Why isn't much influence of Arabic on Spanish still present?

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Roel~, Jan 31, 2013.

  1. Roel~ Member

    Nederlands - Nederland
    Arabic had a big influence on Spanish. I can understand Spanish and I 'm learning Arabic, but when I learn Arabic and know about the Arabic influence on Spanish I notice that there aren't a lot of words at all which still remained in Spanish. For instance, the word 'the door' is 'la puerta' in Spanish and 'al bab' in Arabic. The language is 'la linguaje' or 'el idioma' in Spanish and 'al lisan' in Arabic. Why isn't a lot of influence left and is there so much Roman influence, while the Arabic culture did have a lot of influence on Spain and was a language which was even spoken there?

    This is my perception though, if I 'm wrong feel free to say why.
  2. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    They're are many loans from Arabic in Spanish(and Portuguese) but they didn't fundamentally change the nature of the language. Spanish evolved out of the Vulgar Latin so most of the words will have Latin roots. With that said Spanish is originates in one the first areas to throw off Muslim rule so A Arabic had less influence on that dialect B the scribes would have better knowledge of Classical Latin then Romance speakers in the south and C Spanish was “purified” to a degree. Here is a good example of a Iberian dialect with more Arabic influence http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozarabic_language . To that degree I recommend you do some reading about Iberian history to help understand the Linguistic situation better. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Asturias http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/County_of_Portugal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reconquista http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Andalus
  3. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    During the Reconquista, the victorious Northerners brought their dialects with them, largely replacing the Mozarabic dialects of the South which, as Killerbee pointed out, sustained much more Arabic influence. This explains the the general grouping of dialect areas in form of North-South oriented stripes as of the 16th century. See the animated graphic in the middle of this page.
  4. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Yes, Killerbee is right on. People assume that Arabic had more influence on Spanish than it actually did, even repeating erroneous theories that the article "el" or the velar /x/ pronunciation of j and g might have Arabic origins. Castilian derives from the far north of Spain in the Ebro Valley, La Rioja, an area where there was not a lot of Arabic influence, more Basque actually. After that this dialect spread to the south and everywhere else during the era of the Reconquest. See this map concerning southern movement and retreat of Arabic. The rest of the story Killerbee has stated. Here is a link with some information and a nice list of the Arabic words in Spanish. Many, however, are not the most common words in the language.

    Edit: You beat me by 7 minutes, Berndf. We're thinking alike. :)
  5. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    We do indeed.:)
  6. Roel~ Member

    Nederlands - Nederland
    Aren't there any small places left where people still speak Arabic? For instance, in Ireland there have been always small communities of people who still spoke Gaelic, even if English took over almost everything. You can also take a look at Sorbic, it's a very small Slavic languages spoken in Germany, surrounded by a big German language, but it survived throughout history, although you can't really compare Sorbic to the position of Arabic in Spain in the past, but you can compare the Arabic there to the Irish (Gaelic) in Ireland.

    Did Arabic completely disappear or is/were there still small communities left?
  7. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    No, the Jews and Muslims that remained in Iberia after the Reconquista were forced to convert (publicly) to Catholicism or leave. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morisco http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expulsion_of_the_Moriscos http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Inquisition I think speaking Arabic publically under that situation would be a no-no, think of the Islamaphobia post 9/11 in the USA and times that by a thousand. However you might be interested in Maltese which is a similar situation which Arabic survived, in a form, to the modern day. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maltese_language
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2013
  8. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    Whilst lisan could be used as an idiomatic way of referring to a language (eg. lisan ul-arab, means language of the Arabs) it actually just means tongue, the Arabic word for language is lughah.

