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Spanish or Castilian?

Did you know that in the Spanish constitution of 1978, the official language is stated as “Castellano” and not Spanish? But is Castilian a language in itself?

Constitución Española de 1978

The Spanish Constitution of 1978

The Spanish language evolved from Vulgar Latin, which is said to be brought to the Iberian Peninsula by the Romans around 210 BC. The first recorded documents that shows traces of what today is regarded as an early version of Spanish are from the 9th century.

Ramón Menéndez Pidal, a Spanish philologist and historian, had a theory that the Vulgar Latin evolved into Spanish around the area of the city Burgos in northern Spain, and that this dialect was later brought to the city of Toledo in the 13th century, where the written standard of Spanish was first developed under the supervision of Alfonso X of Castile, also known as Alfonso the Wise. This dialect was further spread south during the “Reconquista” and gathered a substantial amount of influence from the Arabic of Al-Andalus. Its estimated that it exists around 4000 Arabic-derived words today, around 8% of the language. The written standard was further developed throughout the 13-16th century. In 1713, the Spanish Royal Academy was founded with a purpose of standardizing the language.

Even though Castilian raised up as the main language of Spain it did not eliminate other languages already used in the region as Catalan, Galician, and Euskara/Basque. One use of the term Castilian has been to differentiate between the different languages of Spain.

Today the term Castilian is used in various forms. Sometimes it is used to distinguish between regional variations as “Andalusian”, the dialect of southern Spain. Sometimes is used to refer to the “pure” Spanish promulgated by the Spanish Royal Academy.

The most widespread, but also slightly inaccurate use of the term Castilian, is to differentiate between the Spanish spoken in Spain, and the one spoken in Latin America. Did you know that in many parts of Latin America, they would probably ask you: ¿habla castellano? (do you speak Castilian?) rather than ¿habla español? (do you speak Spanish?).

Today, you can find an affiliate of the Spanish Royal Academy (Real Academia Española or RAE) in almost every country where Spanish is spoken. The academy is responsible for publishing Spanish dictionaries and grammar guides and even not enforced by law, it has been a major influence in keeping uniformity in the Spanish language regardless of country or continent.

Even though Spanish is a uniform language, there are certain differences between the continents where Spanish is spoken.

Let us have a look at some differences between Spain and Latin America:

- In modern day Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, the second-person plural “Vos” was being used as a more polite second-person singular pronoun to be used among family and friends. Where in Spain they would ask you “¿de dónde eres?” you will probably be asked “¿de dónde sos?” in Latin America.

- Latin American varieties of Spanish do not use vosotros (you, plural, informal), preferring the formal ustedes. This form is sometimes used on the Spanish Canary Islands as well.

- The pronunciation differs:

  • o A clear example is between the Spanish and Argentinian pronunciation of the double-l. In Argentina, the double-l is usually pronounced like the y in yellow, is pronounced like the s in measure.

  • In most of Spain, the z (or the c when it comes before e or i) is pronounced much like the "th" in "thin," while in most of Latin America it has the "s" sound.

- The vocabulary is also slightly different between countries where you would say teléfono móvil (cellphone) and ordenador (computer) in Spain, you would use celular and computadora in Latin America.

- In Spain, the present perfect tense is often used for recent events, while in Latin America the preterite is consistently used.

In conclusion, the use of the term Castilian or Spanish is more a personal and/or political choice. In the end, speaking or having your documents and webpages available in Spanish will greatly improve your ability to reach the approximately 437 million people in the world that speak Spanish. How to know which form of the Spanish to use, you ask yourself? Why not get a professional translator to help you! Contact us by clicking the picture below!

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