As a Romance language
, Spanish is a descendant of Latin
and has one of the smaller degrees of difference from it (about 20%) alongside Sardinian and Italian.
Around 75% of modern Spanish vocabulary is derived from Latin, including Latin borrowings from Ancient Greek.
Its vocabulary has also been influenced by Classical Arabic
, having developed mainly during the Early Middle Ages
of Iberia, with around 8% of its vocabulary having Arabic lexical roots.
It has also been influenced by Basque, Iberian
, and other neighboring Ibero-Romance languages.
Additionally, it has absorbed vocabulary from other languages, particularly other Romance languages such as French
, Occitan, and Sardinian, as well as from Quechua
, and other indigenous languages of the Americas
Name of the language and etymology
Map indicating places where the language is called castellano (in red) or español (in blue)
Name of the language
El castellano es la lengua española oficial del Estado. ... Las demás lenguas españolas serán también oficiales en las respectivas Comunidades Autónomas...
Castilian is the official Spanish language of the State. ... The other Spanish languages shall also be official in their respective Autonomous Communities...
The Royal Spanish Academy
(Real Academia Española
), on the other hand, currently uses the term español
in its publications, but from 1713 to 1923 called the language castellano
The Diccionario panhispánico de dudas
(a language guide published by the Royal Spanish Academy) states that, although the Royal Spanish Academy prefers to use the term español
in its publications when referring to the Spanish language, both terms—español
—are regarded as synonymous and equally valid.
The term castellano
comes from the Latin word castellanus
, which means "of or pertaining to a fort
Different etymologies have been suggested for the term español
(Spanish). According to the Royal Spanish Academy, español
derives from the Provençal
and that, in turn, derives from the Vulgar Latin
. It comes from the Latin name of the province of Hispania
that included the current territory of the Iberian Peninsula
There are other hypotheses apart from the one suggested by the Royal Spanish Academy. Spanish philologist Menéndez Pidal
suggested that the classic hispanus
took the suffix -one
from Vulgar Latin
, as it happened with other words such as bretón
(Breton) or sajón
(Saxon). The word *hispanione
evolved into the Old Spanish españón
, which eventually, became español
The first documents to show traces of what is today regarded as the precursor of modern Spanish are from the 9th century. Throughout the Middle Ages
and into the modern era
, the most important influences on the Spanish lexicon came from neighboring Romance languages
, and later, French
. Spanish also borrowed a considerable number of words from Arabic
, as well as a minor influence from the Germanic Gothic language
through the migration of tribes and a period of Visigoth
rule in Iberia. In addition, many more words were borrowed from Latin
through the influence of written language and the liturgical language of the Church. The loanwords were taken from both Classical Latin
and Renaissance Latin
, the form of Latin in use at that time.
According to the theories of Ramón Menéndez Pidal
, local sociolects
of Vulgar Latin evolved into Spanish, in the north of Iberia, in an area centered in the city of Burgos
, and this dialect was later brought to the city of Toledo
, where the written standard of Spanish was first developed, in the 13th century.
In this formative stage, Spanish developed a strongly differing variant from its close cousin, Leonese
, and, according to some authors, was distinguished by a heavy Basque influence (see Iberian Romance languages
). This distinctive dialect spread to southern Spain with the advance of the Reconquista
, and meanwhile gathered a sizable lexical influence from the Arabic
, much of it indirectly, through the Romance Mozarabic dialects
(some 4,000 Arabic
-derived words, make up around 8% of the language today).
The written standard for this new language was developed in the cities of Toledo
, in the 13th to 16th centuries, and Madrid
, from the 1570s.
Chronological map showing linguistic evolution in southwest Europe
Spanish is marked by the palatalization
of the Latin double consonants nn and ll (thus Latin annum
> Spanish año
, and Latin anellum
> Spanish anillo
The consonant written u
in Latin and pronounced [w] in Classical Latin had probably "fortified
" to a bilabial fricative /β/ in Vulgar Latin. In early Spanish (but not in Catalan or Portuguese) it merged with the consonant written b
(a bilabial with plosive and fricative allophones). In modern Spanish, there is no difference
between the pronunciation of orthographic b
, with some exceptions in Caribbean Spanish.