    It seems to be largely related to Muslim/Christian rivalry. After the fall of al-Andalus, the Christians from the north purged the entire country of any Arab/Muslim influence.
  9. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    “Not much” is a very subjective measure of quantity. Purely statistically, the number of words of Arabic origin in Spanish and Portuguese is considerably larger than in any other language of Christian Europe (not counting Maltese, of course).
  10. Stoggler

    Stoggler Senior Member

    Sussex, GBR
    UK English
    Although some influences survived - architecture being one (sorry, taking the discussion off language momentarily)
  11. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Just to add one detail, a sizeable amount of the Arabic words in Portuguese and Spanish seem to refer to objects or trades that have become outdated, so they're not used as often as they might have been centuries ago. Some are still noticeable, though:

    Sp. alcalde (mayor)
    Pt. azeite (olive oil)

    Alcalde illustrates somewhat what I mean. In Spanish it's still a common word. But the Portuguese cognate alcaide is now old-fashioned; you'll only find it in old literature or historical fiction. We use a newly coined expression for "mayor".
  12. Hulalessar

    Hulalessar Senior Member

    English - England
    I found a list of Arabic words in Spanish and was able to identify the following as being in current use. A native Spanish speaker will almost certainly identify more. The words marked * are words you will find on a menu.

    he (as in “he aquí”)
  13. Roel~ Member

    Nederlands - Nederland
    I don't know most of these words although I have a basic knowledge of Spanish. I am familiar with words like 'loco' and 'azúcar' though.
  14. Hulalessar

    Hulalessar Senior Member

    English - England
  15. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    I had no idea that words like loco, enchufe, fideo, asesino, latón, cero, laca and azul were Arabic.:confused: I thought some of them were Latin since they exist in other Romance languages.
  16. DenisBiH

    DenisBiH Senior Member

    It's olé (< wallah) that surprises me (I knew about ojalá). I mean, olé is so quintessentially Spanish to me.
  17. Miguel Antonio Senior Member

    Galego (Rías Baixas)
    No, you cannot compare it that way. Gaelic in whatever form(s) was probably spoken in Ireland and elsewhere for centuries before English even existed. Latin and, eventually, its Romance dialects were spoken in Iberia for centuries before Arabic arrived there.
    Why isn't there much influence of Latin (and/or Romance) still present in North Africa? For the same reason that there isn't "much influence"* of Arabic in Iberia: History (of languages) provides the answer, as explained by other posters.

    *Notwithstanding the fact that there is "some" albeit perhaps in your opinion, not "much" influence still present...

    On a footnote to Outsider: the Spanish word alcaide refers today to the governor of a prison, its cognate alcalde means "mayor".
  18. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    Is this really true? Weren't Celtic and Gothic languages more widespread in the peninsula before the arrival of Arabic?
  19. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    Celtic was most likely gone by the time the Romans lost political control of the area, as for Germanic dialects I don't think there were enough Goths, Suebi, Vandals(?) for Germanic to be that large of a language base, but honestly I'm not sure. Also I wanted to note something that hasn't been brought up yet sometimes latin words & place names were filtered through arabic, forinstance Zaragoza comes from Ceasaraugusta by way of Saraqusta (سرقسطة).
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2013
  20. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Spain was thoroughly romanized long before 711AD. The Germanic Visigoth invaders had also assimilated into the populace by then. Granted what people spoke back then had nothing to do with modern Spanish. I've read reports that in southern Spain the language was close to Italian, but that was probably the type of Romance that was lost or most effected by the Arabic. The northern varieties that gave birth to Spanish were extremely conservative/archaic in origin and isolated for centuries.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2013
  21. Outsider Senior Member

    Portuguese (Portugal)
    For the particular case of Spanish ole - not olé! - and hola, take a peak at these two threads.

    P.S. When I spoke earlier of outdated trades and objects, I was thinking of words like almocrebe (explanation in this thread), which designated medieval professions no longer practiced. Many of them, predictably, are now archaic.
    Alcalde (though not alcaide in Portuguese) is an exception in that it was repurposed for the modern concept of "mayor". But if you read all the entries in the DRAE, you will see various ancient senses, akin to "judge", or perhaps "marshall"/"sheriff", which are now disused.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2013
  22. إسكندراني

    إسكندراني Senior Member

    أرض الأنجل
    عربي (مصر)ـ | en (gb)
    The traditional word for language is lisaan; lughah originally had a different meaning (see Arabic forum).
  23. Abu Rashid

    Abu Rashid Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Australian English
    Probably true, since in most other Semitic languages, the word for language is based on the root l-s1-n. However in Arabic today it is as I explained.

Share This Page