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The History of Spanish The History of Spanish

Today, the Spanish language is extended across the globe. It is the second most important of the world's languages and the third most spoken, with four hundred million native speakers.

'El castellano' as the Spanish language is today known, is the product of more than a thousand years of development, over which period the diverse languages of the inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula were modified by the influence of Roman and Arab invasions. At the close of the fifteenth century, with the union of the monarchies of Castilla and Aragon, which extended their dominion over the largest part of the peninsula, the language of Castilla - el castellano - became imposed over the other idioms and dialects and crossed the Atlantic on the ships of discoverers, conquistadors and missionaries.

The Evolution of Spanish

The 'Glosas Emilianenses' is the first known document to have been written in the Spanish language. A mediaeval document from the Monastery of San Millan de la Cogolla, it dates from the year 964.

Yet it was not until 1492 that a published grammar of el castellano appeared, written by Elio Antonio de Nebrija. The year was significant - Columbus's discovery of America and the taking of Granada by the Catholic Kings.

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw the conformation and consolidation of Spanish's orthography and pronunciation. In morphology, tense forms appeared and in syntax, word order became more rigid and the position of pronouns became fixed.

With the political unification of Castilla and Aragon, el castellano became the language of legal documents, of politics and diplomacy. It became, during the sixteenth century, the official imperial language and became the subject of a tremendous amount of analysis, systematization and discussion by Spanish intellectuals. 1611 saw the publication of the first Spanish dictionary, by Sebastian de Covarrubias.

An Influx of New Words

Spanish became the major diplomatic language until the eighteenth century. The lexicon at this time began to incorporate a large body of words from other languages, both European and Native American. From Italian came such new words as: soneto, medalla and piano. Gallicisms included: jardín and sargento. Words like patata, cóndor, alpaca and puma came from Quechua and Guarani. From the family of Nahuatl languages came such familiar vocabulary as: chocolate, tomate and cacao

Spanish Today

In 1713, the Real Academia Española was founded. It established authoritative criteria for the sanctioning of neologisms and the incorporation of international words. Spanish grammar was formalized during this period and there was a great flourish in Hispanic literature, helped by the expressive freedom allowed both writers and speakers by Spanish's relatively free word order, creating a variety of diverse literary styles.

The twentieth century has seen further alterations in how Spanish is used by its speakers. The eruption of neologisms, fuelled by technological and scientific advances, remains unabated. They range from the classic: termómetro, átomo and psicoanálisis to the most modern and barely hispanicized: filmar, radar, casete, PC and módem.

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