teaching foreign languages at an early age

Daniel Riaño danielrr2 at gmail.com
Mon Jan 17 15:01:37 UTC 2011

The influence of Arabic over modern Spanish is amazingly scarce, specially
considering the centuries of Moorish presence in the Iberian Peninsula.
Probably even less over Catalan. The identifiable influence of other Semitic
languages over Modern Spanish (outside toponymy and modern borrowings) is
almost zero.

Almost all the influence of Arabic on Modern Spanish affects the vocabulary,
and even there, the quantity of words of Arabic origin in the common modern
vocabulary is surprisingly small, probably around one or (at most) two
hundreds, mostly restricted to substantives, and almost all of them
belonging to a small number of semantic fields: water and irrigation,
warfare, local institutions, building, horses, some crafts, and specially
plants and food. Most educated Spanish speakers identify the "al" element at
the beginning of many words with an Arabic etymology, with or without reason
(usually with). A good number of scientific terms entered the Spanish
vocabulary via the arabic scholars, most of them of Greek origin. There's
one expresion of Arabic origin ("ojala", "God Willing") that
Spanish-speaking people use vey often.

With much philological pain it has been collected a list of almost 4,000
words of Arabic origin used in documents written in Spanish at some time,
but most of them are words out of use, often terms to designate aspects of
Islamic life.

There is very little of Arabic in modern Spanish morphology: an -i suffix
used almost only with Arabic (or muslim-) related realia ("nazarí") and
maybe an "a" causative prefix (as in "acalorar") still productive.

Most phonetic and syntactical phenomena that have been attributed to Arabic
influence, and there's not much of them, are best (and usually) explained


P.S. The influence of Berber languages over all romance languages of the
Iberian Peninsula is much smaller, limited to local lexical borrowings in
some small locations.

2011/1/17 A. Katz <amnfn at well.com>

> I don't know much about Catalan, but I am wondering if there might not be
> some grammatical or areal feautures of the language that might make Arabic
> not that hard to learn, if you already speak Cat. After all, Spanish had
> some Arabic influence in it in general, and I imagine that all languages
> spoken on the Iberian peninsula have Semitic influences from both the
> moorish conquests and the earlier Carthaginian occupation.

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