Spanish or Castilian is a Romance language that originated in the Iberian Peninsula of Europe and today is a global language with more than 483 million native speakers, mainly in Spain and the Americas. It is the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese, and the world's fourth-most spoken language, after English, Mandarin Chinese and Hindi.
Spanish is a part of the Ibero-Romance group of languages, which evolved from several dialects of Vulgar Latin in Iberia after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. The oldest Latin texts with traces of Spanish come from mid-northern Iberia in the 9th century, and the first systematic written use of the language happened in Toledo, a prominent city of the Kingdom of Castile, in the 13th century. Beginning in 1492, the Spanish language was taken to the viceroyalties of the Spanish Empire, most notably to the Americas, as well as territories in Africa, Oceania and the Philippines.
A 1949 study by Italian-American linguist Mario Pei, analyzing the degree of difference from a language's parent by comparing phonology, inflection, syntax, vocabulary, and intonation, indicated the following percentages : In the case of Spanish, it is one of the closest Romance languages to Latin, only behind Sardinian and Italian. Around 75% of modern Spanish vocabulary is derived from Latin, including Latin borrowings from Ancient Greek.
Spanish vocabulary has been in contact with Arabic from an early date, having developed during the Al-Andalus era in the Iberian Peninsula and around 8% of its vocabulary has an Arabic lexical root. It has also had small influences from Basque, Iberian, Celtiberian, Visigothic, and other neighboring Ibero-Romance languages. Additionally, it has absorbed vocabulary from other languages, particularly other Romance languages—French, Italian, Andalusi Romance, Portuguese, Galician, Catalan, Occitan, and Sardinian—as well as from Quechua, Nahuatl, and other indigenous languages of the Americas.
Spanish is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. It is also used as an official language by the European Union, the Organization of American States, the Union of South American Nations, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the African Union and many other international organizations.
Despite its large number of speakers, the Spanish language does not feature prominently in scientific writing, though it is better represented in the humanities. 75% of scientific production in Spanish is divided into three thematic areas: social sciences, medical sciences and arts/humanities. Spanish is the third most used language on the internet after English and Chinese.
Estimated number of speakersIt is estimated that there are more than 437 million people who speak Spanish as a native language, which qualifies it as second on the lists of languages by number of native speakers. Instituto Cervantes claims that there are an estimated 477 million Spanish speakers with native competence and 572 million Spanish speakers as a first or second language—including speakers with limited competence—and more than 21 million students of Spanish as a foreign language.
Spanish is the official or national language in Spain, Equatorial Guinea, and 18 countries and one territory in the Americas. Speakers in the Americas total some 418 million. It is also an optional language in the Philippines as it was a Spanish colony from 1569 to 1899. In the European Union, Spanish is the mother tongue of 8% of the population, with an additional 7% speaking it as a second language. The country with the largest number of native speakers is Mexico. Spanish is the most popular second language learned in the United States. In 2011 it was estimated by the American Community Survey that of the 55 million Hispanic United States residents who are five years of age and over, 38 million speak Spanish at home.
According to a 2011 paper by U.S. Census Bureau Demographers Jennifer Ortman and Hyon B. Shin, the number of Spanish speakers is projected to rise through 2020 to anywhere between 39 million and 43 million, depending on the assumptions one makes about immigration. Most of these Spanish speakers will be Hispanic, with Ortman and Shin projecting between 37.5 million and 41 million Hispanic Spanish speakers by 2020.
Names of the language and etymology
Names of the languageIn Spain and in some other parts of the Spanish-speaking world, Spanish is called not only, contrasting it with other languages spoken in Spain such as Galician, Basque, Asturian, Catalan, Aragonese and Occitan.
The Spanish Constitution of 1978 uses the term castellano to define the official language of the whole Spanish State in contrast to las demás lenguas españolas. Article III reads as follows:
The Spanish Royal Academy, on the other hand, currently uses the term español in its publications, but from 1713 to 1923 called the language castellano.
The Diccionario panhispánico de dudas states that, although the Royal Spanish Academy prefers to use the term español in its publications when referring to the Spanish language, both terms—español and castellano—are regarded as synonymous and equally valid.
EtymologyThe term castellano comes from the Latin word castellanus, which means "of or pertaining to a fort or castle".
Different etymologies have been suggested for the term español. According to the Royal Spanish Academy, español derives from the Provençal word espaignol and that, in turn, derives from the Vulgar Latin *hispaniolus. It comes from the Latin name of the province of Hispania that included the current territory of the Iberian Peninsula.
