History of the Spanish Lexicon
History of the Spanish Lexicon
- Steven N. DworkinSteven N. DworkinDepartment of Romance Literatures and Linguistics (Emeritus), University of Michigan
From an historical perspective, the Spanish lexicon consists of three different categories: (1) its historical core of words inherited from the Latin spoken in the Roman province of Hispania; (2) loanwords that entered Spanish over its long history as a result of contact at the levels of both oral and written discourse with other languages; and (3) words created internally through such mechanisms of derivational morphology as suffixation, prefixation, compounding, back-formations, and so on. Over the last 150 years, specialists in the history of the Spanish language have studied in considerable detail all three sources of lexical material. Although most of the lexical items inherited from spoken Latin have cognates in many (in some cases, all) of the Romance languages, Spanish has preserved some words that live on only in Spanish (and neighboring Portuguese) or only in Spanish, Portuguese, and Romanian, the geographical extremes of the Romance-speaking world, far removed from the centers of linguistic innovation. As a result of language contact, loanwords from the pre-Roman languages of the Iberian Peninsula, Visigothic, Arabic, Gallo-Romance (northern and southern French), Portuguese, Catalan, Italian, classical Latin, native languages of the New World, and English have entered and taken root in the Spanish lexicon. Although such lexical borrowings have often been studied within a cultural framework, recent research has focused on their introduction and incorporation as examples of contact-induced language change at the level of the lexicon. Throughout its history, Spanish has increased the size of its vocabulary through the creation of neologisms through processes of suffixation, prefixation, and composition. The study of such items has traditionally been the focus of specialists in diachronic derivational morphology. This subfield constitutes in many respects an important component of diachronic lexicology. Indeed, etymology and diachronic derivational morphology are two sides of the same coin. Lexical history is not limited to the study of additions to the vocabulary. Over time, many words have fallen into disuse or have become obsolete. Some recent work on the history of the Spanish lexicon has examined the various external and internal/structural causes of lexical loss in the history of the Spanish lexicon.
- Historical Linguistics
- Language Families/Areas/Contact
By virtue of the status of Spanish as a Romance language, the historical inherited core of its lexicon comes from the social and regional varieties of Latin spoken without interruption in Hispania from the time of the arrival of the Romans in 218 bce. Over time, the speakers of the local types of Latin, and later their Romance continuations, came into contact with different languages in the Iberian Peninsula. First, they encountered the different Pre-Roman languages in use during the early years of the Roman presence, then later Germanic (mainly Gothic), and Arabic, followed by northern and southern varieties of Gallo-Romance, as well as its own peninsular Romance neighbors, Galician-Portuguese and Catalan. In the late medieval and early modern period (i.e., c. 1400–1650), as Spanish was carried abroad beyond the territorial confines of the Iberian Peninsula, it came into contact with Italian, Flemish, German, and the many indigenous languages of the New World. In more recent times, Spanish experienced contact in Europe and the New World with British and U.S. English. Additionally, throughout its history (especially as a written language), Spanish has been influenced by the model (at first accessible only to a handful of speakers) provided by the written registers of its historical predecessor, Latin. All these languages contributed in important ways to the growth and history of the Spanish lexicon. As well, from the outset, speakers continually augmented the lexical resources of Spanish by creating neologisms through internal processes of derivational morphology, mainly affixation (especially suffixation and prefixation) and compounding and, to a much lesser extent, through other sporadic processes such as back-formations, clipping, and sound symbolism or onomatopoeia.
This article will survey selectively the contributions to the history of the Spanish lexicon of the inherited Latin base, of borrowings resulting from oral and written language contact, and of internally created neologisms, as well as identify areas in need of further study. It is designed as an overview of the genesis (and, in some cases, loss) of the signifiers that constitute the Spanish lexicon, and not as a history of the evolution of their meanings.
The history of the Spanish lexicon has been a central topic of Spanish historical linguistics since its inception as a scholarly discipline in the 19th century. Most relevant scholarship has taken the form of individual word studies, often focusing on identifying the given word’s etymology or immediate origin in Spanish. Gradually, as etymology evolved into the study of a lexical item’s complete history, all facets of a word’s formal and semantic history came to be examined. The most recent synthesis of such work, accompanied by original analyses on the part of its authors, is the six-volume Diccionario crítico etimológico castellano e hispánico (1980–91) of Joan Corominas and José Antonio Pascual. This work is now somewhat dated; moreover, it is essentially an updating of Corominas’s four-volume Diccionario crítico etimológico de la lengua castellana (1954–57), which reflects research carried out by its author in the 1930s and 1940s. It fails to take into account much of the relevant scholarship produced in the years between the two versions of Corominas’s work. No new etymological dictionary of Spanish reflecting the research of the last seven decades seems to be even in its planning stages. For further critical discussion of this work, see the article on “Etymology in Romance” in this encyclopedia (Buchi & Dworkin, 2019).
