Spanish, Castilian
Español, Castellano 
Pronunciation: /espa'ɲol/, /kaste'ʎano/ or /kaste'ʝano/
Spoken in: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, Venezuela and significant parts of the population in Andorra, Belize, Gibraltar, and the United States.
Total speakers: First languagea: 322[1][2]– c. 400 million[3][4][5]
Totala: 400–500 million[6][7][8]
aAll numbers are approximate. 
Ranking: 2-4 (native)[9][10][11][12]
Total: 3
Language family: Indo-European
      West Iberian
       Spanish, Castilian 
Writing system: Latin (Spanish variant
Official status
Official language in: 21 countries
Regulated by: Asociación de Academias de la Lengua EspañolaWp globe tiny (Real Academia Española and 21 other national Spanish language academies)
Language codes
ISO 639-1: es
ISO 639-2: spa
ISO 639-3: spa

Spanish (About this sound español ) or Castilian (castellano) is a Romance language originally from the northern area of Spain. From there, its use gradually spread inside the Kingdom of Castile, where it evolved and eventually became the principal language of the government and trade. It was later taken to Africa, the Americas and Asia Pacific in the last five centuries by Spanish explorers and colonists.

Today, it is one of the official languages of Spain, most Latin American countries, and Equatorial Guinea. In total, 21 nations use Spanish as their primary language. Spanish is also one of six official languages of the United Nations.

The language is spoken by between 322 and 400 million people natively,[13][7] making Spanish the most spoken Romance language and possibly the second most spoken language by number of native speakers.[14][15]

Mexico is the world's largest Spanish-speaking country. Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the United States[16] and by far the most popular studied foreign language in U.S. schools and universities.[17][18] Spanish is among the most popular foreign languages for study in the rest of the nations of the Anglosphere in general, where on top of the widespread use of English globally, the large number of additional countries and geographic territory that Spanish allows exploring is an attractive prospect for many people. Due to proximity, linguistic similarities, and trade reasons it is also a very popular second language in Italy, Portugal, and particularly the southern states of Brazil. It is estimated that the combined total of native and non-native Spanish speakers is approximately 500 million, likely making it the fourth most spoken language by total number of speakers.[13][7] Global internet usage statistics for 2007 show Spanish as the third most commonly used language on the internet, after English and Chinese.[19]

Spanish is the third most influential language in the world (after English and French).[20]

Naming and origin[]

Spaniards tend to call this language español (Spanish) when contrasting it with languages of other states, such as French and English, but call it castellano (Castilian), that is, the language of the Castile region, when contrasting it with other languages spoken in Spain such as Galician, Basque, and Catalan. This reasoning also holds true for the language's preferred name in some Hispanic American countries. In this manner, the Spanish Constitution of 1978 uses the term castellana to define the official language of the whole Spanish State, as opposed to las demás lenguas españolas (lit. the other Spanish languages). Article III reads as follows:

El castellano es la lengua española oficial del Estado. (…) Las demás lenguas españolas serán también oficiales en las respectivas Comunidades Autónomas…
Castilian is the official Spanish language of the State. (…) The other Spanish languages shall also be official in their respective Autonomous Communities…

The name castellano is however widely used for the language as a whole in Latin America. Some Spanish speakers consider castellano a generic term with no political or ideological links, much as "Spanish" is in English. Often Latin Americans use it to differentiate their own variety of Spanish as opposed to the variety of Spanish spoken in Spain, or vice-versa, to refer to that variety of Spanish which is considered as standard in the region.

Map-Hispanophone World

  Countries where Spanish has official status.
Situation in the United States of America:
  Countries and regions where the Spanish language is spoken without official recognition and areas with a strong Hispanic influence.

NOTE: For detailed information about the sources taken to make the map, see its description page

Classification and related languages[]

Castilian Spanish has closest affinity to the other West Iberian Romance languages: Asturian (asturianu), Galician (galego), Ladino (dzhudezmo/spanyol/kasteyano), and Portuguese (português), as well as to Aragonese (aragonés) and Catalan (català).