There are other hypotheses apart from the one suggested by the Royal Spanish Academy. Spanish philologist Menéndez Pidal suggested that the classic hispanus or hispanicus took the suffix -one from Vulgar Latin, as it happened with other words such as bretón or sajón. The word *hispanione evolved into the Old Spanish españón, which eventually, became español.
HistoryThe Spanish language evolved from Vulgar Latin, which was brought to the Iberian Peninsula by the Romans during the Second Punic War, beginning in 210 BC. Previously, several pre-Roman languages —some related to Latin via Indo-European, and some that are not related at all—were spoken in the Iberian Peninsula. These languages included Basque, Iberian, Celtiberian and Gallaecian.
The first documents to show traces of what is today regarded as the precursor of modern Spanish are from the 9th century. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern era, the most important influences on the Spanish lexicon came from neighboring Romance languages—Mozarabic, Navarro-Aragonese, Leonese, Catalan, Portuguese, Galician, Occitan, and later, French and Italian. Spanish also borrowed a considerable number of words from Arabic, as well as a minor influence from the Germanic Gothic language through the migration of tribes and a period of Visigoth rule in Iberia. In addition, many more words were borrowed from Latin through the influence of written language and the liturgical language of the Church. The loanwords were taken from both Classical Latin and Renaissance Latin, the form of Latin in use at that time.
According to the theories of Ramón Menéndez Pidal, local sociolects of Vulgar Latin evolved into Spanish, in the north of Iberia, in an area centered in the city of Burgos, and this dialect was later brought to the city of Toledo, where the written standard of Spanish was first developed, in the 13th century. In this formative stage, Spanish developed a strongly differing variant from its close cousin, Leonese, and, according to some authors, was distinguished by a heavy Basque influence. This distinctive dialect spread to southern Spain with the advance of the Reconquista, and meanwhile gathered a sizable lexical influence from the Arabic of Al-Andalus, much of it indirectly, through the Romance Mozarabic dialects. The written standard for this new language was developed in the cities of Toledo, in the 13th to 16th centuries, and Madrid, from the 1570s.
The development of the Spanish sound system from that of Vulgar Latin exhibits most of the changes that are typical of Western Romance languages, including lenition of intervocalic consonants. The diphthongization of Latin stressed short and —which occurred in open syllables in French and Italian, but not at all in Catalan or Portuguese—is found in both open and closed syllables in Spanish, as shown in the following table:
Spanish is marked by the palatalization of the Latin double consonants and .
The consonant written u or v in Latin and pronounced in Classical Latin had probably "fortified" to a bilabial fricative in Vulgar Latin. In early Spanish it merged with the consonant written b. In modern Spanish, there is no difference between the pronunciation of orthographic b and v, with some exceptions in Caribbean Spanish.
Peculiar to Spanish was the mutation of Latin initial f into h- whenever it was followed by a vowel that did not diphthongize. The h-, still preserved in spelling, is now silent in most varieties of the language, although in some Andalusian and Caribbean dialects it is still aspirated in some words. Because of borrowings from Latin and from neighboring Romance languages, there are many f-/h-doublets in modern Spanish: Fernando and Hernando, ferrero and herrero, fierro and hierro, and fondo and hondo ; hacer is cognate to the root word of satisfacer, and hecho is similarly cognate to the root word of satisfecho.
Compare the examples in the following table:
Some consonant clusters of Latin also produced characteristically different results in these languages, as shown in the examples in the following table:
, author of Gramática de la lengua castellana, the first grammar of a modern European language.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish underwent a dramatic change in the pronunciation of its sibilant consonants, known in Spanish as the :es:Reajuste de las sibilantes del idioma español, which resulted in the distinctive velar pronunciation of the letter and—in a large part of Spain—the characteristic interdental for the letter . See History of Spanish for details.
The Gramática de la lengua castellana, written in Salamanca in 1492 by Elio Antonio de Nebrija, was the first grammar written for a modern European language. According to a popular anecdote, when Nebrija presented it to Queen Isabella I, she asked him what was the use of such a work, and he answered that language is the instrument of empire. In his introduction to the grammar, dated 18 August 1492, Nebrija wrote that "... language was always the companion of empire."
From the sixteenth century onwards, the language was taken to the Spanish-discovered America and the Spanish East Indies via Spanish colonization of America. Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, is such a well-known reference in the world that Spanish is often called la lengua de Cervantes.
In the twentieth century, Spanish was introduced to Equatorial Guinea and the Western Sahara, and to areas of the United States that had not been part of the Spanish Empire, such as Spanish Harlem in New York City. For details on borrowed words and other external influences upon Spanish, see Influences on the Spanish language.
