Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category

Where does the Spanish language come from?

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Languages are living and malleable: that is, they are constantly evolving and changing. Spanish is no exception and what we know as Spanish today is the result of the blending of several linguistic elements.

Spanish is typically classed as a Romance language that is, one that has evolved from Latin. It also belongs to the Indo-European language family alongside most European languages.

There is no one single Spanish, in fact a variety of Spanish dialects are used in Spain alone. When you consider that there are around 400 million Spanish speakers worldwide there is a lot of scope for linguistic variation. However, what we widely consider to be modern Spanish is also known as Castilian.

Modern Spanish is considered to have evolved from a Petri dish located in Hispania on the Iberian Peninsula around the middle ages, but the process began about 2000 years ago. The area of the Iberian Peninsula that became known as Hispania fell under Roman rule around 20 B.C. Gradually the Latin of the ruling class mingled with the indigenous languages of the Celts and Iberians found in the area and this produced a language that is known to linguists as Vulgar Latin.

Following this, several invading forces such as the Barbarians from Germany and the Arabic Moors added their own influence to the melting pot that was beginning to form the Spanish we recognize today.

The Moors had a profound effect on the evolution of Spanish and is responsible for giving the language words such as aloha (pillow), aceite (oil), naranja (orange) and barrio (neighborhood). Interestingly, some linguists argue that the word hola may have come from “Allah”. It is estimated that around 3000 Spanish words today are derived from Moorish Arabic.

In the 13th century King Alfonso X of Castile began to formalize the language when he had his scribes putting pen to paper to document history, astronomy, law and medicine. After the Moors were driven out of Spain during the reconquista the kingdom of Castile emerged as one of the dominant forces alongside Aragon and the two began to govern Spain together, but often as rivals. Throughout this period with Castile at the forefront of government their language, Castilian, became dominant throughout many regions of Spain.

In 1469 Castilian Princess Isabella married her cousin Prince Ferdinand of Aragon and effectively united the two kingdoms. By this time Castilian was virtually the language we recognize as Spanish today.

Shortly thereafter Isabella and Ferdinand began to build a world empire and Spanish spread to the New World and became one of the most widely spoken languages around the globe.

Today Spanish is spoken in more than 20 countries as an official language. But there are great variations in the way it is spoken regarding accent and slang. In Argentina for example the accent is very melodic and has great similarities to Italian intonation and cadence. This is due to the large proportion of Italian immigrants that came to Argentina in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Peru is often considered to have the most pure Spanish of all the Latin American countries. This is because Lima was the seat of the vice-royalty under the Spanish Empire and had a high proportion of nobility and a sizeable educated class resident there.

The Spanish that we know today is the result of around 2000 years of evolution and a number of influential ingredients thrown into the pot. It has grown to become one of the world’s most popular and romantic languages with a vast vocabulary and with many varied accents, slang and dialects.