The Evolution of the Spanish Language

The Evolution of the Spanish Language

The Spanish language is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world, with more than 500 million speakers in 21 countries. It is no wonder that so many businesses are taking advantage of professional translation and copy editing services such as Spanish with Style in order to reach this massive audience. But just how did the Spanish language evolve to become the language we know today?

In this article we will trace the evolution of the Spanish language throughout history on its journey from its Latin roots through to its spread across the globe by discussing the following factors:

  • The Latin Roots of the Spanish Language
  • The significant impact Arabic has had on the Spanish Language
  • The canonization of official Castilian Spanish

The Latin Roots of the Spanish Language

The Spanish language was originally derived from Latin on the Iberian Peninsula by the Romans in 210 BC. Over time, the Spanish language began borrowing words and grammar from several other Roman languages such as Iberian, Celtic, Celtiberian and Basque. The Spanish language began to be heavily influenced by many of what we know today as Romance languages such as French, Italian and Portuguese. We are still able to see today just how similar these languages are to each other, and the Spanish language in particular. The largest contributor to most Romance languages and especially the Spanish language is of course, Latin. Some even go as far as to say Latin is both the mother and the father of modern Spanish.

The Significant Impact Arabic has had on the Spanish Language

Surprising to some, Arabic is another language that has heavily influenced Spanish. In the early 700’s CE, Arab armies invaded the Iberian Peninsula and began an occupation that lasted hundreds of years. This occupation had a tremendous influence on the modern Spanish language because a significant amount of Arabic words were integrated into Spanish at this time. To this day there are about 4000 words, or 8% of the Spanish language, with Arabic origins.

The Canonization of Official Castilian Spanish

Shortly after the Arabs were expelled from the majority of the Iberian Peninsula in the 13th century, King Alfonso X declared Spanish as the official language of Spain and mandated that all official documents were to be written Spanish. This is where the standard Castilian version of Spanish was formally introduced that is still in use today. It was after this time the Spanish language began to become distinctive from the other Romance languages, particularly Latin, in the way it pronounced its words. The Latin language in general is ‘harder’ while the Spanish language is ‘softer’. For instance, ‘stone’ in Latin is petra with a hard‘t’ but is piedra in the Spanish language with a soft “d”. This change gradually began to take hold throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. During this time the first official book on Spanish language grammar was written called Gramática de la Lengua Castellana and everything changed. In 1492, the Spanish language spread to the far reaches of the Americas with Christopher Columbus. Spanish is now spoken across the majority of South America, Central America and into Mexico and the United States.  This widespread growth has transformed the Spanish language into many unique, local dialects and is now one of the most popular languages today.