Iberian Romance languages

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Iberian Romance
Originally Iberian Peninsula and southern France; now worldwide
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
Glottologsout3183  (Shifted Iberian)
unsh1234  (Aragonese–Mozarabic)

The Iberian Romance, Ibero-Romance[2] or sometimes Iberian languages[note 1] are a group of Romance languages that developed on the Iberian Peninsula, an area consisting primarily of Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Andorra and southern France. They are today more commonly separated into West Iberian and Occitano-Romance language groups.

Evolved from the Vulgar Latin of Iberia, the most widely spoken Iberian Romance languages are Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan-Valencian-Balear, and Galician.[3] These languages also have their own regional and local varieties. Based on mutual intelligibility, Dalby counts seven "outer" languages, or language groups: Galician-Portuguese, Spanish, Asturleonese, "Wider"-Aragonese, "Wider"-Catalan, Provençal+Lengadocian, and "Wider"-Gascon.[4]

In addition to those languages, there are a number of Portuguese-based creole languages and Spanish-based creole languages, for instance Papiamento.

Origins and development[edit]

Linguistic map of southwestern Europe

Like all Romance languages,[5] the Iberian Romance languages descend from Vulgar Latin, the nonstandard (in contrast to Classical Latin) form of the Latin language spoken by soldiers and merchants throughout the Roman Empire. With the expansion of the empire, Vulgar Latin came to be spoken by inhabitants of the various Roman-controlled territories. Latin and its descendants have been spoken in Iberia since the Punic Wars, when the Romans conquered the territory[6] (see Roman conquest of Hispania).

The modern Iberian Romance languages were formed roughly through the following process:

Common traits between Portuguese, Spanish and Catalan[edit]

This list points to common traits of these Iberian subsets, especially when compared to the other Romance languages in general. Thus, changes such as Catalan vuit/huit and Portuguese oito vs. Spanish ocho are not shown here, as the change -it- > -ch- is exclusive to Spanish among the Iberian Romance languages.

Between Portuguese, Spanish and Catalan[edit]


  • The length difference between r/rr is preserved through phonetic means, so that the second consonant in words such as caro and carro are not the same in any of the three.
  • Latin U remains [u] and is not changed to [y].


  • The Iberian Romance languages all maintain a complete essence-state distinction in the copula (the verb "to be"). The "essence" form (Portuguese and Spanish ser and Catalan ser and ésser) is derived in whole or in part from the Latin sum (the Latin copula), while the "state" form (estar in all three languages) is derived from the Latin stāre ("to stand").

Between Spanish and Catalan, but not Portuguese[edit]


  • The length difference between n/nn is preserved through phonetic means, so that the last consonant in words such as año (Latin anno) and mano are not the same.
  • The length difference between l/ll is preserved through phonetic means, so that the second consonant in words such as valle and vale are not the same. This also affects some initial L in Catalan.

Between Spanish and Portuguese, but not Catalan[edit]


  • Initial Latin CL/FL/PL are palatalized further than in Standard Italian, and become indistinguishable (to CH in Portuguese and LL in Spanish).
  • Final e/o remains (although its pronunciation changed in Portuguese, and some dialects drop final E).


  • The synthetic preterite, inherited from earlier stages of Latin, remains the main past tense.

Between Portuguese and Catalan, but not Spanish[edit]


  • Velarized L [ɫ], which existed in Latin, is preserved at the end of syllables, and was later generalized to all positions in most dialects of both languages.
  • Stressed Latin e/o, both open and closed, is preserved so and does not become a diphthong.


Politically (not linguistically), there are four major officially recognised Iberian Romance languages:

Additionally, the Asturian (dialect of Asturleonese), although not an official language,[21] is recognised by the autonomous community of Asturias. It is one of the Asturleonese dialects with Mirandese, which in Portugal holds an official status as a minority language.[22]

Family tree[edit]

Ibero-Romance languages around the world
Ibero-Romance languages in Iberia and Southern France

The Iberian Romance languages are a conventional group of Romance languages. Many authors use the term in a geographical sense although they are not necessarily a phylogenetic group (the languages grouped as Iberian Romance may not all directly descend from a common ancestor). Phylogenetically, there is disagreement about what languages should be considered within the Iberian Romance group; for example, some authors consider that East Iberian, also called Occitano-Romance, could be more closely related to languages of northern Italy (or also Franco-Provençal, the langues d'oïl and Rhaeto-Romance). A common conventional geographical grouping is the following:

  • East Iberian
  • West Iberian

Daggers (†) indicate extinct languages

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Iberian languages is also used as a more inclusive term for all languages spoken on the Iberian Peninsula, which in antiquity included the non-Indo-European Iberian language.
  1. ^ "Ibero-Romance". Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  2. ^ Pharies, David A. (2007). A Brief History of the Spanish Language. University of Chicago Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-226-66683-9.
  3. ^ Ethnologue: Statistical Summaries
  4. ^ Dalby, David (2000). "5=Indo-European phylosector" (PDF). The Linguasphere register of the world's languages and speech communities. Vol. 2. Oxford: Observatoire Linguistique, Linguasphere Press.
  5. ^ Thomason, Sarah (2001). Language Contact. Georgetown University Press. p. 263. ISBN 978-0-87840-854-2.
  6. ^ Brown, Keith; Ogilvie, Sarah (2008). Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World. Elsevier Science. p. 1020. ISBN 978-0-08-087774-7.
  7. ^ Penny, Ralph (2002). A History of the Spanish Language. Cambridge University Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-521-01184-6.
  8. ^ Penny (2002), p. 16
  9. ^ Turell, M. Teresa (2001). Multilingualism in Spain: Sociolinguistic and Psycholinguistic Aspects of Linguistic Minority Groups. Multilingual Matters. p. 591. ISBN 978-1-85359-491-5.
  10. ^ Cabo Aseguinolaza, Fernando; Abuín Gonzalez, Anxo; Domínguez, César (2010). A Comparative History of Literatures in the Iberian Peninsula. John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 339–40. ISBN 978-90-272-3457-5.
  11. ^ Lapesa, Rafael (1968). Historia de la lengua española (7th ed.) (in Spanish). Gredos. p. 124. ISBN 84-249-0072-3. ISBN 84-249-0073-1.
  12. ^ "Lengua Española o Castellana". Promotora Española de Lingüística (in Spanish).
  13. ^ Ethnologue: Table 3. Languages with at least 3 million first-language speakers
  14. ^ See Ethnologue
  15. ^ Constitution of Andorra (Article 2.1)
  16. ^ Bec, Pierre (1973), Manuel pratique d'occitan moderne, coll. Connaissance des langues, Paris: Picard
  17. ^ Sumien, Domergue (2006), La standardisation pluricentrique de l'occitan: nouvel enjeu sociolinguistique, développement du lexique et de la morphologie, coll. Publications de l'Association Internationale d'Études Occitanes, Turnhout: Brepols
  18. ^ Myers-Scotton, Carol (2005). Multiple Voices: An Introduction to Bilingualism. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-631-21937-8.
  19. ^ a b Ethnologue
  20. ^ Posner, Rebecca (1996). The Romance Languages. Cambridge University Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-521-28139-3.
  21. ^ "La jueza a Fernando González: 'No puede usted hablar en la lengua que le dé la gana'". El Comercio. 12 January 2009.
  22. ^ See: Euromosaic report

External links[edit]