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The Spanish Language

Spanish is one of the Romance languages of the Ibero-Romance group. It originated in Northern Spain and, in time, was adopted by the Kingdom of Castile. Today there are approximately 330 native Spanish-speaking people.

Spanish, as the official language of Spain, is not known as español. Rather, it is referred to as castellano to reflect that it is the Castilian language.

The history of the Spanish language began in approximately the 6th century BC. Inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula intermingled with nomadic Celts from central Europe. Celtic became the primary language of these peoples, known as Celtiberians.

The Roman Empire began its conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in 218 BC, which was not fully completed until 17 BC by Caesar Augustus. The region was named Hispania by the Romans. The language of the Roman infiltrators, Latin, replaced Celtic with some variations. The Latin spoken by the inhabitants, known as "Vulgar Latin, was a mixture of classic Latin with loan words from other languages.

Hispania was destined for further invasions in the upcoming centuries. The Germanic tribes of Vandals, Suevi, Alans and Visigoths invaded the Iberian Peninsula in the early 4th century. Latin remained the official language, however, during the Visigoth occupation of Hispania.

This was to change in 719 AD when Islamic Moors conquered Hispania. Arabic would overtake Vulgar Latin in the entire region with a few exceptions in the North. In addition, a dialect called "Mozarabic" developed. Mozarabic is a combination of archaic Spanish and Arabic. These two languages were spoken until the advent of the Reconquista.

The Reconquista, the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula by Christian kingdoms, began in 712 and took over 800 years to conclude in 1492. As the Moors were pushed southward during the 9th to 11th centuries, Christian conquerors repopulated the regions with peasants from their own countries. The Christian kingdoms would revive Vulgar Latin and introduce their politics and culture.

A dialect called Castilian developed in the 8th century from Burgos, a town in north-central Hispania, to become the prevalent dialect spoken in new regions southwards as the Christian retook Hispania from the Moors.

In the 1200's, King Alfonso X, cultivated the city of Toledo to be his cultural center, where major academic works and translations were written in Castile. The translation work completed by Alfonso's scholars was the facilitator for much of Western Europe's knowledge acquirement. Castilian became Alfonso's official language in all aspects.

With the conquest by Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragón in 1492 of the last stronghold of the Moors in Hispania, Castilian became the official dialect. Also of importance in this year, the first Latin-to-Spanish book was written by Antonio de Nebrija and published. It was the inaugural definition of the grammar of Spanish.

Castilian was now the written standard through Spain. Several regional dialects, including Aragon, Navarra, Leon, Asturias, Santander and Andalusian, were spoken until Castilian gradually overtook them. Today they are spoken only in secluded rural areas. The languages of Galician and Catalan, spoken in northwest Spain and Easter and northeastern Spain respectively, diminished for a time but began to flourish again in the late 1900's.

Spanish spread throughout Central and South America and Spanish West Indies during the Spain's colonization beginning in the 16th century. It would continue its expansion at late as the 20th century into regions not considered part of the Spanish empire.

Spanish's vocabulary has an ancestry of approximately 4,000 Arabic words, with the remainder is Latin derived.