Spanish , also called Castilian About this sound castellano (help·info)), is a Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native-speakers across the world.
Spanish is a part of the Ibero-Romance group of languages, which evolved from several dialects of common Latin in Iberia after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. It was first documented in central-northern Iberia in the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia.Beginning in the early 16th century, Spanish was taken to the colonies of the Spanish Empire, most notably to the Americas, as well as territories in Africa, Oceania and the Philippines.
From its beginnings, Spanish vocabulary was influenced by its contact with Basque, as well as by neighboring Ibero-Romance languages, and later it absorbed many Arabic words during the Al-Andalus era in the Iberian Peninsula. It also adopted words from non-Iberian languages, particularly the Romance languages Occitan, French, Italian and Sardinian, as well as from Nahuatl and other Indigenous languages of the Americas.
Spanish is one of the six official languages of the United Nations, and it is used as an official language by the European Union, the Organization of American States, and the Union of South American Nations, among many other international organizations.
It is estimated that more than 400 million people speak Spanish as a native language, which qualifies it as second on the lists of languages by number of native speakers. There are an estimated 470 million Spanish speakers with native competence and 559 million Spanish speakers as a first or second language, including speakers with limited competence and more than 21 million students of Spanish as a foreign language. It is the third language by total speakers behind Mandarin and English.
Spanish is the official or national language in Spain, Equatorial Guinea, and 19 countries in the Americas. Speakers in the Western Hemisphere total some 418 million. In the European Union, Spanish is the mother tongue of 8% of the population, with an additional 7% speaking it as a second language. Spanish is the most popular second language learned in the United States. In 2011 it was estimated by the American Community Survey that of the 55 million Hispanic United States residents who are five years of age and over, 38 million speak Spanish at home.
The Spanish language evolved from Vulgar Latin (colloquial Latin), which was brought to the Iberian Peninsula by the Romans during the Second Punic War, beginning in 210 BC. Previously, several pre-Roman languages (also called Paleohispanic languages)—unrelated to Latin, and some of them unrelated even to Indo-European—were spoken in the Iberian Peninsula. These languages included Basque (still spoken today), Iberian, Celtiberian and Celtic. Traces of Basque especially, can be found in the Spanish vocabulary today, mainly in place names.
The first documents to record what is today regarded as the precursor of modern Spanish are from the 9th century (see Glosas Emilianenses). Throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern era, the most important influences on the Spanish lexicon came from neighboring Romance languages—Navarro-Aragonese, Leonese, Aragonese, Catalan, Portuguese, Galician, Mirandese, Occitan, Gascon, and later, French and Italian. Spanish also borrowed vocabulary from Basque and Arabic, as well as from Germanic languages through the migration of tribes and a period of Visigoth rule in Iberia. In addition, many words were borrowed from Latin through the influence of written language and the liturgical language of the Church.
Local sociolects of Vulgar Latin evolved into Spanish in the north of Iberia, in an area defined by Álava, Cantabria, Burgos, Soria and La Rioja. The 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 (Castilian) 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 progressively spread south with the advance of the Reconquista, and so gathered a sizable lexical influence from the Arabic of Al-Andalus, 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 began to be developed in the cities of Toledo, in the 13th to 16th centuries, and Madrid, from the 1570s.
The development of the Spanish sound system from that of Vulgar Latin exhibits most of the changes that are typical of Western Romance languages, including lenition of intervocalic consonants (thus Latin vīta > Spanish vida). The diphthongization of Latin stressed short e and o—which occurred in open syllables in French and Italian, but not at all in Catalan or Portuguese—is found in both open and closed syllables in Spanish, as shown in the following table:
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 or v in Latin and pronounced 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 and v, 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 into h- 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-/h-doublets in modern Spanish: Fernando and Hernando (both Spanish for "Ferdinand"), ferrero and herrero (both Spanish for "smith"), fierro and hierro (both Spanish for "iron"), and fondo and hondo (both Spanish for "deep", but fondo means "bottom" while hondo means "deep"); hacer (Spanish for "to make") is the root word of satisfacer (Spanish for "to satisfy"), and hecho ("made") is the root word of satisfecho (Spanish for "satisfied").