History of Spanish language

Castilian or spanish? one language, two names

In the Anglo-Saxon world, Spanish is spoken in generic terms, but when they want to specify the Spanish spoken in Spain, they refer to this language as Castilian. However, all of us who speak Spanish do not make that difference in usage because we know it is incorrect since both terms are synonymous. Both names are correct and mean the same thing. Proof of this is that, in 1611, the first monolingual dictionary called Treasure of the Castilian or Spanish language was published.

Despite this, the question repeatedly arises about which of these two names is appropriate or which corresponds to which country. However, on behalf of the Royal Spanish Academy of Language (RAE) and the language academies of the rest of the countries of Spanish speakers, the answer is clear: the two names are synonyms.

Birth of Spanish

When languages derived from Latin had to be classified in some way, they began to be spoken of as Romance languages, and from this classification emerged the names Castilian, Catalan and Aragonese, among others.

In this way, around 1250, the term Castilian romance was born about the language spoken in the kingdom of Castile and León. As this kingdom’s political power grew, so did its language, which expanded and was enriched with contributions from the other languages spoken in the Iberian Peninsula.

Thus, at the end of the Middle Ages, different ways of speaking were grouped under the name of Castilian or Castilian language, both from Castile and León, Navarra, and Aragon, both from the north and the south. Starting in the 15th century, Spanish began to be used as a lingua franca throughout Spain.

The first records of the Spanish term

From the 16th century onwards, the new name, Spanish language or Spanish, began to compete with the traditional Castilian language. The name was not born in Spain but outside. At first, it was a purely geographical demonym, but later, neighbouring countries began to use it to refer to the language. Thus, little by little, driven first from abroad, the term Spanish language gained followers.

From then until the beginning of the 20th century, there was a clear and constant preference for the term Spanish language until, in the last century, Castilian and Spanish became interchangeable terms in the cultured language.

Currently, from a linguistic point of view, Castilian is the variety of Spanish spoken in the ancient Kingdom of Castile, that is, in central Spain.

Uses in Spain and Latin America

After the independence processes of the new American republics, the new countries were inclined to use the term Castilian, mainly to distance themselves from the demonym of the country from which they were becoming independent.

Currently, preferences are distributed: from Ecuador to the north, in Colombia, Venezuela, Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean and the United States, the use of Spanish or the Spanish language is overwhelming. In most of South America, the word Castilian is used more. Nevertheless, the international voice of the Spanish language has been gaining ground, especially among young people.

In Spain, the name Castilian is common in bilingual territories to distinguish it from other co-official languages such as Galician, Basque, and Catalan. At the same time, it is usually called Spanish in the rest of the country.

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