Either they did not realise that “al” is an article (in English we also say “the Alhambra” or “the Almagest”), or else they felt that the function of the Spanish article was different from that of the Arabic article. In Spanish you say “El alcalde de Zalamea”, but in Arabic you say “qāḍī madīnati X” without the article.
I meant to say, I assume that many Mozarabs were bilingual, and therefore understood the grammatical function of Arabic "al-".
It is interesting to note looking at a list of Arabic words in Spanish the almost complete absence of verbs.
The “Rio Grande river” is indeed a nice parallel. As is “the Guadalupe river” (guada = wādin = river).
Might it be the case that because the article is attached to the noun in Arabic that it was taken to be part of the word?
Good question!are there any known counter-examples, i.e. Arabic words borrowed into Spanish without article?
is intriguing. I have to give it some more thought and try to imagine the concrete process.Isn’t it more plausible to think that the Castilian article was added after the speakers forgot Arabic?
Isn’t it more plausible to think that the Castilian article was added after the speakers forgot Arabic?
Most plausible explanation. I don't find this assimilation of a definite article in the noun itself so surprising. A few French words went through the same process. l'ierre > le lierre l'ingot > le lingot What is remarkable about these two words, if you'd bother give it a thought, is that this change apparently happened among native speakers, without any kind of foreign linguistic interference. Sounds to me more unlikely to happen than in the case of a borrowing from another language, in which you can expect some kind of confusion to take place. P.S.: As a native speaker of a romance language, I tend to think that to a Spanish speaker, these words just sound way better with -al in front of them.But perhaps words of the alcalde type were borrowed at an oral level, presumably by Christians, who had not had an Islamic school education and were consequently not aware that these words contained an article.
Yes, you have made the hypothesis more precise. I myself can observe the way immigrants use Norwegian words with or without definite postposition (-en and-et) while speaking their own language. Those proficient in Norwegian use the words correctly in definite or indefinite form, according to the role of the word in the sentence, the non proficient people use them haphazardly.Do you mean that maybe there was a time where people used Arabic articles for Arabic words in speak, and of course Spanish articles with Spanish words. Then, after some point, with knowledge about the Arabic words and their origin slowly degrading, people "lost" the ability to correctly use the the Arabic articles this way, permanently attached them to the words and added Spanish articles, because clearly the words needed (new) articles.
That would be a very interesting little tidbit about a particular stage of the development of Spanish, if true of course...
Finally, the word Allah (from al Ilah, "the God", as far as I know) is also an example for the situation when the article becomes part of the noun.
Yes, (hope) I understand. It's only an example, even if not the best, of course, because Allah is an excepcion from many points of view. For curiosity, see also an identical example in Italian: Iddio (from "il Dio" = "the God").If this is a case of this, then it would probably be a solitary case. Also Allah cannot be prefixed with the definite article, so we'd never see doubling up of the article with this case.
Kids in pre-school age don't know how to write, therefore they can't say where the boundaries between words are located.
In looking for Arabic nouns that entered Spanish in the Middle Ages and which could have brought "al-" with them, but did not, you have to eliminate
(1) those not documented before 1492 (the expulsion of the Moors)—many of them being later, learned borrowings, and
(2) those beginning with "sun letters"—
apical consonants that bring about the assimilation of the "l" of "al"—e.g. 'oil' spelled al-zait but pronounced as if az-zait, for Sp. aceite).
Whether or not these sun-letter words entered Spanish with the vowel of "al-" is a different question, as Hulalessar points out.
So our search for examples is left with words beginning with the "moon letters" b, ca, co, cu, f, g, h, m, q, v.
The modern Spanish j corresponds mostly to an "sh" sound in Old Spanish, which is spelled with the sun letter shīn in Arabic, so Sp. jarabe 'syrup' (< Ar. sharāb) is not a telling example, and jaquequa 'migrane' (< shaqīqa) has two counts against it: the sun letter shīn and late documentation ("toward 1500" in Corominas).
Corominas traces jinete 'horseman' to an ethnonym transliterated with "Z-".
We are left with very few candidates, possibly including the following:
• barrio "neighborhood"
• bellota "acorn"
• jarra "jar" (with the Arabic "moon letter" jīm, not the sun letter shīn).
With some labor, perhaps a few more could be extracted from the Wiki list. Meanwhile, the list contains some 375 with "al-".
Ben Jamin's question
is intriguing. I have to give it some more thought and try to imagine the concrete process.
As francisgranada points out, other languages borrowed words like alcohol and alchemy with the article—but they can be "forgiven" for not recognizing "al-" as an article.
The question remains for the Castilian-speakers, who had "el" in their language.