Catalan, an East Iberian language which exhibits many Gallo-Romance traits, is more similar to the neighbouring Occitan language (occitan) than to Spanish, or indeed than Spanish and Portuguese are to each other. In the Middle Ages, it was even known as llemosí (Limousin). In later centuries it was generally regarded as a dialect of Spanish, and it wasn't until the earliest years of the 20th century that Catalan was recognised as a variant of the Occitan language.

Spanish and Portuguese share similar grammars and a majority of vocabulary as well as a common history of Arabic influence while a great part of the peninsula was under Islamic rule (both languages expanded over Islamic territories). Their lexical similarity has been estimated as 89%.[1] See Differences between Spanish and Portuguese, for further information.


Ladino, which is essentially medieval Castilian and closer to modern Spanish than any other language, is spoken by many descendants of the Spanish Jews who were expelled from Spain in the 15th century. In many ways it is not a separate language but a parallel dialect of Castilian. Ladino lacks Native American vocabulary which was influential during the Spanish colonial period, and it retains many archaic features which have since been lost in standard Castilian. It does, however, contain other vocabulary which is not found in standard Castilian, including vocabulary from Hebrew as well as Turkish and other languages spoken wherever the Sephardim settled.

Vocabulary comparison[]

Spanish and Italian share a very similar phonological system and do not differ very much in grammar. At present, the lexical similarity with Italian is estimated at 82%.[1] As a result, Spanish and Italian are mutually intelligible to various degrees. The lexical similarity with Portuguese is even greater, 89%, but the vagaries of Portuguese pronunciation make it less easily understood by Hispanophones than Italian. Mutual intelligibility with French and Romanian is even lower (lexical similarity being respectively 75% and 71%[1]): comprehension of Spanish by French speakers who have not studied the language is as low as an estimated 45% - the same as of English. The common features of the writing systems of the Romance languages allow for a greater amount of interlingual reading comprehension than oral communication would.

Latin Spanish Galician Portuguese Catalan Italian French Romanian English Meaning and notes
nos nosotros nós/nosoutros nós¹ nosaltres noi² nous³ noi we[-others]
frater germānus (lit. "true brother", i.e. not a cousin) hermano irmán irmão germà fratello frère frate brother
dies Martis

tertia feria

martes martes terça-feira dimarts martedì mardi marți Tuesday
cantiō(ne, abl.) canción canción canção cançó canzone chanson cântec song
magis or plus más
(archaically also plus)
máis mais
(archaically also chus)
(archaically also pus)
più plus mai more
manus sinistra mano izquierda

also (mano siniestra)

man esquerda mão esquerda
(archaically also sẽestra)
mà esquerra mano sinistra main gauche mâna stângă left hand
nihil or nulla res nata
(lit. "no thing born")
nada nada/ren nada
(archaically also rem)
res niente/nulla rien/nul nimic nothing

  1. also nós outros in early modern Portuguese (e.g. The Lusiads)
  2. noi altri in Southern Italian dialects and languages
  3. nous autres in Quebec French


Page of Lay of the Cid

A page of Cantar de Mio Cid, in medieval Castilian.

The Spanish language developed from Vulgar Latin, with major influences from Arabic during the Al-Andalusian period, and minor surviving influences from Basque and Celtiberian, and to some extent the Germanic languages via the Vandals. Spanish developed along the remote cross road strips among the Cantabria, Burgos, Soria and La Rioja provinces of Northern Spain, partly as strongly innovative and differing variant from its nearest cousin, Leonese speech, with a higher degree of Basque influence in these regions(see Iberian Romance languages). Typical features of Spanish diachronical phonology include lenition (Latin vita, Spanish vida), palatalization (Latin annum, Spanish año, and Latin anellum, Spanish anillo) and diphthongation (stem-changing) of short e and o from Vulgar Latin (Latin terra, Spanish tierra; Latin novus, Spanish nuevo). Similar phenomena can be found in other Romance languages as well.

During the Reconquista, this northern dialect from Cantabria was carried south, and indeed is still a minority language in the northern coastal regions of Morocco.

The first Latin to Spanish grammar (Gramática de la Lengua Castellana) was written in Salamanca, Spain, in 1492 by Elio Antonio de Nebrija. When Isabel de Castilla was presented with the book, she asked, "What do I want a work like this for, if I already know the language?", to which he replied, "Your highness, the language is the instrument of the Empire."

