Spanish is an endangered language

New Viejo Bridge, Manila, Philippines


In the 15th century, the kingdom of Aragon experienced a language switch: the Aragonese language used by medieval institutions -mainly notaries and court scribes- was changed into Castilian -currently Spanish- as ordered by the newly arrived dynasty of the Trastámara. Little by little, nobility and higher classes changed their language following the fashion introduced by the new kings, and then the middle classes. In the 16th century, almost every text in the kingdom was written in Castilian, and the old -and now vulgar- Aragonese language was used and preserved just by lower classes, mainly farmers at that time.

This is the basic linguistic history of Aragon usually referred to, and even if it is not false, it is not totally accurate (Tomás, 2020): the Spanish elements in the Aragonese texts appear some centuries before, under the influence of external cultural and political trends like the one offered by the Toledo School of Translators and Alfonso X “The Wise”. In the 14th century and even before, higher classes in Aragon spoke and wrote Aragonese language, but Spanish elements were popular, and that helped the fast language switch that occurred during the following century.

Back to the present, on May 29, 2022, Professor David Fernández Vítores offered a provocative interview about the current role and the future of the Spanish language, plenty of points rare to find out in the academic literature. According to professor Fernández Vítores, Spanish is not that powerful language that will menace the hegemony of English, but rather a declining language that needs to seek out a kind of agreement with English in the international linguistic market. Spanish is almost disappeared in the Philippines, its influence has dramatically decreased in Morocco, and the Hispanic community of the USA, even if proud of being Hispanic, do not always transmit the language to the new generations. And people who state they speak Spanish sometimes do not properly handle the language. In these and other cases, Spanish is residually used as a folk element at specific moments, as the Aragonese language is used in traditional festivities in many Aragonese villages where the settlers hardly use it.

Nowadays, English is the language of science, research, and technicalities, and higher classes handle English, educating their children in the international language: even if most of the peoples speak other languages, English is the language of powers and intellectuals, and the middle classes are imitating the trend. English is also the lingua franca, the one speakers of different languages use at encounters, at short and middle migrations, or to give foreigners basic instructions. In the Aragonese Middle Ages, the powerful language was Latin, and lingua franca was rarely a concern as Romance languages were close enough to allow communication.  

Nowadays, Spanish is the language of leisure. The language of Despacito song, Shakira, J.Lo, Becky G, Daddy Yankee, or Maluma, the language of songs talking about sex, drugs, and alcohol. It is the language to be listened to while drinking cocktails and twerking at ‘Spanish’ night, after an exhausting researching and working serious ‘English’ day. Interestingly, between the 17th and 20th centuries, farm tales called pastoradas were popular in some Aragonese areas, and they were often dramatized in festivities. These tales represented the society at that time, with its powers and peoples, and the mocking and rude dialogs between the mairal and the rapatán (head shepherd and trainee shepherd) were the only ones written and represented in Aragonese (Benítez & Latas, 2022).

Spanish is not experiencing the language switch Aragonese language experienced in the 15th century. Not yet. But powers and peoples are developing the breeding ground to allow such a switch if there is political pressure in the close future, as happened to the Aragonese language. And even if there is not such a political effect in the Spanish case, such a future might be inevitable anyway.

References

Benítez, M.P., & Latas, Ó. (2022). Sobre la pastorada aragonesa: Estudio filológico de las pastoradas en aragonés del siglo XVII. Prensas Universitarias de Zaragoza.

Tomás, G. (2020). El aragonés medieval: lengua y Estado en el reino de Aragón. Prensas Universitarias de Zaragoza.

Villarino, Á. (May 29, 2022). ¿El español va a desbancar al inglés? En realidad está en retirada en todos estos países. ElConfidencial.

Five years of my first Ph. D.: my experience at the Department of Logic, History and Philosophy of Science, UNED

On May 5th, 2017, I defended my first Ph. D., in Philosophy, at the Department of Logic, History and Philosophy of Science (Spanish acronym: LHFC) of the National University of Distance Education (Spanish acronym: UNED), after four years of work thanks to a grant given by the Aragonese Government. Five years later, with much more life experience, I would like to express my views about my stay there.

