Le, el, ella

Juan   Saturday, July 24, 2004, 12:17 GMT
Jordi wrote:

<<As you know I live in Spain and I can assure you that the usual thing in Spain would be to say "abre los ojos". Are you sure people, without foreign influence, who live in El Salvador would say "abre tus ojos"? One thing about Spanish-speakers in the US is that they are often influenced by English syntax and not only vocabulary as some people think. There is a film by Alejandro Almenábar that is precisely "Abre los ojos." Maybe it's also a Latin American thing. I don't know. The way I would use possessives is more like "Abre tu corazón" o "abre tu mente" since it speaks more of "inside" than "outside".
I could be wrong but that is exactly what my European Spanish linguistic feelings tell me.>>

Xatufan wrote:

<<Yeah. I'd would say "Abre los ojos". It's obvious that the eyes are yours.

You can say Abre el corazón, especially if you are doing an autopsy.>>

In a normal day to day conversation I would say ABRI LOS OJOS to a peer. When more of my peers are around ABRI TUS OJOS, a more specific, direct command. Other examples ABRA LOS OJOS, ABRA SUS OJOS, [PUEDE] ABRIR SUS OJOS, [PUEDE] ABRIR LOS OJOS, and so on and son on. And of course how could I forget, ABRE LOS OJOS ;-) but this usage sounds very weird to me and would be the most unlikely form that I would use. I know I'm digressing, it's just that for a movie title it's my gut feeling that's telling me to go with ABRE TUS OJOS. ABRE LOS OJO it's too ambiguous for my taste. I don't like it for some reason.
Juan   Saturday, July 24, 2004, 12:22 GMT
Straw = Pajia Where are from of course :-)

Julian knows Portuguese too?! Cool.
Juan   Wednesday, July 28, 2004, 03:15 GMT
Jordi, you've mentioned previously that you believe there is a certain amount of prestige (which I'm not aware of) attached to the Peninsular Spanish variety in Latin America. There are various accents in Spain, which is it that you are specifically referring to? I know a bit about the accent from Madrid because I think it's the only one I've heard on a consistent basis and on several occasions but the others I've heard infrequently. To tell you the truth and being brutally honest I'm not particularly convinced they sound all that "prestigous". This sentiment is not coming only from me as well, it is shared by several others I know. But then again I'm not a member of the upper classess. ;-)
Juan   Wednesday, July 28, 2004, 03:20 GMT
Jordi wrote:
<<One thing about Spanish-speakers in the US is that they are often influenced by English syntax and not only vocabulary as some people think.>>

No, I don't think so Jordi, it's probably just me.

Jordi wrote:
<<There is a film by Alejandro Almenábar that is precisely "Abre los ojos." >>

That's why I brought it up. ;-)