From the 16th century onwards, the language was brought to the Americas and Spanish East Indies by Spanish colonization. Also in this epoch, Spanish became the main language of Politics and Art across the major part of Europe. In the 18th century, French took its place.

In the 20th century, Spanish was introduced in Equatorial Guinea and Western Sahara and parts of the United States, such as Spanish Harlem in New York City, that had not been part of the Spanish Empire.

For details on borrowed words and other external influences in Spanish, see Influences on the Spanish language.

Typical sound changes[]

One defining characteristic of Spanish was the diphthongization of the Latin short vowels e and o into ie and ue, respectively, when they were stressed. Similar sound changes can be found in other Romance languages, but in Spanish they were particularly significant. Some examples:

  • Lat. petra > Sp. piedra, It. pietra, Fr. pierre, Port./Gal. pedra "stone".
  • Lat. moritur > Sp. muere, It. muore, Fr. meurt / muert, Rom. moare, Port./Gal. morre "die".

More peculiar to early Spanish (as in the Gascon dialect of Occitan, and possibly due to a Basque substratum) was the mutation of Latin initial f- into h- whenever it was followed by a vowel which did not diphthongate. Compare for instance:

  • Lat. filium > It. figlio, Port. filho, Gal. fillo, Fr. fils, Occitan filh (but Gascon hilh) Sp. hijo (but Ladino fijo);
  • late Lat. *fabulare > Lad. favlar, Port./Gal. falar, Sp. hablar;
  • but Lat. focum > It. fuoco, Port./Gal. fogo, Sp./Lad. fuego.

Some consonant clusters of Latin also produced characteristically different results in these languages, for example:

  • Lat. clamare, acc. flammam, plenum > Lad. lyamar, flama, pleno; Sp. llamar, llama, lleno. However, in Spanish there are also the forms clamar, flama, pleno; Port. chamar, chama, cheio; Gal. chamar, chama, cheo.
  • Lat. acc. octo, noctem, multum > Lad. ocho, noche, muncho; Sp. ocho, noche, mucho; Port. oito, noite, muito; Gal. oito, noite, moito.

Geographic distribution[]

Spanish language
The letter Ñ on a Spanish keyboard
Names for the language
  • Determiners
  • Nouns
  • Pronouns
  • Adjectives
  • Prepositions
  • Verbs
    • Conjugation
      • Irregular verbs

Spanish is one of the official languages of the Organization of American States, the Organization of Ibero-American States, the United Nations, the Union of South American Nations, and the European Union.

Latin America[]

The vast majority of Spanish speakers are located in Latin America. Of most countries with the largest numbers of Spanish speakers, only Spain is situated outside of the Americas. Mexico boasts the world's largest number of native speakers. At the national level, Spanish is the official language of Argentina, Bolivia (co-official Quechua and Aymara), Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay (co-official Guaraní[21]), Peru (co-official Quechua and, in some regions, Aymara), Uruguay, and Venezuela. Spanish is also the official language (co-official language English) in the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico.[22]

The non-Spanish speaking Americas[]

Spanish holds no official recognition in the former British colony of Belize. However, according to the 2000 census, 52.1% of the population speaks the language "very well."[23] [24] It is mainly spoken by Hispanic descendants who have remained in the region since the 17th century. However, English remains the sole official language.[25]

Spanish has become increasingly important in Brazil due to proximity and increased trade with its Spanish-speaking neighbours, for example, as a member of the Mercosur trading bloc.[26] In 2005, the National Congress of Brazil approved a bill, signed into law by the President, that makes Spanish available as a foreign language in the country's secondary schools.[27] In many border towns and villages (especially along the Uruguayan-Brazilian border) a mixed language commonly known as Portuñol is also spoken.[28]

In Haiti, French is one of two official languages, but it is spoken by only about 10% of the population. All Haitians speak Creole, the country's other official language. The latter, is a creole based primarily on French and African languages, with some English, Taíno, Portuguese and Spanish influences. Spanish, though not official, is spoken by a growing amount of the population. It is spoken more frequently near the border with the Dominican Republic, however Spanish is increasingly being spoken in more westward areas, as Venezuelan, Cuban, and Dominican trade influence Haitian society, and Haiti becomes increasingly involved in Latin American affairs.

