Massive lexical replacement

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Dymn

Senior Member
Hi all,

Over the years I've become interested in minority languages and how the major languages affect them. A case could be my own mother tongue, but for example I'm also interested in Galician, and I've noted native speakers, in daily life, use a lot of Spanish words, even for very basic things, much more than Catalan. I'll give some examples: árbol for árbore ("tree"), color for cor, sangre for sangue ("blood"), days of the week, months of the year, filler words (bueno, entonces), mismo for mesmo ("same"), sin for sen ("without"), ahora for agora ("now"), olvidar for esquecer ("to forget"), nadie for ninguén ("nobody") and so on, and so on. Even basic verbal morphology: tuven for tiven ("I had"), sea for sexa ("be" subjunctive), sepa for saiba ("know" subjunctive), or endings: animales for animais, verda(d) for verdade... I could go on and on, but it really affects most of the vocabulary in my opinion, especially non-basic (and the examples here are basic). There are barely words which aren't cognates standing.

I also have watched programs where they interview people on the streets in Asturian, and this phenomenon is even stronger. People retain the pronoun placement system, don't have compound tenses (haber + participle), masculine nouns end in -u, and feminine plurals in -es, but otherwise the lexicon is mostly just Spanish. For example genuine Asturian retains initial f-; has developed Latin -c'l-, -li- into -y-; soft g becomes x (/ʃ/); and initial l- becomes palatalized /ʎ/; yet most of the words you can hear are like hacer, gente, trabajar, lugar. At least this wholesale disappearance of native sound changes is unthinkable in Galician. Asturian seems to have become a total hybrid. And as for Aragonese, it also looks like "Spanish with things", almost every aspect of vocabulary being replaced by Spanish, and people from there have also told me the same.

I wonder why this happens. I think there's a strong component of feeling one's own language is just "badly spoken Spanish" and people massively shifting to Spanish vocabulary (cognate or not) to sound cooler maybe? I mean Catalan has a lot of Castilianisms too, but certainly not to that extent. I think we may have thought Catalan was inferior to Spanish for some time, but not some corrupted version of it / a dialect :confused: . Is this mostly a modern phenomenon? Or has this replacement being going on for centuries?

I wonder if people who are natives or have contact with dialects of German, Italian, even French, or Scots (?), in general minority languages closely related to their major one, notice how the vocabulary is being replaced over the years? I think this must be coupled with language replacement, people being ashamed of their own language. Is there any example of any such massive replacement taking place in a language which is stable and not about to be replaced itself? Can Swiss German speakers relate to that fact for example?

Thank you
 
  • Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Hi all,

    Over the years I've become interested in minority languages and how the major languages affect them. A case could be my own mother tongue, but for example I'm also interested in Galician, and I've noted native speakers, in daily life, use a lot of Spanish words, even for very basic things, much more than Catalan. I'll give some examples: árbol for árbore ("tree"), color for cor, sangre for sangue ("blood"), days of the week, months of the year, filler words (bueno, entonces), mismo for mesmo ("same"), sin for sen ("without"), ahora for agora ("now"), olvidar for esquecer ("to forget"), nadie for ninguén ("nobody") and so on, and so on. Even basic verbal morphology: tuven for tiven ("I had"), sea for sexa ("be" subjunctive), sepa for saiba ("know" subjunctive), or endings: animales for animais, verda(d) for verdade... I could go on and on, but it really affects most of the vocabulary in my opinion, especially non-basic (and the examples here are basic). There are barely words which aren't cognates standing.

    I also have watched programs where they interview people on the streets in Asturian, and this phenomenon is even stronger. People retain the pronoun placement system, don't have compound tenses (haber + participle), masculine nouns end in -u, and feminine plurals in -es, but otherwise the lexicon is mostly just Spanish. For example genuine Asturian retains initial f-; has developed Latin -c'l-, -li- into -y-; soft g becomes x (/ʃ/); and initial l- becomes palatalized /ʎ/; yet most of the words you can hear are like hacer, gente, trabajar, lugar. At least this wholesale disappearance of native sound changes is unthinkable in Galician. Asturian seems to have become a total hybrid. And as for Aragonese, it also looks like "Spanish with things", almost every aspect of vocabulary being replaced by Spanish, and people from there have also told me the same.