Outside the realm of etymological dictionaries, there exist a handful of general syntheses of the history of the Spanish lexicon, as well as of its individual strata. The essays in Volume 2 of the Enciclopedia lingüística hispánica (1967) each record and discuss borrowings from the different languages with which the Latin–Spanish continuum has been in contact in its lengthy history. Emphasis is often placed on the cultural aspects and implications of these loanwords in Spanish, an approach to lexical history that dominates in such manuals as Rafael Lapesa, Historia de la lengua española (last definitive edition 1980), and in the relevant chapters of Rafael Cano’s identically titled collective volume (2004). The most recent critical synthesis is Steven N. Dworkin, A History of the Spanish Lexicon: A Linguistic Perspective (2012), which deals with aspects of the Latin base of the Spanish lexicon and with the introduction and incorporation of borrowings from contact with the Pre-Roman languages of the Iberian Peninsula and, after the end of Roman Spain, from contact with Germanic, Arabic, Gallo-Romance, Italian, Portuguese, Catalan, written Latin, indigenous languages of the New World, and, most recently, English (especially its U.S. variety). The reception of such loanwords is studied from a linguistic perspective and viewed as an example of contact-induced language change at the lexical level. A Spanish-language epitome of this book appears as Dworkin (2015). The two works by Dworkin do not deal with neologisms created internally through processes of word formation. The sections that follow will offer only minimal exemplification and bibliography; for additional examples and references to the Latin base and to the introduction and incorporation of loanwords, see the relevant chapters in Dworkin (2012), and in the works cited therein. Quite similar to this article in structure and content is the survey of the history of the Spanish lexicon offered in Clavería Nadal (2019), which, unlike Dworkin’s work, includes a substantial section on the creation of neologisms through derivational processes.
An obvious intimate relationship exists between the study of etymology and research on the history of the Spanish lexicon. The origins of a considerable number of Spanish lexical items are still unknown or at least controversial. After over 150 years of research, it is highly unlikely that new documented Latin etyma will be found for such items. Most Romanists in the early 21st century are reluctant to project reconstructed etyma onto the level of spoken Latin without solid evidence. The attribution of the origin of a given item to one historical stratum or another does not alter the big picture of the history of the Spanish lexicon, but it does have an impact on the quantitative and qualitative evaluation of each lexical layer.
2. The Latin Lexical Base
As is the case with all the Romance languages, the lexical items inherited from the spoken Latin of the Roman Empire constitute the historical core of the Spanish vocabulary. The overwhelming majority of Spanish words inherited via oral transmission from Latin have cognates in at least one of the Romance languages spoken outside the Iberian Peninsula; many have cognates in all regions of the Roman Empire where descendants of Latin have survived as the spoken vernacular (for a lengthy list of examples, see Dworkin, 2015, pp. 537–539 or Dworkin, 2016, pp. 580–581). Indeed, most Romanists have defended the fundamental lexical unity of the spoken Latin of the Empire, with the understanding that, over time, some members of a set of competing lexical items fell into disuse in different regions while surviving in others. Nevertheless, Spanish contains a significant number of words of Latin origin that are found only in the Romance languages of the Iberian Peninsula or only in scattered Romance-speaking regions. To what extent does the lexical differentiation observable over time of Spanish vis-à-vis its sister languages have its roots in the spoken Latin of the Iberian Peninsula? The date of the arrival of Latin, brought to the region by its Roman conquerors, is crucial to understanding certain distinctive features of the Spanish lexicon. The Latin brought into the Iberian Peninsula by the earliest soldiers and colonists from 218 bce doubtless contained lexical items that, with the passage of time, fell into disuse in Rome, and no longer formed part of the Latin vocabulary that was imported much later into Gaul (middle of the 1st century bce) and Dacia (early 2nd century ce). Some later neologisms originating in Gaul or the Italian Peninsula may have reached the Iberian Peninsula but in the long run failed to win acceptance.
The following selected Spanish and Portuguese words either have no cognates outside the Iberian Peninsula or have congeners only in Sardinian, Sicilian, and/or central and southern varieties of Italian, all territories where Latin was introduced several decades before its arrival in the Iberian Peninsula. Many, though certainly not all, of these items in all likelihood go back to Latin bases imported by the first waves of Roman occupiers, while the others represent retentions of words replaced elsewhere in the Romània (i.e., those areas of the Roman Empire where Latin survived as the Romance languages):
ajeno, Pt. alheio ‘of another’ < alienus, asar, Pt. assar ‘to
roast’ < assare, atar ‘to bind’ < aptare, ave, Pt. ave ‘bird’ (also
OCat. au, Srd. ae ‘eagle’) < avis, barrer ‘to sweep’ < verrere, cabeza,
Pt. cabeça ‘head’ < capitia ‘hole in a tunic through which the head
passes’, callos ‘tripe’ < calli (found in such early Roman writers as
Plautus and Nevius), comer ‘to eat’ < comedere, cojo ‘lame’ < coxus,
feo, Pt. feio ‘ugly’< foedus, heder, Pt. feder ‘to stink’ < foetere, lejos ‘far’ < laxus, Sp., Pt. lindar ‘to border on’ < limitare, OSp. madurgar (mod. madrugar), Pt. madrugar ‘to get up early’ < *maturicare (cf. maturus ‘early’), matar ‘to kill’ < mactare, medir ‘to measure’ < metire (Cl. metiri), preguntar, Pt. perguntar ‘to ask, question’ < percuntare, OSp. pescudar ‘to investigate’ <perscrutari, pierna, Pt. perna ‘leg’ < perna ‘ham’, quemar, Pt. queimar ‘to burn’ (ultimately traceable to cremare?; cf. Ara., Cat. cremar), Sp. quejar, Pt. queixar ‘to complain’; orig. ‘to crush, squash’ (of disputed parentage), Sp. recudir ‘to respond, recount’ < recutere, Sp. rostro, Pt. rosto ‘face’ < rostrum ‘animal snout’, Sp. sobrar ‘to have left over’ <superare, trigo ‘wheat’ < triticum.
Not all specialists agree that tomar and matar go back to archaic Latin aestumare and mactare respectively (for discussion of the competing hypotheses, see Dworkin, 2012, pp. 49–51).