Peculiar to Spanish (as well as to the neighboring Gascon
dialect of Occitan
, and attributed to a Basque substratum
) was the mutation of Latin initial f
whenever it was followed by a vowel that did not diphthongize. The h-
, still preserved in spelling, is now silent in most varieties of the language, although in some Andalusian and Caribbean dialects it is still aspirated in some words. Because of borrowings from Latin and from neighboring Romance languages, there are many f
-doublets in modern Spanish: Fernando
(both Spanish for "Ferdinand"), ferrero
(both Spanish for "smith"), fierro
(both Spanish for "iron"), and fondo
(both Spanish for "deep", but fondo
means "bottom" while hondo
means "deep"); hacer
(Spanish for "to make") is cognate to the root word of satisfacer
(Spanish for "to satisfy"), and hecho
("made") is similarly cognate to the root word of satisfecho
(Spanish for "satisfied").
Compare the examples in the following table:
Some consonant clusters
of Latin also produced characteristically different results in these languages, as shown in the examples in the following table:
The Gramática de la lengua castellana
, written in Salamanca
in 1492 by Elio Antonio de Nebrija
, was the first grammar written for a modern European language.
According to a popular anecdote, when Nebrija presented it to Queen Isabella I
, she asked him what was the use of such a work, and he answered that language is the instrument of empire.
In his introduction to the grammar, dated 18 August 1492, Nebrija wrote that "... language was always the companion of empire."
Geographical distribution of the Spanish language
Official or co-official language
Active learning of Spanish.
Percentage of people who self reportedly know enough Spanish to hold a conversation, in the EU, 2005
, Spanish is an official language of Spain
, the country after which it is named and from which it originated. It is also widely spoken in Gibraltar
Most Spanish speakers are in Hispanic America
; of all countries with a majority of Spanish speakers, only Spain
and Equatorial Guinea
are outside the Americas
. Nationally, Spanish is the official language—either de facto
or de jure
(co-official with Quechua
, and 34 other languages), Chile
, Costa Rica
, Dominican Republic
, El Salvador
(co-official with 63 indigenous languages), Nicaragua
(co-official with Guaraní
(co-official with Quechua
, and "the other indigenous languages"
), Puerto Rico
(co-official with English), Uruguay
, and Venezuela
. Spanish has no official recognition in the former British colony
; however, per the 2000 census, it is spoken by 43% of the population.
Mainly, it is spoken by the descendants of Hispanics who have been in the region since the seventeenth century; however, English is the official language.
Spanish spoken in the United States and Puerto Rico. Darker shades of green indicate higher percentages of Spanish speakers.
According to 2006 census data, 44.3 million people of the U.S. population were Hispanic
or Hispanic American
38.3 million people, 13 percent of the population over five years old speak Spanish at home.
The Spanish language has a long history of presence in the United States due to early Spanish and, later, Mexican administration over territories now forming the southwestern states
, also Louisiana
ruled by Spain from 1762 to 1802, as well as Florida
, which was Spanish territory until 1821, and Puerto Rico
which was Spanish until 1898.
Spanish is by far the most common second language in the US, with over 50 million total speakers if non-native or second-language speakers are included.
While English is the de facto national language of the country, Spanish is often used in public services and notices at the federal and state levels. Spanish is also used in administration in the state of New Mexico
The language also has a strong influence in major metropolitan areas such as those of Los Angeles
, San Antonio
, New York
, San Francisco
, and Phoenix
; as well as more recently, Chicago
, Las Vegas
, Salt Lake City
and Baltimore-Washington, D.C.
due to 20th- and 21st-century immigration.
Spanish language signage in Malabo
, capital city of Equatorial Guinea.
, Spanish is official in Equatorial Guinea
(alongside French and Portuguese), where it is the predominant language, while Fang
is the most spoken language by number of native speakers.
It is also an official language of the African Union
Spanish is also spoken in the integral territories of Spain in North Africa
, which include the cities
, the Canary Islands
located some 100 km (62 mi) off the northwest coast of mainland Africa, and minuscule outposts known as plazas de soberanía
. In northern Morocco
, a former Spanish protectorate
, approximately 20,000 people speak Spanish as a second language, while Arabic is the de jure
official language and French is a second administrative language. Spanish is spoken by very small communities in Angola
due to Cuban influence from the Cold War
and in South Sudan
among South Sudanese natives that relocated to Cuba during the Sudanese wars and returned for their country's independence.
Spanish was an official language of the Philippines
from the beginning of Spanish administration in 1565 to a constitutional change in 1973. During Spanish colonization
(1565–1898), it was the language of government, trade, and education, and was spoken as a first language by Spaniards and educated Filipinos. In the mid-nineteenth century, the colonial government set up a free public education system with Spanish as the medium of instruction. While this increased the use of Spanish throughout the islands and led to the formation of a class of Spanish-speaking intellectuals called the Ilustrados
, only populations in urban areas or with places with a significant Spanish presence used the language on a daily basis or learned it as a second or third language. By the end of Spanish rule in 1898, only about 10% of the population had knowledge of Spanish, mostly those of Spanish descent or elite standing.
