety is spoken in all of Jujuy, Salta, and Tucumán; after Spanish it is the second most widespread language of the country and the most important Indigenous language of the Americas. In 1971 there were 855,000 speakers, with another possible 70,000 in Salta.[12]
  • Santiagueño Quechua: which is different from Bolivian Quechua, though it has an 81 percent lexical similarity, is spoken by 100,000 people, according to data from Censabella (1999), even though other estimations raise the figure to 140,000[13] or 160,000[14] speakers[15] in the Santiago del Estero Province, southeast of the Salta Province and Buenos Aires. A department for its study and conservation exists in the National University of Santiago del Estero; the smallest calculation of talks about a minimum of 60,000 speakers in 2000.[16] Its speakers are currently composed of a Creoyle population that does not self-recognize as indigenous (even though it admits an indigenous past).[17]

Tupi-Guarani languages[edit]

Distribution of Guarani in South America.

In the provinces of Corrientes, Misiones, Chaco, Formosa, Entre Ríos,[18][19] and Buenos Aires dialects of Argentine Guarani are spoken or known by nearly one million people, including Paraguayan immigrants that speak Paraguayan Guarani or Jopara.[15] In Corrientes, the Argentine Guarani dialect was decreed co-official in 2004 and made obligatory in educational instruction and the government.

  • Chiripa is a language family of Tupi-Guarani, subgroup I. There are a few speakers in the Misiones Province and among Paraguayan immigrants.
  • Mbyá is from the Tupi-Guarani family, subgroup I. It has a 75 percent lexical similarity with Paraguayan Guarani. In 2002, some 3000 speakers were counted in the Misiones Province.[12]
  • Eastern Bolivian Guarani is also from the Tupi-Guarani family, subgroup I. Some 15 000 speakers in the provinces of Salta and Formosa.
  • Correntino Guarani or Argentine Guarani pertains to the Tupi-Guarani family. It is spoken (together with Spanish) by nearly 70 percent of the population with an origin from the Corrientes Province (around 350,000 speakers); the Correntino government decreed in 2004 the co-officiality of the Guarani language and its obligatory use in teaching and government, even though it still has not been regulated.
  • Kaiwá, called pai tavyterá in Paraguay, is from the Tupi-Guarani family, subgroup I. It is spoken by no more than 510 people in Misiones Province.
  • Tapieté from the Tupi-Guarani family, subgroup I, is spoken by some 100 speakers of a village near Tartagal, Salta.
  • Missionary Guarani Jesuit was an old variety of Guarani spoken by Jesuit Missionaries became extinct around 1800.


The Mapuche language is an isolated language that had approximately 40,000[20] to 100,000[12] speakers in the provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut, and Santa Cruz in 2000.


Central Aymara is a language of the Aymaran group, spoken by 30,000 inhabitants of Jujuy,[12] of the North of Salta, besides the immigrants of Puna and of Peru.

Mataco-Guaicuru languages[edit]

Extension of the Mataco-Guaicuru languages.

From the Mataco or Mataguyao group:

  • Iyojwa'ja Chorote, Ch'orti', Yofuaha or Eklenjuy is from the Mataco-Guaicuru family and is a distinct language from Chorote Iyo'wujwa. It was spoken in 1982[12] by some 1500 people in the Northeast of the Formosa Province.
  • Chorote iyo'wujwa,Ch'orti', Manjuy, Majui is from the Mataco-Guaicuru family. There were some 800 speakers accounted for in 1982, 50 percent of which were monolingual, mixed with speakers of Iyojwa'ja Chorote. Recently, it is spoken by just 400 people.[16]
  • Nivaclé is from the Mataco-Guaicuru family, It has about 200 speakers in the Northeast of the Formosa Province.[12] The term "chulupí" and similar terms are pejoratives and are like the word "guaycurú" (that in Guarani means something like "barbarians") which comes from the Guarani invaders.
  • Wichí Lhamtés Güisnay is from the Mataco-Guaicuru family and is spoken by some 15,000 people in the Pilcomayo River area, Formosa.[12] The term "mataco" used to name the languages and towns of the Wichí people is a pejorative and comes from the invaders that were speakers of Runasimi (Quechua).
  • Wichí Lhamtés Nocten is from the Mataco-Guaicuru family and is spoken by around 100 people in the Northeast border of the country, as far as the Clorinda area.[12]
  • Wichí Lhamtés Vejoz is from the Mataco-Guaicuru family. There are calculated to be 25,000 speakers distributed throughout the Chaco and Formosa Provinces,[12] its main area of influence, in general, is found at the west of the area of the Toba people, along the superior course of the Pilcomayo River. It is unintelligible with other languages of Gran Chaco, and is also spoken in Bolivia.

From the Guaicuru group:

  • Mocoví is from the Mataco-Guaicuru family. In 2000, there were some 4530 speakers in Formosa, in the south of Chaco and the Northeast of the Santa Fe Province.[12] For 2008 the number had decreased from 3000 to 5000 people.
  • Pilagá is from the Mataco-Guaicuru family and is spoken by some 2000 to 5000 people in the basins of the Pilcomayo and Bermejo rivers, providences Formosa and Chaco. In 2004, it was spoken by 4000 people.
  • Qom is also from the Mataco-Guaicuru family. Spoken in the year 2006 by 40,000 to 60,000 people in the East of Formosa and Chaco. In 2000 it was spoken by 21,410 indigenous people (19,800 in Argentina).

In danger of extinction[edit]

Extinct languages[edit]

Approximate distribution of languages in the southern tip of South America in times of the Conquest.