GrammarMost of the grammatical and typological features of Spanish are shared with the other Romance languages. Spanish is a fusional language. The noun and adjective systems exhibit two genders and two numbers. In addition, articles and some pronouns and determiners have a neuter gender in their singular form. There are about fifty conjugated forms per verb, with 3 tenses: past, present, future; 2 aspects for past: perfective, imperfective; 4 moods: indicative, subjunctive, conditional, imperative; 3 persons: first, second, third; 2 numbers: singular, plural; 3 verboid forms: infinitive, gerund, and past participle. Verbs express T-V distinction by using different persons for formal and informal addresses.
Spanish syntax is considered right-branching, meaning that subordinate or modifying constituents tend to be placed after their head words. The language uses prepositions, and usually—though not always—places adjectives after nouns, as do most other Romance languages.
The language is classified as a subject–verb–object language; however, as in most Romance languages, constituent order is highly variable and governed mainly by topicalization and focus rather than by syntax. It is a "pro-drop", or "null-subject" language—that is, it allows the deletion of subject pronouns when they are pragmatically unnecessary. Spanish is described as a "verb-framed" language, meaning that the direction of motion is expressed in the verb while the mode of locomotion is expressed adverbially.
Subject/verb inversion is not required in questions, and thus the recognition of declarative or interrogative may depend entirely on intonation.
PhonologyThe Spanish phonemic system is originally descended from that of Vulgar Latin. Its development exhibits some traits in common with the neighboring dialects—especially Leonese and Aragonese—as well as other traits unique to Castilian. Castilian is unique among its neighbors in the aspiration and eventual loss of the Latin initial sound. The Latin initial consonant sequences pl-, cl-, and fl- in Spanish typically become ll-, while in Aragonese they are preserved, and in Leonese they present a variety of outcomes, including,, and. Where Latin had -li- before a vowel or the ending -iculus, -icula, Old Spanish produced, that in Modern Spanish became the velar fricative .
Segmental phonologyThe Spanish phonemic inventory consists of five vowel phonemes and 17 to 19 consonant phonemes. The main allophonic variation among vowels is the reduction of the high vowels and to glides— and respectively—when unstressed and adjacent to another vowel. Some instances of the mid vowels and, determined lexically, alternate with the diphthongs and respectively when stressed, in a process that is better described as morphophonemic rather than phonological, as it is not predictable from phonology alone.
The Spanish consonant system is characterized by three nasal phonemes, and one or two lateral phoneme, which in syllable-final position lose their contrast and are subject to assimilation to a following consonant; three voiceless stops and the affricate ; three or four voiceless fricatives; a set of voiced obstruents—,,, and sometimes —which alternate between approximant and plosive allophones depending on the environment; and a phonemic distinction between the "tapped" and "trilled" r-sounds.
In the following table of consonant phonemes, is marked with an asterisk to indicate that it is preserved only in some dialects. In most dialects it has been merged with in the merger called yeísmo. Similarly, is also marked with an asterisk to indicate that most dialects do not distinguish it from , although this is not a true merger but an outcome of different evolution of sibilants in Southern Spain.
The phoneme is in parentheses to indicate that it appears only in loanwords. Each of the voiced obstruent phonemes,,, and appears to the right of a pair of voiceless phonemes, to indicate that, while the voiceless phonemes maintain a phonemic contrast between plosive and fricative, the voiced ones alternate allophonically between plosive and approximant pronunciations.
ProsodySpanish is classified by its rhythm as a syllable-timed language: each syllable has approximately the same duration regardless of stress.
Spanish intonation varies significantly according to dialect but generally conforms to a pattern of falling tone for declarative sentences and wh-questions and rising tone for yes/no questions. There are no syntactic markers to distinguish between questions and statements and thus, the recognition of declarative or interrogative depends entirely on intonation.
Stress most often occurs on any of the last three syllables of a word, with some rare exceptions at the fourth-last or earlier syllables. The tendencies of stress assignment are as follows:
- In words that end with a vowel, stress most often falls on the penultimate syllable.
- In words that end with a consonant, stress most often falls on the last syllable, with the following exceptions: The grammatical endings -n and -s do not change the location of stress. Thus, regular verbs ending with -n and the great majority of words ending with -s are stressed on the penult. Although a significant number of nouns and adjectives ending with -n are also stressed on the penult, the great majority of nouns and adjectives ending with -n are stressed on their last syllable.
- Preantepenultimate stress occurs rarely, only on verbs with clitic pronouns attached.
