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  • Writer's pictureBridgette ni Brian

A History of Spanish

Did you know that what we call the Romance languages did not come from Classical Latin (like they teach in Latin courses), but from Vulgar Latin (like what was spoken on the streets)?

I did not either.

I am also still getting over the obvious misdirection that Romanian is also a Romance language. For some odd reason, I felt that it was Slavic or something. And by obvious misdirection, I mean like the 100 Years War isn't 100 years long. I always thought Romanian was a similar trick.

Chateau de Pierrefonds, France

I love languages, and I especially love the history of language - how did we inherit the words we have. Where did they come from originally?

Some words we simply acquired time out of mind - these are those ancient words like fen which the earliest English speakers used.

Other words, like mutton and veal, we inherited from the French when they conquered England in 1066 and all that. More words came from British colonization such as cotton, calico and tobacco.

Then there are made up words like Kodak. (George Eastman wanted a strong sounding company name that began and ended with 'k'). Regardless of where words come from, we use them in many different ways, and even now, many of our daily words are changing meaning. Words like gay and pretty don't mean what they once meant. Language is fluid, and we use it to express ourselves to those around us. I would argue this is one of the biggest reasons we need to learn at least a second language semi-fluently.

As I've been working on my Spanish, I have bought several books through Kindle. It's handy, and I can have it with me wherever. Some of these are also available on Audible too. Today, however, I am focusing on a general history book and not a instruction book. Like always, the links go to Amazon where, if you wish to purchase the book, I earn a little bit in return.

La Historia del Españo

This book, The Story of Spanish by Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, has been a fascinating read thus far (I'm about halfway through). Some interesting facts: Spanish contains many words far older than the other Romance languages. This is the reason why French and Spanish differ on a few words (tête and cabeza).

Also, Spanish went through a time period of standardization earlier than either French or English resulting in a language that is easier to learn.

Lastly, because the Iberian peninsula was controlled my Muslims for so long, many of their words also come Arabic.

It absolutely intrigues me.

The book gives a good, organized manner of the development of the Spanish language. If you want a more detailed history such as etymology, this probably won't be for you. It lays the language development out chronologically beginning with Ancient Rome and progressing to modern times. It shows some of the different words that began to come into use and why - such as Columbus' arrival in the New World.

My only major dislike for the book thus far has been the jumping narrators. Each chapter begins with a short anecdote whether from personal experience or history. Because there are two writers, I am sometimes confused who is speaking. That being said, however, it doesn't distract from the story line.

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