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1. Geographical and Social Varieties of Spanish: An Overview


Subject Linguistics » Historical Linguistics
Psycholinguistics » Language Acquisition
Sociolinguistics » Dialects

Key-Topics society, variation

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405198820.2012.00003.x


According to Spain's government-sponsored Cervantes Institute, there are more than 400 million native or near-native speakers of Spanish in the world, distributed across every continent except Antarctica. Spanish is the official language in twenty-one countries plus Puerto Rico; is the de facto first language for most of Gibraltar ( Fierro Cubiella 1997 ; Kramer 1986 ); still maintains a small foothold in the Philippines, where it once enjoyed official status ( Lipski 1987a ); and is known and used on a regular basis by many people in Haiti (Ortiz López forthcoming), Aruba and Curaçao ( Vaquero de Ramírez 1986 ), and Belize ( Hagerty 1979 ). Moreover, in the country that harbors one of the world's largest native Spanish-speaking populations (effectively tied for second place with Colombia, Argentina, and Spain, and surpassed only by Mexico), the Spanish language has no official status at all. That country is the United States, which has at least 40 million native Spanish speakers, that is, some 10% of the world's Spanish-speaking population ( Lipski 2008c ). All languages change across time and space, and Spanish is no exception. Although the Spanish language was relatively homogeneous in Spain circa 1500 – the time when Spanish first expanded beyond the boundaries of the Iberian Peninsula – it has diversified considerably as it spread over five continents during more than ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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