    I wonder why this happens. I think there's a strong component of feeling one's own language is just "badly spoken Spanish" and people massively shifting to Spanish vocabulary (cognate or not) to sound cooler maybe? I mean Catalan has a lot of Castilianisms too, but certainly not to that extent. I think we may have thought Catalan was inferior to Spanish for some time, but not some corrupted version of it / a dialect :confused: . Is this mostly a modern phenomenon? Or has this replacement being going on for centuries?

    I wonder if people who are natives or have contact with dialects of German, Italian, even French, or Scots (?), in general minority languages closely related to their major one, notice how the vocabulary is being replaced over the years? I think this must be coupled with language replacement, people being ashamed of their own language. Is there any example of any such massive replacement taking place in a language which is stable and not about to be replaced itself? Can Swiss German speakers relate to that fact for example?

    Thank you
    I think that assimilation of a "weaker" language to a "stronger" one is just a law of nature. Inhabitants of regions that have or have had a separate language or dialect, different from the official language of the country or a lingua franca, tend to adapt their language to the dominating language. It will happen even if the languages are mutually completely incomprehensible, but goes much easier if the languages are closely related to each other. Also a dominating foreign language, like English nowadays, can have a very heavy impact. For example Japanese is said to have adopted over 30 000 English words since the 1950-s. (I can't guarantee for accuracy of this information). Living in Norway, I can notice that Norwegians adopt many hundreds English words every year. This tendency is strongest for professional language. Shops adopt English names, and much of information to natives is given in English.
    The situation is different only in regions inhabited by populations with strong nationalist and purist feelings.
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    I think that assimilation of a "weaker" language to a "stronger" one is just a law of nature. Inhabitants of regions that have or have had a separate language or dialect, different from the official language of the country or a lingua franca, tend to adapt their language to the dominating language.
    :thumbsup:

    It will happen even if the languages are mutually completely incomprehensible, but goes much easier if the languages are closely related to each other.
    I'm not sure this is true. Manx, Cornish or Dalmatian are extinct despite being (mostly) unrelated to their replacing language. Basque is at a more advanced stage than Galician or Catalan. Manchu is at its deathbed but Chinese (Sinitic) dialects are alive and kicking.

    Also a dominating foreign language, like English nowadays, can have a very heavy impact. For example Japanese is said to have adopted over 30 000 English words since the 1950-s. (I can't guarantee for accuracy of this information). Living in Norway, I can notice that Norwegians adopt many hundreds English words every year. This tendency is strongest for professional language. Shops adopt English names, and much of information to natives is given in English.
    I agree, but for example I use English words when it comes first to my mind, and I can't find a proper equivalent. This really makes young people adopt lots of Anglicisms as you say, but if the equivalent is obvious, why would someone prefer the English form? Maybe from time to time, but what if this is consistent throughout all items of vocabulary? This must reveal being a deep sense of being ashamed of your own language.

    The Japanese adopted supūn, naifu and fōku because those pieces of cutlery are Western imports, but Galicians have no reason to say tenedor, cuchillo and cuchara instead of the native garfo, coitelo and culler. I think this really shows a people with a (historical) very low self-esteem of their language, everything must be replaced with the Spanish equivalent because it sounds cooler. Of course, this is changing since Galician has been an official language for some decades now. But anyway I find this interesting.

    Maybe it's no secret, but I'd like to know more examples. Norway is a case where people still cling onto their own vernacular dialects. Is there any trend towards dialect levelling and a massive replacement of vocabulary like this?
     

    Quiviscumque

    Moderator
    Spanish-Spain
    Since nobody is hearing now :), I will express candidly my humble opinion. Sorry for boring non Spanish people (and surely offending some Spanish people).

    The OP addesses uniformly four cases that are very different.

    Catalan was always a powerful, autonomous language, even at its lowest. So the issue from 1714 to 1980 was the interaction between a living non official language and the official one. Now the issue is the interaction between two linguistic communities in a common space; some language hybridization is unavoidable.

