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Spanish Language: Santiago Muñoz Machado at #CILE 2019

We were lucky to attend the 8th International Conference on the Spanish Language (CILE), which was held in Córdoba, Argentina. Our correspondent, journalist Ana Medrano, interviewed Mr Santiago Muñoz Machado. For those who don’t know him, he is a Spanish jurist and academic, President of the Royal Spanish Academy and the Association of Academies of the Spanish Language since 10 January 2019. At CILE 2019, he opened the first plenary session, “The Language of Artificial Intelligence.”

CILE 2019

Plenary Session Opening

During the plenary session opening, Mr Muñoz Machado first went over the Conference agenda. He then went on to emphasise the importance of the Spanish language being “open, mestizo, and shared.”

He referred to it as “a language that has generated linguistic peculiarities throughout its history“. However, he also remarked that speakers have created “bonds that make it a common, recognisable language.” Later, he referred to inclusiveness. In that sense, he commented: “We have tried to be inclusive in order to deal with different sensitivities and to address specific situations relating to the problems of our society.”

Mr Muñoz Machado on Foreign Words in the Spanish Language

Santiago Muñoz Machado

At the end of the plenary session that Mr Muñoz opened at #CILE2019, we had the opportunity of interviewing him. We asked him about the existing relationship between globalisation and foreign words. In particular, we wanted to know what the Academy take on the matter is. Mr Muñoz Machado took for granted that foreign words are, in effect, a consequence of globalisation. After that, he made it clear that the Academy does not fight them but rather incorporates them inasmuch as Spanish speakers incorporate them. However, we learned that it is not usual to incorporate crude foreign words without introducing some changes first. In most opportunities, the Academy recommends alternatives. In his words: “For example, when we know that speakers are using an English or French word more and more, we try to find and suggest an alternative in Spanish.”

Many linguists have studied the phenomenon of foreign words as a consequence of globalisation. Many of them have concluded that the likelihood of linguistic changes happening as a consequence of the introduction of foreign words is high. This is because globalised communication networks lead to speakers from several countries coming into contact and challenging geographic and cultural boundaries.

Mr Muñoz Machado on the Challenge of New Digital Developments

As Mr Muñoz Machado describes, the Spanish language has always been a mestizo language. What he means is that has incorporated many neologisms throughout its history. “At the beginning, [this phenomenon] caught our attention, for example nowadays that there are so many new developments in the digital world and the Internet. This is why we think this way: a common belief is that a massive introduction of neologisms will distort the language, but it actually does not,” he said.

He also indicated that the digital revolution is one of the main linguistic challenges. “With the Spanish language, we find that technology is one of the key challenges we must face in the following years.”


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