First, I feel I could have done more at LHFC. Honestly, I did not arrive at my best personal moment, but personal reasons are hardly an excuse. With my current experience and in my present moment, things could have been different.

But at the same time, I did not receive proper support there. My advisor, Doctor Jesús Zamora Bonilla, was absent from his duties during the four years. I was lost, he gave me no path to follow -or better said, he gave me a different one every time we talked during the first year- and he was just trying to find a co-advisor to do his job. I only realized he was following my updates when he used them in a SEFA Congress presentation. And he seemed to be much more worried about political and writing development and promotion, than about researching, teaching, and advising. Luckily, he posed no trouble when I deposited the thesis. Honestly, I do not understand why to accept a Ph. D. student if you will not dedicate him time enough.

A different opinion deserves Doctor David Teira Serrano, the Head of Department at that time, with a bad reputation that I could experience in my first department meeting, when another professor and he told each other to “fuck off”. However, he was always helpful to me, he helped me so much with my first publication, and he gave me some pieces of advice that I considered useless at that time, but that turned out to be astonishingly useful over time.  

I was also lucky of meeting great researchers at the department, and one of them, Cristian Saborido admitted twice that “they could have done more with me” -honestly, if you are going to say that and then you will do nothing, it is better to shut up and leave hypocrisy away. It was also sad to meet great researchers and people that could not flourish in such a negative context.

One day I was talking to a Galician predoc colleague about how difficult was to live in Madrid with a salary of 1,000 euros. Last two years I decided to live in Zaragoza, and I went to Madrid once or twice a week. There was no other option: something people from Madrid did not take always into account in informal discussion.  And UNED is a state university, not a Madrid university -the same university in which I pursued my second Ph. D., in Philology, as an on-line student, in a better personal moment and with two better advisors, Doctor José Ramón Carriazo Ruiz (UNED) and Doctor Jorge Mojarro Romero (UST, Manila).

In short, after five years of amazing professional and vital experience in much better contexts (2017-2022), now I feel I arrived in a bad place at a bad moment when I did my Ph. D. in Philosophy at the Department of Logic, History and Philosophy of Science at UNED. I feel I could have done more there. I feel they did not help me as they could. But far from being a trauma, it was another life experience to acquire both personal and research skills, to learn to differentiate among friends, enemies, and -the trickiest ones- false friends.

Note: Someday I will talk about the selection procedures there at LHFC.

Press Appearance: Arainfo

Recent Press Appearance: Arainfo (April 8, 2022: in Spanish).

Arainfo (2022, April 8). La lengua aragonesa llega a Vietnam[Press release]. Retrieved from https://arainfo.org/la-lengua-aragonesa-llega-a-vietnam/.


Un total de 124 alumnos de la Universidad de Hanoi (Vietnam) están conociendo la lengua aragonesa en el presente curso 2021/2022 en el marco de la asignatura de Lingüística Peninsular, de la carrera de Filología Hispánica impartida por dicha institución.

En estas clases introductorias, los alumnos están conociendo la historia del aragonés, su situación sociopolítica, su presencia en la enseñanza, en los medios de comunicación y sus crecientes comunidades neohablantes. También han recibido nociones sobre aspectos introductorios gramaticales y léxicos del aragonés, y se han ejercitado en situaciones básicas en aragonés. Como proyectos finales, algunos alumnos han elaborado producciones audiovisuales y pequeñas obras de teatro en aragonés, que han expuesto a toda la comunidad universitaria.

El seminario de introducción a la lengua aragonesa y el conjunto de la asignatura Lingüística Peninsular son impartidos por el doctor Marco Antonio Joven Romero, profesor del Departamento de Lengua Española de la Universidad de Hanoi (Đại học Hà Nội. Acrónimo inglés: HANU) en colaboración con la Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID) y el Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores y de Cooperación (MAEC).

