domingo, febrero 26, 2006

'Castellano' or 'Español'?

Names given to the Spanish language

There are two main names given to the Spanish language: 'Spanish' and 'Castilian'. Linguistically speaking, 'Castilian' means 'Spanish', as it is the medieval Castilian language that spread across Spain and became the national language known virtually always as 'Spanish', in English. But in Spanish itself, the term castellano (Castilian) is often used to refer to the language, at the expense of the term español (Spanish.) It seems that awareness of the term 'Castilian' is growing in English, and even more so in French. To understand how two terms can refer to the same language, imagine that the English language was sometimes called 'English' after the historical nation whose language it is, but also sometimes 'British' after the modern state of which it is the official language. Imagine then that Britain had an empire of colonies in the Americas. How would they then refer to the language? What about the speakers of Welsh and other non-English languages spoken in Britain? This is almost exactly the situation with Spain and its historical heart, Castile (Castilla.)

Spaniards tend to call this language español (Spanish) when contrasting it to languages of other states (e.g. in a list such as francés, inglés, chino y español) but castellano (Castilian) when contrasting it with other regional languages of Spain (e.g. gallego, vasco, catalán/valenciano y castellano, as in the Spanish Constitution of 1978).
The official Real Academia Española used castellano from the 18th century, but from 1923 its dictionary and grammar are de la lengua española. However, the Academy's use of one term or the other should not be taken to be a condemnation of the other.

The term castellano is occasionally used to imply more of a standard form than español does. For example, if someone mispronounces a word, they might be told ¡hable castellano!, i.e. 'Speak Castilian!', 'Speak properly!'. However, this nuance is not to be exaggerated, as it is perfectly possible that the term español or even cristiano ('Christian') could be used instead. Moreover, the term castellano is also commonly and correctly used to refer to dialects of Spanish that deviate dramatically from the standard.

In practice, the use of one term or the other tends to be a matter of local customs, rather than deep philosophical, sociological and political thought on the individual level. Some constitutions avoid the issue by talking about "the national language."

Countries or regions where castellano ('Castilian') is generally preferred:
• Argentina
• Uruguay
• Paraguay
• Bolivia
• Ecuador
• Venezuela

Countries or regions where there is generally oscillation between the two:
• Chile: The media uses the word español and the school subject is castellano.

Countries or regions where español ('Spanish') is generally preferred:
• Colombia
• Dominican Republic
• Mexico
• Peru (Both words)

Spanish is often referred to in educated circles as the 'Language of Cervantes' or lengua de Cervantes, in reference to the writer Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, and in analogy with the expressions language of Shakespeare (English), language of Goethe (German), language of Dante (Italian), language of Camões (Portuguese), and the like.


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Anonymous Anónimo said...

El castellano varía un poco del español, pero no mucho. Nosotros los que hablamos el 'castilian-spanish', casi no notamos la diferencia entre ambos, excepto por los acentos, y ambos prácticamente significan lo mismo y automáticamente pasamos por alto que para los no nativos hablantes puede resultar un poco confuso. Creo que tal vez con el tiempo incluso lleguen a convertirse en sinónimos, quién sabe?. :D

Lo que sí percibo del castellano, es que es un poquito más flexible que el español crudo. Lo que no le quita el mérito a este último, pero si podría elegir comenzar a estudiar español, empezaría por su versión castellana, como base, antes de profundizar en el español.

Great blog by the way :)

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In italy we use the term "Castigliano" to refer to the oficial language of the Kingdom of Spain. Spanish is the nationality, the language is Castilian.
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