In English, Castilian Spanish can mean the variety of Peninsular Spanish spoken in northern and central Spain, the standard form of Spanish, or Spanish from Spain in general. In Spanish, the term castellano (Castilian) refers to the Spanish language as a whole, or to the medieval Old Spanish language, a predecessor to modern Spanish.
The term Castilian Spanish is used in English for the specific varieties of Spanish spoken in north and central Spain. Typically, it is more loosely used to denote the Spanish spoken in all of Spain as compared to Spanish spoken in Latin America. In Spain itself, Spanish is not a uniform language and there exist several different varieties of Spanish; in addition, there are other official and unofficial languages in the country; Spanish is official throughout Spain.
Castellano septentrional ("Northern Castilian") is the Spanish term for the dialects from the Northern half of Spain, including those from Aragón or Navarre, which were never part of Castile. Español castellano, the literal translation of Castilian Spanish, is not a common expression; it could refer to varieties found in the region of Castile; however, those varieties are not uniform either.
Regional variations in Spain
Spain has several regional variations of the Spanish language, which can be roughly divided into four major dialectal areas:
- Northern Spanish (northern coast, Ebro and Duero basins, upper Tajo and upper Júcar basins). The dialects spoken in this area are referred to as Castilian Spanish (only in English). A large area of the historical region of Castile is excluded.
- Transitional area between North and South (Extremadura, Murcia, Madrid, La Mancha). The dialects spoken in this area contain traits which are associated with Andalusia, such as implosive s-aspiration (systematic or conditioned by context). Extremadura and Murcia are often grouped together into a Southern variety with Andalusia.
- Andalusian Spanish
- Canarian Spanish
Differences from American Spanish
The Spanish language is a pluricentric language. Spanish is spoken in numerous countries around the world, each with differing standards. However, the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy), based in Madrid, Spain, is affiliated with the national language academies of 22 other hispanophone nations through the Association of Academies of the Spanish Language, and their coordinated resolutions are typically accepted in other countries, especially those related to spelling. Also, the Instituto Cervantes, an agency of the Government of Spain in charge of promoting the Spanish language abroad, has been adopted by other countries as the authority to officially recognize and certificate the Spanish level of non-native Spanish speakers as their second language, as happens in Australia, Korea or Switzerland.
The variants of Spanish spoken in Spain and its former colonies vary significantly in grammar and pronunciation, as well as in the use of idioms. Courses of Spanish as a second language, commonly use Mexican Spanish in the United States and Canada, whereas European Spanish is typically preferred in Europe.
Dialects in central and northern Spain and Latin American Spanish contain several differences, the most apparent being Distinción (distinction), i.e., the pronunciation of the letter z before all vowels, and of c before e and i, as a voiceless dental fricative /θ/, as in English th in thing. Thus, in most variations of Spanish from Spain, cinco, 'five' is pronounced /ˈθinko/ as opposed to /ˈsinko/ in Latin American Spanish, and similarly for zapato, 'shoe', cerdo, 'pig', zorro, 'fox', Zurbarán. A restricted form of distinción also occurs in the area around Cusco, Peru, where [θ] exists in words such as the numbers doce, 'twelve', trece, 'thirteen'.
Additionally, all Latin-American dialects drop the familiar (that is, informal) vosotros verb forms for the second person plural, using ustedes in all contexts. In most of Spain, ustedes is used only in a formal context.
Some other minor differences are:
- The widespread use of le instead of lo as the masculine direct object pronoun, especially referring to people. This morphological variation, known as leísmo, is typical of a strip of land in central Spain which includes Madrid, and recently it has spread to other regions.
- In the past, the sounds for "y" and "ll" were phonologically different in most European Spanish subvarieties, compared with only a few dialects in Latin America, but that difference is now beginning to disappear (yeísmo) in all Peninsular Spanish dialects, including the standard (that is, Castilian Spanish based on the Madrid dialect). A distinct phoneme for "ll" is still heard in the speech of older speakers in rural areas throughout Spain, however, most Spanish-speaking adults and youngsters merge "ll" and "y". In Latin America, "ll" remains different from "y" in traditional dialects along the Andes range, especially in the Peruvian highlands, all of Bolivia and also in Paraguay. In the Philippines, speakers of Spanish and Filipino employ the distinction between "ll" /ʎ/ and "y" /ʝ/.
- In Spain, use of usted has declined in favor of tú; however, in Latin America, this difference is less noticeable among young people, especially in Caribbean dialects.
