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.

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

Radio interview at ‘Investigadores por el Mundo’

Or click here for the ivoox site.


[English] Radio interview at Investigadores por el Mundo (Libertad FM), talking about Hispanic Place Names of Manila [November 17, 2020; in Spanish]

[Español] Aparición en el programa de radio Investigadores por el Mundo (Libertad FM), hablando de Toponimia Hispánica de Manila [17 de noviembre de 2020; en español]

[Pilipino] Ang pagganap ng aking Investigadores por el Mundo (Libertad FM), pinag-uusapan ang tungkol sa Hispanic Place Names of Manila [Nobyembre 17, 2020; sa Espanyol]

[Aragonés] Aparición en o programa de radio Investigadores por el Mundo (Libertad FM), fablando de Toponimia Hispánica de Manila [17 de noviembre de 2020; en español]