PhD Thesis: Hispanic Place Names of Manila

Hispanic Place Names of Manila, my second PhD dissertation at UNED, in Philology, under the advisory of professors José Ramón Carriazo Ruiz and Jorge Mojarro Romero.

Hispanic Geographical Place Names of Metro Manila: Anuari de Filologia, Estudis de Lingüística


Hispanic Geographical Place Names of Metro Manila. My last article at Anuari de Filologia.

Joven-Romero, M.A. (2021). Hispanic Geographical Place Names of Metro Manila. Anuari de Filologia: Estudis de Lingüística, 11, 17-44.


Place names print the physical characteristics of the territory they name and Hispanic geographical place names in Metro Manila depict the geography of the region. In the following pages, I extract and explain the living Hispanic geographical toponyms in Metro Manila, and I discuss the different physical features they describe according to these categories: Body of Water, Farming, Fluvial, Land, Sea, Underground, Urban, Vegetation. I conclude that items responding to different categories follow specific space patterns according to the physical characteristics of the territory and the Spanish colonial activity

https://revistes.ub.edu/index.php/AFEL/article/view/37930

Download the whole pdf article here.

Press Appearance: Interview at The Manila Times

Interview at The Manila Times, on ocassion of my second doctoral dissertation: Hispanic Place Names of Manila.

Mojarro, J. (2021, December 21). A doctoral dissertation on the street names of Manila [Press release]. The Manila Times. Retrieved from https://www.manilatimes.net/2021/12/21/opinion/columns/a-doctoral-dissertation-on-the-street-names-of-manila/1826688.


MARCO Antonio Joven Romero is a native of Zaragoza, Spain. He spent three years in the Philippines as a lecturer of Spanish language at the University of Santo Tomás. Despite having a Ph.D. in philosophy, he decided to pursue a second Ph.D. in linguistics at UNED, Spain. The topic he chose for his doctoral dissertation was the toponymy of the streets of Manila, a city that, as he has declared many times, he loves so much. Given that I am not only his friend, but also the co-director of his dissertation, I take advantage of this circumstance to interview him for The Manila Times.

Marco, what did you know about the Philippines before coming to teach? And why did you choose this archipelago as your destination for three years?

Honestly, it was quite random. I was going through the worst time of my life: my father died in 2013, I could not — and in some way I still cannot — accept it, and I had never been comfortable in Zaragoza, the place where I was born. A good friend, Jesús, recommended that I go to Asia because of my personality, and there was an option as an AECID lecturer (Spanish Cooperation Agency). I took it. That was the best choice of my life.

 

You have told me several times that you love the city, that Manila is the best place to be. Why is that when so many people claim this city is unlivable? Is your love for the city what made you carry out research on its street names?

Manila is not an easy city, but it is the city that made me happy, and at the same time, it was the place where I could learn a lot of things about life. It was the city that made me a real adult. People of Manila always loved me, and I loved Manila people too — although sometimes I also hurt some people because of my lack of maturity. I am an active person, and I could not stop meeting people and covering every small alley of Metro Manila. When I arrived in Manila, I was an adventurer, and Manila is the best city for adventures. Before coming to Manila, I also carried out a study of Aragonese toponymy in A Fueba in the province of Huesca in western Spain. So, I had all the academic and personal ingredients to carry out a study of the Hispanic place names of Metro Manila.

 

How did you carry out your research? Could you tell us any curiosity that happened while doing fieldwork?

There are three main methodological steps in this work: more than 800 surveys of settlers of all the cities and districts of Metro Manila, a research on the previous studies and maps, and my personal fieldwork all over the area.

About curiosities, I covered Aroma and Happyland, two of the poorest slums in Metro Manila, for two days with my friend Alejandro Ernesto, a photo reporter. The first day he left his cellphone in his motorcycle and the second day he forgot the motorcycle keys. After entire days covering the dumps, no one took the cellphone or the keys! On another occasion, I was covering a cemetery where some people live, and I could hear a couple having sex — I suppose on a tomb. And when I went to Señorita Street and surroundings, I could not stop hearing the song “Señorita” by Camila Cabello, which the locals boasted about.