The orthographic system unambiguously reflects where the stress occurs: in the absence of an accent mark, the stress falls on the last syllable unless the last letter is,, or a vowel, in which cases the stress falls on the next-to-last syllable. Exceptions to those rules are indicated by an acute accent mark over the vowel of the stressed syllable.
Geographical distributionSpanish is the primary language of 20 countries worldwide. It is estimated that the combined total number of Spanish speakers is between 470 and 500 million, making it the second most widely spoken language in terms of native speakers.
Spanish is the third most spoken language by total number of speakers. Internet usage statistics for 2007 also show Spanish as the third most commonly used language on the Internet, after English and Mandarin.
EuropeIn Europe, Spanish is an official language of Spain, the country after which it is named and from which it originated. It is widely spoken in Gibraltar, and also commonly spoken in Andorra, although Catalan is the official language there.
Spanish is also spoken by small communities in other European countries, such as the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Germany. Spanish is an official language of the European Union. In Switzerland, which had a massive influx of Spanish migrants in the 20th century, Spanish is the native language of 2.2% of the population.
Americasde facto or de jure—of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Spanish has no official recognition in the former British colony of Belize; however, per the 2000 census, it is spoken by 43% of the population. Mainly, it is spoken by the descendants of Hispanics who have been in the region since the seventeenth century; however, English is the official language.
Due to their proximity to Spanish-speaking countries, Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil have implemented Spanish language teaching into their education systems. The Trinidad government launched the Spanish as a First Foreign Language initiative in March 2005. In 2005, the National Congress of Brazil approved a bill, signed into law by the President, making it mandatory for schools to offer Spanish as an alternative foreign language course in both public and private secondary schools in Brazil. In September 2016 this law was revoked by Michel Temer after impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. In many border towns and villages along Paraguay and Uruguay, a mixed language known as Portuñol is spoken.
United StatesAccording to 2006 census data, 44.3 million people of the U.S. population were Hispanic or Hispanic American by origin; 38.3 million people, 13 percent of the population over five years old speak Spanish at home. The Spanish language has a long history of presence in the United States due to early Spanish and, later, Mexican administration over territories now forming the southwestern states, also Louisiana ruled by Spain from 1762 to 1802, as well as Florida, which was Spanish territory until 1821.
Spanish is by far the most common second language in the US, with over 50 million total speakers if non-native or second-language speakers are included. While English is the de facto national language of the country, Spanish is often used in public services and notices at the federal and state levels. Spanish is also used in administration in the state of New Mexico. The language also has a strong influence in major metropolitan areas such as those of Los Angeles, Miami, San Antonio, New York, San Francisco, Dallas, and Phoenix; as well as more recently, Chicago, Las Vegas, Boston, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Nashville, Orlando, Tampa, Raleigh and Baltimore-Washington, D.C. due to 20th- and 21st-century immigration.Fang is the most spoken language by number of native speakers.
Spanish is also spoken in the integral territories of Spain in North Africa, which include the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla, the Plazas de soberanía, and the Canary Islands archipelago, located some off the northwest coast of mainland Africa. In northern Morocco, a former Spanish protectorate that is also geographically close to Spain, approximately 20,000 people speak Spanish as a second language, while Arabic is the de jure official language. A small number of Moroccan Jews also speak the Sephardic Spanish dialect Haketia. Spanish is spoken by some small communities in Angola because of the Cuban influence from the Cold War and in South Sudan among South Sudanese natives that relocated to Cuba during the Sudanese wars and returned in time for their country's independence.
In Western Sahara, formerly Spanish Sahara, Spanish was officially spoken during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Today, Spanish in this disputed territory is maintained by populations of Sahrawi nomads numbering about 500,000 people, and is de facto official alongside Arabic in the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, although this entity receives limited international recognition.
AsiaSpanish and Philippine Spanish was an official language of the Philippines from the beginning of Spanish administration in 1565 to a constitutional change in 1973. During Spanish colonization, it was the language of government, trade and education, and spoken as a first language by Spaniards and educated Filipinos. In the mid-nineteenth century, the colonial government set up a free public education system with Spanish as the medium of instruction. This increased use of Spanish throughout the islands led to the formation of a class of Spanish-speaking intellectuals called the Ilustrados. By the time of Philippine independence in 1898, around 70% of the population had knowledge of Spanish, with 10% speaking it as their first and only language and about 60% of the population spoke it as their second or third language.