A small number of Latin words have survived in the Romance varieties of the Iberian Peninsula and in Romanian; in some cases, these items also left scattered traces elsewhere in the former Roman Empire. The Iberian Peninsula and Dacia represent the western and eastern extremes of the territories of the Roman Empire where Latin survived as a spoken language, the provinces geographically furthest removed from the centers of linguistic innovation and diffusion. Whereas the Iberian Peninsula was colonized very early in the history of Roman expansion, Dacia was not occupied until the first decade of the second century ce and was the first territory abandoned by the Roman authorities. Lat. afflare ‘to sniff the trail’, a technical term used in hunting, lives on in Sp. hallar, Pt. achar, and Ro. afla; Lat. formosus ‘shapely’ yields Sp. hermoso, Ptg. formoso, and Ro. frumos ‘pretty’; Lat. fervere ‘to boil’ is the source of Sp. hervir, Pt. ferver, and Ro. fierbe; Lat. caseus ‘cheese’ lives on as Sp. queso, Pt. queijo, and Ro. caş (as well as Srd., Sic. casu). Sp. yegua ‘mare’, Ro. iapă are the sole survivors of equa (cf. also OFr. ieve). The reflexes of Lat. mensa ‘table’ continue to designate that item in Spanish, Portuguese (mesa), and Romanian (masă), whereas Lat. tabula ‘beam’ became the standard designation for ‘table’ in French (table) and Italian (tavola). Lat. petere ‘to seek’ is the source of Sp., Pt. pedir ‘to ask for, request’, and Ro. peţi ‘to woo, seek in marriage’.
The spoken Latin of the Iberian Peninsula also offers examples of lexical innovations not found elsewhere in the Romània. The evolution of apagar ‘to extinguish’ and (d)espertar ‘to awaken’ represent local innovations of the bases pacare and expertare < expertus. The Latin of the Iberian Peninsula coined the phrase (tempus) veranum ‘spring time’ that evolved into Sp. verano ‘summer’ (as opposed to the conservation elsewhere in the Romance languages of Lat. aestas. The creation of *maneana, derived from the adverb mane ‘(early) in the morning’, the source of Sp. mañana ‘morning; tomorrow’, represents another innovation. For additional examples and discussion, see Dworkin (2012, pp. 53–58).
A different facet of the Latin lexical inheritance is constituted by the numerous later borrowings from the written Latin of ancient Rome. These elements, often labeled Latinisms (Sp. latinismos), represent a rare case where a language expands and elaborates its lexical resources by borrowing from the earlier registers of its historical ancestor that were recorded in writing. They are recognizable often by their relatively late date of first documentation (or infrequent use in the medieval language) and by their failure to show the effects of the regular sound changes that characterize the evolution through oral transmission of the inherited Latin lexicon. The hundreds (if not thousands) of these words that entered the written language, many of which spread over time into the spoken language, completely changed the makeup of the Spanish lexicon. Often the same Latin base entered Spanish twice, once through oral transmission as part of the inherited lexicon and later as a borrowing from Latin. These forms, often semantically differentiated, are known as doublets (Sp. dobletes): for example, fabricare > fraguar ‘to forge’ / fabricar ‘to manufacture’, recitare > rezar ‘to pray’ / recitar ‘to recite’. Latinate forms frequently ousted their vernacular counterpart: elegir vs OSp. esleer ‘to select, choose’ < eligere, verso vs OSp. viesso ‘verse’ < versus. Although Latinisms are documented from the time of the earliest Spanish texts, they did not enter the language and become integrated in significant numbers until the late medieval and early modern periods. In some instances, a Latinism displaced a vernacular lexical rival: for example, rápido/OSp. aína ‘quickly’, ejército/OSp. hueste ‘army’. Many Latinisms became high-frequency lexical items in the post-medieval language, for example, difícil ‘difficult’, fácil ‘easy’, único ‘only’, útil ‘useful’. While not limited to Spanish, Reinheimer-Rîpeanu (2004) offers an extensive listing of Latinisms in the five national Romance languages. Numerous examples of Latinisms in Spanish, with commentary, are found in García Gallarín (2007). For a more detailed discussion of Latinisms from a linguistic perspective, see Dworkin (2012, chapter 8).
Over the more than 2,000 years of its recorded history, the Latin–Spanish continuum has increased its lexicon through borrowings from the many languages with which it has come into contact. These loanwords entered the host language through both oral and written contact, and represent, at the lexical level, examples of contact-induced language change. In quantitative terms, neologisms (loanwords and internal creations) far surpass the inherited Latin lexical base.