In the United States, 42.7 million people were of Hispanic heritage according to the 2005 census. Some 32 million people, or 12% of the whole population aged 5 years or older speak Spanish at home.[29] The Spanish language has a long history in the United States (many states in the South contain land that used to be part of Mexico or other Spanish colonies) and has recently been revitalised by heavy immigration from Spanish-speaking Latin America. Spanish, moreover, is the most widely taught foreign language in the United States.[30] Though the United States has no formally designated "official languages", Spanish is formally recognized at the state level, alongside English, in the U.S. state of New Mexico, where it is spoken by almost 30% of the population. In total, the U.S. contains the world's fifth-largest Spanish speaking population.[31]


Spanish is official in Spain, the country for which it is named and from which it originated. It is also spoken widely in Gibraltar, although English is used for official purposes.[32] Likewise, it is spoken in Andorra though Catalan is the official language.[33][34] It is also spoken by small communities in other European countries, such as the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.[35] Spanish is an official language of the European Union. In Switzerland, Spanish is the mother tongue of 1.7% of the population, representing the first minority after the 4 official languages of the country [36].


Although Spanish was an official language in the Philippines, it was never spoken by a majority of the population. Its importance fell in the first half of the 20th century following the US occupation and administration of the islands. The introduction of the English language in the Filipino government system put an end to the use of Spanish as the official language. The language lost its status in 1987, during the Corazon Aquino administration. According to the 1990 census, there were 2,658 native speakers of Spanish.[37] The number of Spanish speakers, however, are not available in the ensuing 1995 and 2000 censuses. Additionally, according to the 2000 census, there are over 600,000 native speakers of Chavacano, a Spanish based creole spoken in Cavite and Zamboanga. Many Philippine languages have numerous Spanish loanwords. See also: Spanish language in the Philippines.


In Africa, Spanish language is official in the UN-recognised but Moroccan-occupied Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (co-official Arabic) and Equatorial Guinea (co-official French and Portuguese). Today, nearly 200,000 refugee Sahrawis are able to read and write in Spanish [38], and several thousands have received university education in foreign countries as part of aid packages (mainly Cuba and Spain). In Equatorial Guinea, Spanish is the predominant language when counting native and non-native speakers (around 500,000 people), while Fang is the most spoken language by number of native speakers [39], [40]. It is also spoken in the Spanish cities in continental North Africa (Ceuta and Melilla) and in the autonomous community of Canary Islands (143,000 and 1,995,833 people, respectively). Within Northern Morocco, a former Franco-Spanish protectorate that is also geographically close to Spain, approximately 20,000 people speak Spanish.[41]. It is spoken by some communities of Angola, because of the Cuban influence from the Cold War. In Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal, the Spanish can be learned as a second foreign language in the public educative system.[42]. In 2008, Cervantes Institutes centers will be opened in Lagos and Johannesburg, the first one in the Sub-Saharan Africa[43]


Among the countries and territories in Oceania, Spanish is also spoken in Easter Island, a territorial possession of Chile. According to the 2001 census, there are approximately 95,000 speakers of Spanish in Australia, 44,000 of which live in Greater Sydney.

The island nations of Guam, Palau, Northern Marianas, Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia all once had Spanish speakers, since Marianas and Caroline Islands were Spanish colonial possessions until late 19th century (see Spanish-American War), but Spanish has since been forgotten. It now only exists as an influence on the local native languages.


Dialectos del castellano en España

Dialectal map of Castilian Spanish and Languages of Spain.

There are important variations among the regions of Spain and throughout Spanish-speaking America. In countries in Hispanophone America it is preferable to use the word castellano to distinguish their version of the language from that of Spain, thus asserting their autonomy and national identity. In Spain the Castilian dialect's pronunciation is commonly regarded as the national standard, although a use of slightly different pronouns called laísmoWp globe tiny of this dialect is deprecated. More accurately, for nearly everyone in Spain, "standard Spanish" means "pronouncing everything exactly as it is written", an ideal which does not correspond to any real dialect, though the northern dialects get the closest to it. In practice, the standard way of speaking Spanish in the media is "written Spanish" for formal speech, "Madrid dialect" (one of the transitional variants between Castilian and Andalusian) for informal speech.