Despite American administration of the Philippines
after the defeat of Spain in the Spanish–American War
, Spanish continued to be used in Philippine literature and press during the early years of American administration. Gradually however, the American government began promoting the use of English at the expense of Spanish, characterizing it as a negative influence of the past. Eventually, by the 1920s, English became the primary language of administration and education.
Nevertheless, despite a significant decrease in influence and speakers, Spanish remained an official language of the Philippines upon independence in 1946, alongside English and Filipino
, a standardized version of Tagalog
Early flag of the Filipino revolutionaries
("Long live the Philippine Republic!!!"). The first two constitutions were written in Spanish.
Spanish was briefly removed from official status in 1973 under the administration of Ferdinand Marcos
, but regained official status two months later under Presidential Decree No. 155, dated 15 March 1973.
It remained an official language until 1987, with the ratification of the present constitution, in which it was re-designated as a voluntary and optional auxiliary language.
In 2010, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
encouraged the reintroduction of Spanish-language teaching in the Philippine education system.
However, the initiative failed to gain any traction, with the number of secondary schools at which the language is either a compulsory subject or offered as an elective remaining very limited.
Today, while the most optimistic estimates place the number of Spanish speakers in the Philippines at around 1.8 million people, interest in the language is growing, with some 20,000 students studying the language every year.
Aside from standard Spanish, a Spanish-based creole language called Chavacano
developed in the southern Philippines. However, it is not mutually intelligible with Spanish.
The number of Chavacano-speakers was estimated at 1.2 million in 1996.
The local languages of the Philippines
also retain significant Spanish influence, with many words derived from Mexican Spanish
, owing to the administration of the islands by Spain through New Spain
until 1821, until direct governance from Madrid afterwards to 1898.
Miguel de Cervantes
, considered by many the greatest author of Spanish literature, and author of Don Quixote
, widely considered the first modern European novel.
Most of the grammatical and typological
features of Spanish are shared with the other Romance languages
. Spanish is a fusional language
. The noun
systems exhibit two genders
and two numbers
. In addition, articles and some pronouns
have a neuter gender in their singular form. There are about fifty conjugated
forms per verb
, with 3 tenses: past, present, future; 2 aspects
for past: perfective
; 4 moods
: indicative, subjunctive, conditional, imperative; 3 persons: first, second, third; 2 numbers: singular, plural; 3 verboid
forms: infinitive, gerund, and past participle. The indicative mood is the unmarked
one, while the subjunctive mood expresses uncertainty or indetermination, and is commonly paired with the conditional, which is a mood used to express "would" (as in, "I would eat if I had food); the imperative is a mood to express a command, commonly a one word phrase – "¡Di!", "Talk!".
Spanish is classified as a subject–verb–object
language; however, as in most Romance languages, constituent order is highly variable and governed mainly by topicalization
rather than by syntax. It is a "pro-drop
", or "null-subject
" language—that is, it allows the deletion of subject pronouns when they are pragmatically
unnecessary. Spanish is described as a "verb-framed
" language, meaning that the direction
of motion is expressed in the verb while the mode
of locomotion is expressed adverbially (e.g. subir corriendo
or salir volando
; the respective English equivalents of these examples—'to run up' and 'to fly out'—show that English is, by contrast, "satellite-framed", with mode of locomotion expressed in the verb and direction in an adverbial modifier).
Subject/verb inversion is not required in questions, and thus the recognition of declarative or interrogative may depend entirely on intonation.
Spanish spoken in Spain
The Spanish phonemic system is originally descended from that of Vulgar Latin
. Its development exhibits some traits in common with the neighboring dialects—especially Leonese
—as well as other traits unique to Spanish. Spanish is unique among its neighbors in the aspiration and eventual loss of the Latin initial /f/ sound (e.g. Cast. harina
vs. Leon. and Arag. farina
The Latin initial consonant sequences pl-
, and fl-
in Spanish typically become ll-
(originally pronounced [ʎ]), while in Aragonese they are preserved in most dialects, and in Leonese they present a variety of outcomes, including [tʃ], [ʃ], and [ʎ]. Where Latin had -li-
before a vowel (e.g. filius
) or the ending -iculus
), Old Spanish produced [ʒ], that in Modern Spanish became the velar fricative [x] (hijo
, where neighboring languages have the palatal lateral [ʎ] (e.g. Portuguese filho
; Catalan fill
The Spanish phonemic
inventory consists of five vowel phonemes (/a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, /u/) and 17 to 19 consonant phonemes (the exact number depending on the dialect
). The main allophonic
variation among vowels is the reduction of the high vowels /i/ and /u/ to glides—[j] and [w] respectively—when unstressed and adjacent to another vowel. Some instances of the mid vowels /e/ and /o/, determined lexically, alternate with the diphthongs /je/ and /we/ respectively when stressed, in a process that is better described as morphophonemic
rather than phonological, as it is not predictable from phonology alone.
