Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Spanish words from the Arabic


I watched a video on Facebook, from USC Annenberg Media, claiming how so many words in Spanish were loanwords from the Arabic. I have no quibble with that statement, but I did have a quibble with the fact that half the words used to illustrate the similarities between Spanish and Arabic were of Latin or Greek origin.

Had the video not insisted that these words came from the Arabic into Spanish, I would've given it a pass. I am no linguist, but I've done time with language, translation, and word origins.

Because I have a smattering of Indo-European languages under my belt, words careen like racing pinballs in my brain. Boing! Kaching. Roll. Boing. Score! So the video examples (and all the gooey sheeple comments posted under the video), rankled.

Spanish arose from the native Celt-Iberians (cousins of the Gauls) and other indigenous tribes attempting to speak some form of Latin—Galician, Asturian, etc. Arabic speaking Moors were very late on the Iberian cultural horizon. They did not invent Spanish, an Indo-European Romance language.  Some form of Latin was being spoken on the Iberian peninsula for centuries long before the Moors arrived. It evolved into several Spanish and Portuguese dialects. Then the Moors arrived.
Spanish is derived from a dialect of spoken Latin that evolved in the north-central part of the Iberian Peninsula after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century. Castilian Spanish originated after the decline of the Roman Empire, as a continuation of spoken Latin in northern and central Spain. It borrowed words from Moorish Arabic and was influenced by Mozarabic (the Romance speech of Christians living in Moorish territory) and medieval Judaeo-Spanish (Ladino). A reader of Modern Spanish can learn to read medieval documents without much difficulty. —History of the Spanish language
This video would've also been way more interesting if USC Annenberg Media had actually used more Arabic words as examples. Any Spanish word what begins with the article, al-, is a shoo-on, and is usually of Arabic origin or a loanword, like azúcar*/sukkar; or aceite/ az-zeit. But half the words used as examples are not from the Arabic at all.

*The word for sugar* is much older than Arabic, it's from the Sanskrit sharkara (Persian shakar. Medieval Latin succarum), Sanskrit and Persian are Indo-European; or Indo-Iranian languages, not related to Arabic, a Central Semitic language, which suggests it was an Arabic borrowing.

However, the Arabic borrowed word, sukkar was also borrowed into Italian zucchero, and Spanish azúcar, replete with the Arabic article firmly attached. So, sugar may have entered into the Spanish via Arabic, but it's not an Arabic word.

Scorpion: Latin scorpionem, from Greek skorpios. The Spanish alacrán is from Arabic al-'aqrab. Clear lineage.

The preposition, hasta, or until, may or may not come from the Arabic word hata, or ḥattá. But it could also have been influenced by Latin phrase, ad ista. Or even Hebrew ad עד! Not definitive. Why? Because a foreign preposition wouldn't bump a similar term in the original language. New, technical nouns and verbs, yes. But not prepositions. They're conservative buggers.

Guitar is from Latin cithara, from Greek kithara. Aramaic – qipārā. The Arabic word is perhaps derived from the Spanish or the Greek. Or maybe vice versa, depending upon who is arguing the point. No clear link. Lute/laúd is clearly from the Arabic: al-'ud. It would have been a better example.

But the word music is not an Arabic word at all; it comes from the Greek word for muse. What a silly word to use by way of example. Nor is the word blouse; but an argument could be made for Egyptian origin. In Medieval Latin, it's pelusia

Nor is the word pantaloon, named after a favored (if not, silly) Venetian saint whose name was of Greek origin. Nor is the word camisa, or chemise, from Late Latin camisia which means shirt, or tunic (also the source of Italian camicia); camisia was originally a soldier's word, probably via the Gaulish. Ahem: Gaulish. Wonder what the Celt-Iberian word was?

After I painstakenly looked up each word, I found this nifty link: Arabic language influence on the Spanish language, which is enlightening. Suffice to say, most words that have to do with law, commerce, irrigation, or imprisonment, are of Arabic origin. 