 

Could you tell us what are the three most remarkable findings of your research?

First, around 55 percent of toponyms from the Spanish period are preserved while around 45 percent are lost. Considering the new toponyms, around 75 percent are Hispanic. I think these figures are interesting when dealing with the recurrent debate on Hispanic place names in the Philippines.

Second, the preserved Hispanic place names of Manila reflect the society of the city during the Spanish period: a kernel in Intramuros, the rising bourgeoisie in Binondo — and to a lesser extent in Ermita — and the rest of the classes and activities further away. The furthest place names refer to farm and logistics activities.

Third, most of the recent place names in Metro Manila do not adhere to popular naming processes or to administrative-political norms, but to pure economic factors. Economic power is creating new cities and districts — e.g. BGC, Ortigas, some places in Makati, and so on — coining new place names according to markets.

 

What do you think of the habit of local politicians who in an attempt to immortalize their names, replace the previous names of the streets with their own? Do you think the Philippines needs some legislation regarding this topic?

I am sad every time a place name is changed or lost, in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world. Let me say that most of what we know about Celtic and Iberian peoples in Spain is because of preserved place names. And some of them seem to refer to local leaders, probably tyrants! Place names have crystallized, and they are preserved more than any other linguistic feature. And following the previous example, Celtic and Iberian languages disappeared in Spain millennia ago, but we still have these names. They are a treasure that allows us to partially know these languages too. The Spanish language is almost lost in the Philippines, but the Hispanic toponyms show the history, the identity and the geography of the country, and they also show some of the characteristics of the Filipino-Spanish language. About legislation, the Philippines and all the countries of the world must be conscious of the significance of place names.

 

Do you expect to carry out further research on the Philippines or do you want to move on to another thing already?

If possible, I would like to continue studying Hispanic place names in the Philippines. Even more, I would like to return to the Philippines and make a life in the country that has made me happy. However, due to the pandemic and my work, I do not find it easy. Furthermore, when I arrived in Manila, I was an adventurer. Now, I am looking forward to more stability, and I am not sure Manila is the best city for that. But finding such stability in the Philippines is my greatest desire. Let me add that the study of place names in the Philippines is not developed, and while the cities show social place names, the rest of the country presents a vast number of geographic place names to be studied.

 

Do you believe Metro Manileños should be proud of their city? Why?

Totally. Manila is an unknown city with many attractions. Reporters from several Spanish television networks agree with me: they were delighted when I showed them the “unknown” city. And contrary to what is sometimes stated, it is safe. Actually, Manila is not a city but a set of cities with different cultures and even language differences. Manilans are friendly and that compensates for the traffic and pollution problems. However, far from romanticizing the existent huge inequalities, the city must work to solve them. If there is something the people of Manila cannot be proud of, it is precisely the inequality in the city, which is translated into an extreme daily slavery that I hesitate to say existed any time before.

PhD in Philology: Hispanic Place Names of Manila

Hispanic Place Names of Manila. PhD Defense.

On December 15, 2021, I defended my second PhD, in Philology at Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED, Spain): Hispanic Place Names of Manila, a research work carried out between 2017 and 2021, which I have introduced in several papers and media.

I obtained a calification of Outstanding with Distinction Cum Laude by a tribunal formed by professors Francisco Moreno Fernández, Celia Casado Fresnillo, and Daisy López Pargas. The advisors for the thesis were professors José Ramón Carriazo Ruiz and Jorge Mojarro Romero.

The thesis will be available soon at UNED’s public repository.

Toponimia Hispánica Social de Manila. Glosas: Revista de la Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española


Toponimia Hispánica Social de Manila. My last Philology article at Glosas. 

Joven-Romero, M.A. (2021). Toponimia Hispánica Social de Manila. Glosas: Revista de la Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española, 10(1), 66-102.


