Old Spanish language
|Era||10th–15th centuries; continues as a liturgical language but with a modernized pronunciation.|
Old Spanish, also known as Old Castilian (Spanish: castellano antiguo, romance castellano) or Medieval Spanish (Spanish: español medieval), is an early form of the Spanish language that was spoken on the Iberian Peninsula from the 10th century until roughly the beginning of the 15th century, before a consonantal readjustment gave rise to the evolution of modern Spanish. The poem Cantar de Mio Cid (The Poem of the Cid), published around 1200, remains the best known and most extensive work of literature in Old Spanish.
Phonetics and phonology
The phonological system of Old Spanish was quite similar to that of other mediaeval Romance languages. Among the consonants, there were seven sibilants, including three sets of voiceless/voiced pairs:
- Voiceless alveolar affricate /ts/: represented by ⟨ç⟩ before ⟨a⟩, ⟨o⟩, ⟨u⟩, and by ⟨c⟩ before ⟨e⟩ or ⟨i⟩
- Voiced alveolar affricate /dz/: represented by ⟨z⟩
- Voiceless apicoalveolar fricative /s̺/: represented by ⟨s⟩ in word-initial and word-final positions and before and after a consonant, and by ⟨ss⟩ between vowels
- Voiced apicoalveolar fricative /z̺/: represented by ⟨s⟩ between vowels and before voiced consonants
- Voiceless postalveolar fricative /ʃ/: represented by ⟨x⟩ (pronounced like the English digraph ⟨sh⟩)
- Voiced postalveolar fricative /ʒ/: represented by ⟨j⟩, and (often) by ⟨g⟩ before ⟨e⟩ or ⟨i⟩ (pronounced like the si in English vision)
- Voiceless postalveolar affricate /tʃ/: represented by ⟨ch⟩
The Modern Spanish system evolved from the Old Spanish one through the following changes:
- The affricates /ts/ and /dz/ were simplified to laminodental fricatives /s/ and /z/, which remained distinct from the apicoalveolar sounds /s̺/ and /z̺/ (a distinction also present in Basque).
- The voiced sibilants then lost their voicing, merging with the voiceless ones. (Voicing remains before voiced consonants, e.g. mismo, desde, but only allophonically.)
- The merged /ʃ/ was drawn back to /x/.
- The merged /s/ was drawn forward to /θ/. In Andalusia, however (and as a result, in Latin America), the merged /s̺/ was instead drawn forward, merging into /s/.
Changes 2–4 all occurred in a short period of time, around 1550–1600.
- passar "to pass" vs. casar "to marry" (Modern Spanish pasar, casar, cf. Portuguese passar, casar)
- osso "bear" vs. oso "I dare" (Modern Spanish oso in both cases, cf. Portuguese urso [a borrowing from Latin], ouso)
- foces "sickles" vs. fozes "throats/ravines" (Modern Spanish hoces in both cases, cf. Portuguese foices, fozes)
- coxo "lame" vs. cojo "I seize" (Modern Spanish cojo in both cases, cf. Portuguese coxo, colho)
- xefe (Modern Spanish jefe, cf. Portuguese chefe)
- Xeres (Modern Spanish Jerez, cf. Portuguese Xerez)
- oxalá (Modern Spanish ojalá, cf. Portuguese oxalá)
- dexar (Modern Spanish dejar, cf. Portuguese deixar)
- roxo (Modern Spanish rojo, cf. Portuguese roxo)
- fazer or facer (Modern Spanish hacer, cf. Portuguese fazer)
- dezir (Modern Spanish decir, cf. Portuguese dizer)
- lança (Modern Spanish lanza, cf. Portuguese lança)
The letters ⟨b⟩ and ⟨v⟩ still had distinct pronunciations; ⟨b⟩ still represented a stop consonant [b] in all positions, while ⟨v⟩ was likely pronounced as a voiced bilabial fricative [β] (although word-initially it may have been pronounced [b]). The use of ⟨b⟩ and ⟨v⟩ in Old Spanish largely corresponded to their use in Modern Portuguese, which still distinguishes the two sounds (with the exception of Galician and some northern Portuguese dialects); the use of two phonemes also occurs in standard Valencian spoken in eastern Catalonia and some areas in southern Catalonia, Balearic dialect, as well as in Alguerese (except standard Catalan in eastern Catalonia). When Spanish spelling was changed in 1815, words with ⟨b⟩ and ⟨v⟩ were respelled etymologically in order to match Latin spelling whenever possible.