    The status of Asturian and Aragonese was very, very different. No learned literature, no Chancellery, no koine (but a bundle of dialects). So their "natural" destiny was the absortion by the official language.

    Galician is somehow in-between. It was a literary language and has always been a living rural language. However (1) it is "very similar" to Spanish; (2) it was forgotten long time ago by urban population; (3) but now it is mandatory in schools and public administration. If you add (1)+(2)+(3) you surely get a massive word replacement by the new non native Galician speakers when speaking Galician.

    Just my two cents.
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    The OP addesses uniformly four cases that are very different.
    :thumbsup: I know, I just compare them to note differences, of course there's an obvious correlation between the strength (or weakness) of a language and the degree of influence from other languages they undergo. Also inside Catalan, Valencian shows more Castilianisms than Catalonian Catalan, which also has sociolinguistics causes, for example urban classes there have mostly abandoned the language, and now it's very minoritary in Valencia, Alicante or Elche.

    If you add (1)+(2)+(3) you surely get a massive word replacement by the new non native Galician speakers when speaking Galician.
    I don't think this is true, much to the contrary. All of those borrowings I've mentioned are mostly found in native speakers. Young urban non-native speakers speak closer to the standard they've learned at school. Their mistakes are mostly syntactical and phonological (non-native accent) in nature.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    Basque is at a more advanced stage than Galician or Catalan.
    Actually I thought that Basque was doing quite well nowadays and had made a comeback.

    Do you think the fact that Galicians move around so much could have something to do with this? I know of many Galicians who move back and forth to Madrid or other places and Galicia. They have had family settled in some places, they move for work, go back for a while, leave again... etc. It makes knowledge of Galician less than perfect. Imagine if you go to school in Galicia until age 10, then go somewhere else till 14 and then go back.
    Another thing I've noticed that the television shows just seem like they're speaking Spanish with other words. Literally all the phonemes except x sound like Castilian.
    I get the impression that many Galicians don't feel like it's a bad thing to mix languages. They have the idea they are free to do what they want with their language(s) and that's cool. Or at least, no big deal. I assume this is the opposite in Catalonia. I heard that people were scandalized recently because there was some series made for Catalan TV that mixed Spanish and Catalan.

    They haven't made Asturian an official language. The result is people just speak it at home.

    I agree it is natural to assimilate the larger language particularly if it is official and has more prestige.
     
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    Dymn

    Senior Member
    Actually I thought that Basque was doing quite well nowadays and had made a comeback.
    Yes, now knowledge of the language is widespread, although the language hasn't gained usage as a native language I think. Basically Basque has been losing territory to Spanish since some centuries ago, but Basque nationalism has interrupted this process I guess. In Galicia, the language is spoken all over the region, and in a higher percentage.

    Do you think the fact that Galicians move around so much could have something to do with this? I know of many Galicians who move back and forth to Madrid or other places and Galicia.
    Probably being an emigration region makes them more directed towards Spanish. But I think being part of León/Castile since old might also be a cause.

    Another thing I've noticed that the television shows just seem like their speaking Spanish with other words. Literally all the phonemes except x sound like Castilian.
    There should also be open/closed e/o, and final -n is velar /ŋ/. But yes, presenters on TV and politicians barely speak with a Galician accent. I think most Galicians don't care about this, most of those who complain about bad Galician refer to syntax and vocabulary.

    I assume this is the opposite in Catalonia. I heard that people were scandalized recently because there was some series made for Catalan TV that mixed Spanish and Catalan.
    Maybe, but there's an increasing trend to accept Catalonia as a bilingual country/region. For most older people, who grew in areas where Spanish only was the language of immigrants of the Franco dictatorship, it's not a language they highly value or identify with. Most young people, especially in urban areas don't see Spanish as an invading language, in my opinion. Conversely, children of Spanish-speaking immigrants have learned Catalan and may identify with the language. There's more mixing.
     

