Policing the borders of the Spanish language was a tool of religious and racial discrimination. Yet Spanish is not inherently imperial.

Few realize that, even in the year 1492 itself, Columbus’s voyages formed only one part of a larger system of pivotal events—events that ultimately bolstered Spain’s colonization, unification, and building of empire. The year opened with the fall of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada—the final defeat of long-held Muslim rule in Spain. Just two months later, tens of thousands of Jews were formally expelled from Spain, following centuries of persecution and forced conversions in the name of “blood purity.” Conquest, expulsion, and colonization; these three events coincided with a seemingly harmless, yet no less major, event: the publication of a book.

虽然没有像明显暴力从今年其他事件,这个特殊的出版物大大加强西班牙帝国的新兴后来关键-方面:西班牙身份通过在多语种的悠久文化优先“正确”的西班牙建筑。以人为本安东尼内布里哈是1492Gramática德拉lengua特拉纳(Grammar of the Castilian language) was the first Spanish grammar. In dedicating the book to Spain’s Queen Isabella I, Nebrija wrote provocatively: “Siempre la lengua fue compañera del imperio”; that is, language has always been a companion of empire.


然而,西班牙语是不是天生帝王,也有西班牙未能适应,欢迎谈话和存在的新途径。这才是真正的文学术语,如证明珍妮特亨德里克森的塞巴斯蒂安·科瓦鲁比亚斯Horozco的1611词典的新的翻译,卡斯蒂利亚或西班牙语的宝藏以及在社交方面,如revealed in Nicholas R. Jones’s new study of “Africanized Castilian” language,Staging ‘Habla de Negros’.



在1492年的帝国事件后一个世纪,一个巨大的单语西班牙语字典出版,现已被摘录并翻译成英文的第一次,由亨德里克森。科瓦鲁比亚斯的宝藏of the Castilian or Spanish Languagewas a new kind of book, one whose function was stunningly unlike Nebrija’s grammar.

Although, on the surface, a dictionary relies on definition and containment, Covarrubias’s volume compels modern readers because of its ongoing contradictions and inconsistencies. Indeed, Hendrickson describes Covarrubias as “profuse,” “digressive,” “funny,” “personable,” and “diaristic.” In fact, Hendrickson explains, “I was distracted from the dictionary’s instrumental function by its seemingly unregulated beauty.”

Hendrickson’s volume is powerful because of the way it brings Covarrubias’s dictionary to new audiences: both through its approach to translation as a practice, and through its celebration of the dictionary as a poetic form. Her work ensures that the book can be accessed by readers without prior knowledge of Spanish or early modern culture.

The translation process is unconventional throughout: “This translation erases the greater portion of the宝藏,” explains Hendrickson. “I translated entries, or rather, fragments of entries, that I found of interest, with an eye toward shaping the strange, fabulous histories within the dictionary into a poetic whole. Sometimes I translated stray sentences within entries, sometimes isolated phrases in those sentences, translation and erasure becoming twin procedures. My rule was to follow the order of the original text.” The result of this translation practice is a slim “poetry pamphlet,” which feels all at once historical, ahistorical, and deeply resonant.



通过Matt Reeck

Consider Hendrickson’s translation of the entry forestrella(star): “If you find yourself in the depths of a very deep well, where the light does not reach, you will be able to see the stars from that darkness, though it is day, because the sun’s rays there do not hinder them.” This sentence is a nearly direct citation of Covarrubias’s concluding lines from the dictionary entry, and Hendrickson’s version showcases the author’s ability to pull in the reader.

And yet, the full definition from the Spanish original also includes a longer history of astronomy, alternate uses of the word as a verb (estrellarse),以及口语表达s such as this one: “Contar las estrellas: no porque ellas no tenga número, pero es tan grande que no le podemos alcanzar, como las arenas de la mar y las hojas de los árboles.”1

Hendrickson regularly reminds readers that her intention is not full replication, but rather direct engagement with language as process. “Covarrubias’s refusal to insist on a single origin for Spanish—and moreover, his refusal to equate value with originality—might be instructive for decentering the idea of originality in translation, and, more generally, multiplying the kinds of writing we now call creative. Both translation and lexicography are forms of collaborative writing; both put words in other words.” In this way, this 2019 edition expands and abbreviates the dictionary, forcing readers to engage deeply with the processes of defining language as well as linguistic and contextual variations across time and space.

I was first, lovingly, introduced to Covarrubias’s work by way of another name: “Cave of Rubies.” This nickname stuck, both as hint to the author’s name and as reference to a metaphor from the prologue concerning the usefulness of dictionaries.