- In Castilian Spanish, the letter j as well as the letter g before the letters i and e are pronounced as a stronger velar fricative /x/ and very often the friction is uvular [χ], while in Latin America they are generally guttural as well, but not as strong and the uvular realizations of European Spanish are not reported. In the Caribbean, Colombia, Venezuela, other parts of Latin America, the Canary Islands, Extremadura and most of western Andalusia, as well as in the Philippines, it is pronounced as [h].
- Characteristic of Spanish from Spain (except from Andalusia and the Canary Islands) is the voiceless alveolar retracted sibilant [s̺], also called apico-alveolar or grave, which is often perceived as intermediate between a laminal/dental [s] and [ʃ]. This sound is also prevalent in Colombian Paisa region, and Andean Spanish dialects.
- Debuccalization of syllable-final /s/ to [x], [h], or dropping it entirely, so that está [esˈta] ("s/he is") sounds like [ehˈta] or [eˈta], occurs in both Spain and the Americas. In Spain, this is most common in southern Spain: Andalusia, Extremadura, Murcia, Community of Madrid, La Mancha, etc., as well as in the Canary Islands; in the Americas it is the general pronunciation in most coastal and lowland regions.
- Words containing the three letters together -atl- , are pronounced in a different way in Castilian Spanish as compared to Mexican Spanish. In Spain, words like Atlántico and atleta are pronounced according to the syllabication At-lán-ti-co and at-le-ta. Instead, in Mexico, the pronunciation follows the syllabication A-tlán-ti-co and a-tle-ta.
The meaning of certain words may differ greatly between all the dialects of the language: carro refers to car in some Latin American dialects but to cart in Spain and some Latin American dialects. There also appear gender differences: el PC (personal computer) in Castilian Spanish and some Latin American Spanish, la PC in some Latin American Spanish, due to the widespread use of the gallicism ordenador (from ordinateur in French) for computer in Peninsular Spanish, which is masculine, instead of the Latin-American-preferred computadora, which is feminine, from the English word computer (the exceptions being Colombia and Chile, where PC is known as computador, which is masculine).
Speakers from Latin America tend to use words and polite-set expressions that, even if recognized by the Real Academia Española, are not widely used nowadays (some of them are even deemed as anachronisms) by speakers of Castilian Spanish. For example, enojarse and enfadarse are verbs with the same meaning (to become angry), enojarse being used much more in the Americas than in Spain, and enfadarse more in Spain than in the Americas. Below are select vocabulary differences between Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. Words in bold are unique to Spain and not used in any other country (except for perhaps Equatorial Guinea which speaks a very closely related dialect).
|Castilian Spanish||Latin American Spanish1||English|
|vale||bien (universal), listo (Colombia), dale (Argentina, Chile), ya (Peru)||okay|
|patata||papa||potato (papa also means poppet or child)|
|judía, alubia||frijol/frejol/caraota (Venezuela) / habichuela (Caribbean) / poroto||bean|
|fregona||trapeador, trapero, lampazo (Argentina, Uruguay), mopa, mapo (Puerto Rico)||mop|
|tarta||torta/pastel (Mexico, El Salvador) / queque/bizcocho (Puerto Rico)||cake|
|cabezal||cabeza||head (of an apparatus)|
1Latin American Spanish consists of several varieties spoken throughout the Americas so the examples may not represent all dialects. They are meant to show contrast and comparing all variants of Latin America as a whole to one variant of Spain would be impossible as the majority of the vocabulary will be reflected in other variants.
- Andalusian Spanish
- Canarian Spanish
- Murcian Spanish
- Standard Spanish – the standard form that is very different from the medieval Spanish language-base
- Random House Unabridged Dictionary. Random House Inc. 2006.
- The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.). Houghton Mifflin Company. 2006.
- Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. 1998.
- "Encarta World English Dictionary". Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. 2007. Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
- "Castilian". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House. Retrieved 2021-04-04.
- "Castilian". Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 2021-04-04.
- Alonso, Amado (1967). De la pronunciación medieval a la moderna en español (in Spanish)., cited in Cotton, Eleanor Greet; Sharp, John (1988), Spanish in the Americas, Georgetown University Press, ISBN 978-0-87840-094-2
- Soler-Espiauba, Dolores (1994). "¿Tú o usted? ¿Cuándo y por qué? Descodificación al uso del estudiante de español como lengua extranjera" ['Tú' or 'usted'? When and why? Decoding for the use of the student of Spanish as a foreign language] (PDF). Actas (in Spanish). ASELE (V): 199–208. Retrieved 17 September 2020.