Spanish has three second-person singular pronouns: , usted, and in some parts of Latin America, vos (the use of this form is called voseo). Generally speaking, and vos are informal and used with friends (though in Spain vos is considered an archaic form for address of exalted personages, its use now mainly confined to the liturgy). Usted is universally regarded as the formal address (derived from vuestra merced, "your grace"), and is used as a mark of respect, as when addressing one's elders or strangers.

Mapa - Paises voseantes

Countries that feature voseo. In blue, countries that use vos as the primary spoken form. In green countries that feature voseo as a regionalism or non-mainstream practice.

Vos is used extensively as the primary spoken form of the second-person singular pronoun in many countries of Latin America, including Argentina, Costa Rica, the central mountain region of Ecuador, the State of Chiapas in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay, the Antioquia and Valle del Cauca states of Colombia and the State of Zulia in Venezuela. In Argentina, Uruguay, and increasingly in Paraguay, it is also the standard form used in the media, but the media in other countries with voseo generally continue to use usted or except in advertisements, for instance. Vos may also be used regionally in other countries. Depending on country or region, usage may be considered standard or (by better educated speakers) to be unrefined. Interpersonal situations in which the use of vos is acceptable may also differ considerably between regions. For further information, see Voseo.

Spanish forms also differ regarding second-person plural pronouns. The Spanish dialects of Latin America have only one form of the second-person plural for daily use, ustedes (formal or familiar, as the case may be, though vosotros non-formal usage can sometimes appear in poetry and rhetorical or literary style). In Spain there are two forms — ustedes (formal) and vosotros (familiar). The pronoun vosotros is the plural form of in most of Spain, but in the Americas (and certain southern Spanish cities such as Cádiz or Seville, and in the Canary Islands) it is replaced with ustedes. It is remarkable that the use of ustedes for the informal plural "you" in southern Spain does not follow the usual rule for pronoun-verb agreement; e.g., while the formal form for "you go", ustedes van, uses the third-person plural form of the verb, in Cádiz or Seville the informal form is constructed as ustedes vais, using the second-person plural of the verb. In the Canary Islands, though, the usual pronoun-verb agreement is preserved in most cases.

Some words can be different, even embarrassingly so, in different Hispanophone countries. Most Spanish speakers can recognize other Spanish forms, even in places where they are not commonly used, but Spaniards generally do not recognise specifically American usages. For example, Spanish mantequilla, aguacate and albaricoque (respectively, "butter", "avocado", "apricot") correspond to manteca, palta, and damasco, respectively, in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. The everyday Spanish words coger (to catch, get, or pick up), pisar (to step on) and concha (seashell) are considered extremely rude in parts of Latin America, where the meaning of coger and pisar is also "to have sex" and concha means "vulva". The Puerto Rican word for "bobby pin" (pinche) is an obscenity in Mexico, and in Nicaragua simply means "stingy". Other examples include taco, which means "swearword" in Spain but is known to the rest of the world as the Mexican foodstuff. Pija in many countries of Latin America is an obscene slang word for "penis", while in Spain the word also signifies "posh girl" or "snobby". Coche, which means "car" in Spain, means "pig" in Guatemala while carro means "car" in some Latin American countries and "cart" in others, as well as in Spain.

The Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy), together with the 21 other national ones (see Association of Spanish Language Academies), exercises a standardizing influence through its publication of dictionaries and widely respected grammar and style guides. Due to this influence and for other sociohistorical reasons, a standardized form of the language (Standard Spanish) is widely acknowledged for use in literature, academic contexts and the media.

Writing system[]

Spanish is written using the Latin alphabet, with the addition of the character ñ (eñe, representing the phoneme /ɲ/, a letter distinct from n, although typographically composed of an n with a tilde) and the digraphs ch (che, representing the phoneme /tʃ/, a letter distinct from c and h) and ll (elle, representing the phoneme /ʎ/, a letter distinct from l). However, the digraph rr (erre fuerte, "strong r", erre doble, "double r", or simply erre), which also represents a single phoneme /r/, is not similarly regarded as a single letter. Thus, the traditional Spanish alphabet has 28 letters (29 if one counts w, which is only used in foreign names and loanwords):

a, b, c, ch, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, ll, m, n, ñ, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z.

