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Spanish is a Romance language with close relative to French, Italian, Portuguese, Rumanian, Galician, Sardinian and Catalan, as well as Occitan and Rheto-Romance dialects in the Romance Language family. Being part of the Romance language means it is a vernacular descendant of Latin, the official language of the Roman Empire.

Spanish is contained inside the Italic subfamily which is in turn a branch of the Indo-European language family. It is an official language of most countries in addition to Spain, which amongst them includes: Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica, Chile, Uruguay, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, The Dominican Republic, Argentina, Nicaragua, Columbia, Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay and Venezuela.  Additionally, the Spanish language is spoken in the Balearic and Canary islands, in parts of Morocco Canada, and Philippines. In the United States, it is widely spoken in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, New York City and southern Florida.

Tracing back the history and origin of Spanish language, one thing is certain, there is no such thing as a single ‘Spanish’. Even within Spain, there are two major dialects: Andalusian and Castilian. We could then say that, many cultures left their mark on the Spanish people and their language, among them are prehistoric man, the Iberians, the Tartessians, the Phoenicians, the Celts, the Greeks, the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Vandals, the Swabians, the Alans, the Visigoths and the Moors.

Spanish have been found all throughout the Iberian peninsula. Spanish language could be said to have been born in the Iberian peninsula, a region located on the Southwest side of Europe. During the upper Paleolithic period, Cromagnon men inhabited the peninsula. After the historic men, the Iberians inhabited the peninsula.

There is no precise history as to who the Iberians were. Some history as it that they were direct descendants of the prehistoric men. While some believe that they were a civilization who had come from Africa. Others believe that they were a civilization formed by contact between the indigenous people of the area and the Greek and Phoenician colonies that were established on the peninsula. It will be presumed that by the end of the 1st century, the language of the Iberian was still spoken. Since, it wasn said that the language of the Iberians was preserved in a few inscriptions. Punic alphabet was used in most of the Iberian inscriptions that have been found. It seems that the language of the Iberians had only a minor influence on Spanish since very few words from this pre-Roman time have survived.

Around 1100 BC, the Phoenicians colonized the peninsula, founding different cities on the Mediterranean coast for trading purpose. It was in the 11th century that the Phoenicians was introducing the art of writing into Spain. And their contribution to the language is few. As a consequence of the Phoenician colonization, the Tartessian culture came about.

Colonization of the peninsula by the Greek and the Phoenician were parallel. The trading in Iberian Peninsula was also what attracted the Greeks. Several cities were established including Emporion and Rhodes. History as it that the Romans were the ones that later introduced Greek’s words into the modern day Spanish language, rather than coming from the Greek during colonization.

Towards the last year of the 6th century, the Iberians upon mingling with the Celts (another race, of nomadic customs and originally from the centre of Europe) formed a new group of people known as the ‘Celtiberians’. These people had their own tongue, which was a variation of the Celtic language. It was claimed that the Celts did not impose their government or their language on the indigenous people, but rather there was a coexistence of the two cultures.

Like the Greeks, it was also the Romans that brought about the Celtic words found in the vocabulary of the modern day Spanish, when they (Roman) had previously encountered with the Celts in Gaul.

In 1000 B.C, the Phoenicians founded the city of Carthage in 1000 B.C. on the African coast. During the six century B.C., the Tartessian attack the Phoenician city of Gadir to which the Carthaginians responded. The Carthaginians invaded the peninsula and subjugated the Tartessians. However, it was the Carthaginians who ultimately lead to the Roman invasion of the Peninsula.

During the Roman invasion in 264 B.C, the Carthaginians engaged in a war with Roman, known as the first Punic war, which it was as a result of control over Sicily. While trying to recover the territories that they had lost to the Romans during the first war, the Carthaginians engaged in a second Punic war with the Romans. But they were defeated, and the Roman Empire took control of the Peninsula.