3.1 Pre-Roman Languages
The term “Pre-Roman languages” is used as a cover label for the various non-Indo-European and Indo-European languages spoken by the native populations in the Iberian Peninsula prior to the arrival of the Romans and the importation of Latin in 218 bce. Very few of these languages have left a written record and very little is known about the makeup of their vocabularies. With the exception of Basque, all these languages fell into disuse during the time of the Roman presence. Scholars will often label a word as being of Pre-Roman origin if no other viable solution has been proposed. One might claim that saying a word is of Pre-Roman origin is equivalent to saying that its etymology remains unidentifiable. There can be little doubt that as a result of the contact between Latin (the high language) and the various Pre-Roman languages, words from the latter would have entered the spoken Latin of the colonizers, especially nouns to designate local realities of the terrain, flora, fauna, clothing, customs, and so on. It is also possible that speakers of these languages retained and incorporated native lexical items in the Latin that they adopted. Some such words appear in Hispanic Latin texts, for example, arrugia (> arroyo ‘brook’, cuniculum (> conejo ‘rabbit’). Pre-Roman words that entered the local spoken Latin rarely have identifiable cognates in Romance varieties spoken outside the Iberian Peninsula. Almost all such borrowings are concrete nouns; the following list consists of selected examples divided into semantic categories:
Physical features of the landcape: alud ‘avalanche’, barranco ‘ravine, gully’, barro ‘mud’, berrueco ‘granite crag or cliff’, breña ‘rough ground’, charco ‘puddle’, coto ‘enclosed land’, cueto ‘craggy hill’, lama ‘mud’, losa ‘flagstone’, mogote ‘hillock, knoll’, morro ‘mound’, mota ‘mound, rise’, pizarra ‘slate’, sarro ‘crust’, trocha ‘narrow forest path’, vega ‘fertile plain’, zarza ‘brambles’.
Trees and plants: abedul ‘birchwood’, agalla ‘gallnut’, álamo ‘white poplar’, aliso ‘alder’, arándano ‘cranberry’, beleño ‘type of plant’, berro ‘watercress’, breña ‘fiber’, carrasca ‘holm oak’, chaparro ‘young oak’, coscojo ‘kermes gall’, mata ‘bush, shrub’, suero ‘whey’.
Domestic and wild animals: ardilla ‘squirrel’, becerro ‘yearling bull, calf’, borrego ‘yearling lamb’, cegajo ‘two-year old male goat’, cigarra ‘cicada’, galápago ‘tortoise’, morueco ‘ram’, perro ‘dog’, sapo ‘toad’, zorro ‘fox’.
Rural agricultural life: amelga ‘plots of land dividing a field to facilitate even plowing and sowing’, borona ‘cornbread’, busto ‘meadow, pasture’, boñigo ‘cow excrement’, cencerro ‘cowbell’, colodra ‘milking pail’, lleco ‘unploughed land’, serna ‘cultivated land’, sirria ‘goat or sheep excrement’.
Possible borrowings from Basque present an analytical problem. It is difficult to determine in some cases whether the word in question entered during the period of contact between earlier stages of Basque and spoken Latin or later through the contact of Basque with Hispano-Romance varieties in northern Spain (e.g., izquierdo ‘left’, pizarra ‘slate’, zurdo ‘left-handed, clumsy, awkward’).
For additional examples and discussion, see Dworkin (2012, chapter 2).
3.2 Germanic Loanwords
Words of Germanic origin found in Old/Medieval Spanish fall into three categories: (1) Germanic words that entered the spoken Latin of the Empire as a result of military and commercial contacts between Rome and the various Germanic peoples that were beginning to enter the Empire; (2) words that entered the spoken Latin of Hispania as a result of direct contact with various Germanic tribes in the Iberian Peninsula, especially the Visigoths; (3) borrowings from Medieval French and Occitan that came into Gallo-Romance as Germanic loan words. It is often unclear to which category a given Germanic loan might belong. Whereas many manuals claim that Sp. blanco ‘white’, guerra ‘war’, and jabón ‘soap’ and their Portuguese, French, and Italian cognates represent early Germanic loans in spoken Imperial Latin, recent research has cogently suggested that at least the first two represent early medieval diffusion of the French Germanicisms blanc and guerre. The number of words that entered Hispano-Latin during the Visigothic period (c. 450–711) is small, and scholars do not all agree which words fall into this group. As no Gothic texts have survived from the Iberian Peninsula, it is impossible to determine the vitality of Gothic as a spoken language in Spain at that time. It is possible that the Goths had given up their language very early in favor of the more prestigious Latin of the Roman Empire and as a result of their newly acquired Catholic faith, but that they preserved individual words in their newly acquired Latin. Among probable borrowings from Gothic are Sp. agasar ‘to entertain, fête’, ataviar ‘to dress up’, casta ‘breed, race’, ganso ‘goose’, lozano ‘handsome’, OSp. luva ‘glove’, sacar ‘to take out’, tapa ‘cover’. Except for massive borrowings into the modern language from English there are only a handful of possible direct borrowings from other Germanic languages such as German (bigote ‘mustache’, brindís ‘a toast’, trincar ‘to drink’) or Flemish (escaparate ‘shop window’, orig. ‘cabinet used for storing delicate objects used by women’, boya ‘buoy’) in early modern Spanish. Words of Scandinavian origin entered Spanish via French or English, as did most other Dutch/Flemish items. For more detailed discussion and bibliography, see Dworkin (2012, chapter 4).
