Correntino Spanish Memes and the Enregisterment of Argentine Guarani Loanwords
Traditional first- and second-wave approaches have treated variation as a window into language change (Weinreich et al. 1968), and have examined the stratification of variation according to both macrosocial categories (e.g., gender, class) and locally significant categories (e.g., jocks, burnouts). Proponents of a third-wave approach focus on linguistic variation as a resource for taking stances, making social moves, and constructing identity.
2.1. Enregisterment, Indexical Fields, and Character Types
2.2. Memes as Objects of Analysis
In Dawkins’s original framing, memes described any cultural idea or behavior. Fashion, language, religion, sports—all of these are memes. Today, though, the term “meme”—or specifically “Internet meme”—has a new, colloquial meaning. While memes themselves have been the subject of entire books, modern Internet memes lack even an accurate definition. There are numerous online sources (Wikipedia, Urban Dictionary, Know Your Meme, Encyclopedia Dramatica) that describe Internet memes as the public perceives them, but none does so in an academically rigorous way. Given this, I have found the following new definition to be useful in the consideration of Internet memes specifically: An Internet meme is a piece of culture, typically a joke, which gains influence through online transmission.
3.1. Meme Corpus
The meanings of [modal particles] are abstract and difficult to generalise over their particular contexts of occurrence and are usually explicated in terms of the propositional attitudes of their speaker. [Modal particles] can be omitted without influencing the truth value of their carrier sentence. They are typically used in dialogues and as such are primarily oriented towards the addressee and his preceding utterance.
[Modal particles] usually cannot carry stress, they cannot be coordinated, they cannot by themselves form a sentence, and their scope ranges over the entire sentence. Besides being identifiable on formal grounds alone, they are also clearly felt to be in some way semantically and pragmatically homogeneous (an intuition which is already reflected in the term modal particle or the more traditional German term Abtönungspartikel), although their semantics and pragmatics seem to be particularly elusive and difficult to grasp.
3.2. Theoretical Approach
- Overt reference to Corrientes, for any reason at all;
- Reference to food or drink typical of the province (e.g., mate, torta parrilla, torta frita, guiso, asado, etc.);
- Reference to flora, fauna, or ecological characteristics typical of the province (e.g., capybaras, caimans, yellow anacondas, the wetlands, etc.);
- Reference to local cultural customs involving song or dance (e.g., chamamé);
- Reference to rural life in the countryside (e.g., agriculture, horses, the summer heat, drought, mosquitoes, etc.);
- Reference to the provincial rivalry between Corrientes and Chaco;
- Reference to the perceived status of Corrientes as less developed than other Argentine provinces;
- Reference to Correntino politics;
- Reference to the local stereotype of Correntino machismo, generally conceived17 (e.g., that Correntino men have various romantic partners behind the back of their wife or girlfriend, that Correntino men are known for making advances on the female partners of their own close male friends, etc. Memes concerning romantic relationships in a general sense did not meet this criterion).
5. Argentine Guarani Loans as Enregistered Features
[I]t is not my purpose to assert that public sphere representations (such as the ‘mass media’ depictions discussed earlier) determine individual views, or anything of the sort. Contemporary mass media depictions are themselves the products of individuals caught up in larger historical processes; and the ‘uptake’ of such messages by audiences involve processes of evaluative response that permit many degrees of freedom. I am concerned rather with the ways in which these representations expand the social domain of individuals acquainted with register stereotypes, and allow individuals, once aware of them, to respond to their characterological value in various ways, aligning their own self-images with them in some cases, transforming them in others through their own metasemiotic work.
-Yo nio te alaviu mi reina ‘I love you so much baby’
-Jape, seguro la decís eso nio taén a las sotras ‘Get out of here, you definitely say that to your other women as well’
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Conflicts of Interest
The most common designation for this variety of Guarani is the Spanish term guaraní correntino. In English, I opt for use of the term “Argentine Guarani” (as opposed to “Correntino Guarani” or “Correntinean Guarani”) for reasons outlined in (Pinta 2022, pp. 6–10).