Since 1994, the digraphs ch and ll are to be treated as letter pairs for collation purposes only. Words with ch are now alphabetically sorted between those with ce and ci, instead of following cz as they used to, and similarly for ll, although ch and ll remain otherwise distinct letters.[44] All words that start with the rr sound are written with only one r and collated under this letter. There are no words that start with the r sound.

With the exclusion of a very small number of regional terms such as México (see Mexico: Toponymy), pronunciation can be entirely determined from spelling. A typical Spanish word is stressed on the syllable before the last if it ends with a vowel (not including y) or with a vowel followed by n or s; it is stressed on the last syllable otherwise. Exceptions to this rule are indicated by placing an acute accent on the stressed vowel.

The acute accent is used, in addition, to distinguish between certain homophones, especially when one of them is a stressed word and the other one is a clitic: compare el ("the", masculine singular definite article) with él ("he" or "it"), or te ("you", object pronoun), de (preposition "of" or "from"), and se (reflexive pronoun) with ("tea"), ("give") and ("I know", or imperative "be").

The interrogative pronouns (qué, cuál, dónde, quién, etc.) also receive accents in direct or indirect questions, and some demonstratives (ése, éste, aquél, etc.) can be accented when used as pronouns. The conjunction o ("or") is written with an accent between numerals so as not to be confused with a zero: e.g., 10 ó 20 should be read as diez o veinte rather than diez mil veinte ("10,020"). Accent marks are frequently omitted in capital letters (a widespread practice in the early days of computers where only lowercase vowels were available with accents), although the RAE advises against this.

When u is written between g and a front vowel (e or i), if it should be pronounced, it is written with a diaeresis (ü) to indicate that it is not silent as it normally would be (e.g., cigüeña, "stork", is pronounced /θiˈgweɲa/}}; if it were written cigueña, it would be pronounced /θiˈgeɲa/.

Interrogative and exclamatory clauses are introduced with inverted question ( ¿ ) and exclamation marks ( ¡ ).


The phonemic inventory listed in the following table includes phonemes that are preserved only in some dialects, other dialects have merged them (such as yeísmo); these are marked with an asterisk (*). Sounds in parentheses are allophones.

Table of Spanish consonants[45]
Bilabial Labio-
Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɲ
Stop p   b t   d tʃ   ɟʝ k   g
Fricative  f *θ   (θ̬) s   (z)  x
Approximant (β (ð (ʝ)   (ɣ
Trill r
Tap ɾ
Lateral l

By the 16th century, the consonant system of Spanish underwent the following important changes that differentiated it from neighboring Romance languages such as Portuguese and Catalan:

  • Initial /f/, when it had evolved into a vacillating /h/, was lost in most words (although this etymological h- is preserved in spelling and in some Andalusian dialects is still aspirated).
  • The bilabial approximant /β̞/ (which was written u or v) merged with the bilabial oclusive /b/ (written b). There is no difference between the pronunciation of orthographic b and v in contemporary Spanish, excepting specific areas in Spain (particularly the ones influenced by Catalan) and Latin America (notably Peru).
  • The voiced alveolar fricative /z/ which existed as a separate phoneme in medieval Spanish merged with its voiceless counterpart /s/. The phoneme which resulted from this merger is currently spelled s.
  • The voiced postalveolar fricative /ʒ/ merged with its voiceless counterpart /ʃ/, which evolved into the modern velar sound /x/ by the 17th century, now written with j, or g before e, i. Nevertheless, in most parts of Argentina and in Uruguay, y and ll have both evolved to /ʒ/ or /ʃ/.
  • The voiced alveolar affricate /dz/ merged with its voiceless counterpart /ts/, which then developed into the interdental /θ/, now written z, or c before e, i. But in Andalusia, the Canary Islands and the Americas this sound merged with /s/ as well. See Ceceo, for further information.

