Purification of Arabic influence on Spanish

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Senior Member
Hello all,

Spanish is probably the European language with a higher proportion of Arabic borrowings, apart from Maltese which is Arabic in origin itself. While nowadays there's no tendency at all to purposefully avoid Arabisms, do you think this could have been the case in the past, mainly during the Middle Ages, when religious tensions were high? Was this ever mentioned in any text at all? Were former stages of the language notably more Arabized?

My guess is no, but I've found this "purism" mentioned a couple of times when discussing the Arabic influence on Spanish, so I wanted to check with you

  • merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    This thought has crossed my mind. Firstly because if you read old Spanish you see more arabisms. Secondly if you look at the list of arabic words in the Spanish language here you notice that quite of few of these words are no longer common, and some of them have Latin synonyms which have overtaken them in usage. For example, alhucema/ lavanda, alacrán/ escorpión. It is just a personal impression that they have been very slowly phased out. On the other hand, a concerted effort to purify the language? No, because too many are still left. Common words like almohada could have been eliminated quite easily in favor of cojín, or aceituna instead of oliva, aceite-óleo, and obvious in an intensely Catholic moment they would certainly have eliminated Ojalá.
    I know the Góngoras of the day tried to relatinize the Spanish language altogether and reinstate authentic Classical forms that had strayed too much away from the original fondo-hondo etc. I don't know how many older Arabic words could have been weeded out during that time.
    I'd say it's just that Spanish is a European language with a European culture, and Al-Andalus disappeared more 500-700 years ago and with them the Arab influence. So since then it's been gently going way.


    Senior Member
    Castellano de Castilla
    Was this ever mentioned in any text at all?
    Felipe Maíllo Salgado in his book Los arabismos del castellano en la Baja Edad Media quotes in page 500 two authors that avoided arabisms in one of their works (well, one of them included one arabism but more arabisms would have been expected). The next chapter of the book (chapter 8) are thoughts about the lost of arabisms and may be of your interest too.

    Although it's not exactly what you asked about, it might be a good idea to say that Javier García González says in page 355 of his article El contacto de dos lenguas: los arabismos en el español medieval y en la obra alfonsí (Cahiers d'Études Hispaniques Médiévals, 1993, 18-19, pages 335-365) that the peyorización of arabisms had its peak in XVIth and XVIIth centuries.


    Senior Member
    Español - México
    Speaking of purification:

    Example of a purist:
    El criterio de Ciro Bayo, respecto a los romances tradicionales, es un tanto artístico: los corrige, aunque no al grado de hacerles perder su carácter popular, como Almeida-Garret. Los expurga de barbarismos gauchos, ejemplo que deberían seguir los recolectores de romances judeos-españoles, plagados de palabras árabes. "Las correcciones que hago—dice Ciro Bayo— dan una lección mejor; y esto mismo procuro hacer en cuantas versiones estropeadas recojo, por más que esto lo consideren algunos delito de leso folklore".
    Nosotros, magazine. 1913.

    Example of a victim:
    Dicen que he usado muchas palabras árabes: es verdad; pero yo no sé llamar las cosas si no es por el nombre que tienen: tachan de demasiado lírico el estilo: verdad también; pero la culpa tienen los orientales y no yo: motéjanme de demasiado cristiano; siempre me motejen por eso.
    Obras dramáticas de Don Luis de Eguilaz. 1864.

    * "motéjanme de demasiado cristiano" = they say I am a Christian (so I wouldn't say Arabic words).
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