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date: 29 February 2024

The Spanish Language in Latin America during the Colonial Periodlocked

The Spanish Language in Latin America during the Colonial Periodlocked

  • Ilan StavansIlan StavansLewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture, Amherst College

Summary

Language was an essential tool in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Starting in 1492, a series of Iberian fleets arrived in the so-called New World with horses, gunpowder, and the printed word in their possession. These artifacts served a major role in the submission of the native population, not only physical but intellectual and spiritual. To appreciate the spread of el español in the newly found territories, it is important to look at how Spanish was perceived by medieval philologists such as Antonio de Nebrija, author of Gramática de la lengua española; to appreciate the registers in Christopher Columbus’s journals (as edited by Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas); to analyze the status of native tongues like Nahuatl, Quechua, and scores of others, as well as the selection Spanish missionaries made of a few of those languages—called lenguas generales—for pedagogical instruction; to look at translators like La Malinche, Melchorejo, and Julianillo; to consider the role the printing press and translations of the Bible played in indoctrinating the indigenous population; to listen to the parlance of African slaves brought from the early 16th century onward; and finally to appreciate the verbal and aesthetic evolution of Spanish in the pens of Sor Juana Inés de La Cruz and many other important Spanish-language colonial authors.

Subjects

  • 1492–1824
  • Indigenous History
  • Colonialism and Imperialism

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