The Spanish History is one marked by the rise and fall of several empires. To understand the origins of what is today the second most spoken language in the world is to travel through world history as well.
Beginning of Spanish History: From Latin to Spanish
The Spanish History begins with the fall of Roman Empire, which had previously occupied the Iberian Peninsula. Throughout the Roman rule, Latin became the official language of the whole empire and the language used in day-to-day activities. Previously, the Peninsula had been the home of a number of dialects influenced by Visigothic invasions and Celtic languages. Of these languages, only Basque (still spoken today in the Basque Country) survives.
With the fall of the empire, local sociolects of vulgar Latin began evolving to the languages now spoken in the areas corresponding to modern-day Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Romania. You might also know them as Romance languages, born in written form somewhere between the 12th and 13th centuries, to mother Vulgar Latin and father Church Latin.
In the case of Spanish, an overwhelming 75% of words have their origin in Latin.
From Arabic to Spanish
But while vulgar Latin opened way to modern-day Spanish in the Northern part of the Peninsula, the South was invaded by moors during the 8th century. From 711 to 1492, when the city of Granada finally fell, Al-Andalus occupied a substantial part of the territory. Therefore, a lot of Arabic words made their way into the general vocabulary.
Most of these words were related to scientific advances introduced by the moors in fields like mathematics, astronomy and technology. Today, it is estimated that about 8% of Spanish words have their roots in Arabic: virtually all the words beginning with “Al”, such as algebra, alacrán [scorpio], albóndiga [meatball], alcaide [mayor], alcohol, algodón [cotton], algoritmo [algorithm], almanaque [almanac], but also ajedrez [chess], naranja [orange], sandía [watermelon] and the widely used interjection “¡ole!”, which shows how much the Arabic influenced Spanish culture. Furthermore, the names Andalucía, Albacete, Almería and Guadalajara are testimonies of an occupation felt until the 15th century.
From divided kingdoms to a united Spain
With the end of Al-Andalus and the conquest of kingdoms throughout the Peninsula, Spain became a unified country. Not long afterwards, Castilian became the official language for all the Catholic kingdoms. The written standard for the language began to be developed in Toledo during the 16th century.
From Spain to America
The year Granada fell was the same year Christopher Columbus set out to discover America. With the discovery of the New World, new words also entered the language to name the newly found products. Things like aguacate [avocado], cacao [cocoa], chocolate, patata [potato] and even tomate [tomato], which are now staple foods across the world!
Following Columbus’ discoveries, Spanish became the official language in many countries of Latin America. It is now spoken all over the world. Its words have been borrowed by other languages and Spanish itself has also absorbed a number of expressions. By 2050, most native Spanish speakers will live in the United States: a long way home from the small villages in Castille.
What will happen next in the Spanish History? And what are you waiting for to become a part of it?
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