Arabic in Spain
A dictionary of Spanish history and culture
Arabic was spoken in Spain from the Islamic invasion of 711 to some time after the end of the Reconquista in1492. Consequently, it has exercised a huge influence over Spanish – particularly in terms of vocabulary. The Real Academia Española lists some 1280 words. Almost all words in Spanish beginning with al– are Arabic in origin. Many, many places Spanish placenames also derive from Arabic.
A number of Laws were passed in the sixteenth century forbidding Arabic without varying degrees of ‘success’. The Laws of 1501 and 1511 banned the possession of most Arabic books and the 1511 decree invalidated contracts written in Arabic, though this does not seem to have been observed. In 1526 Charles V ordered that henceforth only Castilian would be spoken, used to create contracts, and used in the marketplace, but the legislation was suspended shortly afterwards. In 1566, Philip II ordered that all moriscos (baptized moors who stayed in Spain after the Conquest) would only be permitted to speak Castilian, not Arabic within three years. Although, the use of Arabic persisted in Spain until the expulsion of the moriscos in 1609. Clearly the injunction ¡Habla cristiano! (Speak Christian: i.e. Castillian and not Arabic) dates from this period, though it was (is?) also a common sneer by Franco supporters in Catalonia and the Basque Country.
With recent immigration from the Maghreb, Arabic is of course once again being widely spoken in Spain.
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