Sign in

History of Spanish Language

The natives mainly speak the Spanish language of Spain originated from ‘Vulgar Latin’ or popular Latin which covers the popular dialects and sociolects of the Latin language. It also drew influences from the language ‘Basque’ which is spoken by people who live north of Spain and some even from ‘Arabic’ from the southern Iberian Peninsula. The standard Spanish language is also known as ‘Castilian’, an old Spanish language spoken in the 15th century. Spanish of the 16th and 17th centuries are also known as “Classical” Spanish, which refers to that period’s literary accomplishments.

Schools of thought vary on the origin of the Spanish language. Most of the authorities say that Castilian Spanish came into being after the fall of the Roman Empire and a continuation of spoken Latin in northern Spain around the 8th or 9th centuries AD. Some others claim that it came from Franco-Navarrese and Gothic- Castilian dialects in the 11th century AD. Over some time with the ‘Reconquista’ by Christian kingdoms, this dialect spread from the north to the south. This dialect then borrowed massively from the vocabulary of Moorish Arabic and medieval Judeo-Spanish after which it entirely replaced all these languages. By the late 16th century, these languages were not found anymore in the Iberian Peninsula.


The initiative towards standardization of written Castilian was taken in the thirteenth century by King Alfonso X of Castile. For this purpose, he assembled scribes at his court. He supervised their writing in Castilian where he covered the extensive works of history, astronomy, law and other fields of knowledge. If we go back in time, then the first written Spanish was traditionally considered to have appeared in the ‘Glosas Emilianenses’, which were essentially glossed and added between the lines of the manuscripts written earlier in Latin.

As with any language, the essence lies in grammar, and Antonio de Nebrija wrote the first-ever grammar of the Spanish language in 1492. He wrote this for Queen Isabella who appreciated the usefulness of this language as a tool of hegemony.

For any language to survive, it needs a specific body of people who can look after the purity of the language and the changes that need to be included and the grammatical improvements that need to be made to maintain a uniform system of language. People who speak that language can refer to it. For the Spanish language, this is done by Spanish Royal Academy which was founded in 1713. Their main aim is to preserve the purity of the language. This academy published its first-ever dictionary in six volumes. The first grammar was released in 1771. This academy continues to produce new editions of both from time to time. Since each of the Spanish speaking countries has its analogous language academy, there is an Association of Spanish Language Academies (created in 1951) created which looks after the unification of all these dialects.

You can even learn the Spanish language by hearing Spanish songs. Similarly, Japanese and Italian language can be learnt through the words and lyrics in Japanese songs and Italian songs.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store