- aver (Modern Spanish haber, cf. Latin habēre, Portuguese haver)
- caber (Modern Spanish caber, cf. Latin capere, Portuguese caber)
- bever (Modern Spanish beber, cf. Latin bibere; Portuguese beber < older bever)
- bivir/vivir (Modern Spanish vivir, cf. Latin vīvere, Portuguese viver)
- amava (Modern Spanish amaba, cf. Latin amābam/amābat, Portuguese amava)
- saber (Modern Spanish saber, cf. Latin sapere, Portuguese saber)
- livro (Modern Spanish libro, cf. Latin līber, lībri, Portuguese livro)
- palavra (Modern Spanish palabra, cf. Latin parabola, Portuguese palavra)
The Spanish place name Córdova (which became the English name of Córdoba) reflects the Old Spanish spelling and Arabic origin Qurṭubah, [clarification needed] and Álava reflects the Basque origin Araba. [clarification needed]
Many words now written with an ⟨h⟩ were written with ⟨f⟩ in Old Spanish, although it was likely pronounced [h] in most positions (but [ɸ] or [f] before /r/, /l/, [w] and possibly [j]). The cognates of these words in Portuguese and most other Romance languages have [f]. Other words now spelled with an etymological ⟨h⟩ were spelled without any such consonant in Old Spanish (e.g. haber, written aver in Old Spanish); these words have cognates in other Romance languages without [f] (e.g. French avoir, Italian avere, Portuguese haver with silent etymological ⟨h⟩).
- fablar (Modern Spanish hablar, Portuguese falar)
- fazer or facer (Modern Spanish hacer, Portuguese fazer)
- fijo (Modern Spanish hijo, Portuguese filho)
- foces "sickles", fozes "throats/ravines" (Modern Spanish hoces, Portuguese foices, fozes)
- follín (Modern Spanish hollín)
- ferir (Modern Spanish herir, Portuguese ferir)
- fiel (Modern Spanish fiel, Portuguese fiél)
- fuerte (Modern Spanish fuerte, Portuguese forte)
- flor (Modern Spanish flor, Portuguese flor)
Modern words with ⟨f⟩ before a vowel mostly represent learned or semi-learned borrowings from Latin, e.g. fumar "to smoke" (compare inherited humo "smoke"), satisfacer "to satisfy" (compare hacer "to make"), fábula "fable. rumor" (compare hablar "to speak"). Certain modern words with ⟨f⟩ that have doublets in ⟨h⟩ may represent dialectal developments or early borrowings from neighboring languages, e.g. fierro "branding iron" (compare hierro "iron"), fondo "bottom" (compare hondo "deep"), Fernando "Ferdinand" (compare Hernando).
Old Spanish had ⟨ch⟩, just as Modern Spanish does. This mostly represents a development of earlier */jt/ (still preserved in Portuguese and French), from Latin CT. (The use of ⟨ch⟩ for /tʃ/ originated in Old French and spread to Spanish, Portuguese and English, despite the different origins of the sound in each language.)
- leche "milk" (cf. Portuguese leite, French lait)
- mucho "much" (cf. Portuguese muito)
- noche "night" (cf. Portuguese noite, French nuit)
- ocho "eight" (cf. Portuguese oito, French huit)
- hecho "made" (cf. Portuguese feito, French fait)
The palatal nasal /ɲ/ was written ⟨nn⟩ (the geminate nn being one of the sound's Latin origins), but was often abbreviated to ⟨ñ⟩ following the common scribal shorthand of replacing an ⟨m⟩ or ⟨n⟩ with a tilde above the previous letter. In later times ⟨ñ⟩ was used exclusively, and came to be considered a letter in its own right by Modern Spanish. Also as in modern times, the palatal lateral /ʎ/ was indicated with ll (again reflecting its deriving from a Latin geminate).
In common with other European languages before c.1600, the letters ⟨i⟩ and ⟨j⟩ were not distinguished, nor were ⟨u⟩ and ⟨v⟩. Modern editions of Old Spanish texts usually normalize the spelling to distinguish them as the modern language does.
Morphology and syntax
In Old Spanish, perfect constructions of movement verbs, such as ir ('(to) go') and venir ('(to) come'), were formed using the auxiliary verb ser ('(to) be'), as in Italian and French. For example, Las mugieres son llegadas a Castiella vs. Modern Spanish Las mujeres han llegado a Castilla ('The women have arrived in Castilla').
