‘I love chocolate’ …I know that, but do you know about the origin of the word chocolate?

In my professional teaching experience it’s very common to find out that many students are often unaware about lots of the aspects relating to the nature of the Spanish language vocabulary when they start their learning process.

For example, they often find it surprising that a Spanish word like chocolate or tomate comes from Pre-Columbian languages. Most of them tend to assume that terms like these are naturally derived from English words; so when I explain to them that these structures come from Native American languages they take it as a very new fact to them.

All the native tongues from the American continent – either dead or still in current use – have made an outstanding contribution to the enrichment of the Spanish language. There is a vast amount of words which have already been officially included into Spanish dictionaries; however, there still are an even larger amount of them which are still waiting to be incorporated into such dictionaries.

These language structures are commonly referred to as Americanisms. All these terms come mainly from Amerind (or Pre-Columbian) languages, which have found a path into spoken and written varieties of Spanish and are generally used by native Spanish speakers in their daily language. Because of this factor, they must be included into dictionaries as a matter of fact.

What it really matters from the linguistic perspective it’s that the terms to which we are making reference here, are vernacular items belonging to the lexicon of a regional or national group of native Spanish speakers; thus there is no need to apply other considerations in order for them to be included into any particular type of dictionary which may be released by a publishing house or for the words to be admitted by a Spanish language academy.

The main purpose of any language dictionary is to provide a complete list of all the words which are actually used by any sizeable amount of its speakers.

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About L. A. Pinel

I'm the founder and Director of Tres Culturas Spanish Language Studio, a specialist Spanish language school in Melbourne, Australia. As a teacher of Spanish I view the study of issues about the nature of the Spanish language in particular and of applied linguistics in general with great passion. I’m also an avid language learner, my other languages are Italian, Portuguese and French; at the moment I'm studying Latin and Mandarin Chinese.

Posted on December 29, 2007, in Education, etymology, Language, Language learning, Second Language Learning, Spanish, Spanish Language Learning. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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