我每年都用“红宝石洞”绰号的敬意和我的学生。我知道每次我咨询在卷1500页的一个,我肯定会跌入新的领域,通过词典编纂拉,早期现代用法和矛盾的定义迷宫。我的一个长期的最爱作一介绍,以早期现代性别政治:看到了提供定义长度对比hombre(man), nearly a page and a half, andmujer (woman), only a couple of sentences. Our nickname for the work conveys the book’s immensity; now, thankfully, Hendrickson’s translation carries Covarrubias’s treasures to new readers.

Jones’s innovative comparative work makes space for dramatic resistance and plurality in our telling of imperial histories.

For the same spirit of language plurality, we can turn to Nicholas R. Jones’sStaging ‘Habla de Negros在近代西班牙的非洲移民的激进性能。Examining a collection of dramatic and literary texts—produced in Spain from the 1500s through the 1700s—Jones demonstrates the significance of “the composition and performance of Africanized Castilian—commonly referred to ashabla de negros.” Although the examples of these “alternate” forms of Castilian were primarily written by white authors, Jones argues that these “texts do, in fact, render legible the voices and experiences of black Africans in fundamental ways that demand our attention.”


Jones also highlights the connections betweenhabla de negros和其他早期现代语言,特别是那些其他边缘化的社区。这些包括,例如,aljamiadonarratives produced in Spain—manuscripts that used Arabic or Hebrew alphabets to render languages including mozarabic and ladino. He also draws attention to the languages of Roma people and rustic Leonesesayagués(口语最有名的堂吉诃德’s Sancho Panza). In this way, Jones’s book makes a strong case for the vibrancy and variety of multilingualism across various racial and ethnic communities in early modern studies.

Language use as, primarily, an expression of power relations is a key tenet of Jones’s book project: “Like any ‘standard’ language, the staging of habla de negros represents a transmission of orders, an exercise of power, and resistance to larger hegemonic power structures.” In the volume’s overview of literary texts and performances, Jones effectively creates space for contemporary readers to examine the presence and production of varied language forms in distinct political, economic, and social contexts. Through surveys of both literary and dramatic texts, the book highlights the dynamic role of language choice for these historical actors, real and imagined, and demonstrates the ways these roles evolve over time.

The particular case ofhabla de negros, argues Jones, represents linguistic Blackness: “a tetralinguistic model that encompasses the vernacular, the material, and that which is territorial. Coming out of the mouths of slaves, habla de negros is the language variant from the Castilian ‘norm’ that fills a certain function for one material that cannot be filled by that ‘normal’ Castilian standard.”

Once again,habla de negros提供了持续的活力和抵抗帝国标准化面对证据。我们被迫与语言决定身份的方式来搏斗,途径语言来描述自己,我们称之为家的地方。


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当然,这两个的当代共振recent publications is extremely compelling, in a political moment that asks for deep engagement with the relationships between nationalism, immigration, unification, and the determination of individual and collective identities.

Studying thehabla de negrosactively dispels the dangerous myth of language purity, while宝藏提醒我们语言的无所不包的项目怎么能不为帝王普遍。后者甚至可能促使我们审视自己的字典,并考虑字如何以及为什么添加和修改,以反映使用情况,谁做这些决定。188bet提款2

In a US context, consider the recent history of English-only movements in relation to how nationalism is practiced and to historical echoes of Nebrija’s 1492 empire-building grammar. Educational settings today would also benefit from historical thinking concerning the differences between concepts such as language diversity, linguistic tolerance, and the standardization of language.

I am a Spanish professor at an elite liberal arts college. Our department regularly offers courses in language for heritage speakers, recognizing the unique demands of students who come to the classroom highly proficient in familial language use and looking to professionalize their writing or speech. And yet I struggle with the politics of these ongoing corrections, myself a heritage speaker of the language.

As a Mexican American Jewish person raised in Los Angeles, I now spend the majority of my time conversing about early modern Spanish literature with my students in Maine. I have spent more time in archives in Spain than I have with the three generations of my family in Mexico City; in both Mexico and Spain, I find my Spanish is always from somewhere else. I will continue to pore over historical and contemporary dictionaries and grammar with my students with pleasure. But I also take time to recognize the pluralities of their Spanish and Spanglish, helping them to build the resources to know and celebrate the variety of their language experiences and expressions.

This article was commissioned byBécquer Seguín.icon

  1. 西班牙语language definitions come from Ignacio Arellano and Rafael Zafra’s Spanish-language edition (Iberoamericana, 2006). I offer this English translation of the phrase: “To count the stars: not because they do not have a number, but because it is so large we cannot reach it, as grains of sand or leaves of trees.”
  2. Merriam-Webster加533个新词在九月2019188bet提款年字典;该牛津英语词典added more than 650 in October 2019.
Featured image:墨西哥城(2015年)。摄影者邓肯C / Flickr的