I can't agree that Spanish-speakers adopting Arabic nouns were "just like" English-speakers saying "the alcohol". My original question was based on the fact that Spanish-speakers had "el" in their language (both grammatically and phonetically similar to Arabic "al-"), while English-, French-, etc. -speakers did not. Not to mention the fact that the medieval Spanish-speakers lived closer to—if not in bilingualism with—the source language. I haven't come across any studies investigating, or even speculating about, the role of bilingualism in Arabic-to-Spanish borrowing. My own speculation has been that the Mozarabs needed to know Arabic in order to get along with the dominant society and its institutions, and that they may have borrowed Arabic into their Romance speech almost in the manner of code-switching. Look how Arabic words—including grammatical particles—are sprinkled in the otherwise-Romance Mozarabic kharjas: "Ya nuemne dolje" ("O sweet name"), "In non, si non keris" ("If not, if you don't wish to"), "Ke farey, yaummi?" ("What can I do, O Mother?"). This doesn't come from "skilled Arabic scholars", but rather from vernacular Romance-speakers with fairly intimate knowledge of Arabic. And yet, in one of the kharjas quoted by francisgranada, we get...I think in general [...] a Spanish speaker just adopted the loan word in a given context unaware of the grammatical components, just like English speakers when they say "the alcohol". I don't think the type of people who took these words into the Spanish language and created its future were skilled Arabic scholars or even bilingual speakers.
...whose inclusion of the article after the possessive determiner seems also to be ignoring the article function of "al-".Meu al-habib
My own speculation has been that the Mozarabs needed to know Arabic in order to get along with the dominant society and its institutions, and that they may have borrowed Arabic into their Romance speech almost in the manner of code-switching.
Not necessarily. If we suppose that the cited phrase "Meu al-habib est' ad yana" in medieval Spanish (Romance) required the article (*el meu amore est' ad yana), then the article "al" could be used consciousely. It's position here is given by the usage of "habib" instead of "amore", i.e. the adequate Arabic article precedes directly the Arabic noun. *Al meu habib should be indeed a bit strange (and also ambiguous), as the Arabic article was used only with Arabic nouns and not as a separate loanword in Spanish.... ...whose inclusion of the article after the possessive determiner seems also to be ignoring the article function of "al-"
Andalucía seems to me a conscious derivation from the Arabic and not a "spontaneous" loanword.What about Andalucía? The name of this region in Spanish is not Alandalucía, and the name of the Muslim state seems to have been written as Al-Ándalus, with a hyphen between article and proper name, which could show awareness about the article.
the name of the Muslim state seems to have been written as Al-Ándalus, with a hyphen between article and proper name, which could show awareness about the article.
There is no hyphen in Arabic. The article is always written as part of the following word. The hyphen comes with the European transcription of Arabic.
What were the Portuguese articles during the period in question? Were Spanish articles still elo and ela?Is the "el" and "al" similarity actually relevant to the issue though?
Many (most?) of Spanish words of Arabic origin are also present in Portuguese and we have quite different articles (o and a).
This must surely be the case. It is unheard of that anyone with even the faintest exposure to Arabic grammar would double the article. This phenomenon must have appeared after the Reconquista, since Arabic was banned in that period. This also explains the absence of verbs. Broken nouns casually maintained as loanwords are relatively tolerable to the reconquistador - especially if their article and pronunciation were corrupted (this happened to place names as well, though I admit that I still find the variety of Spanish regional pronunciations rather bewildering).You make the presumption that the Mozarabs, who were bilingual, added the “el” to definite Arabic nouns, but what makes you believe that? Isn’t it more plausible to think that the Castilian article was added after the speakers forgot Arabic?
Newspapers everywhere have been talking about "Al Qaeda" for the last ten years, with no regard for the fact that the "al" is actually an article, not strictly a part of the noun.
This phenomenon must have appeared after the Reconquista, since Arabic was banned in that period.
I do not agree. It seems to me much more logical that the Arabic loanwords should have been borrowed before the Reconquista, when the co-existence of Arabic and Spanish (Hispanic Romance) was intense enough (borrowings do not "happen" during a night). It is hardly imaginable that the reconquistadores would have "re-attached" the Arabic article to already existing loanwords ... In other words, I think, the Arabic loanwords had to be adopted in Spanish (Hispanic Romance) together with the article al from "the very beggining", i.e. since they had been spontaneousely borrowed, and then they have survived until today.... This phenomenon must have appeared after the Reconquista, since Arabic was banned in that period ...
I agree, but where is it written that all the Spanish (Hispanic Romance) speaking people had "even the faintest exposure to Arabic grammar"? ...It is unheard of that anyone with even the faintest exposure to Arabic grammar would double the article.
But my main point was that redundancies can crop up even in one's native language, let alone in a bilingual situation, no matter how closely the two languages may have been in contact.Well, yes, but I see a big difference to the situation in Spain: Western newspapers and their Western readers are nowhere as close to or even surrounded by Arabic like the Spanish were. Of course the more distant from a language you are the less you know about it and the more you tend to throw articles and words together, not knowing better.
I find it unlikely since neither Portuguese nor Spanish (nor Mozarabic) have cases, but I don't know enough about cases in Arabic to form an opinion. Can you explain your idea better?Is it possible that the "al" was mistakenly perceived as a case marker instead of article?
I can imagine a following process: the bilingual inhabitants under Arab rule used the Arabic article in the loanwords correctly. The newcomers that came with the victorious Reconquista armies learned those words from them and began to use the words indiscriminately with the article. The bilinguals died out in a generation or two.