    Cossue

    Senior Member
    Galician & Spanish
    I'll give some examples: árbol for árbore ("tree"), color for cor, sangre for sangue ("blood"), days of the week, months of the year, filler words (bueno, entonces), mismo for mesmo ("same"), sin for sen ("without"), ahora for agora ("now"), olvidar for esquecer ("to forget"), nadie for ninguén ("nobody") and so on, and so on. Even basic verbal morphology: tuven for tiven ("I had"), sea for sexa ("be" subjunctive), sepa for saiba ("know" subjunctive), or endings: animales for animais, verda(d) for verdade...
    Part of theses are really old castillianism: I mean,

    mismo, sangre (compare Portuguese sangrar) are frequent in Galician documents since the 14th century (check here, but keep in mind that there are both Spanish and Galician texts: Corpus Xelmírez - Resultados da consulta Corpus Xelmírez - Resultados da consulta )

    the same goes for the conjugation of ter (check here the future of subjunctive tuver: Corpus Xelmírez - Resultados da consulta, vs. tiver: Corpus Xelmírez - Resultados da consulta)

    sea is probably a dialectal form with y > 0 (compare for example the nasalized seña < seia, which I use commonly, vs. standard sexa)

    The plural animal > animales (vs. the more common, but non standard, animás) can be analogical from the monosyllables sal, mel, fel, val... and is already attested in 1807 if not before

    Forms as verdá could be authoctonous: I mean, in Middle Galician you find as the most common form comés (vs. modern Galician comedes), bebei (bebede)... For example, in 1697 you can find in the same verse of a poetic composition verdade and verdá.... (check: http://ilg.usc.es/TILG/gl/search/simple; Gondomar).

    All these forms have non been accepted by the standard, but they are in no way recent castillianism, nor do they represent recent developments.
     

    Cossue

    Senior Member
    Galician & Spanish
    I wonder why this happens. I think there's a strong component of feeling one's own language is just "badly spoken Spanish" and people massively shifting to Spanish vocabulary (cognate or not) to sound cooler maybe?
    For Galician, yes and no. Native speakers simply know too much Galician, with its grammar and idioms, to know that it is not a Spanish variety. But at the same time Galician have a long time problem of self-esteem: we essentially lost of elites in the 16th century, after they -and they were mean as f**k with the local peasants- were subdued by the Catholic Monarchs and went to reside in Castile, whilst mostly obtaining here their rents. At the same time, Galician monasteries was put under the authority of Castilian monasteries and most bishops and religious and civil official were from outside Galicia (this was not some form of special punishment: the crown was trying to maintain authority and used to put foreigners at the charge mostly anywhere along the empire, including the kingdoms of Spain; so, I'm not trying to push my political convinctions here).

    The result: since more or less the year 1500 private and public documents passed to be redacted in Spanish, and large scale lyric and prose production in Galician stopped (for this production you can check: Corpus Xelmírez - Corpus lingüístico da Galicia medieval or GMH: GMH). Most of Middle Galician, the written production in Galician from 1520 to 1800 is here: Gondomar. As a trivia, a monk tried for two times to publish a history of Galicia in Galician in the 16th century: he was firs denied the permission for the fist time by the censure, but he obtained the permission ten years later, but apparently didn't obtain financing for paying the printing press, and that means something. Sadly, the original manuscript work is lost.

    So Galician became a rural, devalued language. Then in the 18th century we have the works of the illustrate Martín Sarmiento, who wrote extensively on the language and even wrote a treaty on the evolution of Galician from Latin at a momment when historical linguistics were not a thing: he also condemned the introduction of Spanish as the main language in the schools, not from a nationalistic point of view, but from a pedagogical one: why to use an unknown language to teach unknown subjects to monolingual Galician speakers. He for himself has probably "produced" more researchers in Galician than anybody else... I really don't think that Galician would be official today in Galicia without his long time influence.

    Going forth, by 1930 Galician has institutions, scholars, an established literature...Was readly to become official. But then we had the Civil war, which in Galicia was lost in less than a month (although insurgents in the hills maintained their fight till the late 50's), following by the assassination of thousands of progressives and republicans. The intelligentsia of the country was either killed, forced into exile or silenced and separated. Galician suffered a campaign of Vergonha - Wikipedia, with physical and psychological abuse at many schools and a general campaign of diffamation on the language which was denounced on the Unesco in 1954: https://praza.gal/storage/xornal/uploads/arquivos/arquivo/533303466d204-denuncia.pdf. The denounce at least had some effect and from that moment on at least one can publish in Galician with no more difficulties than in Spanish, if you know what I mean.

