The Andalusian Language

A few days ago I was drinking a beer with one of my colleagues and his group after finishing a walking tour around the historic center of Seville. One of his customers asked him about the way Andalusian people speak. He asked if it is a different accent, a dialect or a language different from Spanish. So my colleague answered it is just an accent and a different way to speak and pronounce words. I added that this way we talk it is stigmatized and so my colleague continued: “Yes, that is true. In my case, for example, I speak properly”.

PROPERLY, he said. And please notice that my colleague is an Andalusian person too.

So, I do not speak properly for you, dear colleague?

When doing tours many people ask similar questions to me. Sometimes they know a little bit of Spanish and they notice that when we say “Gracias” (thank you) we pronounce “Grasiah”. I do not want to repeat a content which is easy to find on the internet, but we have a particular pronunciation, and also a particular way to build expressions and sentences. It is not only pronunciation, also vocabulary could be different in many cases. (F.e.: artichoke is “alcachofa” in Spanish, but we use the word “alcaucil”). Some of the characteristics of the Andalusian accent, dialect or language are in this link and in this other one . And if you also want to read about the stigmatization there is a PhD thesis from the University of California.

diseño lengua1 copia

“I don’t speak Castillian*, I speak Andalusian” written also with Arab alphabet**.

*Castillian and not Spanish because the formal Spanish was built according to the way of speaking in Castilla. In the PhD thesis mentioned above it is explained in detail.

**Written in Arab because of the strong Arabic influence in Andalusia due to Al-Andalus period.

Considering Andalusian as a language, a dialect or just an accent I think it is just a question of power. Catalonian was not considered a language until the 19th century and this status was reached in part thanks to the intellectual and political movement called Renaixença. Could Andalusian be considered a different language from Castillian in the future? Probably, but one of the first steps is to collect everything was written in Andalusian before and create a new system to write it. This is the idea of the Zoziedá pal Ehtudio ‘el Andalú (Society for the Study of Andalusian language).

Let’s see an example:


Despicable Castilla, yesterday dominating, covered by its rags, it looks down on everything it do not know*. To look down I think is a heavy expression, but sadly it is not wrong.

*Verses from the book “Campos de Castilla” by the Andalusian poet Antonio Machado

Being honest, I am still not sure if Andalusian could be considered a language nowadays, but a writing system is more necessary than ever. On the one hand, we are taught to read and write “properly” and that means in standard Spanish or Castillian. And when there is a lesson in our books about vulgarism in Spanish, the majority of the expressions are mainly Andalusian expressions. On the other hand, I think we need a kind of a register for this. Many languages disappear daily and many of them have disappeared in the past. We do not know almost anything about the vernacular Arabic spoken during the Al-Andalus time because the few things we conserve from them are written in classical Arabic. Also a very important reason is for writing down the lyrics of flamenco songs, totally sung in Andalusian.

Some other reasons can be given by Benjamin Peter. who is doing his PhD about the Andalusian Language. Yes, a German man. He came to my home to interview my husband as he is a teacher of Castillian Language and Literature in Andalusia. That morning I was thinking about writing this post, so I took my opportunity to interview Benjamin because I wanted to know how it is possible that a German person could be interested in the Andalusian language.

Benjamin was living in Cordoba for 7 months thanks to an Erasmus scholarship. He was studying Spanish Linguistics and the first time he went to the University of Cordoba to sign up he did not understand a word from the people. Later, he met local people who explained to him that their way of talking was different to the standard Spanish. Benjamin also realized they were proud of their accent. His curiosity about the Andalusian dialect was increasing as time went by, especially because in his German University they did not talk to him about dialects in Spain.

He decided to do his PhD about this and his director thought it would be a great idea because there was nobody in the University of Kiel studying Andalusian. In particular, his PhD is based in the appreciation of the Andalusian language by the Andalusian people and the response given by the Spanish nationalism.

He realized that nationalisms are also something to take into account in a study about languages and dialects. During his experience in Cordoba he noticed his friends combined perfectly the Spanish and Andalusian identities: while inside of Spain they felt Andalusian, in a European context they alluded to a Spanish identity. By the way, the Andalusian dialect or language is considered a bad spoken Spanish in some contexts, especially by the extreme Spanish nationalism.

Curiously in Germany something similar happens with the Saxon accent. People from Saxony are thought as less intelligent, underdeveloped, traditional, and people who speak bad and very quickly. For example, Angela Merkel is from Saxonia and she tries to speak with a standard German, but she cannot achieve it 100%. Some media and the people in general make laughs of this. Here also happens the same with Andalusian politicians.

In conclusion, written or not, a dialect or a language, Andalusian has to be studied. So in my opinion Benjamin, ZEA, and many other people who work and research about it are doing something good for me and my community. I am extremely grateful to all of them.

–>Note: the principal image of this post is the cover of the book “¡Ehkardiyea l’armaziga k’ai hugo! Antolohía’e tehtoh en andalú” by Huan Porrah Blanko. The translation of the title into Spanish is quite complicated, so in English could be a hard work. But I will try:

  • “Ehkardiyea” in Spanish is “Escardillea”, the imperative voice of “Escardillar”. In a rural context, it means “to weed”.
  • “L’armáziga” in Spanish is “la almáciga”, the place where seeds are growth.
  • “K’hai hugo” in Spanish “que hay jugo”, popular expression which literally means “There’s juice” but in this context it means more or less “there is something good”

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