Throughout this article I will use the unspecified term “Guarani” as synonymous and interchangeable with the more precise “Argentine Guarani”, the variety that is in contact with Correntino Spanish. Argentine Guarani is treated by most scholars as a mere geographical extension of Paraguayan Guarani into Argentina—and therefore “Paraguayan Guarani” is commonly described as being spoken in Corrientes—despite the historical and linguistic differences between them that hinder mutual intelligibility and the societal differences that have produced vastly different sociolinguistic realities for speakers of the two varieties (Pinta 2022). It is, of course, perfectly acceptable to talk about the influence of “Guarani” on “Spanish” in the context of northern Argentina and Paraguay as a general region, abstracting over dialectal differences; however, the source of the Guarani loans in the Spanish spoken in Corrientes is, in some cases, demonstrably Argentine Guarani and not Paraguayan Guarani. Accordingly, all references to “Guarani” here are to be read as implying “Argentine Guarani”, and in cases where ambiguity is possible or precision is necessary then appropriately precise terms will be used.
For further discussion of the relationship between these two approaches, see (Eckert 2008, pp. 463–564).
Some scholars prefer a more fine-grained distinction between these and related categories, e.g., see (Moore and Podesva 2009).
For a detailed treatment of the history of the term and concept, see (Wiggins 2019, pp. 1–20).
Source: Memelandia Correntino, https://www.instagram.com/p/CZnjEPuFQar (accessed on 14 June 2023).
In fact, some of the memes in the corpus informing this article might fall outside a narrow definition of what a meme is, given that images are often seen as necessary components of memes in the prototypical sense, and some memes in the corpus are text unaccompanied by imagery.
Handles provide the web address of each individual page; by replacing the “X” in https://www.instagram.com/X with a given handle (minus the @) the address can be recovered, e.g., https://www.instagram.com/elmiamicorrentino (accessed on 14 June 2023). All pages are live as of 14 June 2023 with the exception of Memes Bella Vissta, which has been removed from Instagram for unknown reasons.
The map in Figure 2 was taken from Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:San_Miguel_(Provincia_de_Corrientes_-_Argentina).svg, accessed on 14 June 2023). It is reproduced here under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license and has been altered for the purposes of this article.
Exceptions to this include some memes which either directly reference Correntino culture in meaningful ways or memes which make metalinguistic reference to Correntino Spanish phonological features. These additional memes do not figure into the 409-meme corpus referenced here (unless they also happen to contain a loan), but some of them will be referenced below.
For a list of the properties of modal particles that justify them as a specific class, see (Abraham 1991, pp. 4–5).
See (Schwenter and Waltereit 2010) for discussion of this kind of historical change in additive particles.
See (Marco and Arguedas 2021) for discussion of intensification and the complexity of defining it.
Source (a): Típico de Correntino, https://www.instagram.com/p/CF2GiLEnrIi (accessed on 14 June 2023).
Source (b): Angaú Memes, https://www.instagram.com/p/CCqWrU9HVokma6pAzyLpNmS7hb-5zrOTrzdC8c0 (accessed on 14 June 2023; this source URL only works for Instagram users who are followers of this page).
Itself a loan whose source is the Guarani form paje, it is described as local charm or magic, in both positive and negative contexts.
A mythological figure of Guarani origin who is said to live in rural regions. Alternatively described in positive and negative lights, e.g., as a protector of local wildlife or as a troublemaker, belief in the pombero is common among the rural inhabitants of the province, who both fear and respect him. During fieldwork in the rural interior of the province in 2017 and 2018, various locals recounted to me stories of having seen the pombero, and one individual very earnestly warned me of him.
