Evolution of the Spanish Language: How Did We Arrive at the Way We Speak and Write Today?

Any language as we read, write, and speak is a culmination of years of evolution and various factors influencing it. The same holds true for Spanish as well. A language that has been around for more than 1500 years, it has a rich and complicated history.

Spanish has become the second most spoken native language in the world today. Let’s see how we arrived here.

Spanish is a dialect of spoken Latin and originated in the Iberian Peninsula as long ago as 218 B.C. The language was brought to the region by Romans during the Second Punic War. The language further evolved when Latin as the official language of the Roman Empire started to mix with the local languages of the such as Celts and Iberians.

Further, in the 4th Century, Germanic groups such as Visigoths occupied some regions of the peninsula with the parallel demise of the Roman Empire. In this period, while the Visigoths spoke Latin, the language was influenced by the cultural depression of the peninsula. It was at this point that Spanish started to take shape the way we hear and speak it today. This was also termed as “vulgar Latin” as opposed “Classical Latin” used in literature.

The subsequent contribution to the language came from Arabic when the Muslim Moorish conquerors arrived. About 4000 words in Spanish have come from Arabic influence. In fact, in Spain, a lot of art and culture still speaks of this period. Over time, these adapted lost the way they were originally pronounced and the sounds became more “Spanish”, hence, the phonology is not heavily influenced by Arabic.

The period between 711 to 1492 is a significant one because it is marked by the reconquering of Spain (as we know today) from the Moors by the Kingdom of Castile. The language spoken by them was called Castilian Spanish. It became popular through poems written by the people to praise the brave soldiers.

The language further concretized when various subjects such as law, history, astronomy, etc. were translated to Spanish under the leadership of King Alfonso X in the 13th Century. This contributed towards significant rise in the spread of Spanish as a language.

Over years, as movement became fluid, the language began to gain foothold in other parts of the world as well. Today, in addition to some parts of Europe, Spanish is also widely spoken in Latin America.

Numbers suggest that more 330 million people across 21 countries speak Spanish today. As one of the many “romance” languages of the world, Spanish continues to expand its presence.

So, the next time you pick up your Spanish textbook, you’ll know a little bit about the history of this beautiful language.

If you’d like to know the history or evolution of any other language, let us know in the comments below.