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In English, Castilian Spanish can mean the variety of Peninsular Spanish spoken in northern and central Spain, the standard form of Spanish, or Spanish from Spain in general. In Spanish, the term castellano (Castilian) refers to the Spanish language as a whole, or to the medieval Old Spanish language, a predecessor to modern Spanish.
The term Castilian Spanish is used in English for the specific varieties of Spanish spoken in north and central Spain. Typically, it is more loosely used to denote the Spanish spoken in all of Spain as compared to Spanish spoken in Latin America. In Spain itself, Spanish is not a uniform language and there exist several different varieties of Spanish; in addition, there are other official and unofficial languages in the country; Spanish is official throughout Spain.
Castellano septentrional ("Northern Castilian") is the Spanish term for the dialects from the Northern half of Spain, including those from Aragón or Navarre, which were never part of Castile. Español castellano, the literal translation of Castilian Spanish, is not a common expression; it could refer to varieties found in the region of Castile; however, those varieties are not uniform either.
Spain has several regional variations of the Spanish language, which can be roughly divided into four major dialectal areas:
The Spanish language is a pluricentric language. Spanish is spoken in numerous countries around the world, each with differing standards. However, the Real Academia Española (Royal Spanish Academy), based in Madrid, Spain, is affiliated with the national language academies of 22 other hispanophone nations through the Association of Academies of the Spanish Language, and their coordinated resolutions are typically accepted in other countries, especially those related to spelling. Also, the Instituto Cervantes, an agency of the Government of Spain in charge of promoting the Spanish language abroad, has been adopted by other countries as the authority to officially recognize and certificate the Spanish level of non-native Spanish speakers as their second language, as happens in Australia, Korea or Switzerland.
The variants of Spanish spoken in Spain and its former colonies vary significantly in grammar and pronunciation, as well as in the use of idioms. Courses of Spanish as a second language, commonly use Mexican Spanish in the United States and Canada, whereas European Spanish is typically preferred in Europe.
Dialects in central and northern Spain and Latin American Spanish contain several differences, the most apparent being Distinción (distinction), i.e., the pronunciation of the letter z before all vowels, and of c before e and i, as a voiceless dental fricative /?/, as in English th in thing. Thus, in most variations of Spanish from Spain, cinco, 'five' is pronounced /'?inko/ as opposed to /'sinko/ in Latin American Spanish, and similarly for zapato, 'shoe', cerdo, 'pig', zorro, 'fox', Zurbarán. A restricted form of distinción also occurs in the area around Cusco, Peru, where exists in words such as the numbers doce, 'twelve', trece, 'thirteen'.
Additionally, all Latin-American dialects drop the familiar (that is, informal) vosotros verb forms for the second person plural, using ustedes in all contexts. In most of Spain, ustedes is used only in a formal context.
Some other minor differences are:
The meaning of certain words may differ greatly between all the dialects of the language: carro refers to car in some Latin American dialects but to cart in Spain and some Latin American dialects. There also appear gender differences: el PC (personal computer) in Castilian Spanish and some Latin American Spanish, la PC in some Latin American Spanish, due to the widespread use of the gallicism ordenador (from ordinateur in French) for computer in Peninsular Spanish, which is masculine, instead of the Latin-American-preferred computadora, which is feminine, from the English word computer (the exceptions being Colombia and Chile, where PC is known as computador, which is masculine).
Speakers from Latin America tend to use words and polite-set expressions that, even if recognized by the Real Academia Española, are not widely used nowadays (some of them are even deemed as anachronisms) by speakers of Castilian Spanish. For example, enojarse and enfadarse are verbs with the same meaning (to become angry), enojarse being used much more in the Americas than in Spain, and enfadarse more in Spain than in the Americas. Below are select vocabulary differences between Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries. Words in bold are unique to Spain and not used in any other country (except for perhaps Equatorial Guinea which speaks a very closely related dialect).
|Castilian Spanish||Latin American Spanish1||English|
|vale||bien (universal), listo (Colombia), dale (Argentina, Chile), ya (Peru)||okay|
|patata||papa||potato (papa also means poppet or child)|
|judía, alubia||frijol/frejol/caraota (Venezuela) / habichuela (Caribbean) / poroto||bean|
|fregona||trapeador, trapero, lampazo (Argentina, Uruguay), mopa, mapo (Puerto Rico)||mop|
|tarta||torta/pastel (Mexico, El Salvador) / queque/bizcocho (Puerto Rico)||cake|
|cabezal||cabeza||head (of an apparatus)|
1Latin American Spanish consists of several varieties spoken throughout the Americas so the examples may not represent all dialects. They are meant to show contrast and comparing all variants of Latin America as a whole to one variant of Spain would be impossible as the majority of the vocabulary will be reflected in other variants.