Xatufan wrote:
<<It's obvious that the eyes are yours.>>

LOL, that's what I said before about the ice cream thing. Being smart again aren't we? ;-) :-)
Jordi   Wednesday, July 28, 2004, 08:06 GMT
We also suffer from this prestige accent syndrome in Spain. Very often, you will hear people in Spain say that "el mejor acento castellano es el de Salamanca." As you know it is the most prestigious ancient university in Castile. Something like Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard. The prestigious Castilian accent is in fact the one you'll hear most Spanish actors speak in. This is how Penelope Cruz speaks although she has some of the characteristics of younger speakers and it will depend on the role she plays. It is a variety based on the Castilian spoken by educated Castilian speakers. What else could it be in "la España Imperial"? ;-)
There are more differences in accents in Spain than between California and la Tierra del Fuego. The reason is because there are 4 major widely spoken languages in Spain: Castilian (Spanish), Catalan, Galician (Portuguese) and Basque. Also, many other regional Castilian varieties are constitutive dialects of Latin, which have been assimilated by Castilian(aragonés, astur-leonés). The southern varieties of Castilian have also strong influences from other areas (murciano is heavily influenced by Aragonese and Catalan settlers and by the south). Then you have Andaluz and Extremeño and Canario, which are the varieties which have the most similarities with the Latin American varieties since settlers (invaders if you wish) came mainly from this area. It is argued whether the Muslimc influence has had a lot to do in the Andalusian accent. I would agree since the converted Muslim (moriscos)and their descendents remained in those regions until the early 17th century side to side to their Castilian conquerors. Does that remind you of anything? The world cliché of swarthy, black eyed Spaniards is quite true in the South whilst in Eastern and Northern Spain you'll find more "Northern European" looking Spaniards. In the past 50 years immigration amongst regions has somewhat changed the situation, specially in the biggest towns and cities. I'm quite amazed when I'm told by Germanic and Anglo-Saxon people that I don't look Spanish at all because of my light skin, light brown hair and green eyes. Everybody on my father's side has got blue or green eyes and light brown hair and everybody on my mother's side dark hair, sun tanned skin and light brown eyes and both have been around for centuries. I've never been to a bull fight in my life nor anyone of my close friends and family and I don't particularly enjoy flamenco. :-)
Accents are very lively in Spain and don't seem to retreat although amongs educated people you will hear a lighter version of the regional accents. Uneducated people in Madrid (as uneducated people in any Capital city of the world regarding theur language) speak Castilian with a twang and special characteristics although the accent is a version of Castilian, if you know what I mean.
What has always been prestigious amongst Spanish and Latin American elites (from all times and periods) is that particular educated Salamanca or Valladolid variety. Most broadcasters and actors in Spain use that unless they want to reproduce regional usages. Thousands of Latin American students come to Spain every year and graduate. They, obviously never fully lose their accent but they do modulate it and go back to their country influenced by their European education and speak "softer" versions of their accent and "more academic" Spanish. That, of course, doesn't affect 99% of the American population but it's right up on the social scale and has an influence on cultivated Latin American speech as a research would prove.
Since Castilian Spanish varieties are quite close anyway, you'll agree differences aren't as remarkable as British RP and General American English. On the other hand Spain also sends thousands of people (professionals, teachers, church members, etc.) to the Americas every year and they also come back with a slight American influence in their speech. Lots of Latin American writers also publish their works in Madrid or Barcelona and are very popular here and you often see them on TV. They definitely speak what I would call Educated Latin American Spanish, which is closer in many ways to Standard Spain usage although you realise immediately they are Latin Americans, because of the softer accent.
On the other hand, even Educated Catalan speakers speak Spanish with a strong or mild Catalan accent. When I take a taxi at Madrid Airport the taxi driver immediatly asks me about the weather in Barcelona, although my Spanish is perfect and I majored in Englis, Spanish, Catalan and French here. Catalan accent isn't too popular in Central Spain since they can't understand how we hold so proudly to our language and heritage. Some still can't understand how we aren't all speaking Castilian to our children yet. And I won't answer to people who only see politics when it affects them and not the rest. It's that "conquistador" syndrome some Castilians and Brits just can't manage to get rid of.
I trust that all this will have interested you and I can assure you that some of the best Castilian (or Spanish if you wish) in the world is spoken in Latin American. The language has a soft touch to it which we lack in Europe. That soft touch is definitely the native Amerindian influence on Spanish. Spaniards could do a lot if they had it and Latin Americans must be proud to have some of the most genuine blends on both continents. Perhaps we just need more people from below to be above.;-)
nic   Wednesday, July 28, 2004, 10:33 GMT

There are clichés which make people think spanish, italians and french are all dark hairs, borwn eyes........ I am this type of guy but there are some other types, i know some italians from Naples who are blond and tall. It's like the famous clichés in France about germans who very tall and blond and you find some who are small with dark hairs. The only place i know where people seem really all dark is Greece
Jordi   Wednesday, July 28, 2004, 10:52 GMT
I agree and I imagine the same goes for most Southern Europe. I don't know about Greece but I know some very light skinned Turks and Berbers from North Africa have milky white skin and blue eyes! Asturias and Galicia in Spain, for example, have a strong Celtic past. The name of Galicia (region on the Spanish Atlantic coast) also relates to the Gaels. The Germanic influence was must stronger in northern Spain although many of them came down to the south during the medieval Reconquista against the Muslim kingdoms and settled there.
These Spanish Muslim kingdoms had mainly a Mediterranean type population with some Muslim blood as well but far less than what is usually thought since the early Christians in that area were converted to Islam during the early Middle Ages and the Muslim invaders were few in numbers although very effective. Many of these early Christians descended from the pre-Roman Iberians, who were also Mediterranean. So Iberian and Celts are different realities. For political reasons Spain coined the label "Celtiberian" so as to make believe Spain was already a political project in the early centuries.
Just one small thing you must say "dark hair" and not "dark hairs". I know it's in plural in French (les cheveux) but in English (and Catalan and Spanish!) if you say "hairs" in plural you mean the rest of the body and not the head, which is what we say, speaking of people, to avoid thinking about other hairs which aren't on the head. ;-)
nic   Wednesday, July 28, 2004, 11:14 GMT
Thank you for the "dark hair", i won't forget it
Xatufan   Thursday, July 29, 2004, 00:09 GMT
Portugese, interesting language. Juan, as you know a fabulous Portugese, could you explain us the differences between Gallego and Portuguese?
Tereixa   Friday, July 30, 2004, 06:49 GMT
Notes on Galician:

