The origin of Spanish
To understand the origin of the Spanish language we must go back to pre-Roman times, more specifically to the third century BC, when the romanization of the Peninsula, also known as Roman rule, came about.
It is then that the Iberian peninsula became part of the Roman cultural world, which brought about changes not only involving the language but also culture and lifestyle.
Latin was the official language spoken in the Roman Empire and thus imposed throughout the territories conquered by the imperial army. However, the history of Spanish begins with vulgar Latin, the language used by soldiers, the middle class and traders dealing with the Spaniards.
With the fall of the Roman Empire in the West, which dates back to the 5th Century AD, vulgar Latin evolved into an array of forms throughout Latin Europe. As a result of this diversification various Romance languages emerged.
Over the 6th and 7th centuries, a number of linguistic varieties spread out. They were all Latin dialects and they all shared similar features, although many of them never reached the status of ‘language’. Some Romance dialects: Galician-Portuguese, Asturian-Leonese, Castilian, Navarran-Aragonese and Catalan.
In 409 the Visigoths came to the Peninsula. Even though it didn´t take them long to take over Rome, the linguistic influence of the Visigoths was not very significant. Here’s some of their words borrowed by vulgar Latin: ‘orgullo’ (pride), ‘fresco’ (cool), ‘compañero’ (companion), ‘falda’ (skirt), ‘jabón’ (soap)... And suffix ‘-engo’ was another of their legacies: ‘abolengo’ (ancestry), ‘realengo’ (Crown), and the like.
- THE MUSLIM INVASION
The Visigothic kingdom did not manage to get consolidated in Spain and in 711 the Iberian Peninsula was invaded by the Moors. This Muslim invasion exerted enormous stress on the Romance language spoken at that time, which shaped into a new dialect, ‘mozárabe’ (Mozarabic), under heavy influence of Arabic. A great many Spanish words today come from Arabic, such as ‘álgebra’ (algebra), ‘almohada’ (pillow), ‘almirante’ (admiral) (where prefix ‘al-‘ is an article), ‘aceite’ (oil), or ‘ajedrez’ (chess).
- THE SPANISH LANGUAGE
At the end of the eleventh century a process begins of linguistic assimilation, mainly among the central Romance languages of the Iberian Peninsula: Asturian-Leonese, Castilian and Navarran-Aragonese, but not exclusively. This process will result in the formation of a common Spanish language, Spanish.
One of the forerunners of modern Spanish was the Roman dialect which originated in the medieval county of Castile (southern Cantabria and northern Burgos).
The earliest texts containing features and words of what Castilian will be like are the documents written in Latin and called ‘cartularies of Valpuesta’, preserved in the church of Santa Maria de Valpuesta (Burgos), a set of texts that are copies of documents , some written as early as the ninth century.
|The Emilian Glosses of the late tenth or early eleventh, preserved in the Monastery of Yuso in San Millán de la Cogolla (La Rioja), were considered by Ramón Menéndez Pidal as the oldest example of Spanish. In this monastery, in a Latin codex, the Aemilianenesis listed as 60, appeared handwritten notes, which had been added to the core text, as a means to comment or gloss some words or fragments of the original text in several languages, Latin, Hispanic Romance (either Navarran-Aragonese or Castilian) and medieval Basque. These comments and additions are universally known by the name of Emilian Glosses, i.e., ‘San Millán glosses’. They are considered the oldest testimony of the Spanish language, later evidence suggests that the written forms in these documents relate to Romance Navarran-Aragonese, rather than Castilian Romance.|
However, the decisive moment for the establishment of the Spanish language was during the reign of Alfonso X of Castile and Leon. He was the author of one of the first works written entirely in Castilian, ‘La Grande e General Estoria de España’ (another piece griten entirely in Castilian was the ‘Cantar de Mio Cid’, whose author remains anonymous).
These early texts written in Castilian did not meet a single standard spelling, which simply did not exist. Yet, from Alfonso the Wise, who published his works in Castilian rather than Latin, it is possible to detect a certain uniformity, and this is probably the most phonetic writing of the history of the language, which was to achieve the status of our nacional language.
Such prestige led to official recognition of Spanish, whose use was accepted besides Latin, a language respected by all literate people.