By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The History of the Spanish Language

I am now reading the book pictured below. Here is a quote from the book jacket:

"Just how did a dialect spoken by a handful of shepherds in northern Spain become the world's second most spoken language, the official language of twenty-one countries on two continents, and the unofficial second language of the United States?"

Here is another excerpt:

"What is making Spanish so infuential in the United States? Part of the answer lies in the language's quirky, vibrant, and accessible pop culture. This charisma gives Spanish a special kind of power in the United States, a singular quality that inspires many to learn Spanish. Spanish--literally--makes the world bigger" (p. 6).

By the way, those who teach or just love Latin should grab the opportunity: Spanish provides a great way to interest students in Latin, the mother tongue of Spanish. The similarities are immense, the pronunciation is similar, and, as others have noted, learning a "living Latin language" gives greater appreciation for Latin as a living and spoken language.

In addition, Roman history is full of Roman emperors (some of the best) with Spanish roots (Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Theodosius the Great). Roman literature has the Senecas, Lucan, Martial, and Quintilian. Then, there was the famous anonymous Spaniard from Cadiz (Gades) who travelled to Rome simply to gaze on the face of Livy and then promptly turned around and headed home. You get the drift: Hispania was integral to the culture of the empire.

The popularity of Spanish in U.S. schools and colleges is not a zero-sum competition with Latin. Latinists who are sapientes or wise will use and encourage the synergy. It seems so obvious to grab the opportunity, but we humans tend to love our isolated niches.

Also of interest to Latinists with a bent for historical linguistics is that "the Latin spoken in Hispania contained words that had actually disappeared in Rome by the time Rome started conquering its other territories" (p. 11). Thus, "[r]elative to other languages that grew out of Latin, Spanish, therefore, contains many words linguists label archaisms" (ibid.). For example (exempli gratia), the Latin word "cansar"/"to tire" is still used in Spanish and Portuguese but in no other Romance language (ibid.). The word had disappeared from Rome by the time Julius Caesar took over Gaul (ibid.).

(Image of Hispano-Roman noble under GNU License)