I do have a quibble with a few words on that list, most notably the words vacarí: supposedly from the Arabic baqari (بقري)  which means bovine. Wait! Hold your goddamn horses: the cattle-raiding Celts of Iberia didn't have a plenitude of words for cow? Give me a break. And the Latin vacca, is not the origin of vacarí? Maybe the case ending is not Latin? It looks tempting, but no. Make me lose my shit here. Old Galician-Portuguese: vaca, from Latin vacca, from Proto-Indo-European wokeh.

Bovine comes from the Indo-European root *gwous, meaning ox. Old Greek: boũs, Doric: bõs (bo(w)ós) cattle, cow. Old Irish: , (bóu/báu). Latin bösoxbovis; Late Latin bovinus. —from Indo-European vocabulary. BTW, b/v are interchangeable sounds in Irish and Spanish.

Giraffe, aka jarraf, ziraph, and gerfauntz, came from an African language, possibly Egyptian, via the Berber, and possibly to Spanish via Arabic zarāfa. The origin of the Arabic word may be from Persian zurnāpā (flute-legs). An alternate word, Camelopard (leopard-spotted camel) from Greek kamēlopárdalis confused countless Europeans for centuries.

Then there's zanahoria: carrot, presumably from Andalusi Arabic safunariyya, Classical Arabic: isfanariyya. But a little sleuthing takes it right back to Greek originAncient Greek σταφυλίνη (staphulínē) ἀγρία (agría).

And zumo: fruit juice. From Arabic zum. Stretching it a bit. Suk in the Slavic languages came to mind. Indo-European continuum.
Portuguese sumo and Spanish zumo come from Greek ζωμός, though sources disagree on the intermediate stages—while DRAE says it's through Arabic zūm < Spanish Arabic zúm, Houaiss says it's through Iberian Latin zumu, with the influence of Latin sucus. —Unilang
It's sloppy scholarship to suggest that these words entered Spanish via the Moors. Then there's the problem of all those North African Berber words, that get lumped into Arabic/Spanish, via the Moors, but are not of Arabic origin.

The Berbers who call themselves the i-Mazigh-en (Greek: Mazices), or the free people, who speak Amazigh: (Tamaziɣt, or Tamazigh), too were Arabized like the Spaniards. How many of their loanwords are claimed as being of Moorish origin?  But that's a tale for another day.

The blog post English Words from Arabic, has a better handle on it:
Some words are borrowed directly from Arabic; but most of these words have taken the scenic route, through Spanish, Italian, and/or French; or through Turkish, Persian, or Urdu; or through Hebrew or Latin.
It is estimated that about 8% percent of Spanish vocabulary is of Arabic origin (6% Portuguese) but they are mostly uncommon, archaic verbs, including derivations and compounds. Just to confound things, many Arabic words were already in use in Spain long before the Muslim invasion.

Many of the Spanish-Arabic words took the same route as Arabic words into English. At least zompist.com notes the Latin and Greek origin of several Arabic words. The OED may list over 900 words in English from the Arabic, but there are also many words borrowed from unspecified Semitic languages (cumin, myrrh, sesame) from ancient times.

 I'd suggest that budding Spanish scholars carefully examine the (pre)historic "scenic route" that traveling words tend to take, before leaping to conclusions and claiming all those Spanish words as being Moorish in origin. And don't forget the Latin f- becomes the Spanish h-; or o-; so all those words that begin with f/h/o need to be carefully vetted. Some other words hide behind the definite article al- which most Arabic loanwords tend to begin with.

A smattering of of the six dialects of Afro-Asiatic Berber, the extinct Guanche language, and Celto-Iberian languages might also be of some linguistic use to budding Spanish scholars, as well as Arabic to source out some of those word origins. And it would help if they were also conversant in Portuguese, Galician, Astur-Leonese, Basque, Aragonese, Occitan and Catalan as well, before posting such claims.


More links:

Similarities Between Spanish And Arabic This is the video that kicked this blog post off. Read the comments. Someone suggeted more relevant words of Arabic origin to use: ahorrar (to save), arrinconar (to corner), acicalar (to make pretty), fanfarronear (to boast), holgazanear (to laze around), jorobar (to annoy), zarandear (to shake), enchufar (to plug), azotar (to smack), alquilar (to rent), atracar (to burgle), almacenar (to store), alardear (to show-off), enloquecer (to go crazy). (I haven't looked them up to verify if they're all of Arabic origin.)