Despite American administration after the defeat of Spain in the Spanish–American War in 1898, the usage of Spanish continued in Philippine literature and press during the early years of American administration. Gradually, however, the American government began increasingly promoting the use of English, and it characterized Spanish as a negative influence of the past. Eventually, by the 1920s, English became the primary language of administration and education. But despite a significant decrease in influence and speakers, Spanish remained an official language of the Philippines when it became independent in 1946, alongside English and Filipino, a standardized version of Tagalog.
Spanish was removed from official status in 1973 under the administration of Ferdinand Marcos, but regained its status as an official language two months later under Presidential Decree No. 155, dated 15 March 1973. It remained an official language until 1987, with the ratification of the present constitution, in which it was re-designated as a voluntary and optional auxiliary language. In 2010, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo encouraged the reintroduction of Spanish-language teaching in the Philippine education system. But by 2012, the number of secondary schools at which the language was either a compulsory subject or an elective had become very limited. Today, despite government promotions of Spanish, less than 0.5% of the population report being able to speak the language proficiently. Aside from standard Spanish, a Spanish-based creole language—Chavacano—developed in the southern Philippines. The number of Chavacano-speakers was estimated at 1.2 million in 1996. However, it is not mutually intelligible with Spanish. Speakers of the Zamboangueño variety of Chavacano were numbered about 360,000 in the 2000 census. The local languages of the Philippines also retain Spanish influence, with many words being derived from Mexican Spanish, owing to the administration of the islands by Spain through New Spain until 1821, and then directly from Madrid until 1898.
Philippine SpanishPhilippine Spanish is a dialect of the Spanish language in the Philippines. The variant is very similar to Mexican Spanish, because of Mexican and Latin American emigration to the Spanish East Indies over the years.
From 1565 to 1821, the Philippines, which were a part of the Spanish East Indies, were governed by the Captaincy General of the Philippines as a territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain centered in Mexico. It was only administered directly from Spain in 1821 after Mexico gained its independence that same year. Since the Philippines was a former territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain for most of the Spanish colonial period, Spanish as was spoken in the Philippines had a greater affinity to American Spanish rather than to Peninsular Spanish.
ChavacanoChavacano or Chabacano is a group of Spanish-based creole language varieties spoken in the Philippines. The variety spoken in Zamboanga City, located in the southern Philippine island group of Mindanao, has the highest concentration of speakers. Other currently existing varieties are found in Cavite City and Ternate, located in the Cavite province on the island of Luzon. Chavacano is the only Spanish-based creole in Asia.
OceaniaSpanish is also the official language and the most spoken on Easter Island which is geographically part of Polynesia in Oceania and politically part of Chile. Easter Island's traditional language is Rapa Nui, an Eastern Polynesian language.
, welcoming visitors to Rapa Nui National Park
Spanish loan words are present in the local languages of Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Marshall Islands and Micronesia, all of which formerly comprised the Spanish East Indies.
Spanish speakers by countryThe following table shows the number of Spanish speakers in some 79 countries.
Dialectal variationThere are important variations in the spoken Spanish of the various regions of Spain and throughout the Spanish-speaking areas of the Americas.
The variety with the most speakers is Mexican Spanish. It is spoken by more than twenty percent of the world's Spanish speakers. One of its main features is the reduction or loss of unstressed vowels, mainly when they are in contact with the sound /s/.
In Spain, northern dialects are popularly thought of as closer to the standard, although positive attitudes toward southern dialects have increased significantly in the last 50 years. Even so, the speech of Madrid, which has typically southern features such as yeísmo and s-aspiration, is the standard variety for use on radio and television. However, the variety used in the media is that of Madrid's educated classes, where southern traits are less evident, in contrast with the variety spoken by working-class Madrid, where those traits are pervasive. The educated variety of Madrid is indicated by many as the one that has most influenced the written standard for Spanish.
PhonologyThe four main phonological divisions are based respectively on the phoneme Voiceless dental fricative|, the debuccalization of syllable-final, the sound of the spelled, and the phoneme Palatal lateral approximant|,
- The phoneme , a voiceless dental fricative as in English thing, is maintained by a majority of Spain's population, especially in the northern and central parts of the country. In other areas, doesn't exist and occurs instead. The maintenance of phonemic contrast is called distinción in Spanish, while the merger is generally called seseo or, occasionally, ceceo. In most of Hispanic America, the spelled before or, and spelled is always pronounced as a voiceless dental sibilant.
- The debuccalization of syllable-final is associated with the southern half of Spain and lowland Americas: Central America, the Caribbean, coastal areas of southern Mexico, and South America except Andean highlands. Debuccalization is frequently called "aspiration" in English, and aspiración in Spanish. When there is no debuccalization, the syllable-final is pronounced as voiceless "apico-alveolar" sibilant or as a voiceless dental sibilant in the same fashion as in the next paragraph.