As a result of contact with spoken and written varieties of Arabic during the more than 700 years (718–1492) of a significant Muslim presence in the Iberian Peninsula, numerous Arabic words entered Hispano-Romance. There was a high degree of Romance–Arabic bilingualism resulting from daily contact between the two languages in Muslim-controlled Spain. Arabic-speaking Christians (Mozarabs) who chose to flee Muslim Spain for Christian territory brought with them Arabic lexical elements that had formed part of their spoken Romance. Many Arabisms came into the written language through translations into Hispano-Romance of Arabic scientific texts in such fields as medicine, astronomy, and agricultural techniques. The overwhelming majority of Arabic loanwords are concrete nouns, for example: aceite ‘oil’; aceituna ‘olive’; albañil ‘bricklayer’; alberca ‘pool of water’; alcoba ‘niche, alcove; bedroom’; alfiler ‘needle’; algodón ‘cotton’; álgebra ‘algebra’; alcohol ‘alcohol’; arroz ‘rice’; azúcar ‘sugar’; azufre ‘sulfur’; berenjena ‘eggplant’; recua ‘train of pack animals’; tarea ‘task’; taza ‘cup’; zaga ‘rearguard’; zanahoria ‘carrot’. A number of Spanish adjectives are of Arabic origin: alazán ‘reddish’ , OSp. algarivo ‘unjust, wicked’; azul ‘blue’; baladí ‘banal, trivial’; OSp. gafo ‘leprous’; haragán, ‘idle, lazy’; OSp. hazino ‘sad, afflicted’; OSp. horro ‘free, not a slave’; loco ‘mad, crazy’; mezquino ‘small, petty’; OSp. ra-, re-fez, ra-, re-hez ‘cheap, common’; zarco ‘blue-eyed’. By the late Middle Ages (14th and 15th centuries), with the Reconquista of all Muslim Spain except for the Kingdom of Granada, Arabic lost its status as a prestige language and the flow of Arabisms into Spanish was severely reduced. Over time many Arabisms documented in the medieval language fell into disuse and were replaced by Romance substitutes: alfayate by sastre ‘tailor’, rafez by vil/barato ‘common, cheap’, horro by libre/franco ‘free’. Noteworthy in a Romance context is the rare borrowing from Arabic of a function word, the preposition hasta (OSp. fata, ata, hata) ‘until, as far as’.
Very few words of Hebrew origin are found in Medieval Spanish texts written outside the local Jewish communities. Spanish Jews used Arabic or Romance as the language of everyday communication. Specialists agree on the Hebrew origin of such items as malsín ‘slanderer’, albedí(n) ‘high-ranking Jewish community official’, and trefe ‘impure, not kosher’. The proposed Hebrew origins of desmazalado ‘unlucky, ill-starred’ and tacaño ‘stingy’ remain controversial. Some other words of Hebrew origin are found only in Jewish texts written in Spanish.
Corriente (1999, 2008) continues to be the most complete and reliable register of Spanish Arabisms. Corriente et al. (2019) view Spanish borrowing from Arabic and from other languages of the Islamic world in a larger western European context.
3.4 Gallicisms (Northern and Southern Gallo-Romance)
The label “Gallicisms” refers to loanwords taken from the Romance varieties spoken in France (mainly all chronological stages of French, and Old and Modern Occitan). These items represent the first Spanish borrowings from another Romance language. In contrast to borrowings from the Pre-Roman languages, from Gothic, and from Arabic, the influx of Gallicisms has continued from the Middle Ages to the present day due to the uninterrupted contacts at the level of spoken and written discourse. The earliest Gallicisms were brought in by French soldiers participating in the Reconquista, by the many French clergy charged with rebuilding the Catholic church in newly reconquered territories, and by French-speaking pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Many of these speakers of Medieval French and Occitan took up permanent residence in the Iberian Peninsula. Medieval French literary works were adapted into Hispano-Romance. It seems reasonable to propose that as a result of the many linguistic affinities between medieval northern Hispano-Romance and southern Gallo-Romance, speakers may have felt they were dealing with regional varieties of the same language, a situation that would have facilitated the introduction and incorporation of Gallicisms.
Examples of Gallicisms documented in the medieval language include: flor ‘flower’; jardín ‘garden’; clavel ‘carnation’; vergel ‘orchard’; jamón ‘ham’; flecha ‘arrow’; batalla ‘battle’; the adjectives bello ‘handsome, beautiful’, ligero ‘light; easy, quick’, libre ‘free’, fornido ‘robust’, franco ‘free’, and gentil ‘gentle, courtly’; and the verbs afeitar ‘to put on makeup; to shave’, amparar ‘to shelter, protect’, atropellar ‘to crush, overrun’, bailar ‘to dance’, desmayar ‘to faint’, emplear ‘to use, employ’, and enojar ‘to annoy, to anger’. The medieval language contained many Gallicisms that fell into disuse over time: fonta/honta ‘shame’; loguer ‘rent’; mester ‘profession’; laido ‘ugly’; feble ‘weak’; (f)ardido ‘daring, bold’; and (d)esmarrido ‘confused, lost’.
Selected examples of modern Gallicisms include: apartamento ‘apartment’; avión ‘airplane’; bebé ‘baby’; berlina ‘type of coach’; bigudí ‘haircurler'; bisturí ‘scalpel’; bisutería ‘costume jewelry’; boga ‘vogue’; bombón ‘candy’; botella ‘bottle’; brigada ‘brigade’; buró ‘bureau’; cafetera ‘coffeemaker’; camión ‘truck’; canapé ‘sofa; canapé’; carné(t) ‘card; notebook’; chalé ‘chalet’; champaña ‘champagne’; champiñón ‘mushroom’; charcutería ‘cold cuts’; chófer ‘driver’; cognac ‘cognac, brandy’; complot ‘plot, scheme’; compota ‘compote’; consomé ‘consome’; corbata ‘tie’; croqueta ‘croquet’; cruasán/croissant ‘croissant’; debacle ‘debacle’; departamento ‘department’; detalle ‘detail’; doblar/doblaje, ‘to dub/dubbing’; élite ‘elite’; finanzas ‘finances’; franela ‘flannel’; fusil ‘rifle’; galimatías ‘gibberish’; gobernanta ‘housekeeper; governess’; interesante ‘interesting’; intriga ‘intrigue’; lupa ‘magnifying glass’; mamá, ‘mommy’; menú ‘menu’; obús ‘mortar’; pantalón ‘pants’; papá ‘papa, father’; paquebot(e) ‘steamboat’; peluca ‘wig’; retreta ‘retreat’; ruta ‘route’; sable ‘saber’; satén ‘satin’; sofá, ‘sofa’; tisú ‘tissue’; and torbillón ‘whirlwind’.
