Spanish (/ (listen); español (help·info)), or Castilian (/ (listen), castellano (help·info)), is a Romance language that originated in the Iberian Peninsula and today has over 450 million native speakers, mainly in Spain and the Americas. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.
Spanish is a part of the Ibero-Romance group of languages, which evolved from several dialects of Vulgar Latin in Iberia after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. The oldest Latin texts with traces of Spanish come from mid-northern Iberia in the 9th century, and the first systematic written use of the language happened in Toledo, a prominent city of the Kingdom of Castile, in the 13th century. Beginning in 1492, the Spanish language was taken to the viceroyalties of the Spanish Empire, most notably to the Americas, as well as territories in Africa, Oceania and the Philippines.
A 1949 study by Italian-American linguist Mario Pei, analyzing the degree of difference from a language's parent (Latin, in the case of Romance languages) by comparing phonology, inflection, syntax, vocabulary, and intonation, indicated the following percentages (the higher the percentage, the greater the distance from Latin): In the case of Spanish, it is one of the closest Romance languages to Latin (20% distance), only behind Sardinian (8% distance) and Italian (12% distance). Around 75% of modern Spanish vocabulary is derived from Latin, including Latin borrowings from Ancient Greek. It has also been influenced by Basque, Iberian, Celtiberian, Visigothic, Arabic (around 8% of vocabulary) due to early contact having developed during the Al-Andalus era in the Iberian Peninsula, and by neighboring Ibero-Romance languages.
Additionally, it has absorbed vocabulary from other languages, particularly other Romance languages—French, Italian, Andalusi Romance, Portuguese, Galician, Catalan, Occitan, and Sardinian—as well as from Quechua, Nahuatl, and other indigenous languages of the Americas.
Spanish is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. It is also used as an official language by the European Union, the Organization of American States, the Union of South American Nations, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the African Union and many other international organizations.
Despite its large number of speakers, the Spanish language does not feature prominently in scientific writing, though it is better represented in the humanities. 75% of scientific production in Spanish is divided into three thematic areas: social sciences, medical sciences and arts/humanities. Spanish is the third most used language on the internet after English and Chinese.
Estimated number of speakers
It is estimated that there are more than 437 million people who speak Spanish as a native language, which qualifies it as second on the lists of languages by number of native speakers. Instituto Cervantes claims that there are an estimated 477 million Spanish speakers with native competence and 572 million Spanish speakers as a first or second language—including speakers with limited competence—and more than 21 million students of Spanish as a foreign language.
Spanish is the official or national language in Spain, Equatorial Guinea, and 19 countries in the Americas. Speakers in the Americas total some 418 million. It is also an optional language in the Philippines as it was a Spanish colony from 1569 to 1899. In the European Union, Spanish is the mother tongue of 8% of the population, with an additional 7% speaking it as a second language. Spanish is the most popular second language learned in the United States. In 2011 it was estimated by the that of the 55 million Hispanic United States residents who are five years of age and over, 38 million speak Spanish at home.
According to a 2011 paper by U.S. Census Bureau Demographers Jennifer Ortman and Hyon B. Shin, the number of Spanish speakers is projected to rise through 2020 to anywhere between 39 million and 43 million, depending on the assumptions one makes about immigration. Most of these Spanish speakers will be Hispanic, with Ortman and Shin projecting between 37.5 million and 41 million Hispanic Spanish speakers by 2020.