Riding on the back of one of the largest and most dominating empires in history, the Spanish language spread to the farthest corners of the Earth. Today, Spanish is the third most common language spoken with over 400 million people speaking it worldwide -and although more speak English as a second language, Spanish has more native speakers.
Spanish is also an incredibly old language with its roots able to be traced back to before the time of the Caesars.
In this article, we are going to take a brief look at the origins of the Spanish language and the many Spanish dialects that have sprung from it.
Where did the Spanish Language Come From?
The simplified timetable is that Latin arrived in the Iberian Peninsula around the time of the second Punic war -about 200 BC. The war that saw Carthaginian elephants under Hannibal arrival in Italy, also saw Latin speaking legionaries arrive in Spain.
The poet Quintus Ennius wrote the word Hispania for the first time to designate the Iberian peninsula In 200 BC
While the Latin language and culture became a cohesive element for much of Western Europe during the Roman’s rule, it fractured along with their empire. Different regions were broken up by local governors or invading tribes from Germania and the Steppe. The temperatures had fallen, diseases had struck, and people began to migrate to the area and invade Southern Europe, Italy, and Northern Africa from the north.
The cultures and languages of France, Romania, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and many more are all directly descended in some way from this moment in time. In fact, they are called “Romance languages” not because they sound so pretty, but because they originated from Roman Empire Latin.
So, where did the Spanish Language Come From? The Roman Empire and the Latin they spoke. Later influences from Germanic Visigoths and the Islamic Andalusian kingdoms would also help to shape the Spanish language and divert if from the other romance languages.
This evolution didn’t stop. The Spanish Empire, much like the Roman Empire, spread its language and culture wherever it was able to -and when the empire retracted, the customs and languages start taking on a distinct personality of their own.
How Many Dialects of Spanish are There? Where is Spanish Spoken?
Today, there are many Spanish dialects all over the planet. Almost every region where Spanish has spread has evolved a dialect of its own. There are even small Jewish communities in Israel that speak a hybrid form of Judeo-Spanish!
A quick answer to “How many Dialects of Spanish are There?”: Many
A list of the major Spanish dialects can roughly be grouped as follows:
1) Peninsular Spanish
The second most popular dialect of Spanish in the country of Spain. This dialect is located primarily in the southern regions.
The most common dialect of Spanish in Spain. This dialect is located mostly in the northern and central regions of the country. It is named after the Kingdom of Castille, an originating entity of the country of Spain.
A merger of English and Spanish due to the unique political situation of the Gibraltar region. The Spanish-British history of the area has led to this hybrid dialect.
Murcian is spoken in the Autonomous Region of the Community of Murcia and is considered its own language by many of the speakers. Another dialect descended from the fractious politics of Iberia.
2) Canarian Spanish and Equatoguinean Spanish
- Canarian Spanish
The Canary Islands were key ports at the height of the Spanish Empire when goods and slaves were transported between the old world and the new. As such, the Spanish spoken in the Canary islands quite closely resembles some of the Spanish found in the Caribbean.
- Equatoguinean Spanish
Native Guineans and Cameroonian Germans have fed into this unique dialect of Spanish. This is an official Spanish dialect of Africa.
3 and 4. Spanish in the America’s
- Latin American Spanish
This is primarily the dialect of mainland Mexico and a large portion of the Central and South American countries. Each country and minor region will have slight variations in the tones and word usage.
- Rioplatense Spanish
Found mostly in Argentina and Uruguay, this dialect was influenced by a large influx of Italian immigrants to the region a couple of centuries ago.
- Caribbean Spanish
Spoken along the East coast of Mexico and Central America as well as many Caribbean islands, including Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Known is Spanish as Español Filipino or Castellano Filipino, this dialect has its roots from when the Philippines was a colony of the Spanish. Philippine Spanish is very similar to Latin Spanish due to the constant travel that occurred between the two.
An interesting example of this unique cultural meld is the Philippine martial art of Escrima. Although bearing the same name in Spanish as Western Fencing, or sword fighting, Filipino Escrima is a unique stick and machete-based art that melded native arts with those of Spanish Duelists.
Like the martial arts, the more efficient bits of language find a way to stick around.
Now, this is not by any means a comprehensive list of Spanish dialects; such a thing would be quite the feat. However, this list should give you an idea of the larger dialects and how they are grouped across the planet. Castillian is the most common dialect in Spain, and of Spanish, but it by no means is the only one. Different Spanish dialects will continue to appear, grow, and evolve as long as people speak the language.
Spanish is a very dominant language on the world scale. Spanish is taught, studied, and used for both business and pleasure by nearly half a billion people each day.
Food for thought: The Future of Spanish
With the internet and the proliferation of Spanish movies, books, and other forms of entertainment across the Hispanophone world, some experts believe we may actually begin to see a retraction in the disparity of the language and a reduction in the formation of unique dialects in the future.
While this will allow for better understanding across traditional cultural boundaries, it may also reduce the diversity that makes the human race so beautiful.