Place names mirror the social history of a territory, the daily life and power relations of its settlers. Hispanic historical social place names in Manila depict the society of the city during the colonial period. Here I extract and explain the living toponyms coined before the battle of Manila in 1945, and I discuss the different activities, peoples, and economic classes they depict. I conclude that different areas were prone to administrative, financial, leisure, military, non-profit, rural, transport, and working-class activities, at different distances from the heart in Intramuros according to their relevance.

https://glosas.anle.us/en/issues/volume-10/number-1/

Download the whole pdf article here.

Lecture at University of Santo Tomas: Aragonese Language (in English)

Aragonese Language

Lecture conducted for the University of Santo Tomas on September 25, 2021 (in English).

Location and organizers: Department of Modern Languages, University of Santo Tomas (Manila, online).
Date: September 25, 2021

Should You Shut Up? Experts, Spectators, and Charlatans

People want to talk. And people want to talk more and more during crisis periods. And we are living a turbulent period now. So people are talking more and more, and most of the times they are not willing to listen. Of course, I am thinking about Covid-related issues -measures, vaccines, forecasts-, but more in general, about the largest social dilemma nowadays: expertise or democracy?

But before dealing with the dilemma and before giving or considering opinions on topics, three categories of subjects must be established: Experts, Spectators, and Charlatans.

Experts are the ones in the field, those who have studied and worked the topic for many years and present knowledge and skills the rest of people do not have. A virologist when talking about viruses, an auto mechanic when considering cars, or a footballer when playing football are experts in their fields.

Spectators correspond to trained audience. Doctors should be spectators on Covid, as well as any person who has got an interest on the topic followed by hours of witnessing, experiencing, or studying. People who have been recently reading and analyzing studies and measures on Covid are spectators, as well as football fans and sports commentators, or particulars fond of cars having tried many of them: they cannot develop further research, but they can evaluate experts work.

Charlatans are just charlatans. People with no experience or training in the field, but giving opinions and even trying to influence decisions with no idea. Covid commentators grabbing a beer, me in the case of football, or people who have never driven a car are the counterparts here.

When considering the debate expertise vs. democracy, the former sets decisions focusing on experts, while the latter must set decisions giving more relevance to spectators -but never to charlatans!

Furthermore, we often tend to consider that experts’ studies and opinions must converge, while that is not true -actually, I would say that is false most of the times. That does not mean that some experts are efficient and reliable while others not: there may be better and worse experts, but if they are not efficient and reliable enough, then they are not experts at all but probably charlatans. It is just that their studies drove them to different results. And, at the very first, all of them are correct if they followed a rigorous scientific methodology.

Establishing boundaries between the three categories is challenging too, especially between spectators and charlatans. When does an individual have training enough in order to be considered a spectator? Obviously, it depends on the case, and not all the spectators are equally trained and reliable in their opinions. But just let me argue that some rhetorical and philosophical universal tools are useful in order to detect charlatans, and they are also suitable for becoming a good spectator in most of the fields -clue: often charlatans are not able to listen to others and they tend to devalue experts.

And what about the common individual who wants to become an spectator? Now the last clue of this post appears: dissemination, that is, the bridge between the experts work and knowledge, and masses, done by the very experts and experts on dissemination. Unluckily, many current media pretend to disseminate while they are not -many times masking non-scientific purposes-, and masses have not some basic tools to detect fake dissemination, feeling they have reliable information when they do not. Again, philosophical tools are essential to counterpart machination, and they should be included in our education systems since a very early age.

Lecture at Universidade de Brasília: Aragonese Language

Aragonese Language / Lengua aragonesa

Lecture conducted for the Instituto de Letras of the Universidade de Brasília on May 24, 2021 (in Spanish).

Location and organizers: Universidade de Brasilia (online), in collaboration with MAEC-AECID (Government of Spain).
Date: May 24, 2021.

Are “dangerous” places really dangerous?

When I moved to Manila in 2017, many people in Zaragoza seemed to be worried about me: Why are you going to such a dangerous place? Haven’t you heard about the ‘War on Drugs’? Honestly, I did not care: many of those people only showed jealousy and toxicity during their lives, and their comments would never be positive. On the other hand, I was exhausted of Zaragoza and Spain -I still am-, and I needed to flee as far as possible.