The Spanish consonant system is characterized by (1) three nasal
phonemes, and one or two (depending on the dialect) lateral
phoneme(s), which in syllable-final position lose their contrast
and are subject to assimilation
to a following consonant; (2) three voiceless stops
and the affricate
/tʃ/; (3) three or four (depending on the dialect) voiceless fricatives
; (4) a set of voiced obstruents
—/b/, /d/, /ɡ/, and sometimes /ʝ/—which alternate between approximant
allophones depending on the environment; and (5) a phonemic distinction between the "tapped
" and "trilled
-sounds (single ⟨r⟩ and double ⟨rr⟩ in orthography).
In the following table of consonant phonemes, /ʎ/ is marked with an asterisk (*) to indicate that it is preserved only in some dialects. In most dialects it has been merged with /ʝ/ in the merger called yeísmo
. Similarly, /θ/ is also marked with an asterisk to indicate that most dialects do not distinguish it from /s/ (see seseo
), although this is not a true merger but an outcome of different evolution of sibilants in Southern Spain.
The phoneme /ʃ/ is in parentheses () to indicate that it appears only in loanwords
. Each of the voiced obstruent phonemes /b/, /d/, /ʝ/, and /ɡ/ appears to the right of a pair
of voiceless phonemes, to indicate that, while the voiceless
phonemes maintain a phonemic contrast between plosive (or affricate) and fricative, the voiced
ones alternate allophonically
(i.e. without phonemic contrast) between plosive and approximant pronunciations.
varies significantly according to dialect but generally conforms to a pattern of falling tone for declarative sentences and wh-questions (who, what, why, etc.) and rising tone for yes/no questions
There are no syntactic markers to distinguish between questions and statements and thus, the recognition of declarative or interrogative depends entirely on intonation.
Stress most often occurs on any of the last three syllables of a word, with some rare exceptions at the fourth-to-last or earlier syllables. Stress tends to occur as follows:[better source needed]
- in words that end with a monophthong, on the penultimate syllable
- when the word ends in a diphthong, on the final syllable.
- in words that end with a consonant, on the last syllable, with the exception of two grammatical endings: -n, for third-person-plural of verbs, and -s, for plural of nouns and adjectives or for second-person-singular of verbs. However, even though a significant number of nouns and adjectives ending with -n are also stressed on the penult (joven, virgen, mitin), the great majority of nouns and adjectives ending with -n are stressed on their last syllable (capitán, almacén, jardín, corazón).
- Preantepenultimate stress (stress on the fourth-to-last syllable) occurs rarely, only on verbs with clitic pronouns attached (e.g. guardándoselos 'saving them for him/her/them/you').
In addition to the many exceptions to these tendencies, there are numerous minimal pairs
that contrast solely on stress such as sábana
('sheet') and sabana
('he/she limits') and limité
('I limited'); líquido
('I sell off') and liquidó
('he/she sold off').
The orthographic system unambiguously reflects where the stress occurs: in the absence of an accent mark, the stress falls on the last syllable unless the last letter is ⟨n⟩, ⟨s⟩, or a vowel, in which cases the stress falls on the next-to-last (penultimate) syllable. Exceptions to those rules are indicated by an acute accent mark over the vowel of the stressed syllable. (See Spanish orthography
Spanish is the official, or national language in 18 countries and one territory in the Americas
, and Equatorial Guinea
. With a population of over 410 million, Hispanophone America
accounts for the vast majority of Spanish speakers, of which Mexico
is the most populous Spanish-speaking country. In the European Union
, Spanish is the mother tongue
of 8% of the population, with an additional 7% speaking it as a second language.
Additionally, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States
and is by far the most popular foreign language among students.
In 2015, it was estimated that over 50 million Americans spoke Spanish, about 41 million of whom were native speakers.
With continued immigration and increased use of the language domestically in public spheres and media, the number of Spanish speakers in the United States is expected to continue growing over the forthcoming decades.