In addition to surviving indigenous languages, before the contact with Europeans and during some time during the Colonization of the Americas in Argentina they spoke the following languages, that are currently extinct:

  • Abipón is from the Mataco-Guaicuru family and was spoken by the Abipón people, and was related to Kadiweu. There do not appear to be living speakers of this language.
  • Cacán was spoken by the Diaguita people. The language is unclassified because of a lack of information.
  • Chané is from that Arawakan language family, without a subgroup classification. It has been compared to Guana or Kashika language of Paraguay, or Terêna from Brazil, but both are distinct, it was spoken in Salta some 300 years ago. The ethnic group is named Izoceño, and now they speak Guarani.
  • Kunza was the language of the Atacama people and is also extinct in Chile. Due to the lack of information it is considered an isolated language.
  • Henia-Camiare was spoken by the Comechingón people. There are not sufficient elements to establish its connection to another language, nor is it possible to try to reconstruct it.
  • Querandí is the language of the old inhabitants of Pampas also known as the Querandí people. Its existence as the only language is speculative; the few known words of the language have been related to Puelche and the Chonan languages.
  • Allentiac and Millcayac are languages from the Huarpean family that were spoken in the Cuyo region. The shortage of remaining elements hinders better classification of these languages.
  • Lule-toconoté is considered to be of the Lule-Vilela family. Some authors affirm that Lule and Toconoté language were not the same language, spoken by the people that inhabited part of what is today known as Santiago del Estero and by those that migrated to Chaco in the mid-17th Century.
  • Ona is from the Chonan family that went extinct in the 1990s or early 2000s.
  • Puelche is possibly loosely related to the Chonan languages. Rodolfo Casamiquela worked with the last speakers in the middle of the 20th Century.
  • Yaghan was spoken by aboriginal people in the Southern coastal areas of Tierra del Fuego. It became extinct in Argentina in the beginning of the 20th Century, even though it was conserved in a grand dictionary elaborated by Thomas Bridges and some important words gave name to places in Argentina such as Ushuaia, Lapataia, Tolhuin, etc; the last native speaker in Chile is Cristina Calderón.
  • Missionary Guarani was spoken in the area of the Misiones Jesuit Guaranies, between 1632 and 1767, disappearing permanently around 1870, but left important written documents.

See also[edit]


  • Lewis, M. Paul; Simons, Gary F.; Fennig, Charles D., eds. (2014). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (17th ed.). Dallas, TX, USA: Summer Institute of Linguistics International.
  • Aeberhard, Danny; Benson, Andrew; Phillips, Lucy (2000). The rough guide to Argentina. London: Rough Guides. ISBN 978-1858285696.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "Argentina – Language". Retrieved 2011-06-12. August 2013
  2. ^ "Argentina Population". Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  3. ^ Mundo, Redacción BBC. "¿En qué países de América Latina hablan el mejor inglés como segundo idioma?". BBC News Mundo (in Spanish). Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  4. ^ "EF EPI 2018 – Argentina". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  5. ^ Clarí "Los argentinos dejaron de tener un nivel "alto" de inglés y el país bajó 6 puestos en un ranking". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  6. ^ a b "🇦🇷 Idioma de Argentina ▷ Lenguas oficiales de los argentinos". 🌍 ¿Qué idioma? (in Spanish). Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  7. ^ Vidal de Battini, Berta (1964): El español de la Argentina: estudio destinado a los maestros de las escuelas primarias, cartografía de María Teresa Grondona. Buenos Aires: Consejo Nacional de Educación.
  8. ^ Colantoni, Laura and Gurlekian, Jorge (2004). "Convergence and intonation: historical evidence from Buenos Aires Spanish". Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. 7: 107–119.
  9. ^ Lewis, Simons & Fennig 2014.
  10. ^ "Welsh". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  11. ^ "Home". 2012-10-16. Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Argentina". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  13. ^ Martorell de Laconi, Susana (2004). Voces del quichua en Salta y otros estudios. p. 139.
  14. ^ Alderetes, Jorge R.; y Albarracín, Lelia I. (2004). «El quechua en Argentina: el caso de Santiago del Estero». En: International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 169 (número especial: «Quechua sociolinguistics»), p. 84.
  15. ^ a b c Vid. Martínez, Angelita (2008), «Argentina», en Palacios Alcaine, Azucena (coord.), El español en América: contactos lingüísticos en Hispanoamérica, Barcelona: Ariel; pp. 258–59. Los inmigrantes bolivianos en la Argentina, que en su mayoría hablan quechua, se distribuyen por el país en un 39% en Buenos Aires, 20% en Jujuy, 14% en Salta, 10% en Mendoza y el resto en Chubut, Neuquén y Santa Cruz. Por otra parte el idioma wichi es una de las lenguas indígenas con más hablantes, suman entre sus distintas variedades un total de 35 000 a 60 000 personas, se ubica en las provincias de Chaco, Formosa y Salta.
  16. ^ a b "Diversidad lingüística en peligro en Argentina | Castellano - La Página del Idioma Español = El Castellano - Etimología - Lengua española". Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  17. ^ Moderna, Revista (2010-01-18). "Archivo: Situación sociolingüística de los pueblos indígenas en la Argentina". Archivo. Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  18. ^ "Lucha por mantener vivo el guaraní - La Provincia | UNOENTRERIOS.COM.AR". 2011-11-07. Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  19. ^ "Guarani Declaration". Retrieved 2019-06-02.
  20. ^ Barbara F. Grimes, Richard Saunders Pittman & Joseph Evans Grimes (1992). Ethnologue: languages of the world. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, pp. 12–27.

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