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International Conference on Historical Linguistics

From Contact to Isolation: The Evolution of Romance in Al-Andalus

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Speaker

María Ángeles Gallego García

Abstract

The Muslim conquest of most territories of the Iberian Peninsula in 711 led to a progressive islamization and arabization of the native population, similar to that occurring in other areas of the newly conquered Islamic lands. Despite the fact that the number of native Arabic speakers who took part in the 711 conquest or arrived subsequently was very limited, colloquial Arabic gradually replaced Romance as a spoken language whereas classical Arabic replaced Latin as a written language and language of culture. A tendency to monolingualism with Arabic seems to have dominated in Muslim Iberia since the end of the eleventh century and there is scarce evidence of any use of Romance from the 13th century until the end of the “Reconquista” in 1492.

In this paper I will explore the evolution of the use of Romance in al-Andalus and, more specifically, its displacement by colloquial Arabic. This linguistic process can only be accounted for in the context of the belligerent situation between the (Arabic) Muslim state of the South and the (Romance) Christian Kingdoms of the North. The identification of Arabic with Islam and that of Romance with Christianity fostered the pro-Arabic and anti-Romance linguistic attitudes that prevailed among the Muslims in al-Andalus in the periods of highest tension between the two worlds, from the 11th and, very especially, from the 13th century onwards. In the first two centuries of Islamic rule, however, Romance was not only widely used but also generally devoid of overt political and religious connotations as we can learn from the existing references in the Arabic Muslim sources of that period. The contact of Romance with colloquial Arabic during this early period left a significant linguistic imprint on both languages. This contact came to a minimum as the Reconquista advanced and the Christian population of al-Andalus became the last stronghold for Romance in al-Andalus.

The Muslim conquest of most territories of the Iberian Peninsula in 711 led to a progressive islamization and arabization of the native population, similar to that occurring in other areas of the newly conquered Islamic lands. Despite the fact that the number of native Arabic speakers who took part in the 711 conquest or arrived subsequently was very limited, colloquial Arabic gradually replaced Romance as a spoken language whereas classical Arabic replaced Latin as a written language and language of culture. A tendency to monolingualism with Arabic seems to have dominated in Muslim Iberia since the end of the eleventh century and there is scarce evidence of any use of Romance from the 13th century until the end of the “Reconquista” in 1492.

In this paper I will explore the evolution of the use of Romance in al-Andalus and, more specifically, its displacement by colloquial Arabic. This linguistic process can only be accounted for in the context of the belligerent situation between the (Arabic) Muslim state of the South and the (Romance) Christian Kingdoms of the North. The identification of Arabic with Islam and that of Romance with Christianity fostered the pro-Arabic and anti-Romance linguistic attitudes that prevailed among the Muslims in al-Andalus in the periods of highest tension between the two worlds, from the 11th and, very especially, from the 13th century onwards. In the first two centuries of Islamic rule, however, Romance was not only widely used but also generally devoid of overt political and religious connotations as we can learn from the existing references in the Arabic Muslim sources of that period. The contact of Romance with colloquial Arabic during this early period left a significant linguistic imprint on both languages. This contact came to a minimum as the Reconquista advanced and the Christian population of al-Andalus became the last stronghold for Romance in al-Andalus.


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