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Spanish language

The Spanish language (Castellano or Español) is the third most spoken language on the planet(probably the fourth-Mandarin,Hindi,English,Spanish....) , spoken by about 352 million persons speakers in 1999 in the seven continents, especially in The Americas. The Spanish name of the language is a political issue. Many Spaniards speaking Spanish call their language español. Most Spaniards speaking other languages call Spanish castellano (Castilian). On the other hand, in some Latin American countries people prefer the word castellano because español is heard more as a nationality than the name of a language. Speakers of English call the language Spanish, whereas to them, Castilian is the dialect spoken in the spanish region of Castile.

Table of contents


The Spanish language was developed from vulgar Latin, with influence from Basque and Arabic, in the Iberian Peninsula. Typical features of Spanish diachronical phonology include lenition[?] (Latin VITA, Spanish vida), palatalization[?] (Latin ANNUM, Spanish año) and diphthongation of breve E/O from vulgar Latin (Latin TERRA, Spanish tierra; Latin NOVUS, Spanish nuevo); similar phenomena can be found in most Romance languages as well.

By the 16th century the consonantal system of Castilian Spanish underwent the following important changes that differentiated it from some neighbouring Romance languages, such as Portuguese and Catalan):

The consonantal system of Medieval Spanish has been better preserved in Judaeo-Spanish, the language spoken by the descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in the 15th century.

The Spanish in the World

Spanish is an official language of the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations. Also, Spanish is an official language (and the most important language) in 20 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela .

Spanish is also spoken in Andorra, Belize, Canada, Gibraltar, Israel, Morocco, Netherlands Antilles, Philippines, United States of America, Trinidad and Tobago and Western Sahara.

There are important variations in dialect among the various regions of Spain and Spanish America. In Spain the North Castilian dialect pronunciation is commonly taken as the national standard (although the characteristic weak pronouns usage or laismo of this dialect is deprecated).

In the Americas, the first Spaniards to settle brought some of their regionalisms with them. Today you can find distinct accents in different nations of Spanish speaking America. Typical of Latin America is seseo. The European Castilian phoneme /T/ (interdental voiceless fricative, SAMPA phonetic scheme used) (as in ciento, caza) does not exist in American Castilian, it fell together with /s/ (as in ser, casa).

Traditionally Spanish had a phoneme /L/, a palatal lateral, written ll. It was lost in most of the Americas (with the exception of bilingual areas of Quechua and other indigenous languages that have this sound in their inventories), but now it is also being lost in Spain (also with the exception of bilingual areas of Catalan and other languages that have preserved this sound in their inventories). Now this phoneme is merged with /j/ in most of the Spanish speaking areas. This phenomenon is called yeismo. In Argentina, /j/ and /L/ are generally pronounced as /Z/ (palatal voiced fricative) as in French 'jour'. This phenomenon is called žeismo.

Many people think that Spanish is regulated by the RAE (Real Academia Española). Actually, languages cannot be regulated, but RAE, in association with twenty-one other national language academies, exercises a conservative influence through its publication of dictionaries and widely respected grammar guides and style guides.

Phonemes of Spanish

Since Spanish has many allophones it is important here to differentiate between phonemes (written here between slashes) and allophones (between brackets).

(SAMPA phonetic scheme used)


/p/ bilabial, voiceless. Spelled "p".

/b/ bilabial, voiced; it has two allophones [b] and [B]. Spelled "b" or "v". [b] appears initially or after nasals, [B] elsewhere.

/t/ dental, voiceless. Spelled "t".

/d/ dental, voiced; it has two allophones [d] and [D]. Spelled "d". [d] appears initially or after nasals, [D] elsewhere.

/k/ velar, voiceless. Spelled "c" (casa), "qu" (queso), "k" (kiosko).

/g/ velar, voiced; it has two allophones [g] and [G]. Spelled "g" (gato), "gu" (guerra). [g] appears initially or after nasals, [G] elsewhere.


/s/ In Spain it's apical. In Latin America it is sibilant. In Latin America also "z" (zorro) or "c" (cielo). In Spain it also has a [T] allophone. Spelled "s" (sapo) and sometimes "x" (auxilio). See below.

/T/ In Latin America the /s/ phoneme takes its place. Spelled "z" (zorro) or "c" (cielo).

/f/ Spelled "f".

/x/ has allophones [h], [C], [x] in South America. Spelled "j" (jarro), "g" (general).


/tS/ is pronounced as a plosive in European Spanish, something like [t_j]. In South American Spanish, on the other hand, there are mainly [tS] or [S] pronunciations - like French /S/ that has also developed from /tS/. Spelled "ch".


/m/ Spelled "m".

/n/ with several allophones. [N] before /k, g, x, w/ (un queso, un gato, un jarro, un huevo); [F] before /f/ (un faro); [m] before /m, p, b/ (un mono, un perro, un burro). Spelled "n" (nadie, tengo) or "m" (empezar).

/J/ Spelled "ñ", the most characteristic grapheme of Spanish language.


/l/ Spelled "l".

/L/ Spelled "ll". This phoneme is almost extinct and /j/ has taken its place. /L/ survives in areas of bilingualism with Catalan, Quechua, or other languages that have preserved this phoneme in their inventories (like some places of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, etc).


/r/ Simple alveolar flap. 'r' in all positions but word initial.

/rr/ Multiple alveolar trill. Word initial 'r' (ratón); 'rr' between vowels (cerro). Minimal pair: pero /'pero/ (but) - perro /'perro/ (dog).


/j/ In Argentina, Uruguay and Chile it has a [Z] or [dZ] sound. Spelled "y" (yo), "hi" (hielo); in many places also "ll". See /L/ above.

/w/ Spelled "u" (guardia), "ü" (averigüe), "w" (whisky), "hu" (huevo).


/a/ - /e/ - /i/ - /o/ - /u/ are close to their pronunciation in Italian.

Written Spanish precedes exclamatory and interrogative clauses with inverted question and exclamation marks, examples: ¿Qué dices? (What do you mean?) ¡No es verdad! (That's not true!). It is one of the few languages whose written form does so.

Spanish is nicknamed la lengua de Cervantes (the language of Cervantes, the author of the Quixote).

Some common phrases

See also:

External link

wikipedia.org dumped 2003-03-17 with terodump