Arabic language influence on the Spanish language

Moorish Invasion Added to Spanish Vocabulary

History of the Spanish language: The interaction of Afro-Romance varieties and Ibero-Romance dialects has yet to be studied. Those African speakers also referred to their language as "Latine". Mozarabic speakers, Christian Andalusi Romance, and Sephardic Jewish Ladino, or Ladin speakers who lived under Muslim rule, also contributed to Spanish. To generally confuse you, these dialects were written in a weird hybrid Arabic vs Latin, or Hebrew script, but that doesn't make the words Arabic. What's cool is that archaic Latin sound clusters were preserved. The Lord's Prayer in Mozarabic is easily understood:
Padre nostro que yes en el ciel,
santificat siad lo teu nomne.
Venya a nos el teu regno.
Fayadse la tua voluntade
ansi en la terra como en el ciel

Top 10 Spanish Words of Arabic Origin (2012) Asesino-Assassin-hashishiyyin—but it's probably spurious, from the Persian?, it doesn't seem to enter Arabic until the 12th c.; Ojala-Hopefully-wa sha allah; now that seems pretty straightforward; Almohada-Pillow-al-miḵadda, which looks suspiciously related to the Galician
alfombra-carpet-alḥánbal/ ḥanbal (f/h swap), also a Moroccan word for tapestry, so it could be Berber as the Al-Mohad was a 12th c. Islamic Berber dynasty in Andalucia; however, adobe is from Middle Egyptian dj-b-t, mud (c. 2000 BC); which was borrowed into Arabic as al-tub, and entered into Spanish via the long scenic route. Azúcar entered into Spanish from India via Sanskrit sharkara, via Persian shakar, and then Arabic sukkar.

Another post on 10 Spanish Words with Arabic Origin (2015) Not sure who stole the post from who, this one has an introduction (but no Arabic). "In 711 C.E., Arab armies began the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. With the conquest, the hispanomusulmanes, as they're called in Spanish, brought the Arabic architecture, art, and of course, the language. Over time, Arabic expressions mixed with old Spanish vocabulary to become the Spanish dialect that most Spanish-speaking countries use today: castellano (Castilian Spanish). Even as the Spanish kingdom expelled the Arab empire from the region in 1492, Castilian Spanish retains approximately 8,000 words with Arabic origin to this day."

44 Spanish words with Arabic origin Although these words entered Spanish through Arabic (except “café”, “jirafa”, “algebra”, “algoritmo” and “máscara” which came via Latin and Italian), some Arabic words originated in other languages: Persian or Sanskrit. (But the site doesn't list them....)

Pre-Islamic Arabia

Indo-European vocabulary

This blog morphed from a post on Brian Kerven's page: I wish I had saved the first draft. This is about three revisions in: This video would've been way more interesting if they'd actually used more Arabic words as examples. Any Spanish word what begins with the article, al-, is usually Arabic, like azúcar, /sukkar; aceite/ az-zeit.

Sugar is from the Sanskrit sharkara (Per
sian shakar. Med.l Latin succarum), The Arabic word sukkar was borrowed into Italian (zucchero), and Spanish (azucar, with the Arabic article).
Scorpion: Latin scorpionem, from Greek skorpios. Spanish alacran is from Arabic al-'aqrab. Hasta comes from the Arabic word hata.

Guitar: from Latin cithara, from Greek kithara. The Arabic word is perhaps from Spanish or Greek. Or maybe vice versa. No clear link. Lute/laúd is clearly Arabic al-'ud.

But music is not an Arabic word; it comes from the Greek. Nor is blouse; but an argument could be made for Egyptian origin. Med. Latin pelusia. Nor is pantaloon, after a Venetian saint: of Greek origin. Nor is chemise, from Late Latin camisia "shirt, tunic" (also source of Italian camicia, Spanish camisa); originally a soldier's word, probably via the Gaulish.

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