[lg policy] Spanglish and the Royal Academy

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 12 18:46:13 UTC 2013


 Spanglish and the Royal Academy

Not long ago, the Real Academia Española, <http://rae.es/> its matrix
located in Madrid, with 21 branches throughout the Spanish-speaking world,
did something at once surprising and disappointing: It approved the
inclusion of the word *espanglish* in its official dictionary. I say it was
surprising because for decades the RAE systematically disregarded the
existence of this hybrid form of communication, suggesting it was just a
passing phenomenon unworthy of serious academic consideration. Indeed, one
of the institution’s recent directors, Victor García de la Concha
(1998-2010), regularly declared Spanglish  “nonexistent,” as if by ignoring
it the jazzy parlance of tens of millions of Latinos in the United States,
as well as of scores of people anywhere in the Spanish-speaking world,
would magically disappear.

But the inclusion of the word in the lexicon was disappointing because the
definition the RAE proposed was misconstrued, naturally angering users on
both sides of the Atlantic. In Spanish, the definition of
*espanglish*reads: “*Modalidad
del habla de algunos grupos hispanos de los Estados Unidos, en la que se
mezclan, deformándolos, elementos léxicos y gramaticales del español y del
inglés*.” I quote it in the original for readers to enjoy its hollow
eloquence. In English translation: “Modality of speech used among of some
Hispanic groups in the United States, in which lexical and grammatical
elements of Spanish and English are mixed, becoming deformed.”

Deformed? Quite frankly, the RAE doesn’t appear to be* de este mundo*, “of
this world,” or at least of our day and age. No respected scholar today
would dare use such an ideologically charged adjective. To think of
linguistic contact as deforming the concept of code is to engage in
politics, not in scientific analysis. Of course, everyone knows that the
one constant in any living language is change: to be up to date, to be au
courant, a language needs to interact with its environment. That
interaction entails loans and borrowings. In English, *prairie* comes from
the French, *rancho* from the Spanish, *mafia* from the Italian,
*chutzpah*from Yiddish. Is the English language polluted because it
incorporates
these terms? Hasn’t the base of modern English been defined by its imperial
quests? Spanglish isn’t a concoction devised to aggravate highfalutin dons.
It is a dialect, with specific morphological rules, that comes about from
necessity. It is also, in my view, an expression of the emergence of a new
*mestizo* civilization, part Anglo and part Hispanic.

According to historians of the Spanish language, the first American word
ever to travel back to the Iberian Peninsula after 1492, when Columbus
stumbled upon the so-called New World, is *canoa*, “canoe.” In 1496, it
replaced the word *barco* in a grammar published by the Salamanca
philologist Antonio de Nebrija, who is credited for describing *el
español*as “*la
compañera del imperio*,” the companion of empire. The inclusion of
*espanglish* in the RAE dictionary may not be the first time this mixed
tongue makes it in (*estrés*, “stress,” might have that honor) but is
certainly a moment of historical proportions.

To some of us involved with the gorgeously polluted way of communicating of
college students, Spanglish is an affirmation, not a negation.
Unfortunately, it will take a bit longer for the RAE legislators to
understand that what they consider verbal deformation is really creative
rejuvenation, and that their definition of *espanglish* is as much a step
forward as it is a step back: a *hurra* to a language used freely by
Latinos and a statement of intellectual narrow-mindedness.

http://chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2013/12/12/spanglish-and-the-royal-academy/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en




-- 
=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+

 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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