Spanish speakers by country
The following table shows the number of Spanish speakers in some 79 countries.
Worldwide Spanish fluency (grey and * signifies official language)
A world map attempting to identify the main dialects of Spanish.
There are important variations (phonological
, and lexical
) in the spoken Spanish of the various regions of Spain and throughout the Spanish-speaking areas of the Americas.
The variety with the most speakers is Mexican Spanish
. It is spoken by more than twenty percent of the world's Spanish speakers (more than 112 million of the total of more than 500 million, according to the table above). One of its main features is the reduction
or loss of unstressed vowels
, mainly when they are in contact with the sound /s/.
In Spain, northern dialects are popularly thought of as closer to the standard, although positive attitudes toward southern dialects have increased significantly in the last 50 years. Even so, the speech of Madrid, which has typically southern features such as yeísmo
and s-aspiration, is the standard variety for use on radio and television.
However, the variety used in the media is that of Madrid's educated classes, where southern traits are less evident, in contrast with the variety spoken by working-class Madrid, where those traits are pervasive. The educated variety of Madrid is indicated by many as the one that has most influenced the written standard for Spanish.
The four main phonological divisions are based respectively on (1) the phoneme /θ/
("theta"), (2) the debuccalization
of syllable-final /s/, (3) the sound of the spelled ⟨s⟩, (4) and the phoneme /ʎ/
- The phoneme /θ/ (spelled c before e or i and spelled ⟨z⟩ elsewhere), a voiceless dental fricative as in English thing, is maintained by a majority of Spain's population, especially in the northern and central parts of the country. In other areas (some parts of southern Spain, the Canary Islands, and the Americas), /θ/ doesn't exist and /s/ occurs instead. The maintenance of phonemic contrast is called distinción in Spanish, while the merger is generally called seseo (in reference to the usual realization of the merged phoneme as [s]) or, occasionally, ceceo (referring to its interdental realization, [θ], in some parts of southern Spain). In most of Hispanic America, the spelled ⟨c⟩ before ⟨e⟩ or ⟨i⟩, and spelled ⟨z⟩ is always pronounced as a voiceless dental sibilant.
- The debuccalization (pronunciation as [h], or loss) of syllable-final /s/ is associated with the southern half of Spain and lowland Americas: Central America (except central Costa Rica and Guatemala), the Caribbean, coastal areas of southern Mexico, and South America except Andean highlands. Debuccalization is frequently called "aspiration" in English, and aspiración in Spanish. When there is no debuccalization, the syllable-final /s/ is pronounced as voiceless "apico-alveolar" sibilant or as a voiceless dental sibilant in the same fashion as in the next paragraph.
- The sound that corresponds to the letter ⟨s⟩ is pronounced in northern and central Spain as a voiceless "apico-alveolar" sibilant [s̺] (also described acoustically as "grave" and articulatorily as "retracted"), with a weak "hushing" sound reminiscent of retroflex fricatives. In Andalusia, Canary Islands and most of Hispanic America (except in the Paisa region of Colombia) it is pronounced as a voiceless dental sibilant [s], much like the most frequent pronunciation of the /s/ of English. Because /s/ is one of the most frequent phonemes in Spanish, the difference of pronunciation is one of the first to be noted by a Spanish-speaking person to differentiate Spaniards from Spanish-speakers of the Americas.
- The phoneme /ʎ/ spelled ⟨ll⟩, palatal lateral consonant sometimes compared in sound to the sound of the ⟨lli⟩ of English million, tends to be maintained in less-urbanized areas of northern Spain and in highland areas of South America. Meanwhile, in the speech of most other Spanish-speakers, it is merged with /ʝ/ ("curly-tail j"), a non-lateral, usually voiced, usually fricative, palatal consonant, sometimes compared to English /j/ (yod) as in yacht and spelled ⟨y⟩ in Spanish. As with other forms of allophony across world languages, the small difference of the spelled ⟨ll⟩ and the spelled ⟨y⟩ is usually not perceived (the difference is not heard) by people who do not produce them as different phonemes. Such a phonemic merger is called yeísmo in Spanish. In Rioplatense Spanish, the merged phoneme is generally pronounced as a postalveolar fricative, either voiced [ʒ] (as in English measure or the French ⟨j⟩) in the central and western parts of the dialectal region (zheísmo), or voiceless [ʃ] (as in the French ⟨ch⟩ or Portuguese ⟨x⟩) in and around Buenos Aires and Montevideo (sheísmo).