    So: Galician is in a very peculiar position since some time ago: the intelligentsia is with the language. Also, the language has a long history, and that history is also helping carrying on. But many common speakers can't stop relating the language to the rural life... So the language is sometimes cool, but most of the time is not. Also, for many speakers, the Galician words, idioms, expressions, uses, that differ from that of Spanish... tend to be relegated for others closer to Spanish ones or even for the Spanish equivalent. Example: I'm 48 year old, and when I was a kid nobody would say "ayer" (Spanish, yesterday) for "onte"... now you hear people correcting themselves after using the later. But also, your mileage my vary: I have a cousin who is a farmer who have lived mostly by himself in the village where our family used to live. He doesn't watch TV and rarelly goes to the cities. He's a true walking dictionary, with an extensive lexicon and very little Spanish interferences. I don't really know if he speaks Spanish proficiently, to tell the truth. Sadly, he has no children.

    Related: even Galician Spanish, the variety of Spanish used by writers Valleinclán, Pardo Bazán, Wencelao Fernández Flores, among others, and characterized for its Galician interferences, accent and lexicon, is really disappearing among the young Spanish speakers in the larger cities.

    Sorry for the rant and broken English, I was in a hurry and the subject is really personal for me.
     
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    Cossue

    Senior Member
    Galician & Spanish
    For anyone interested, a series on correct use of Galician which frequently deals with Spanish interferences:
    .

    For more entries, search #dígocho eu at youtube.
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    All these forms have non been accepted by the standard, but they are in no way recent castillianism, nor do they represent recent developments.
    I see.

    Sorry for the rant and broken English, I was in a hurry and the subject is really personal for me.
    No rant, it was really interesting :)

    Also, for many speakers, the Galician words, idioms, expressions, uses, that differ from that of Spanish... tend to be relegated for others closer to Spanish ones or even for the Spanish equivalent. Example: I'm 48 year old, and when I was a kid nobody would say "ayer" (Spanish, yesterday) for "onte"... now you hear people correcting themselves after using the later.
    :eek: Correcting themselves for what? I've also read people are increasingly using tendrá for terá and estos for estes. So it seems like the standard and education can't stop this bloodletting? In Catalan the syntax and phonology are increasingly Castilianized, but vocabulary and morphology is more and more correct, for example después (= després, "after") or menos (= menys, "less") are words you will hear more often the older someone is.
     

    Welsh_Sion

    Senior Member
    Welsh - Northern
    @Cossue

    Reading about Galician history reminds me very much of what happened to my country and its native language, even down to the flight of 'the elites' to the new 'imperial' capital, be it London or Madrid. True, we never suffered from a bloody civil war as much as you did (the 'Wars of the Three Kingdoms, 1640-1649' weren't so destructive to Welsh culture as the 'Spanish Civil War' of the 1930s) nor were there assassination of leading Welsh figures/politicians - rather we were assimilated (or the Kingdom of England attempt to assimilate us) as 'English' and latterly, as 'Britons'.

    Part of that process of course involved the downgrading of our language under the so-called 'Acts of Union' of 1535 and 1542, the emigration of the intelligentia/nobility to the London court, the mocking of our tongue (which continues), and the physical punishment of schoolchildren for using their (usually sole) language.

    As a result, Anglophone culture and in particular, language, has been swamping us for at least four centuries. Outside families, the Welsh language had no status whatsoever in business, commerce, law and justice, education - anywhere until a minor reform in 1942 and other legal developments since 1967. Consequently, English has influenced the language (and continues to do so) on so many different levels: grammar, syntax, vocabulary etc. Sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic analysis shows that English (or Anglicisms) abound in the language of Welsh language users at all levels. Sometimes they are illiterate in Welsh having only been taught English at school (older generations), or they believe what they were taught at the time that Welsh had no value, or they count in English (as English was/is the language of commercial transactions), or they use English words because they feel it more appropriate (younger generation who say things like 'rili' (from English 'really) or 'grêt' ( < Eng. 'great') or 'cŵl' ( < Eng. 'cool), for example.)

