Spanish language

(redirected from Castilian language)

Spanish language,

member of the Romance group of the Italic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Romance languagesRomance languages,
group of languages belonging to the Italic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Italic languages). Also called Romanic, they are spoken by about 670 million people in many parts of the world, but chiefly in Europe and the Western Hemisphere.
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). The official language of Spain and 19 Latin American nations, Spanish is spoken as a first language by about 330 million persons and as a second language by perhaps another 50 million. It is the mother tongue of about 40 million people in Spain, where the language originated and whence it was later brought by Spanish explorers, colonists, and empire-builders to the Western Hemisphere and other parts of the world during the last five centuries. It is the native language of over 17 million people in the United States, and is one of the official languages of the United Nations.

Spanish is a descendant of the Vulgar Latin brought to the Iberian peninsula by the soldiers and colonists of ancient Rome (see Latin languageLatin language,
member of the Italic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. Latin was first encountered in ancient times as the language of Latium, the region of central Italy in which Rome is located (see Italic languages).
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). Thus the Spanish vocabulary is basically of Latin origin, although it has been enriched by many loan words from other languages, especially Arabic, French, Italian, and various indigenous languages of North, Central, and South America. The oldest extant written records of Spanish date from the middle of the 10th cent. A.D.

The Spanish language employs the Roman alphabet, to which the symbols ch, ll, ñ, and rr have been added. The tilde (˜) placed over the n (ñ) indicates the pronunciation ni, as in English pinion. The acute accent (´) is used to make clear which syllable of a word is to be stressed when the regular rules of stress are not followed. The acute accent is also employed to distinguish between homonyms, as in ("I know") and se ("self").

There are a number of Spanish dialects; however, the Castilian dialect was already the accepted standard of the language by the middle of the 13th cent., largely owing to the political importance of Castile. There are several striking differences in pronunciation between Castilian and major dialects of Latin American Spanish. In the former, c before e and i, and z before a, o, and u, are pronounced th, as in English think; in the latter, they are sounded as s in English see. Moreover, the alphabetical symbol ll in Castilian is pronounced as lli in English billion; but in Latin American Spanish, as y in English you. On the whole, however, the differences between the Spanish dialects of Europe and of Latin America with reference to pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar are relatively minor.

One interesting feature of Spanish is that there are two forms of the verb "to be": estar, which denotes a relatively temporary state, and ser, which denotes a relatively permanent condition and which is also used before a predicate noun. Reflexive verbs often perform the same function in Spanish that passive verbs do in English. Because the inflection of the Spanish verb indicates person very clearly, subject pronouns are not necessary. A another peculiarity of Spanish is the use of an inverted question mark (¿) at the beginning of a question and of an inverted exclamation point (¡) at the beginning of an exclamation.


See W. J. Entwistle, The Spanish Language, Together with Portuguese, Catalan and Basque (2d ed. 1962); Y. Malkiel, Linguistics and Philology in Spanish America (1972); J. Amastae and L. Elias-Olivares, Spanish in the United States (1982); R. Wright, Late Latin and Early Romance in Spain and Carolingian France (1982); M. Harris and N. Vincent, The Romance Languages (1988).

References in periodicals archive ?
As for the failure of this attempt, if Unamuno's view and defense of the Castilian language is certainly one of the most problematic aspects of his thought in the decades following the publication of En torno .
For example, the Castilian language provides scaffolding for the dominant authoritative discourses of the Church, the school and other familial positions of authority.
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Arabs, Jews, Spanish Christians, and speakers of the Castilian language wrote and distributed their works whether in the local dialect, in Spanish or in Latin.
In an interview that appeared in Excelsior (November 6, 1970) he said: "The rough character of the Castilian language has to be broken," adding, "the struggle of the Castilian language, the struggle of America, like Borges said, is to dismember it, to take away its sensual richness.
This is evident in Bieito's 1997 Castilian language production of The Tempest, dominated by the sparkling grey sandy floor that so captivated critics in his production of La vida es sueno (as Life is a Dream) the following year.
Gomez Lodosa was somewhat apologetic: he urged the reader to pay no attention to the poverty of the Castilian language, as long as it was written with devotion: "do not pay attention to the rhetoric of the Castilian language; because my end has not been more than to put it down with devotion.
Language is at least as much an issue as the wallet, for Catalan, unlike Basque, has a long and distinguished literary history completely separate from Castilian language and literature.
This is to be regretted, especially because Mackay had such a unique command of the Castilian language.
Besides Latin and Greek, the new curriculum was to include Castilian language and literature together with orthography, prosody, rhetoric, chronology, history, dialectics, ethics, and criticism.