Spanish contains many loan translations from French: for example, alta costura ‘high fashion’; alta sociedad ‘high society’; coche cama ‘sleeping car’; golpe de estatdo ‘coup’; and siglo de las luces ‘Enlightenment’.
Lists of Medieval Spanish Gallicisms can be found in Pottier (1967) and Colón (1967). Varela Merino (2009) studies in detail 16th- and 17th-century borrowings from French. Curell Aguilà (2009) and Agulló Albuixech (2019) record contemporary borrowings from French.
Scattered examples of Italian loanwords are found in 15th-century texts, for example, amante ‘lover’, belleza ‘beauty’, capucho ‘hood’, novela ‘novel’, and soneto ‘sonnet’. The overwhelming majority of Italianisms came into Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries and often resulted from contact outside the Iberian Peninsula in Italy and the Mediterranean basin at the levels of oral and written language. Most Italianisms are nouns that deal with the realms of painting, sculpture, architecture, music, food, banking, and military techniques, for example art: actitud ‘pose’, acuarela ‘watercolor’, caricatura ‘cartoon’, colorido ‘colored', diseño ‘design’, esbelto ‘svelte’, fresco ‘fresco’, grotesco ‘grotesque’, modelo ‘model’, vago ‘vague; blurred’; architecture: balcón ‘balcony’, baldaquín ‘baldaquin’, cornisa ‘cornice’, fachada ‘facade’, galería ‘gallery’, nicho ‘niche’, pedestal ‘pedestal’, pilastra ‘pilaster’, planta ‘floor, level’, podio ‘podium’; music: aire ‘air’ alto ‘alto’, aria ‘aria’, batuta ‘baton’, compositor ‘composer’, madrigal ‘madrigal’, ópera ‘opera’, soprano ‘soprano’, tenor ‘tenor’; theater: arlequín ‘harlequin’, bufón ‘bufoon’, capricho ‘caprice’, esdrújulo ‘accented on the third-last syllable’, estanza ‘stanza’, madrigal ‘madrigal’, novela ‘novel’, palco ‘theater box’, para(n)gón ‘comparison’, payaso ‘clown’; military terminology: alerta ‘alert’, batallón ‘batallion’, bisoño ‘recruit’, bombardear ‘to bombard’, cartucho ‘cartridge’, centinela ‘sentinel’, ciudadela ‘citadel’, emboscada ‘ambush’, escaramuza ‘skirmish’, escopeta ‘shotgun’, escolta ‘escort’, mosquete ‘musket’, pistola ‘pistol’, parapeto ‘parapet’, soldado ‘soldier’, tropa ‘troop’; economic and commercial activity: banco ‘bank’, bancarrota ‘bankruptcy’, cambio ‘money exchange’, crédito ‘credit’, débito ‘debt, debit’, millón ‘million’, póliza ‘policy’; food: fideos ‘noodles’, menestra ‘minestrone’, salchicha ‘sausage’. Some of the above items are semantic loans (e.g., actitud, cambio, colorido). Among the few primary verbs of Italian origin are charlar ‘to chat’ and estafar ‘to swindle’. Opinion is divided as to whether certain alleged Italianisms (e.g., atacar ‘to attack’, marchar ‘to march’, canalla ‘rabble’, charlatán ‘rogue, charlatan’) were directly borrowed from Italian or came into the Iberian Peninsula via French.
Large-scale Italian immigration into the River Plate region (Buenos Aires and Montevideo) led to the introduction into local varieties of Spanish of many Italianisms that are not found elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world (see Meo Zilio, 1989, pp. 15–48).
3.6 Lusisms and Catalanisms
Portuguese and Catalan had little lexical impact on the history of the Spanish lexicon. Spanish enjoyed greater political and social prestige in the Iberian Peninsula than its two neighbors. The origin of a number of Medieval Spanish lexical items considered by some specialists to be Lusisms is controversial, for example, afeitar ‘to shave’, originally, ‘to put on makeup’; coitar/coitado ‘to afflict/afflicted’ (both probably Gallicisms); cariño ‘affection’; echar de menos ‘to miss’; alguien (originally alguién) ‘someone, somebody’ (for additional examples and discussion, see Dworkin, 2012, pp. 183–187, and Dworkin, 2017). In some instances, it is difficult to determine whether a given item is a borrowing from Portuguese or from a western variety of Hispano-Romance, for example, chopo ‘type of poplar’; choza ‘rural hut’; chubasco ‘rainstorm’. Portugal’s preeminence in late medieval and early modern maritime trade and exploration accounts for such loans as angra ‘cove, inlet’, buzo ‘diver’, and callao ‘pebble; stretch of land with pebbles’ (for more examples, see Dworkin, 2012, p. 190). For an overview of Portuguese lexical borrowings in European and New World Spanish, see the papers in Corbella and Fajardo (2017).
