Spain special: Remains of the Arabic presence in the Spanish language

Alhambra in Granada


Published: Oct 11, 2011 22:23 Updated: Oct 11, 2011 22:35

Spain is closely connected to the Islamic world. Not only does Spain enjoy good diplomatic relations with a big number of Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia, but it also has the intrinsic presence of Islamic culture at the Iberian Peninsula for nearly eight centuries — from the time of Al-Ándalus.

Al-Ándalus, also called “Moorish Iberia,” could be described as the nation and region ruled by Muslims from the beginning of the caliphate of Córdoba in 711 until the fall of Granada in 1492. However, the territory changed constantly during this period, as did the way of governance. Al-Ándalus reached its maximum expansion in the tenth century, when it covered three quarters of the Iberian Peninsula.

After the fall of Granada, Spanish rulers tried to wipe out the marks of Moorish Iberia. For many centuries, Spain had an ambivalent attitude toward the long presence of Moors on their territory. Some scholars, on the one hand, emphasized the superiority of Al-Ándalus over other European cultures in that time. Intellectually, the peninsula flourished under the governance of the Arabs, who introduced Islamic philosophy, mathematics and architecture as well as Greek knowledge, such as philosophy, medicine and astrology. These scholars often used this as an argument that Spain was different from other European countries.

On the other hand, the Arabs practiced a different religion, the country was organized in another way, and their culture differed significantly from the Spanish one. As a result, many scholars viewed the eight-century long Moorish presence on the Iberian Peninsula as an interruption in the development of a Hispanic culture.

Whether Al-Ándalus constitutes a continuation or a break of Spanish culture and history, the long presence of Muslims indisputably left a legacy on the peninsula — most visibly in the Spanish language.

Spanish is a Romance language; it emerged from Vulgar Latin dialects in the north of the peninsula. Previously, Latin had already been influenced by several native Iberian languages such as Celtiberian and Basque. However, it got its most important external influence from Al-Ándalus in the Middle Ages.


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