Under Roman rule, the Romans brought with them their language and imposed it on their subjects. The region became known as Hispania, and its inhabitants learned Latin from traders, administrators, soldiers and other people coming from Rome. It was when these Romans’ Latin got mixed up with the languages that had previously been spoken by the Celtiberians, the Carthaginians, and other inhabitants of the region that a new language, referred to as “Vulgar Latin”, made its appearance. The aforementioned followed the basic models of Latin, while at the same time borrowing words from the other tongues and adding them to its own lexicon.

Latin became the dominant language of the peninsula, and it is from Latin that Spanish evolved. Germanic barbarians entered the peninsula in 409 AD, when regional varieties gradually drifted apart, a process that can only have accelerated after the Western Empire collapsed in the 5th century and the old Roman provinces were overrun by Germanic tribes. This group consisted of the Vandals, the Swabians and the Alans. Their presence in the area was brief and they had little influence on the language. Most traces of their presence are seen in geographical place names.

The Visigoths entered Rome during the 4th century, where they lived under Roman rule. Around the year 415 A.D, when the Visigoths took over the region called Hispania, Latin still remains the dominant and official language of the region. They entered Hispania and expelled the barbarian tribes that had settled in the area. They later separated from the Roman Empire and established their dominion throughout the Iberian Peninsula, with their capital at Toledo. As at the time the Visigoths entered Hispania, they had become Romanised and had abandoned their language in favor of Latin. Thus, the Visigoths were a Latin-speaking Germanic tribe.

Despite the invasion of the Visigoths-Germanic tribes from Eastern Europe, Latin still stood as the official language of Hispania, in terms of government and culture. Probably the most important consequence of the Germanic invasions was not their linguistic influence. Rather, their invasions created a great cultural depression which truncated communication with the rest of the areas of Roman control (Lapesa 123). Vulgar Latin in the peninsula was left to its own.

The status of Latin being the official language changed when the last Visigoth King, Roderic, was defeated when the Moors- a group of Islamic people from Northern Africa, took over Hispania. They became conquerors of the region, establishing their own languages (Arabic and a variation of the latter known as Mozarabic) in the whole area, except for a few remote territories that were controlled by the Christian Church (namely the kingdom of Asturias).
Many Christians remained under Moorish control, while others relocated to the north outside Moorish jurisdiction. Moorish invaders travelled alone and many of them married Spanish women. Toledo was recaptured from the Moors in 1085 by Alfonso VI, and in 1492 Granada was defeated and the Moors were expelled from Spain.

The language of the Moors was Arabic. This was the most influential language in the development of Spanish. Over 4,000 Spanish words have been found to come from Arabic. Most of these words are related to war, agriculture, science and the home. The influence of Arabic on Spanish was only on the lexicon, and as a matter of fact, Spanish did not incorporate any Arabic phonemes into its phonological system (Lapesa 106).

It was precisely these Christian kingdoms which ended up conquering Spain back, in time, and restituting its original politics, military and cultural assets. Vulgar Latin also regained dominion, particularly as a variation emerged from the Northern Central plains of the country: Castilian. The dialect got spread throughout the Southern and Eastern regions of Spain.

Castilian Spanish Dialect

While Vulgar Latin was dominant, it took on a different form, integrating Arabic and forms of a related dialect called Mozarabic. It is estimated that approximately 3000-4000 words in today’s Spanish are derived from Arabic.

Castilian dialects of Spanish started to take form around the 13th century with King Alfonso X, referred to as the Learned-King of Castile and Leon. Toledo became the cultural epicenter for the King and his scholars. In Toledo, these scholars created works in Castilian Spanish and then began a series of translations of the various works of science, the law, literature, history, etc. into Castilian Spanish. These translations became the basis for the dissemination of information in a significant part of Western Europe. The King soon declared Castilian as the official language for government documents and decrees.

The dominance of the Castilian dialect continued to grow as the Catholic kingdoms took over most regions of Spain. Isabella and Ferdinand declared Castilian Spanish to be the official dialect. Soon thereafter appeared the Art of the Castilian Language, a work that helped shape and standardize the Spanish language.

Castilian Spanish then quickly became the official language for all educational materials and official documents in all of Spain. Certain regions maintained different dialects, most notably Andalusian, spoken in and around Seville. Click here Learn Spanish today or visit www.laclicservices.com