The study of Catalan loanwords in Spanish faces a number of analytical difficulties. For the medieval period it is often very difficult to distinguish between possible loans from Catalan and from southern Gallo-Romance (Occitan), due to what can be described as a Catalan–Occitan linguistic continuum at that time. As the main cultural and administrative language of the Crown of Aragon until its absorption into the Kingdom of Castile and Leon in the late 15th century, Catalan often served as an intermediary in the introduction of Italianisms and Latinisms into Castilian. Considerations of dates of first attestation and phonetic development combined with historical data may support the proposed Catalan origin of such words as OSp. emprenta (modern imprenta) ‘printing press’, papel (medieval variant paper) ‘paper’, reloj ‘clock’, forastero ‘stranger’, sastre ‘tailor’, and añorar ‘to long for’. Prat Sabater (2003) offers an overview of Catalan loanwords in the history of the Spanish lexicon.
3.7 New World Indigenous Languages
Lexical borrowings from the native languages of the New World found their way into Spanish with the return of Columbus and his crew, in early 1493, from their first voyage. Columbus’s diary contained a number of indigenous words denoting New World material and social realities unknown to Europeans (e.g., ají ‘type of hot pepper’, cacique ‘type of local chieftain’, canoa ‘canoe’, hamaca ‘hammock’, and tiburón ‘shark’). One of these words, canoa, is the first such word to merit an entry in a Spanish dictionary, namely Nebrija’s Spanish–Latin dictionary (c. 1495). The earliest words came from the languages of the Caribbean islands; after 1519, borrowings reflecting realities of continental America came from such languages as Nahuatl (e.g., aguacate ‘avocado’, cacahuete ‘peanut’, chocolate ‘chocolate’, and tomate ‘tomato’) and Andean varieties of Quechua (e.g., alpaca ‘alpaca’, cancha ‘open unencumbered space’, and patata ‘potato’). As can be seen from this handful of examples, many of these words have spread to other European languages. Although indigenous lexical items first entered Spanish through oral contact between natives and Spaniards in the New World, for the most part they made their way back to Europe in written reports by travelers to the Americas.
A small number of such words continue to enjoy vitality in the vocabulary of general Spanish (e.g., butaca ‘armchair’, cacahuete [alongside maní, also of indigenous origin] ‘peanut’, cacique ‘political boss’, enaguas ‘petticoats’, maíz ‘corn’, and tiza ‘chalk’; for more examples, see Dworkin, 2012, p. 209, and the references cited therein). Regional varieties of New World Spanish have incorporated from local indigenous languages many words that are not found in the Spanish of the Iberian Peninsula.
Since the middle of the 20th century, borrowings from English (especially its U.S. variety) have constituted the main source of loanwords in Spanish. The earliest anglicisms go back only to the 18th century and appear mainly in translations of English works (e.g., club ‘club’, cuáquero ‘Quaker’, pinguino ‘penguin’, and ron ‘rum’). The 19th century saw the introduction of such anglicisms as bistec ‘steak’, cheque ‘check’, dandy ‘dandy’, rifle ‘rifle’, revólver ‘revolver’, and túnel ‘tunnel’. In some cases, it is difficult to determine whether English is the immediate source of the borrowing or whether the word at issue came into Spanish via French, for example té ‘tea’, tren ‘train’, and turista ‘tourist’.
After the Second World War, the flow of anglicisms became a flood as a result of the political dominance of the United States and the growing spread in Spain of its culture in the form of films, music lyrics, and television programming, as well as increased U.S. and British tourism and, more recently, the internet. Many of these Anglicisms competed with already existing Spanish signifiers: trailer/avance, bestseller/éxito, disk jockey/pinchadiscos. Loan translations also abound: año luz ‘light year’, coche bomba ‘car bomb’, hombre rana ‘frogman’, rascacielos ‘skyscraper’. The entry of such anglicisms has aroused the ire of many Spaniards who are concerned with the integrity of the language. Rodríguez González (2017) represents the most recent synthesis of anglicisms in Spanish.
4. Lexical Loss
Lexical history is not limited to the study of inherited vocabulary and the sources of internal and external neologisms. Over time, hundreds of words in Spanish have fallen into disuse or various degrees of obsolescence. Several factors can lead to the demise of a lexical item. Nonstructural causes include the loss of the signifier’s real-world referent, pressure from a more prestigious rival (e.g., a Latinism), and taboo semantic associations. Relevant internal or structural conditions are homonymic clash, excessive phonetic erosion, phonotactic awkwardness, excessive competing formal variants, presence of rare or difficult morphophonological alternations, and cumbersome polysemy (cf. Dworkin, 2011, pp. 598–604).
A small sample of Old Spanish nouns, adjectives, verbs, and function words that have not survived into the modern language follows. Further examples can be found in Dworkin (2018, pp. 88–92):
abze/auze ‘luck’, alfaquí(m) ‘doctor’, alfayate ‘tailor’, alfejeme ‘barber’, argen(t) ‘silver’, az ‘army’, barrunte ‘spy’, cabero ‘knight’, ciliérveda (variants: cidiérdeba, cediérveda) ‘morsel’, comblueça ‘concubine’, cuer ‘heart’, fabro ‘blacksmith’, façeruelo ‘pillow’, garçón ‘young servant’, gulpeja/vulpeja ‘fox’, hueste ‘army’, lu(v)a ‘glove’, maslo ‘male’, menge/metge ‘physician’, muebda ‘motive, reason’, poçón/po(n)çoña ‘poison’, poridad ‘secret’, siesto ‘position’, tienlla ‘cheek, temple’, trebejo ‘game, mocking’.