Possession was expressed with the verb aver (Modern Spanish haber, '(to) have') rather than tener. For example: Pedro ha dos fijas vs. Modern Spanish Pedro tiene dos hijas ('Pedro has two daughters').
In the perfect tenses, the past participle often agreed with the gender and number of the direct object. For example, María ha cantadas dos canciones vs. Modern Spanish María ha cantado dos canciones ('María has sung two songs'), yet this was inconsistent even in the earliest texts.
The future and conditional tenses were not yet fully grammaticalised as inflexions; rather, they were still periphrastic formations of the verb aver in the present or imperfect indicative followed by the infinitive of a main verb.  Pronouns, therefore, following general placement rules, could be inserted between the main verb and the auxiliary in these periphrastic tenses. Compare this phenomenon with European Portuguese (mesoclisis):
- E dixo: ― Tornar-m-é a Jherusalem. (Fazienda de Ultra Mar, 194)
- Y dijo: ― Me tornaré a Jerusalén. (literal translation into Modern Spanish)
- E disse: ― Tornar-me-ei a Jerusalém. (literal translation into Portuguese)
- And he said: "I will return to Jerusalem." (English translation)
- En pennar gelo he por lo que fuere guisado (Cantar de mio Cid, 92)
- Se lo empeñaré por lo que sea razonable (Modern Spanish equivalent)
- Penhorar-lho-ei por o que for razoável (Portuguese equivalent)
- I will pawn it to them for whatever is reasonable (English translation)
When there was a stressed word before the verb, the pronouns would go before the verb: e.g., non gelo empeñar he por lo que fuere guisado.
Generally, an unstressed pronoun and a verb in simple sentences combined into one word.[clarification needed] In a compound sentence, the pronoun was found in the beginning of the clause. Example: la manol va besar = la mano le va a besar.
In comparison with the modern language, the future subjunctive was in common use (fuere in the second example above) whereas today it is generally found only in legal or solemn discourse, and in the spoken language in some dialects, particularly in areas of Venezuela replacing the imperfect subjunctive. It was used similarly to its Modern Portuguese counterpart, in place of the modern present subjunctive in a subordinate clause after si, cuando, etc., when an event in the future is referenced.
- Si vos assi lo fizieredes e la ventura me fuere complida
- Mando al vuestro altar buenas donas e Ricas (Cantar de mio Cid, 223–224)
- Si vosotros así hacéis y la suerte me favorece,
- Mando a vuestro altar ofrendas buenas y ricas (modern equivalent)
- If you do so and fortune is favourable toward me,
- I will send to your altar fine and rich offerings (English translation)
|Latin||Old Spanish||Modern Spanish||Modern Portuguese|
|acceptare, captare, effectum, respectum||acetar, catar, efeto, respeto||aceptar, captar, efecto, respecto and respeto||aceitar, catar, efeito, respeito|
|et, non, nos, hic||e, et; non, no; nós; í||y, e; no; nosotros; ahí||e; não; nós; aí|
|stabat; habui, habebat; facere, fecisti||estava; ove, avié; far/fer/fazer, fezist(e)/fizist(e)||estaba; hube, había; hacer, hiciste||estava; houve, havia; fazer, fizeste/fizestes|
|hominem, mulier, infantem||omne/omre/ombre, mugier/muger, ifante||hombre, mujer, infante||homem, mulher, infante|
|cras, mane (maneana); numquam||cras, man, mañana; nunqua/nunquas||mañana, nunca||manhã, nunca|
|quando, quid, qui (quem), quo modo||quando, que, qui, commo/cuemo||cuando, que, quien, como||quando, que, quem, como|
The following is a sample from Cantar de Mio Cid (lines 330–365), with abbreviations resolved, punctuation (the original has none), and some modernized letters. Below, the original Old Spanish text in the first column is presented, along with the same sample in modern Spanish in the second column and an English translation in the third column.
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Old Spanish". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Ortografía de la lengua castellana - Real Academia Española - Google йМХЦХ. Books.google.ru. Retrieved 2015-05-22.
- A History of the Spanish Language. Ralph Penny. Cambridge University Press. Pag. 210.
- Diccionario de dudas y dificultades de la lengua española. Seco, Manuel. Espasa-Calpe. 2002. Pp. 222-3.
- A recording with reconstructed mediaeval pronunciation can be accessed here, reconstructed according to contemporary phonetics (by Jabier Elorrieta).