The main morphological
variations between dialects of Spanish involve differing uses of pronouns, especially those of the second person
and, to a lesser extent, the object pronouns
of the third person
An examination of the dominance and stress of the voseo feature in Hispanic America. Data generated as illustrated by the Association of Spanish Language Academies
. The darker the area, the stronger its dominance.
Virtually all dialects of Spanish make the distinction
between a formal and a familiar register
in the second-person singular
and thus have two different pronouns
meaning "you": usted
in the formal and either tú
in the familiar (and each of these three pronouns has its associated verb forms), with the choice of tú
varying from one dialect to another. The use of vos
(and/or its verb forms) is called voseo
. In a few dialects, all three pronouns are used, with usted
, and vos
denoting respectively formality, familiarity, and intimacy.
is the subject
form (vos decís
, "you say") and the form for the object of a preposition
(voy con vos
, "I am going with you"), while the direct and indirect object
forms, and the possessives
, are the same as those associated with tú
: Vos sabés que tus amigos te respetan
("You know your friends respect you").
The verb forms of general voseo
are the same as those used with tú
except in the present tense
) verbs. The forms for vos
generally can be derived from those of vosotros
(the traditional second-person familiar plural
) by deleting the glide
[i̯], or /d/, where it appears in the ending: vosotros pensáis
> vos pensás
; vosotros volvéis
> vos volvés
) > pensá!
) > volvé!
In Chilean voseo on the other hand, almost all verb forms are distinct from their standard tú-forms.
The use of the pronoun vos with the verb forms of tú (vos piensas) is called "pronominal voseo". Conversely, the use of the verb forms of vos with the pronoun tú (tú pensás or tú pensái) is called "verbal voseo".
In Chile, for example, verbal voseo is much more common than the actual use of the pronoun vos, which is usually reserved for highly informal situations.
And in Central American voseo, one can see even further distinction.
Central American voseo
Distribution in Spanish-speaking regions of the Americas
is not used in Spain, it occurs in many Spanish-speaking regions of the Americas as the primary spoken form of the second-person singular familiar pronoun, with wide differences in social consideration.[better source needed]
Generally, it can be said that there are zones of exclusive use of tuteo
(the use of tú
) in the following areas: almost all of Mexico
, the West Indies, Panama
, most of Colombia
and coastal Ecuador
as a cultured form alternates with voseo
as a popular or rural form in Bolivia
, in the north and south of Peru, in Andean Ecuador, in small zones of the Venezuelan Andes (and most notably in the Venezuelan state of Zulia
), and in a large part of Colombia. Some researchers maintain that voseo
can be heard in some parts of eastern Cuba, and others assert that it is absent from the island.
exists as the second-person usage with an intermediate degree of formality alongside the more familiar voseo
, in the Venezuelan state of Zulia
, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia
, in the Azuero Peninsula
in Panama, in the Mexican state of Chiapas
, and in parts of Guatemala.
Areas of generalized voseo
, eastern Bolivia
, El Salvador
, Costa Rica
and the Colombian departments of Antioquia
and Valle del Cauca
functions as formal and informal second person plural in over 90% of the Spanish-speaking world, including all of Hispanic America, the Canary Islands
, and some regions of Andalusia
. In Seville
, and other parts of western Andalusia
, the familiar form is constructed as ustedes vais
, using the traditional second-person plural form of the verb. Most of Spain maintains the formal/familiar distinction
is the usual second-person singular pronoun in a formal context, but it is used jointly with the third-person singular voice of the verb. It is used to convey respect toward someone who is a generation older or is of higher authority ("you, sir"/"you, ma'am"). It is also used in a familiar
context by many speakers in Colombia and Costa Rica and in parts of Ecuador and Panama, to the exclusion of tú
. This usage is sometimes called ustedeo
In Central America, especially in Honduras, usted is often used as a formal pronoun to convey respect between the members of a romantic couple. Usted is also used that way between parents and children in the Andean regions of Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela.
Third-person object pronouns
Most speakers use (and the Real Academia Española
prefers) the pronouns lo
for direct objects
(masculine and feminine respectively, regardless of animacy
, meaning "him", "her", or "it"), and le
for indirect objects
(regardless of gender
, meaning "to him", "to her", or "to it"). The usage is sometimes called "etymological", as these direct and indirect object pronouns are a continuation, respectively, of the accusative
pronouns of Latin, the ancestor language of Spanish.