I lived in Manila for three years and I did not experience any violence against me. Just the opposite. And I frequented extremely poor places at any time. I remember two days with my good friend Alejandro Ernesto covering the barangays of HappyLand and Aroma, two of the poorest slums of the city -and I would say of the world-, plenty of garbage where people crammed into tiny shacks. One day, we forgot a cellphone in the motorbike, but we came back after half an hour and the cellphone was still there. And believe me, everybody was looking at us and realizing from the very first moment. The second day, we left the motorbike key inserted. We spent the whole day in the area and when we came back, the motorbike was still there, and an elderly woman came to us: she kept the key for us.

It is two months since I arrived to Rio de Janeiro, and when I moved similar comments were made: be careful, it is not safe, and avoid favelas! Well, I have been a few times to different favelas, and even if they are not as safe as Filipino barryos, they are not as dangerous as it is usually said. I would say they are safer than more touristic spots like Copacabana, Ipanema, or Lapa. People in favelas are poor -not as poor as in the Philippines- but again friendly, and even if they have a parallel cartel government, they follow their laws and they do not want stupid concerns. So, if you are not willing for troubles and you are intelligent enough, you will be safe, or at least, safer than in touristic hotspots.

But why the western perspective focuses so much on violence and poverty? Here I give three reasons: violence is morbidness, poverty is associated to violence, and violence devalues emerging tourist competitors.

(i) Violence is morbidness. Violence, as well as power and sex, attracts attention. And media want to get your steady attention. Then, they will monetize such attention. Violent content is a good strategy to achieve this goal, although it does not limit to slums violence. Any violence is suitable.

(ii) Association between poverty and violence. A self-defending human psychological strategy is to associate the unknown and danger. Middle-class and upper-class people tend to associate poverty, the unknown, with violence, the danger. Western people are mostly middle-class and upper-class people in a global scale, and they fit this thinking, as well as upper-class people in poor countries, who live close to these lowly areas but panicking them. This association between poverty and violence is unjustified.

(iii) Emerging countries are tourist competitors. Tourism benefits western countries more than emerging countries: western population tend to travel to other western countries, while middle and upper-class people in the emerging and poor countries also travel to western countries, the cultural references. However, emerging countries like the Philippines and Brazil offer tourist appeals western countries do not have, and they are increasing their tourist activity in detriment of traditional western tourist countries like France, Spain, or the United States. Promoting a reputation of danger and violence on the former is a means to halt this evolution.

There is no totally safe place or situation in our lives. Even if reduced, there is always a possibility for a problem. Are poor “dangerous” places totally safe? Of course not. Are poor “dangerous” places really dangerous? Not as much as many non-poor places.

Lecture at University of Santo Tomas

Historical, Social, and Geographical Hispanic Place Names in Metro Manila

Lecture conducted for the Department of Modern Languages of the University of Santo Tomas on March 12, 2021 (in English).

Location: University of Santo Tomas (online)
Date: March 12, 2021

Belief and Pluralistic Ignorance. Filosofia Unisinos.


Belief and Pluralistic Ignorance. My last Philosophy article at Filosofia Unisinos. 

Joven-Romero, M.A. (2020). Belief and Pluralistic Ignorance. Filosofia Unisinos, 21(3), 260-267.
Pluralistic ignorance is usually analyzed in terms of social norms. Recently, Bjerring, Hansen and Pedersen describe and define this phenomenon in terms of beliefs, actions and evidence. Here I apply a basic epistemic approach to belief – believers consider their beliefs to be true –, a basic pragmatic approach to belief – beliefs are useful for believers – and a mixed epistemic-pragmatic approach – believers consider their believes to be true and such considerations are useful – to pluralistic ignorance phenomena. For that, I take the definition given by Bjerring, Hansen and Pedersen.

http://revistas.unisinos.br/index.php/filosofia/article/view/fsu.2020.213.03/

Download the whole pdf article here.