Galician can be seen as a somewhat castilianized form of Portuguese. Linguists have always recognized the unity of these linguistic varieties as they were once just the same language and both are relatively conservative varieties. However, in practice, they are treated sometimes as different languages by both populations mainly due to sociolinguistic issues, with works in Galician being translated into Portuguese and vice versa. The current Galician Autonomous Government backs a standard of Galician which distances it from Portuguese and makes it, graphically, more similar to Castilian Spanish. Nevertheless, there is another standard, used in some political circles and universities that basically treats Galician as a Portuguese dialect with minor differences. During the Middle Ages, Galician and Portuguese were undoubtedly the same language, nowadays known as "Galego-Português", or Galician-Portuguese, a language used for poetic works even in Castille.

Galego-Português literature flourished in the Middle Ages, especially in the reign of Alfonso X 'El Sabio' ('the wise' 1252-84). After that period (the so-called 'Séculos Escuros'), Castilian colonization relegated Galician to a purely colloquial status, the main posts in church and government being occupied by Castilians. During this period, Galician and Portuguese moved apart, although they were still clearly connected languages. In the 19th century, Galician began to be written again and a rich literature re-emerged.

Today, after the parenthesis of Franco's dictatorship, Galician and Castilian are co-official in this part of Spain. At present, as usually happens with long neglected languages, there is a great deal of controversy concerning the status and corpus planning of Galician, especially regarding orthography. When 19th century writers decided to start writing in Galician again, they found that they lacked a written standard, and the spelling of the resulting texts is somewhat inconsistent. Today there is controversy because some people believe (against the official position) that it might be useful for Galician to move back closer to Portuguese, and write LH instead of LL (eg, lhama instead of llama), NH instead of Ñ (eg, canhon instead of cañon), and G, J instead of X (eg, geología instead of xeoloxîa, and hoje instead of hoxe); that is, they replace Castilian with Portuguese graphemes in order to 'purify' the Galician language of Castilian influence. The problem is that, on the one hand, this proposal also substitutes a rather etymological orthography for the more or less phonemic one represented by the official position, which uses Castilian graphemes to represent Galician phonemes. In fact, moving back closer to Portuguese implies using forms which had been long ago abandoned by Galician. In the 20th century Portuguese and Galician differ substantially in their phonological systems. On the other hand, the official orthography fails to represent the difference between open and close vowels, which exists in Galician but not in Castilian, while this difference is correctly represented by the Portuguese spelling system.

From a purely linguistic point of view, the solution seems to be half way between the Castilian and the Portuguese spelling systems. From a sociolinguistic point of view, planners have to cope with the problem of acceptance: due to geographic and cultural rivalry, Galician users are not generally in favour of adopting a system with 'Portuguese connotations', as this is felt as a threat to their national identity.

As can be seen, the question of phonemic spelling gives rise to an interesting debate in this small part of the world. Many years may still have to pass before an appropriate solution for the Galician problem can be found.
Juan   Friday, July 30, 2004, 07:48 GMT
Xatufan wrote:
<<Portugese, interesting language. Juan, as you know a fabulous Portugese, could you explain us the differences between Gallego and Portuguese? >>

LOL, I didn't claim being fluent in Portuguese but I was impressed that Julian appears to know Spanish as well as Portuguese. No, unfortunately I don't know much about the Portuguese language although I am interested in taking it up because I plan to visit Brazil sometime in not to distant future. I hope. :-) Since you so smart Xatufan you could probably tell me more than I ever could.
Juan   Friday, July 30, 2004, 07:56 GMT

Great post Jordi. As always, very informative. Your contribution is very much appreciated.
mjd   Friday, July 30, 2004, 08:11 GMT
For those who are interested in Portuguese:

I'd say Ciberdúvidas is the best site on the Web devoted to the Portuguese language. It has a dedicated and knowledgeable team of Portuguese and Brazilian linguists. The only thing is it's not for beginners (it's all in Portuguese).

Xatufan   Friday, July 30, 2004, 14:27 GMT
Are you teasing me Juan?

The thing I love most about Portuguese is that the Latin combination -ct- becomes -it- in Portuguese. For example: leite, noite, oito.

-ct- becomes -ch- in Spanish.
Juan   Saturday, July 31, 2004, 05:04 GMT
No, Xatufan por supuesto que no. Como podrias pensar eso de mi? Te lo digo sinceramente. Sabes que, yo he notado que tu ortografia castellana es mejor que la mia. You never cease to amaze Xatufan, you are truly a very gifted precocious boy. ;-) Continua con estudios y la dedicacion que demuestras y nunca pares de esforzarte. :-)