Deviations from this norm (more common in Spain than in the Americas) are called "leísmo
", or "laísmo
", according to which respective pronoun, le
, or la
, has expanded beyond the etymological usage (le
as a direct object, or lo
as an indirect object).
Some words can be significantly different in different Hispanophone countries. Most Spanish speakers can recognize other Spanish forms even in places where they are not commonly used, but Spaniards generally do not recognize specifically American usages. For example, Spanish mantequilla
(respectively, 'butter', 'avocado', 'apricot') correspond to manteca
(word used for lard
in Peninsular Spanish
, and damasco
, respectively, in Argentina, Chile (except manteca
), Paraguay, Peru (except manteca
), and Uruguay.
Relation to other languages
It is generally acknowledged that Portuguese and Spanish speakers can communicate in written form, with varying degrees of mutual intelligibility. Mutual intelligibility
of the written
Spanish and Portuguese languages is remarkably high, and the difficulties of the spoken forms are based more on phonology than on grammatical and lexical dissimilarities. Ethnologue
gives estimates of the lexical similarity
between related languages in terms of precise percentages. For Spanish and Portuguese, that figure is 89%. Italian, on the other hand its phonology similar to Spanish, but has a lower lexical similarity of 82%. Mutual intelligibility between Spanish and French
or between Spanish and Romanian
is lower still, given lexical similarity ratings of 75% and 71% respectively.
And comprehension of Spanish by French speakers who have not studied the language is much lower, at an estimated 45%. In general, thanks to the common features of the writing systems of the Romance languages, interlingual comprehension of the written word is greater than that of oral communication.
The following table compares the forms of some common words in several Romance languages:
1. In Romance etymology, Latin terms are given in the Accusative since most forms derive from this case.
2. As in "us very selves", an emphatic expression.
3. Also nós outros
in early modern Portuguese (e.g. The Lusiads
), and nosoutros
4. Alternatively nous autres
in many Southern Italian dialects and languages
6. Medieval Catalan (e.g. Llibre dels fets
7. Modified with the learned suffix -ción
8. Depending on the written norm used (see Reintegrationism
9. From Basque esku
, "hand" + erdi
, "half, incomplete". Notice that this negative meaning also applies for Latin sinistra(m)
10. Romanian caș
(from Latin cāsevs) means a type of cheese. The universal term for cheese in Romanian is brânză
(from unknown etymology).
An original letter in Haketia, written in 1832.
Judaeo-Spanish, also known as Ladino,
is a variety of Spanish which preserves many features of medieval Spanish and Portuguese and is spoken by descendants of the Sephardi Jews
who were expelled from Spain in the 15th century
Conversely, in Portugal the vast majority of the Portuguese Jews converted and became 'New Christians'. Therefore, its relationship to Spanish is comparable with that of the Yiddish language
. Ladino speakers today are almost exclusively Sephardi
Jews, with family roots in Turkey, Greece, or the Balkans, and living mostly in Israel, Turkey, and the United States, with a few communities in Hispanic America.
Judaeo-Spanish lacks the Native American vocabulary
which was acquired by standard Spanish during the Spanish colonial period
, and it retains many archaic features which have since been lost in standard Spanish. It contains, however, other vocabulary which is not found in standard Spanish, including vocabulary from Hebrew
, French, Greek and Turkish
, and other languages spoken where the Sephardim settled.
Judaeo-Spanish is in serious danger of extinction because many native speakers today are elderly as well as elderly olim
(immigrants to Israel
) who have not transmitted the language to their children or grandchildren. However, it is experiencing a minor revival among Sephardi communities, especially in music. In the case of the Latin American communities, the danger of extinction is also due to the risk of assimilation by modern Castilian.
A related dialect is Haketia
, the Judaeo-Spanish of northern Morocco. This too tended to assimilate with modern Spanish, during the Spanish occupation of the region.
Spanish is written in the Latin script
, with the addition of the character ⟨ñ
, representing the phoneme /ɲ
/, a letter distinct from ⟨n⟩, although typographically composed of an ⟨n⟩ with a tilde
). Formerly the digraphs
, representing the phoneme /t͡ʃ/) and ⟨ll⟩ (elle
, representing the phoneme /ʎ
/ or /ʝ/), were also considered single letters. However, the digraph ⟨rr⟩ (erre fuerte
, 'strong r', erre doble
, 'double r', or simply erre
), which also represents a distinct phoneme /r/, was not similarly regarded as a single letter. Since 1994 ⟨ch⟩ and ⟨ll⟩ have been treated as letter pairs for collation
purposes, though they remained a part of the alphabet until 2010. Words with ⟨ch⟩ are now alphabetically sorted between those with ⟨cg⟩ and ⟨ci⟩, instead of following ⟨cz⟩ as they used to. The situation is similar for ⟨ll⟩.
