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Language Problems: Argentina and lunfardo



The variety of responses to the posting on Argentine "lunfardo"shows that the issue is very much alive. There were academic differences. Monica Malamud says Argentines use the terms "Spanish" and "Castilian" interchangeably, whereas others have insisted that all Argentines call it Castilian. A most interesting response, written in something like lunfardo, came from Claudio Fabricio, who dismissed academic discussion of the subject and said that one had to feel lunfardo in the street, without class distinctions. The bourgeois will never understand "lunfa". This is only an abstract of his remarks. Obviously outsiders cannot share the emotions aroused. The best we can do is observe and analyze.

I said that this reminded me of the situation in Greece. I asked the cultural attaché in the American Embassy there about language problems in Greece. He looked blank and said there were none. When he left the office, his secretaries burst with indignation at his ignorance. The socialist government had made demotic Greek the school standard (lunfardo is a kind of demotic Spanish). When a military government took over, it imposed classical Greek. Now a democratic government was promoting a Greek which was something between classic and demotic.

This leads me to ask about the political implications of lunfardo in Argentina. Parón was of Italian origin and he and Evita claimed to represent the people. Did they encourage lunfardo? Did the military dictatorships impose "good" Spanish? There are parallel problems in different countries. For example, in Morocco there is, or was, an Arabization center, which tried to establish a standard Arabic. I believe that in Egypt itself there has been a similar problem. Different varieties of Arabic claim to be the norm. Perhaps Ed Jajko can enlighten us about this. We have opened the Pandora's box of language problems around the world.

Ronald Hilton - 6/9/02


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