19 June 2010

Spanish Language Day: 19 th June

Spanish Language Day: 19 th June.

El día 'e': 19 th June
About the origin and evolution of the Spanish Language

The Spanish language is one of the most widely spoken, with 400 million native speakers, and it can be traced back to the Indo-European language family. Around 2000 years before Christ, the Celtiberians started to learn Latin from the Romans. The combination of the Celtic language and Latin evolved into what is referred to by many as Vulgar Latin. When the Visigoths took over the region, Latin remained the dominant and official language. This continued until the Moors conquered the region and Arabic became the dominant language, except for certain regions dominated by the Christians. In such regions, Vulgar Latin remained the official language, and as the Christian groups started to reclaim Moorish Spain, Vulgar Latin returned as the dominant language in all the regions, though integrating Arabic and Mozarabic words. Approximately 3000 – 4000 words are derived from Arabic.

Castilian dialects of Spanish started to take form around the 13th century with King Alfonso X. Toledo became the cultural epicentre for the King and his scholars, who created works in Castilian Spanish which were the basis for the dissemination of information in a significant part of Western Europe. Castilian was declared as the official language for government documents and decrees.

The dominance of the Castilian dialect continued to grow as the Catholic kingdoms took over most regions of Spain. Isabella and Ferdinand declared Castilian Spanish as the official dialect. Soon thereafter, in 1492, the first grammar work, by Antonio Nebrija, titled “El Arte de la Lengua Castellana”, appeared and helped to shape and standardize the Spanish language.

Castilian Spanish quickly became the official language for all educational materials and official documents in all Spain. Certain regions maintained different dialects, most notably Andalusian, spoken in Seville.

In the 15th century, Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas and brought the Castilian Spanish language with him. As a result of what scholars refer to as "hispanización", Spanish was established as primary language in the region. The Catholic Church was instrumental in the expansion of use of Spanish in the region. In particular, the Jesuits and Franciscans established learning intuitions in Spanish to teach children Catholicism.

The Spanish language blended in with the local dialects. In particular, Mexican and Peruvian natives were able to significantly influence the language spoken today in Latin America. Also, influences from Spanish explorers from Andalusia helped shape the pronunciation of Latin American Spanish versus Castilian Spanish. This is why certain words in Castilian Spanish and Latin American Spanish sound quite different even though the spellings are the same. The combination of all these historical and sociological events has caused the evolution of the distinct form of Latin American Spanish spoken today in Central and South America.