Thus, the Spanish alphabet has the following 27 letters:
A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, Ñ, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z.
Since 2010, none of the digraphs (ch, ll, rr, gu, qu
) is considered a letter by the Royal Spanish Academy.
The letters k and w are used only in words and names coming from foreign languages (kilo, folklore, whisky, kiwi, etc.).
With the exclusion of a very small number of regional terms such as México
(see Toponymy of Mexico
), pronunciation can be entirely determined from spelling. Under the orthographic conventions, a typical Spanish word is stressed on the syllable
before the last if it ends with a vowel (not including ⟨y⟩) or with a vowel followed by ⟨n⟩ or an ⟨s⟩; it is stressed on the last syllable otherwise. Exceptions to this rule are indicated by placing an acute accent
on the stressed vowel
The acute accent is used, in addition, to distinguish between certain homophones
, especially when one of them is a stressed word and the other one is a clitic
: compare el
('the', masculine singular definite article) with él
('he' or 'it'), or te
('you', object pronoun) with té
(preposition 'of') versus dé ('give' [formal imperative/third-person present subjunctive]), and se
(reflexive pronoun) versus sé
('I know' or imperative 'be').
The interrogative pronouns (qué
, etc.) also receive accents in direct or indirect questions, and some demonstratives (ése
, etc.) can be accented when used as pronouns. Accent marks used to be omitted on capital letters (a widespread practice in the days of typewriters
and the early days of computers when only lowercase vowels were available with accents), although the Real Academia Española
advises against this and the orthographic conventions taught at schools enforce the use of the accent.
is written between g
and a front vowel e
, it indicates a "hard g
" pronunciation. A diaeresis ü
indicates that it is not silent as it normally would be (e.g., cigüeña
, 'stork', is pronounced [θiˈɣweɲa]; if it were written *cigueña
, it would be pronounced *[θiˈɣeɲa]).
The Royal Spanish Academy Headquarters in Madrid
Royal Spanish Academy
Arms of the Royal Spanish Academy
The Royal Spanish Academy (Spanish: Real Academia Española
), founded in 1713,
together with the 21 other national ones (see Association of Spanish Language Academies
), exercises a standardizing influence through its publication of dictionaries and widely respected grammar and style guides.
Because of influence and for other sociohistorical reasons, a standardized form of the language (Standard Spanish
) is widely acknowledged for use in literature, academic contexts and the media.
Association of Spanish Language Academies
Countries members of the ASALE.
The Association of Spanish Language Academies (Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española
, or ASALE
) is the entity which regulates the Spanish language. It was created in Mexico in 1951 and represents the union of all the separate academies in the Spanish-speaking world. It comprises the academies of 23 countries, ordered by date of Academy foundation: Spain
(1875), El Salvador
(1887), Costa Rica
(1927), Dominican Republic
(1949), Puerto Rico
(1955), United States
and Equatorial Guinea
The Instituto Cervantes (Cervantes Institute) is a worldwide nonprofit organization created by the Spanish government in 1991. This organization has branched out in over 20 different countries, with 75 centers devoted to the Spanish and Hispanic American cultures and Spanish language. The ultimate goals of the Institute are to promote universally the education, the study, and the use of Spanish as a second language, to support methods and activities that help the process of Spanish-language education, and to contribute to the advancement of the Spanish and Hispanic American cultures in non-Spanish-speaking countries. The institute's 2015 report "El español, una lengua viva" (Spanish, a living language) estimated that there were 559 million Spanish speakers worldwide. Its latest annual report "El español en el mundo 2018
" (Spanish in the world 2018) counts 577 million Spanish speakers worldwide. Among the sources cited in the report is the U.S. Census Bureau
, which estimates that the U.S. will have 138 million Spanish speakers by 2050, making it the biggest Spanish-speaking nation on earth, with Spanish the mother tongue of almost a third of its citizens.
Official use by international organizations
Spanish is one of the official languages of the United Nations
, the European Union
, the World Trade Organization
, the Organization of American States
, the Organization of Ibero-American States
, the African Union
, the Union of South American Nations
, the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat
, the Latin Union
, the Caricom
, the North American Free Trade Agreement
, the Inter-American Development Bank
, and numerous other international organizations.
Spanish words and phrases
Influences on the Spanish language
Dialects and languages influenced by Spanish
Spanish dialects and varieties
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