October 05, 2005

Jeopardy Gets It Wrong Again

The folks at Jeopardy are not doing at all well this week on the linguistic front. They just got another one wrong. The answer was a display of the country symbol PY together with the statement:

After Spanish, this country's most common language is Guaraní.
The corresponding question was: Paraguay.

The problem is that Guaraní is not the most common language of Paraguay after Spanish; Guaraní is the main language of Paraguay. Over 90% of Paraguayans are estimated to speak Guaraní, with about 40% of the population monolingual in Guaraní. About 6% are monolingual in Spanish. Roughly half the population is bilingual. That means that about 56% speak Spanish, compared to over 90% who speak Guaraní.

Politically, Spanish is the more important language. The monolingual Spanish minority still constitute much of the elite, and Spanish is used more widely than Guaraní in urban areas. Since the fall of the Stroessner dictatorship in 1989 Guaraní has assumed a more prominent role.

[The figures in the Ethnologue, are somewhat different from what I have seen elsewhere. It gives 75% for Guaraní but only 4% for Spanish. I suspect that they have confused figures for ability to speak, monolingualism, and/or language preference..]

Posted by Bill Poser at October 5, 2005 07:47 PM