- The sound that corresponds to the letter is pronounced in northern and central Spain as a voiceless "apico-alveolar" sibilant , with a weak "hushing" sound reminiscent of fricatives. In Andalusia, Canary Islands and most of Hispanic America it is pronounced as a voiceless dental sibilant, much like the most frequent pronunciation of the /s/ of English. Because /s/ is one of the most frequent phonemes in Spanish, the difference of pronunciation is one of the first to be noted by a Spanish-speaking person to differentiate Spaniards from Spanish-speakers of the Americas.
- The phoneme spelled, palatal lateral consonant sometimes compared in sound to the sound of the of English million, tends to be maintained in less-urbanized areas of northern Spain and in highland areas of South America. Meanwhile, in the speech of most other Spanish-speakers, it is merged with , a non-lateral, usually voiced, usually fricative, palatal consonant, sometimes compared to English as in yacht and spelled in Spanish. As with other forms of allophony across world languages, the small difference of the spelled and the spelled is usually not perceived by people who do not produce them as different phonemes. Such a phonemic merger is called yeísmo in Spanish. In Rioplatense Spanish, the merged phoneme is generally pronounced as a postalveolar fricative, either voiced in the central and western parts of the dialectal region, or voiceless in and around Buenos Aires and Montevideo.
VoseoVirtually all dialects of Spanish make the distinction between a formal and a familiar register in the second-person singular and thus have two different pronouns meaning "you": usted in the formal and either tú or vos in the familiar, with the choice of tú or vos varying from one dialect to another. The use of vos is called voseo. In a few dialects, all three pronouns are used, with usted, tú, and vos denoting respectively formality, familiarity, and intimacy.
In voseo, vos is the subject form and the form for the object of a preposition, while the direct and indirect object forms, and the possessives, are the same as those associated with tú: Vos sabés que tus amigos te respetan.
The verb forms of general voseo are the same as those used with tú except in the present tense verbs. The forms for vos generally can be derived from those of vosotros by deleting the glide, or, where it appears in the ending: vosotros pensáis > vos pensás; vosotros volvéis > vos volvés, pensad! > pensá!, volved! > volvé! .
In Chilean voseo on the other hand, almost all verb forms are distinct from their standard tú-forms.
The use of the pronoun vos with the verb forms of tú is called "pronominal voseo". Conversely, the use of the verb forms of vos with the pronoun tú is called "verbal voseo".
In Chile, for example, verbal voseo is much more common than the actual use of the pronoun vos, which is usually reserved for highly informal situations.
And in Central American voseo, one can see even further distinction.
Distribution in Spanish-speaking regions of the AmericasAlthough vos is not used in Spain, it occurs in many Spanish-speaking regions of the Americas as the primary spoken form of the second-person singular familiar pronoun, with wide differences in social consideration. Generally, it can be said that there are zones of exclusive use of tuteo in the following areas: almost all of Mexico, the West Indies, Panama, most of Colombia, Peru, Venezuela and coastal Ecuador.
Tuteo as a cultured form alternates with voseo as a popular or rural form in Bolivia, in the north and south of Peru, in Andean Ecuador, in small zones of the Venezuelan Andes, and in a large part of Colombia. Some researchers maintain that voseo can be heard in some parts of eastern Cuba, and others assert that it is absent from the island.
Tuteo exists as the second-person usage with an intermediate degree of formality alongside the more familiar voseo in Chile, in the Venezuelan state of Zulia, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, in the Azuero Peninsula in Panama, in the Mexican state of Chiapas, and in parts of Guatemala.
Areas of generalized voseo include Argentina, Nicaragua, eastern Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Uruguay and the Colombian departments of Antioquia, Caldas, Risaralda, Quindio and Valle del Cauca.
UstedesUstedes functions as formal and informal second person plural in over 90% of the Spanish-speaking world, including all of Hispanic America, the Canary Islands, and some regions of Andalusia. In Seville, Huelva, Cadiz, and other parts of western Andalusia, the familiar form is constructed as ustedes vais, using the traditional second-person plural form of the verb. Most of Spain maintains the formal/familiar distinction with ustedes and vosotros respectively.
UstedUsted is the usual second-person singular pronoun in a formal context, but it is used jointly with the third-person singular voice of the verb. It is used to convey respect toward someone who is a generation older or is of higher authority. It is also used in a familiar context by many speakers in Colombia and Costa Rica and in parts of Ecuador and Panama, to the exclusion of tú or vos. This usage is sometimes called :es:Ustedeo in Spanish.
