OVERVIEW OF THE SPANISH LANGUAGE
The Spanish language is classified as an Indo-European, Italic, Romance language. Spanish is part of the Indo-European family of languages, which are spoken by more than a third of the world’s population. Other Indo-European languages include English, French, German, the Scandinavian languages, the Slavic languages and many of the languages of India. Spanish can be classified further as a Romance language, a group that includes French, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan and Romanian.
With over 427 million native speakers, Spanish is the most widely spoken of all the Romance languages and third in the world languages. Spanish has spread throughout the world, mainly in Europe and the Americas, and is the official language of the 21 countries, as shown above. The stability and consistently of the Spanish language among these countries is guided by the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), founded in the 18th century. The Academy, based in Madrid, exercises a standardizing influence through its publication of dictionaries and widely respected grammar and style guides. This influence is, of course, directed primarily towards the written language, rather than the spoken language. There many important variations (phonological, grammatical, and lexical) in the spoken Spanish of the various regions of Spain and throughout the Spanish-speaking countries of the Americas.
An official language is a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a country’s official language refers to the language used within government, i.e., courts, parliament, administration, etc. Since “the means of expression of a people cannot be changed by any law”, the term “official language” does not typically refer to the language used by a people or country, but by its government. Worldwide 178 countries have at least one official language, and 101 of these recognize more than one language. English is the most common official language, with recognized official status in 51 countries. Arabic, French, and Spanish are also widely recognized as such.
Spanish Linguistic Features
Spanish is often considered as world’s most phonetic languages. If you know how a word is spelled, you can usually figure out how it is pronounced (although the reverse isn’t true). The main exception is recent words of foreign origin, that usually retain their original spelling.
Spanish has a rather uncomplicated vowel system composed of five simple, short vowels and five diphthongs. There are 21 consonants somewhat similar to English, except for the “trilled” R, and 2 lateral liquids (l-sounds)
1. Adjectives agree with their nouns in gender and number.
2. The case system of Latin has been completely lost except for pronouns that have subject, object,
possessive, and prepositional forms.
3. The gender system has masculine and feminine agreement. Most nouns end with the “o” sound or the “a” sound. Nouns ending in “o” are masculine and those ending in “a” are feminine with a few exceptions (e.g. planeta [‘planet’] and día [‘day’] are masculine, while mano [‘hand’] and foto [‘photo’] are feminine). Nouns that have other endings may be either masculine or feminine.
Script, Orthography, and Lexicon
Spanish is written with a Latin script of 29 letters, two of which are digraphs (ch, ll), and the addition of the character ⟨ñ⟩ (eñe, representing the phoneme /ɲ/, a letter distinct from ⟨n⟩, although typographically composed of an ⟨n⟩ with a tilde).
The letters k and w are used only in words and names coming from foreign languages (kilo, folklore, whiskey, kiwi, etc.).
With the exclusion of a very small number of regional terms such as México and borrowed foreign words, pronunciation can usually be determined from spelling. Under the orthographic conventions, a typical Spanish word is stressed on the syllable before the last if it ends with a vowel or with a vowel followed by ⟨n⟩ or an ⟨s⟩; it is stressed on the last syllable otherwise. Exceptions to this rule are indicated by placing an acute accent on the stressed vowel.
A Few Little Known Facts About the Spanish Language and Culture
Spanish is a very phonetic language. If you know how a word is spelled, you will usually know how it’s pronounced. However, if you know how a word is pronounced, you cannot be sure of how it’s spelled.
The letter c, when it appears before the letters e and i, is pronounced differently by speakers in Latin America vs Spain. The former pronounce it like an s, whereas the latter pronounce it like th in “the.”
Many English words have been adapted to Spanish in the 20th century and have become everyday vocabulary. For instance, fútbol (football), suéter (sweater), pulover (pullover), and overol (overall). English and Spanish share many similarly-written words that don’t mean the same. They’re called “false friends” and learners of Spanish should be aware of them to avoid difficulties. For example, embarazada means “pregnant” in English and not “embarrassed.”
Spanish is the 2nd most-spoken language as mother tongue. The number of speakers of Spanish as a first language is almost 399 million. The language with the highest number of native speakers is Chinese with 1.2 billion people. alphabet.
There’s a Spanish-based creole language spoken in the Philippines called Chabacano (poor taste, vulgar). It’s the sole and most extensive Spanish-based creole language that still exists in Asia or Oceania.
In 1492, the same year when Columbus arrived in America, the first grammar of Spanish was published by Elio Antonio de Nebrija. The first written records in Spanish are the Glosas Emilianenses and they date back to 964 A.C. The first Literary piece that was fully written in Spanish was “El Cantar de Mio Cid,” which dates back to the 13th century and whose author is unknown
A Touch of Spanish Literature
Garcela of the Dark Death
I want to sleep the dream of the apples, to withdraw from the tumult of cemeteries.
I want to sleep the dream of that child
who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.
I don’t want to hear again that the dead do not lose their blood,
that the putrid mouth goes on asking for water.
I don’t want to learn of the tortures of the grass,
nor of the moon with a serpent’s mouth
that labors before dawn.
I want to sleep awhile,
awhile, a minute, a century;
but all must know that I have not died;
that there is a stable of gold in my lips;
that I am the small friend of the West wing;
that I am the intense shadows of my tears.
Cover me at dawn with a veil,
because dawn will throw fistfuls of ants at me,
and wet with hard water my shoes
so that the pincers of the scorpion slide.
For I want to sleep the dream of the apples,
to learn a lament that will cleanse me to earth;
for I want to live with that dark child
who wanted to cut his heart on the high seas.
Frederica Garcia Lorca