BITS OF SPANISH
Thomas Russell Wingate
June, October, November 2010
I do not know Spanish … yet.
It is generally held that Jorge Luis Borges¹ was the twentieth century’s supreme writer in Spanish.
He publicly stated that Spanish is inferior to English for literary purposes.
The Spanish language has left an indelible mark on the U.S.A.
California is the only state named from a work of fiction. Other states with Spanish names are Nevada, Montana, Colorado, and Florida. There is also New Mexico.
Cities, towns, counties, streets, mountains, and rivers with Spanish names are beyond counting.
The capital district of the United States and the capital cities of Ohio and South Carolina are named for a Spanish admiral who never laid eyes on These States.
American patriotism enjoys the name “Columbia”. The ship Columbia Rediviva gave her name to a river in the Pacific Northwest and to Canada’s Pacific province.
|Saint Augustine, Florida ||Spanish ||1565
|Santa Fe, New Mexico||Spanish||1609
The largest French-speaking city in the world is Paris. The second-largest French-speaking city in the world is Montreal.
The largest Spanish-speaking city in the world is Mexico City. The second largest Spanish-speaking city in the world is Los Angeles.
Mexico is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world.
Fairly recently, Spanish has made itself the second most common language in the United States.
The second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world is the United States. Spain is the third. Colombia is the fourth.
In the nineteenth century the United States increased its territory by purchase and by warfare. The annexations look large on the map but the populations involved were small. The Gold Rush quickly put Californios in a tiny minority.
In the State of California in 1850, primary speakers of Spanish were 11% of the counted population; in 1870, they were 4%.
U.S. citizenship was conferred by treaties upon Mexicans north of the new borders.
In the twentieth century, the same blessing was given by statute to Puerto Ricans.
Cubans resistant to Communism came to Florida. Congress gave them asylum; citizenship was earned case-by-case, not conferred by statute.
|Estados Unidos (EE.UU.) ||United States
|Estadounidense||U.S. citizen (m,f)|
American English will grow increasingly apart from British English due to the strong infusion of Spanish. This is neither good nor bad in itself.
No one should be startled that limpieza de lengua (“purity of language”) is as important as a status marker, and as futile, as limpieza de sangre (“purity of blood”) has been.
Colombia (especially Bogotá) lays claim to the most refined Castilian. In disparagement, Argentina’s dialect is compared to Australia’s.
Dynamic English is in no jeopardy. It will dominate in cyberspace, in commerce, in education, in publishing, and in many other spheres. It is history’s most absorptive, predatory, mobile, and unifying language.
Native speakers of Spanish outnumber native speakers of English. Despite this, Spanish is not an imperial language.²
Spanish is attaching itself to American English, and in that way it will carry much of itself forward.
Immigration and fertility have sway of their own. Legends are being spun and refurbished. Short cuts are being taken. La Raza propaganda is not credible to the informed, but it is not they who hasten to escape longstanding manmade conditions south of the 1853 border.
Here, they encounter a more potent language and a happier country built upon it.³
Demotic hybrids—se habla espanglés—change rapidly but acquire legitimacy and respectability slowly.
Spanglish has been compared to jazz.
Wikipedia ranks major languages by number of native speakers. There is no reliable way to count bilingual or trilingual persons.
Here the “official languages” of the United Nations are starred. French is more important than its numbers hint; Spanish, less so.
From 2000 onward, Arabic, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, and French (in that order) have been growing the most in cyberspace.
The Academic Rankings of World Universities (http://www.arwu.org/) is the most objective look we are likely to have. Kudos to the Chinese for examining 502 universities and publishing results from 2004 onward.
For 2009, among the foremost 100 universities worldwide we find:
For 2009, among the foremost 184 universities in North and South America, we find:
|Spanish-speaking||4|| Mexico 1, Argentina 1, Chile 2
|Portuguese-speaking ||6|| Brazil
|English-speaking||169|| U.S. and Canada
Nobel Prizes in Literature from 1901 through 2010:
|Laureates||106|| * declined (but always listed)
|Writers in English||26|| Counting Beckett, Brodsky, Tagore
|Writers in French||15|| Counting Beckett, Sartre*
|Writers in German ||11
|Writers in Spanish||10
|Writers in Italian||6
|Writers in Russian||5|| Counting Brodsky, Pasternak*
|Writers in Portuguese||1
1 See Wikipedia.
2 See Bits of Translation on website. See also The Disinherited: Exile
and the Making of Spanish Culture, 1492–1975 by Henry Kamen (2007).
3 See Magna Carta on website.
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