In Central America, especially in Honduras, usted is often used as a formal pronoun to convey respect between the members of a romantic couple. Usted is also used that way between parents and children in the Andean regions of Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela.
Third-person object pronounsMost speakers use the pronouns lo and la for direct objects, and le for indirect objects. The usage is sometimes called "etymological", as these direct and indirect object pronouns are a continuation, respectively, of the accusative and dative pronouns of Latin, the ancestor language of Spanish.
Deviations from this norm are called "leísmo", "loísmo", or "laísmo", according to which respective pronoun, le, lo, or la, has expanded beyond the etymological usage.
VocabularySome words can be significantly different in different Hispanophone countries. Most Spanish speakers can recognize other Spanish forms even in places where they are not commonly used, but Spaniards generally do not recognize specifically American usages. For example, Spanish mantequilla, aguacate and albaricoque correspond to manteca, palta, and damasco, respectively, in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.
Relation to other languagesSpanish is closely related to the other West Iberian Romance languages, including Asturian, Aragonese, Galician, Ladino, Leonese, Mirandese and Portuguese.
It is generally acknowledged that Portuguese and Spanish speakers can communicate in written form, with varying degrees of mutual intelligibility.
Mutual intelligibility of the written Spanish and Portuguese languages is remarkably high, and the difficulties of the spoken forms are based more on phonology than on grammatical and lexical dissimilarities. Ethnologue gives estimates of the lexical similarity between related languages in terms of precise percentages. For Spanish and Portuguese, that figure is 89%. Italian, on the other hand its phonology similar to Spanish, but has a lower lexical similarity of 82%. Mutual intelligibility between Spanish and French or between Spanish and Romanian is lower still, given lexical similarity ratings of 75% and 71% respectively. And comprehension of Spanish by French speakers who have not studied the language is much lower, at an estimated 45%. In general, thanks to the common features of the writing systems of the Romance languages, interlingual comprehension of the written word is greater than that of oral communication.
The following table compares the forms of some common words in several Romance languages:
|nosotros||nós1||nós1||nós, nosotros||nusatros||nosaltres ||nous2||noi/noialtri3||noi||'we'|
| ||martes||martes/terza feira||terça-feira||martes||martes||dimarts||mardi||martedì||marți||'Tuesday'|
| ||más ||máis||mais ||más||más ||més ||plus||più||mai/plus||'more'|
|mano izquierda6||man esquerda6||mão esquerda6||manu izquierda6||man cucha||mà esquerra6||main gauche||mano sinistra||mâna stângă||'left hand'|
| ||nada||nada ||nada ||nada ||cosa||res||rien/nul||niente/nulla||nimic/nul||'nothing'|
1. Also nós outros in early modern Portuguese, and nosoutros in Galician.
2. Alternatively nous autres in French.
3. Also noialtri in Southern Italian dialects and languages.
4. Medieval Catalan.
5. Depending on the written norm used.
6. From Basque esku, "hand" + erdi, "half, incomplete". Notice that this negative meaning also applies for Latin sinistra.
7. Romanian caș means a type of cheese. The universal term for cheese in Romanian is brânză.
Judaeo-SpanishJudaeo-Spanish, also known as Ladino, is a variety of Spanish which preserves many features of medieval Spanish and Portuguese and is spoken by descendants of the Sephardi Jews who were expelled from Spain in the 15th century. Conversely, in Portugal the vast majority of the Portuguese Jews converted and became 'New Christians'. Therefore, its relationship to Spanish is comparable with that of the Yiddish language to German. Ladino speakers today are almost exclusively Sephardi Jews, with family roots in Turkey, Greece, or the Balkans, and living mostly in Israel, Turkey, and the United States, with a few communities in Hispanic America. Judaeo-Spanish lacks the Native American vocabulary which was acquired by standard Spanish during the Spanish colonial period, and it retains many archaic features which have since been lost in standard Spanish. It contains, however, other vocabulary which is not found in standard Spanish, including vocabulary from Hebrew, French, Greek and Turkish, and other languages spoken where the Sephardim settled.
Judaeo-Spanish is in serious danger of extinction because many native speakers today are elderly as well as elderly olim who have not transmitted the language to their children or grandchildren. However, it is experiencing a minor revival among Sephardi communities, especially in music. In the case of the Latin American communities, the danger of extinction is also due to the risk of assimilation by modern Castilian.