The consonant system of Medieval Spanish has been better preserved in Ladino and in Portuguese, neither of which underwent these shifts.

Lexical stress[]

Spanish syllables are all pronounced at a more or less constant tempo, so it is sometimes said to be syllable-timed, but in fact it is stress-timed, with different stress patterns resulting in separate meanings for the same spelling, distinguishable by written accents, especially noticeable in verb conjugations. For example, the word camino (with penultimate stress) means "road" or "I walk" whereas caminó (with final stress) means "you (formal)/he/she/it walked". Another example is the word práctico (first-syllable stress) "practical", which is different from practico (second-syllable stress) "I practice", and practicó (last-syllable stress) "you (formal)/he/she/it practiced." As mentioned above, stress can always be predicted from the written form of a word. An amusing example of the significance of stress and intonation in Spanish is the riddle cómo cómo como como como como, to be punctuated and accented so that it makes sense. The answer is ¿Cómo "cómo como"? ¡Como como como! ("What do you mean / 'how / do I eat'? / I eat / the way / I eat!").


Spanish is a relatively inflected language, with a two-gender system and about fifty conjugated forms per verb, but limited inflection of nouns, adjectives, and determiners. (For a detailed overview of verbs, see Spanish verbs and Spanish irregular verbs.)

It is right-branching, uses prepositions, and usually, though not always, places adjectives after nouns. Its syntax is generally Subject Verb Object, though variations are common. It is a pro-drop language (allows the deletion of pronouns when pragmatically unnecessary) and verb-framed.

See also[]

Local varieties[]


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  5. ^ Terra Noticias
  6. ^ Universidad de México
  7. ^ a b c Instituto Cervantes ("El Mundo" news) Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "instituto cervantes" defined multiple times with different content
  8. ^ Yahoo Press Room
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  14. ^ Ethnologue, 1999
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  16. ^ CIA The World Factbook United States
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  19. ^ World Internet Usage Statistics
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ Ethnologue - Paraguay(2000). Guaraní is also the most spoken language in Paraguay by number of native speakers.
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  24. ^ Belize Population and Housing Census 2000
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  27. ^, August 08, 2005.
  28. ^ Lipski, John M. (2006). "Too close for comfort? the genesis of “portuñol/portunhol”". 
  29. ^ U.S. Census Bureau. Percent of People 5 Years and Over Who Speak Spanish at Home: 2005
  30. ^ Foreign Language Enrollments in United States Institutions of Higher LearningPDF (129 {{subst:#ifexist:Kibibyte|KiB|KiB}}), MLA Fall 2002.
  31. ^ Facts, Figures, and Statistics About Spanish, American Demographics, 1998.
  32. ^ CIA World Factbook — Gibraltar
  33. ^ "Andorra — People". MSN Encarta. Retrieved 2007-08-20. 
  34. ^ "Background Note: Andorra". U.S. Department of State: Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. January 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-20. 
  35. ^ BBC Education — Languages, Languages Across Europe — Spanish.
  36. ^ "Switzerland's Four National Languages". Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  37. ^ "Ethnologue". Ethnologue Report for the Philippines. 
  38. ^ El refuerzo del español llega a los saharauis con una escuela en los campos de Tinduf
  39. ^ Ethnologue -Equatorial Guinea ((2000)
  40. ^ CIA World Factbook - Equatorial Guinea (Last updated 20 September, 2007)
  41. ^, The Languages of Morocco.
  42. ^ El idioma español en África subsahariana
  43. ^ El Cervantes espera duplicar las matrículas para el 2012 dentro de la 'gran operación de comunicación' del español
  44. ^ "No obstante, en el X Congreso de la Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española, celebrado en 1994, se acordó adoptar para los diccionarios académicos, a petición de varios organismos internacionales, el orden alfabético latino universal, en el que la ch y la ll no se consideran letras independientes. En consecuencia, estas dos letras pasan a alfabetizarse en los lugares que les corresponden dentro de la C (entre -cg- y -ci-) y dentro de la L (entre -lk- y -lm-), respectivamente." Real Academia Española. Explanation at (in Spanish and English)
  45. ^ Martínez-Celdrán et al (2003:255)

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