La Dimensión Imperial Del Español En La Obra De Aldrete
Sobre La Aparición Del Español De América En La Lingüĺstica Hispánica
The purpose of this paper is to study the oldest observations on the Spanish language in America which are made in a book of linguistics. They are found in the first history of Spanish, the Origen y principio de la lengua castellana (Rome, 1606) by Bernardo de Aldrete (1560–1641). This work arises from the Renaissance discussions on the vernacular languages, and it is in this connection that appear the references to the Spanish language in America. In Spain the ‘language question’ presents a peculiarity that is inevitably lacking in Italy and France: Spanish, through the explorations and conquests of the modern age, had been converted into a language spoken all over the world, the language of the Spanish Empire. This ‘imperial dimension’ of Spanish is employed by the supporters of the vernacular as opposed to Latin. As compared with the great Roman Empire of ancient times, in modern times a new language has risen that has really extended throughout the globe, not only in the small corner of what was known to the ancients; it is justified and, even more, it is incumbant upon the Spaniards to ennoble the language spoken in an empire without equal in history.We can document how throughout the 16th century the Spaniards bear in mind the imperial character of their language; this motive is expressed in the frequent image of the language that accompanies the ‘victorious Spanish banners’ that extend to the furthest corners of the earth. Continuing this line of thought, Aldrete introduced his observations on the Spanish language in America in his history of the language. Of course, the work of Aldrete, inspired in the ideas of the Renaissance, is devoted to showing the Latin origin of Spanish; the references to America are found in the examples of modern Spanish life that Aldrete uses to explain cases of Spain’s past that he reconstructs. Gathering the examples referring to the Spanish language in America, one obtains the view that Aldrete had on the subject. These examples appear in the discussion of particular problems of the study of language: linguistic innovations and loans; the relationship between dialects and the standard language; the question of the center of a linguistic area and the representative variety of a language of culture; the problem of diffusion and contact of languages, typical of the modern age, and the specific form they have acquired in America. From these examples cited by Aldrete, we can see that his conception of the Spanish language was no longer reduced to that of the Peninsula, but that as a matter of course he considered the Spanish language domain as jointly embracing its European and American territories.Aldrete, as a matter of fact is the first linguist who takes into account the overseas expansion of Spanish; moreover, he is the first linguist who registers the life of a European language beyond its original area of the Old World. We have before us an instance in which, as in so many others, Renaissance linguistics initiates typical directions of study of the Modern Age. In the study of the influence of the geographical discoveries in the history of linguistics, it has been the tendency to pay attention to the discovery of new, unknown languages and to grammars and vocabularies written about them. This is the linguistic aspect that corresponds to the discovery of cultural variety in nations different from the Europeans. The Spain of the 16th and 17th centuries, with a mentality different from the present on this point, in the context of her colonizing action proceded through assimilation: her manner of recognizing the human dignity of the newly discovered peoples consisted in transforming them into Christians and Spaniards. It is this assimilating attitude that permits Aldrete to observe the reverse of the historical phenomenon that brought the dicovery of cultural diversity, that is to say, the expansion of European culture throughout the world and the creation of a new human space on an intercontinental scale.It is worth noting Aldrete’s acuteness with which he provides for the expansion of the geographical and human horizon that took place in the 16th century in his linguistic argument. The discovery of America and the surrounding events had little repercussion in Europe; this true even for Spain, where the interest in the New World tended to be limited to those who had professional ties with it, and this was not Aldretes’s case. In order to get him to deal with American matters neither his feeling of the superiority of the moderns over the ancients nor his national pride as a Spaniard would have sufficed; as it happened with so many of his contemporaries, these sentiments only would have obliged him to mention the discovery of a new continent. Actually, the root of Aldrete’s interest in America lies in his religious views, and in this sense he is representative of the peculiar kind of humanism developed in Spain: the so-called ‘Christian Humanism’. In the last instance, he conceives the geographical discoveries as the occasion to propagate the message of Christ to all peoples on earth, and he sees the Spanish Empire extended throughout all of it as the historical creation bound to carry out this mission. This interpretation, reflecting the Weltpolitik that the Church and the House of Austria already maintained in the 16th century, gets Aldrete interested in what happens in the world and, particularly, in America. This new world is not only the place of the Hispanization of millions of men, but it has been converted into the reservoir of Catholicism facing a Europe torn up by the Reformation, not to mention its riches which make it possible for Spain to maintain the armies with which she defends the faith. Aldrete arrives at a world vision of the events of his time by means of this Christian universalism that permits him to take into account the far-away events that hardly interested the majority of Spaniards of his age.As regards the history of Spanish linguistics, the reflections concerning the Spanish language in America have begun with Aldrete. He doesn’t discover, however, what we call today the ‘Spanish of America’, namely the area of studies of Spanish linguistics devoted to the language of the Spanish American republics. What Aldrete observes is the diffusion of Spanish (from Spain) that accompanies the ‘victorious Spanish banners’ on their course through the world. Even though he is familiar with American varieties of Spanish, they do not interest him mofe than as manifestations of the geographical variation of language. In effect, the only valuable thing for him is the cultured speech whose model is found at the court of Madrid. Moreover, he of course lacks the notion of historical development and conceives the changes as approximations to a perfect form (in our case, the ‘pure and elegant’ language of the court) or as departures from it.The idea of ‘Spanish of America’ appears in Spanish linguistics only in the 19th century, when Spain’s former possessions in the New World became autonomous. Their independance doesn’t change the language, but it does profoundly modify the human reality in which it will function henceforth: Spanish has become the language of the Americans, not (as before) of the Spaniards transplanted to America. Nevertheless, only the advances of 19th century linguistics will permit to develop intelectually the new historical situation created by independence. This is what Rufino José Cuervo, the founder of Spanish American linguistics, will do towards the end of the past century. Dialectology will show him the interest of the American language for itself, and a historical consciousness will reveal to him a Spanish that evolves in America according to its own laws. Therefore, even though Aldrete and Cuervo speak of the same facts, these facts appear in totally different universes of discourse: not in vain are both scholars separated by almost three centuries. A history of linguistics that does not take into account this difference of conception in the works of Aldrete and Cuervo could not understand the growth that the study of Spanish in America has undergone throughout the course of history.
Article language: Spanish