While it could be argued that this kind of generalized machismo is not locally specific to Corrientes (and is perceived as common throughout Argentina, or Latin America in general), this category deserves inclusion here due to a variety of Correntino-specific lexical items which are used to describe such phenomena in a locally specific way. Many of these terms are Guarani in origin, e.g., chajá, from Guarani chahã, the name for the Southern screamer (Chauna torquata), a common bird species native to the province, which in turn came to be used for a man who seduces the wife or girlfriend of another man.
Source (a): Angaú Memes, https://www.instagram.com/p/CCXaY8FDEXmt07l36LPhwN3k25rnBdgoMYhqNE0 (accessed on 14 June 2023; this source URL only works for Instagram users who are followers of this page). The source page of the meme in (b), Memes Bella Vista, has been removed from Instagram, and accordingly the source URL is no longer available.
To clarify further, “the use of Argentine Guarani in an overt way” refers to proficiency of some kind in the language itself and does not include the use of Guarani loanwords in Spanish. Just as the use of raccoon or persimmon by an English speaker speaking North American English does not imply knowledge of Powhatan, the use of the Guarani loans discussed in this article by a Spanish speaker speaking Correntino Spanish does not imply knowledge of Guarani.
It is worth mentioning that while these memes come from Instagram pages used as sources for the corpus (those from Figure 7 are from Memes Bella Vista, and those from Figure 8 are from El Miami Correntino), they are not part of the 409 memes that constitute the corpus given that they do not contain Guarani loans.
The source page of both memes in Figure 7, Memes Bella Vista, has been removed from Instagram, and accordingly the source URLs are no longer available.
Source (a): El Miami Correntino, https://www.instagram.com/p/CJiy0HwnuKS (accessed on 14 June 2023).
Source (b): El Miami Correntino, https://www.instagram.com/p/CIbPSpAHKo2 (accessed on 14 June 2023).
Source (a): El Guriok, https://www.instagram.com/p/CLaxD1KH8J_ (accessed on 14 June 2023).
Source (b): El Guriok, https://www.instagram.com/p/CMsgltSnxAa (accessed on 14 June 2023).
Nomás te digo ‘I’m just saying’ but written as it is frequently pronounced, including the deletion of various consonants, i.e., [no.ma.t̪e."i.Go] instead of [no.mas.t̪e."Di.Go] in careful speech.
The Correntino realization of the highly frequent form pues, a discourse marker often found phrase-finally in Correntino Spanish.
Source: El Miami Correntino, https://www.instagram.com/p/CLrpCZ_HnVe (accessed on 14 June 2023).
A common phrase-initial discourse marker.
It should be noted that some of these loans occur in Paraguayan Spanish as well. However, others—e.g., the interrogative marker ta (Cerno 2013, p. 227)—are specifically Argentine Guarani in origin (i.e., their source form is nonexistent in Paraguayan Guarani) and therefore are unique to Correntino Spanish. The fact that some Guarani loans are shared between Correntino Spanish and Paraguayan Spanish should not be interpreted to mean that these two varieties of Spanish are largely the same. Various features, in particular phonological but also morphosyntactic and lexical, demarcate Paraguayan Spanish and Correntino Spanish as being clearly and immediately recognizably distinct Spanish varieties (for discussion along these lines specifically regarding contact features, see (Estigarribia et al. 2023)).
The original etymological source of this form, while unclear, may be the Portuguese demais ‘much, too much,’ which patterns in many ways like the forms in Argentine Guarani and Correntino Spanish (Leonardo Cerno, personal communication, 8 December 2022).
Source (a): Memelandia Correntino, https://www.instagram.com/p/CavIyqKl3oM (accessed on 14 June 2023).
Source (b): Un Correntino Dice, https://www.instagram.com/p/CM703fTswy0 (accessed on 14 June 2023).
Source (a): El Guriok, https://www.instagram.com/p/CKO-ZLqH1Do (accessed on 14 June 2023).
Source (b): Típico de Correntino, https://www.instagram.com/p/CJCM6SXHZWg (accessed on 14 June 2023).
It is interestingly treated as just a verb here as opposed to a verb phrase, replacing the Spanish verb form but not the Spanish pronouns yo ‘I’ or te ‘you’.