a(a)pte ‘suitable’, adiano ‘excellent, extraordinary; strong, courageous’, amidos ‘unwilling’, anviso/enviso ‘wise, intelligent’, avol ‘evil, bad, vile’, brozno ‘rude, rough’, calaño ‘similar to’, enatío ‘ugly’, vile ‘misshapen’, endurido ‘hardened’, enloquido ‘mad’, escosso ‘dry, sterile’, feble ‘weak’, fedentino ‘stinking’, fol ‘crazy’, luengo ‘long’, lueñe ‘far’, nidio ‘bright, shining’, porfaçado/porfacido ‘angry, furious’, postrimero ‘last’, prieto ‘black’, pudio ‘rotten, stinking’, radío ‘errant, wandering’, rafez/refez ‘common, cheap, vile’, vellido ‘handsome, beautiful’, viedro ‘old’, yengo ‘free, emancipated’.
acender ‘to light, ignite’, agorar ‘to foreshadow, predict’, asmar ‘to think, esteem’, blasmar ‘to offend, revile’, cabtener ‘to suppport’, conquerir ‘to conquer’, decir ‘to descend, dismount’, embaír ‘to invade’, empe(s)cer ‘to harm, damage’, esleer ‘to choose, elect’, exir ‘to leave, go out’, gabar ‘to boast’, losenjar ‘to flatter, praise’, punir ‘to punish’, rostir ‘to roast’, se(d)er ‘to be seated’, trebejar ‘to play, amuse oneself’, toller ‘to take away’, traír ‘to betray’, trocir ‘to cross over, pass’, yazer ‘to lie down; to have sex with’.
Adverbs, conjunctions and prepositions
abés ‘scarcely, hardly’, alguandre ‘(n)ever’, (ar)r(i)edro ‘behind; near’, assomo ‘above’, assora/asoras ‘suddenly, unexpectedly’, assaz ‘enough’, aviessas ‘in reverse, back to front’, aína ‘quickly, rapidly’, ca ‘because’, cabe/cabo ‘near, next to’, cedo ‘early, soon’, cras ‘tomorrow’, desque ‘as soon as’, fascas ‘almost’, lueñe ‘far’, maguer(a)/magar ‘although’, somo ‘above’, suso ‘above’, (de)yuso ‘below’.
5. Internal Lexical Creations
In addition to loanwords resulting from language contact, Spanish, like all Romance languages, significantly increased the size of its vocabulary by creating neologisms through internal derivational mechanisms, principally suffixation, prefixation, and compounding. Spanish inherited all these processes from Latin and often it is difficult to determine whether a given word is a derivative formed within Spanish or a lexical item inherited directly from Latin (in which the form in question was a derivative). Although etymological dictionaries tend to pay little systematic attention to such formations, the study of such derivational mechanisms is the concern of both derivational morphology, with regard to the processes involved, and diachronic lexicology, with regard to the consequences for the constitution of the lexicon.
Suffixation is the most common way of creating neologisms through derivational processes in Spanish and the other Romance languages. From an historical perspective, Spanish suffixes fall into two categories: those inherited directly from spoken Latin as the segmentable final elements of inherited vocabulary, and those that entered as derivational elements attached to borrowings from written Latin, that is, Latinisms. The overwhelming majority of neologisms created through derivation in modern Spanish employ the latter category of suffixes. A number of Latin suffixes first entered Spanish through oral transmission and later, in Latinate form, through learned borrowings, for example, -ero/ario < ‑arium, -zón/ción < -tionem, -azo/acio < ‑aceum. In addition, there are also some suffixes that entered as elements of loanwords from other languages, for example, -aje from Gallo-Romance, -í from Arabic, -arro, -orro, -urro, possibly from Pre-Roman languages, -esco from Italian, and -engo possibly from Gothic. Suffixation allows for the creation of neologisms of a different grammatical category than the lexical base to which the affix is attached: for example, adjectives and verbs derived from nouns, or nouns derived from verbs and adjectives. In cases that do not involve a change of form class, the suffixed derivative nuances the meaning of the underlying base, for example, the creation of diminutive or augmentative nouns. Pharies (2002) offers an overview of the historical origins of Spanish suffixes and suffixoids.
All vernacular Spanish prefixes were inherited from Latin, in which many also functioned as prepositions. As is the case with suffixes, prefixes entered Spanish through oral transmission or as later learned adaptations of the Latin forms. In many cases the inherited and the Latinate reflexes of the same prefix exist side by side in Spanish, for example, a-/ad-, en-/in-, entre-/inter- so-/sub-, sobre-/super-. Prefixes do not change the form class of the base to which they are attached but create semantically related neologisms, often indicating a degree of nuancing or intensification. The modern language has also introduced neologisms coined with such learned prefixes as extra-, infra- intra- pos-, pre-retro-, supra-. Some such prefixal elements had their origins in learned compounds, for example, hiper-, maxi-, mini-, pluri-, poli-.
Composition or compounding has not been as productive as suffixation or prefixation in the creation of new lexical items, especially in the early stages of the language. Nevertheless, compounds are documented throughout the history of Spanish. Although this mechanism was not frequently employed in classical Latin, the evidence of the Romance languages indicates that it enjoyed considerable vitality in the spoken language. Spanish contains compounds inherited from Latin (mantener ‘to maintain’ < manutenere, bendecir ‘to bless’ < benedicere) and compounds created internally. Almost unknown in Latin are compound nouns of the type Verb + Noun (pasatiempo ‘pastime, hobby’, quebrantahuesos ‘type of falcon’), which flourished in Spanish and the other Romance languages. Spanish has also created nouns and adjectives of the structure Noun + Adjective, for example, hierbabuena ‘mint’, boquiabierto ‘open-mouthed’. Moyna (2011) traces the history of compounding in Spanish.
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