SPAN 3703: Origins and History of Spanish and Portuguese

3 Credits

This course constitutes an introduction to the origins and history of the Spanish language. Spanish (or Castilian) descends from Latin, which is also the ancestor of Portuguese, Italian, French, Romanian, among others. This is why we say bueno in Spanish, bon in French, buono in Italian, bom in Portuguese, and buna in Romanian. Also, Latin belongs to a wider group of languages: the Indo-European family, which also includes Sanskrit, English, German, and Russian, among others. For this reason, the word for the number two in English is similar to dos in Spanish, dvaú in Sanscript, dva in Russian and zwei in German. In the course, we will see how Latin words changed to become Spanish words. These changes did not happen in a void. Therefore, in the first part of the course we will study the historical circumstances that caused the birth and expansion of Spanish. When Romans invaded the Iberian Peninsula there were other groups already there who lent some of their words to Latin. Celts occupied the northwestern portion of Spain, which is known as Galicia. Interestingly, the traditional musical instrument of Galicia is the bagpipe, as in Ireland and Scotland, which also have Celtic ancestors. Some Celtic words passed to the variety of Latin spoken in the Iberian Peninsula, and later to Spanish. Thus, while France and Italy utilize the Germanic word bier to designate beer: French bière, Italian birra, in Spanish we say cerveza, which comes from the Celtic word cerevisia. With the fall of the Roman Empire, Germanic tribes invaded the Iberian Peninsula. This is how some Germanic terms passed to Latin and eventually became Spanish. Since English is a Germanic language, these Spanish terms are similar to the English ones: spy espía, vandalism vandalismo, goose, ganso, etc. At the end of the Germanic rule, Arab groups invaded Iberia. As a result, Spanish has more than four thousand Arabic words, as ojalá from inshallah ‘god willing’. The Arabs brought with them advances in astronomy, mathematics, medicine, agriculture, poetry, etc. For this reason, during the Middle Age, Al-Andalús, which was the name of the territory of the Iberian Peninsula occupied by the Arabs, flourished economically and culturally. It is during this period that Spanish developed. In the second part of the course, we will see how Latin words transformed into Spanish. These changes were not at random, on the contrary most of them changed in predictable ways. For example, the Latin letter p when placed between two vowels became b in Spanish: the word lupus ‘wolf’ became lobo in Spanish, scopa ‘broom’ became escoba. Studying this evolution will help you understand the reason behind some supposed irregularities in the Spanish Grammar: duermo vs. dormimos. Also, you will be able to recognize the relation between some English and Spanish words, since both languages are like lone cousins. prereq: A grade of C- or better in SPAN 3104W or SPAN 3104V or TLDO 3104W or ARGN 3104W or SPAN 3105W or SPAN 3105V or TLDO 3105W or SPAN 3107W or SPAN 3107V or TLDO 3107W.

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B+ Average (3.402)Most Common: A (37%)

This total also includes data from semesters with unknown instructors.

124 students
  • 3.81


  • 4.50


  • 4.36


  • 3.85


  • 4.58



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