Coda deletion, a common feature of Correntino Spanish, is likely also a contact effect (or at the very least enforced by contact effects), given that Guarani phonology natively prohibits syllable codas (Cerno 2013). Many Spanish loans in Guarani whose source forms contained codas were repaired via coda deletion during the process of loanword adaptation (Pinta and Smith 2017), leading to forms that phonologically pattern with morí in this case.
In my experience, many Correntino Spanish speakers, whether monolingual or bilingual, do not seem to be aware of the source language of the discourse markers in this variety, presumably due to the fact that Spanish-origin forms have been borrowed into Argentine Guarani and vice versa, thus making the source of a given form unclear. I have heard speakers claim that some Guarani-origin particles come from Spanish, e.g., nio, and that some particles native to Spanish are in fact borrowed from Guarani, e.g., pue(s). This is perhaps also attributable to the relatively similar phonologies of the two languages (see (Pinta and Smith 2017) and the references cited therein).
The exchange rate between the Argentine peso and the US dollar on my first visit to Argentina, in May of 2007, was roughly 3:1; the current official exchange rate as of October of 2022, 15 years later, is approximately 156:1.
Source (a): Angaú Memes, https://www.instagram.com/p/CB5_mucjC2S3b1egCbq1JG1BMzrv6xNXylAsp00 (accessed on 14 June 2023; this source URL only works for Instagram users who are followers of this page). The source page of the meme in (b), Memes Bella Vista, has been removed from Instagram, and accordingly the source URL is no longer available.
This is a common variant of the previously given form angaú; they are semantically identical. As indicated in Table 2, the source form (for both) is the Guarani form nga’u, and the Spanish forms angaú/engaú differ in the epenthetic vowel used to resolve the /Ng/ onset, which does not natively occur in Spanish.
Source: Memelandia Correntino, https://www.instagram.com/p/CMqPzByFn4a (accessed on 14 June 2023).
Source (a): Tavetayape, https://www.instagram.com/p/CTupPgOrw36 (accessed on 14 June 2023).
Source (b): Memelandia Correntino, https://www.instagram.com/p/CLxfNSLlm1hy_KTULPshgMnsvLQq90dx6x9vog0 (accessed on 14 June 2023).
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|Page Name||Page Handle||Followers||Location|
|Memes Bella Vissta||@memesbellavissta||defunct||Bella Vista|
|El Guriok||@elguriok||10.9 K||Corrientes City|
|El Miami Correntino||@elmiamicorrentino||56.4 K||Corrientes City|
|Memelandia Correntino||@memelandiacorrentino||89.2 K||Corrientes City|
|Típico de Correntino||@tipicodecorrentino||30 K||Corrientes City|
|Libres Yorkk||@libresyorkk||106 K||Paso de los Libres|
|Un Correntino Dice||@uncorrentinodice||1149||unspecified|
|Angaú Memesfirstname.lastname@example.org||1012||Paso de la Patria|
|Meme Amela||@meme_amela||2444||Corrientes City|
|Las Correntinas Dicen||@lascorrentinasdicen||1797||Corrientes City|
|Spanish Form||Guarani Source Form||English Gloss|
|mbaé||mba’e||‘maybe’, intensifier morpheme|
|que||ke||intensifier morpheme (imperative)|
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Pinta, J. Correntino Spanish Memes and the Enregisterment of Argentine Guarani Loanwords. Languages 2023, 8, 165. https://doi.org/10.3390/languages8030165
Pinta J. Correntino Spanish Memes and the Enregisterment of Argentine Guarani Loanwords. Languages. 2023; 8(3):165. https://doi.org/10.3390/languages8030165Chicago/Turabian Style
Pinta, Justin. 2023. "Correntino Spanish Memes and the Enregisterment of Argentine Guarani Loanwords" Languages 8, no. 3: 165. https://doi.org/10.3390/languages8030165