A related dialect is Haketia, the Judaeo-Spanish of northern Morocco. This too tended to assimilate with modern Spanish, during the Spanish occupation of the region.
Writing systemSpanish is written in the Latin script, with the addition of the character . Formerly the digraphs and , were also considered single letters. However, the digraph , which also represents a distinct phoneme, was not similarly regarded as a single letter. Since 1994 and have been treated as letter pairs for collation purposes, though they remained a part of the alphabet until 2010. Words with are now alphabetically sorted between those with and, instead of following as they used to. The situation is similar for.
Thus, the Spanish alphabet has the following 27 letters:
Since 2010, none of the digraphs is considered a letter by the Spanish Royal Academy.
The letters k and w are used only in words and names coming from foreign languages.
With the exclusion of a very small number of regional terms such as México, pronunciation can be entirely 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 or an ; it is stressed on the last syllable otherwise. Exceptions to this rule are indicated by placing an acute accent on the stressed vowel.
The acute accent is used, in addition, to distinguish between certain homophones, especially when one of them is a stressed word and the other one is a clitic: compare el with él, or te with té, de versus dé, and se versus sé.
The interrogative pronouns also receive accents in direct or indirect questions, and some demonstratives can be accented when used as pronouns. Accent marks used to be omitted on capital letters, although the Real Academia Española advises against this and the orthographic conventions taught at schools enforce the use of the accent.
When u is written between g and a front vowel e or i, it indicates a "hard g" pronunciation. A diaeresis ü indicates that it is not silent as it normally would be.
Interrogative and exclamatory clauses are introduced with inverted question and exclamation marks.
Royal Spanish AcademyThe Royal Spanish Academy, founded in 1713, together with the 21 other national ones, exercises a standardizing influence through its publication of dictionaries and widely respected grammar and style guides.
Because of influence and for other sociohistorical reasons, a standardized form of the language is widely acknowledged for use in literature, academic contexts and the media.
Paraguay, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Argentina, Uruguay, Honduras, Puerto Rico, United States and Equatorial Guinea.
Cervantes InstituteThe Instituto Cervantes is a worldwide nonprofit organization created by the Spanish government in 1991. This organization has branched out in over 20 different countries, with 75 centers devoted to the Spanish and Hispanic American cultures and Spanish language. The ultimate goals of the Institute are to promote universally the education, the study, and the use of Spanish as a second language, to support methods and activities that help the process of Spanish-language education, and to contribute to the advancement of the Spanish and Hispanic American cultures in non-Spanish-speaking countries. The institute's 2015 report "El español, una lengua viva" estimated that there were 559 million Spanish speakers worldwide. Its latest annual report "" counts 577 million Spanish speakers worldwide. Among the sources cited in the report is the U.S. Census Bureau, which estimates that the U.S. will have 138 million Spanish speakers by 2050, making it the biggest Spanish-speaking nation on earth, with Spanish the mother tongue of almost a third of its citizens.
Official use by international organizationsSpanish is one of the official languages of the United Nations, the European Union, the World Trade Organization, the Organization of American States, the Organization of Ibero-American States, the African Union, the Union of South American Nations, the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat, the Latin Union, the Caricom, the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Inter-American Development Bank, and numerous other international organizations.
Spanish words and phrases
- List of English–Spanish interlingual homographs
- Longest word in Spanish
- Most common words in Spanish
- Spanish profanity
- Spanish proverbs
- Countries where Spanish is an official language
- Hispanic culture
Influences on the Spanish language
- Arabic influence on the Spanish language
- List of Spanish words of Germanic origin
- List of Spanish words of Philippine origin
Dialects and languages influenced by Spanish
- Philippine languages
- List of English words of Spanish origin
- Spanish dialects and varieties
- European Spanish
- * Andalusian Spanish
- * Canarian Spanish
- * Castrapo
- * Castúo
- * Murcian Spanish
- Spanish in the Americas
- * North American Spanish
- * Central American Spanish
- * Caribbean Spanish
- * South American Spanish
- * Spanish in the United States
- Spanish in Africa
- * Equatoguinean Spanish
- Spanish in Asia
- * Spanish in the Philippines
- , Royal Spanish Academy. Spain's official institution, with a mission to ensure the stability of the Spanish language
- , Cervantes Institute. A Spanish government agency, responsible for promoting the study and the teaching of the Spanish language and culture.
Courses and learning resources
- SpanishBoom.com –
- BBC –
- Curlie.org –
- Royal Spanish Academy –
- SpanishBoom.com –
- WordReference.com –
Articles and reports
- Instituto Cervantes
- British Council