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. Amongst the consonants, there were three pairs of sibilants, each pair consisting of one voiceless and one voiced member:
- 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 /z/: 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)
The Modern Spanish /x/, which corresponds to ⟨j⟩ and to ⟨g⟩ before ⟨e⟩ or ⟨i⟩, and the Modern Spanish /θ/, written as ⟨z⟩ or as ⟨c⟩ before ⟨e⟩ or ⟨i⟩, did not exist in Old Spanish. Modern Spanish /x/ and /θ/ evolved from [ʃ]~[ʒ] and [ts]~[dz] respectively. The Old Spanish spelling of the sibilants was identical to modern Portuguese spelling, which still reflects the medieval language; Spanish was respelt in 1815.. [z], spelled ⟨s⟩ between vowels in Old Spanish, is only found in Modern Spanish as an allophone of /s/ before voiced consonants.
- 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)
- fazer or facer (Modern Spanish hacer, cf. Portuguese fazer)
- dezir (Modern Spanish decir, cf. Portuguese dizer)
- lança (Modern Spanish lanza, cf. Portuguese lança)
- passar (Modern Spanish pasar, cf. Portuguese passar)
- foces "sickles", fozes "throats/ravines" (Modern Spanish hoces in both cases, cf. Portuguese foices, fozes)
- coxo "lame", cojo "I seize" (Modern Spanish cojo in both cases, cf. Portuguese coxo, colho)
- osso "bear", oso "I dare" (Modern Spanish oso in both cases, cf. Portuguese urso, ouso)
The letters ⟨b⟩ and ⟨v⟩ still had distinct pronunciations; ⟨b⟩ still represented a stop consonant [b] in all positions, while ⟨v⟩ was pronounced as a voiced bilabial or  fricative. 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). When Spanish spelling was changed in 1815, words with ⟨b⟩ and ⟨v⟩ were respelt 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)
The letter ⟨f⟩ represented variously a labiodental [f], bilabial [ɸ], or glottal fricative [h] (like the English ⟨h⟩) that later disappeared from pronunciation, where now an orthographic ⟨h⟩ represents it, except learned words (i.e. words borrowed directly from Classical Latin), before a glide, or another consonant.
- fablar (Modern Spanish hablar)
- fazer or facer (Modern Spanish hacer)
- fijo (Modern Spanish hijo)
- foces "sickles", fozes "throats/ravines" (Modern Spanish hoces)
- follín (Modern Spanish hollín)
- ferir (Modern Spanish herir)
- fiel (Modern Spanish fiel)
- fuerte (Modern Spanish fuerte)
- flor (Modern Spanish flor)
This is the reason that there are groups of related words that vary in having f or h in Modern Spanish; for example, Fernando and Hernando ('Ferdinand'), ferrero and herrero ('smith'), fierro and hierro ('iron'), and fondo and hondo ('bottom' and 'deep' respectively); hacer ('(to) make') is the root word of satisfacer ('(to) satisfy'), and hecho ('made') is the root word of satisfecho ('satisfied').
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 literary Portuguese (mesoclisis):
- E dixo: "Tornar-m-é a Jherusalem." (Fazienda de Ultra Mar, 194)
- Y dijo: "Me tornaré a Jerusalén." (literal grammatical translation into Modern Spanish)
- Y dijo: "Regresaré a Jerusalén." (Modern Spanish equivalent)
- 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 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 living (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 uos assi lo fizieredes e la uentura me fuere complida
- Mando al uuestro 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|
|acceptare, captare, effectum, respectum||acetar, catar, efeto, respeto||aceptar, captar, efecto, respecto and respeto|
|et, non, nos, hic||e, et; non, no; nós; í||y, e; no; nosotros; ahí|
|stabat; habui, habebat; facere, fecisti||estava; ove, avié; far/fer/fazer, fezist(e)/fizist(e)||estaba; hube, había; hacer, hiciste|
|hominem, mulier, infantem||omne/omre/ombre, mugier/muger, ifante||hombre, mujer, infante|
|cras, mane (maneana); numquam||cras, man, mañana; nunqua/nunquas||mañana, nunca|
|quando, quid, qui (quem), quo modo||quando, que, qui, commo/cuemo||cuando, que, quien, 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.
- 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).