    Hope this builds bridges between Galizia and Cymru!

    Just a side note to @Dymn. Please note that Manx and Cornish (fellow Celtic languages to mine) are in the process of being revived. Yes, like all Celtic speakers, our languages are precarious - but please don't refer to these as being 'extinct'.
     
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    Cossue

    Senior Member
    Galician & Spanish
    @Welsh_Sion Having goosebumps (and a beer)! Cheers!

    "All you small peoples of this world let you believe
    All you small peoples must resist and live
    As rich as América is each of you my friends
    Stronger than Siberian bear if you can free your minds", Imram, A. Stivel
     

    jimquk

    Member
    English
    @Welsh_Sion Having goosebumps (and a beer)! Cheers!

    "All you small peoples of this world let you believe
    All you small peoples must resist and live
    As rich as América is each of you my friends
    Stronger than Siberian bear if you can free your minds", Imram, A. Stivel
    As a native English speaker, I look forward to a day not far off now when voice recognition and AI-assisted machine translation reaches the point where minority and majority languages can meet on equal terms via our mobiles.

    A Welsh speaker and a Galician, for example would meet and communicate without need of English or Spanish. Not that it would be a perfect translation, of course, but potentially all languages would become equally valid as means of expression, which is hardly the case in practice today.
     

    Welsh_Sion

    Senior Member
    Welsh - Northern
    The day of the Babel fish is coming says @jimquk. I hope not too soon. Fellow translators and interpreters will become redundant ...

    In passing, ever noticed how often the Press confound these two professions?
     

    jimquk

    Member
    English
    The day of the Babel fish is coming says @jimquk. I hope not too soon. Fellow translators and interpreters will become redundant ...

    In passing, ever noticed how often the Press confound these two professions?
    Wouldn't you rather be made redundant because people can freely use their own languages, rather than because everyone just uses English or some other lingua franca?
     

    Welsh_Sion

    Senior Member
    Welsh - Northern
    Touche - but I do like my job! (And I don't have to be dragooned into an uncaring and possibly dangerous office environment by any Prime Minister.)
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    The status of Asturian and Aragonese was very, very different. No learned literature, no Chancellery, no koine (but a bundle of dialects). So their "natural" destiny was the absortion by the official language.
    That assumption, at least regarding Aragonese -I'm not so acquainted with Asturian- is definitely not accurate.

    There was some learned literature and a Chancellery koine for Aragonese indeed. Aragonese was 'official' alongside Catalan and Latin for scribes in the Chancellery of the Crown of Aragon (which would oftentimes use the three of them as required), and it therefore developed a written koine or medieval scriptum which, in fact, looked closer in appearance to Castilian than the spoken language actually was, probably for pragmatic purposes, but which was in full use throughout the kingdom.

    The first historical chronicle in the Peninsula written in Romance was in fact the Aragonese Liber Regum. The Vidal Mayor is the enlarged extant version of the first Fueros (Code Laws) of Aragon, in elegant Aragonese. The School of Translators sponsored by Grand Master Johan Ferrandez d'Heredia was as important for Aragon and Aragonese as King Alfonso X's was for Castile and Castilian. It produced translations of such works as the Travels of Marco Polo, Lattini's Book of Treasures or a masterpiece like Plutarch's Parallel Lives (making Aragonese, by the way, the first language in the West to have it translated), as well as continued to produce other important chronicles and compilations.

    So it was not just a bunch of mountain dialects, rather a full-fledged language used in Aragon for centuries for most written purposes until the 15th century, when the House of Aragon-Barcelona came to an end and the Castilian House of Trastámara first set their foot in Saragossa.

    This said, I understand and concur with your statement. The main language in the Crown was Catalan by far, both in terms of number of speakers (Catalan speakers doubling or tripling those of Aragonese) and in terms of literary prestige (In fact, the excellence of authors and works in Catalan between 1270 and 1490 had no real parallel in the Peninsula, which is why the Golden Age of Catalan is previous to that of Spanish or Portuguese, started in the Renaissance)
     
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