Modern Language: SPANISH

Indo-European > Italic > Western Romance > Spanish

Spanish, in either its Castilian or various Latin American forms, is among the most widely spoken languages on the planet. The mother tongue of over 320 million people worldwide (source:, mostly in Central and South America, it nonetheless still competes locally within Spain with Catalan, Galician and Basque.

The history of Romance in the Iberian peninsular dates back to the Roman invasions of the second and first centuries BC. The post-Roman era saw centuries of rule by first the Germanic Visigoths and later the Arabic Moors. Though the Gotths left little lasting trace of their language upon Spanish, bar personal names and a few morphological features, borrowings from arabic were much greater. These largely consisted of nouns, such as those beginning with 'al' such as 'almirante' (admiral) and 'alcohol' (alcohol) (Penny, 2002: 14).

The Christian reconquest of Spain took many centuries to complete, but in that time a Castilian standard began to emerge. Vernacular writing became prominent in the 12th and 13th centuries. The originator of the standard was probably King Alfonso X 'the Learned', though even when spanish was beginning its global expansion there were two competeing Castilian norms, those of Toledo and Seville (Penny, 2002: 21). These varieties have left their mark on the different Spanish forms of Latin America.

Spanish has a rich literary history. The first great epic in Spanish was El Cantar de Mio Cid, or 'El Cid', written down in the 13th C by Per Abad, telling the story of a Reconquistador hero. One of the most famous (and earliest) novels in the world was Cervantes' Don Quixote. More recent greats include Lorca, who was murdered in the Spanish Civil War, though Spanish cinema has gained much admiration in recent years (particularly the works of Bunuel and Almodovar). Spanish influence on English has been fairly diverse, largely relating to contact in the New World. Common words of Spanish origin include armada, tomato, potato, guitar and banana.

examples of spanish

De los sos ojos tan fuertemientre llorandotornava la cabeça e estávalos catando,
vio puertas abiertas e uços sin cañados,alcándaras vazías,
sin pielles e sin mantose sin falcones e sin adtores mudados.
Sospiró mio Çid, ca mucho avié grandes cuidados,
fabló mio Çid bien e tan mesurado,-
Grado a ti, Señor, Padre que estás en alto,
esto me an buelto mios enemigos malos.

El Cantar de Mio Cid ('El Cid'), c.1207 (Translation: He turned and looked upon them, and he wept very sore
As he saw the yawning gateway and the hasps wrenched off the door,
And the pegs whereon no mantle nor coat of vair there hung.
There perched no moulting goshawk, and there no falcon swung.
My lord the Cid sighed deeply such grief was in his heart
And he spake well and wisely: "Oh Thou, in Heaven that art
Our Father and our Master, now I give thanks to Thee.
Of their wickedness my foemen have done this thing to me."
transl: R. Selden Rose/Leonard Bacon)

Ya en este tiempose habia levantado Sancho Panza algo maltratado de los mozos de los frailes, y habia estado atento á la batalla de su señor D. Quijote, y rogaba á Dios en su corazon fuese servido de darle Vitoria, y que en ella ganase alguna ínsula de donde le hiciese gobernador, como se lo habia prometido.

Cervantes: Don Quixote de la Mancha (Part I, chap. X), c.1605 (Translation: 'In the meantime Sancho Panza had got up again after his rough handling by the monk's servants, and had stood watching the battle Don Quixote was fighting, praying to God in his heart to be pleased to grant his master the victory, and that out of it he might gain an isle of which he could be the governor, as he had been promised.' - J.M. Cohen)

Y que yo me la llevé al río
creyendo que era mozuela,
pero tenía marido.
Fue la noche de Santiago
y casi por compromiso.
Se apagaron los faroles
y se encendieron los grillos.
En las últimas esquinas
toqué sus pechos dormidos,
y se me abrieron de pronto
como ramos de jacintos.
Federico Garcia Lorca, 'La casada infiel' ('The Faithless Wife'), c.1927 (Translation: So I took her to the river believing she was a maiden, but she already had a husband. It was on St. James night and almost as if I was obliged to. The lanterns went out and the crickets lighted up. In the farthest street corners I touched her sleeping breasts and they opened to me suddenly like spikes of hyacinth.)

a short spanish bibliography
  • Ralph Penny, A History of the Spanish Language, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: 2002)
  • more to come!

some german links


At 01:22, Blogger Johnny Canuck said...

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