A Review of the Spanish Language
Spanish is by far the most widely spoken Romance language. At a conservative estimate, there are now some 300 million native speakers, scattered through all continents, but most densely concentrated in Central and South America, where Spanish-speaking countries form a great swathe from the United States-Mexico border right to Tierra del Fuego. Spanish is the national language of 19 countries, in descending order of population: Mexico, Spain (including the Balearic and Canary Islands and the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the North Africa n coast), Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Bolivia , El Salvador, Honduras , Paraguay, Uruguay, Nicaragua , Costa Rica , Panama . There are large Spanish-speaking minorities in the United States (including Puerto Rico, which is predominantly Spanish-speaking), officially estimated at 10-11 million but probably much higher. Spanish is also the official language of Equatorial Guinea, and is spoken by significant minorities in the Philippines and Australia, Morocco and Western Sahara, the Balkan countries and Israel.
Like all spatially diffused languages, Spanish is subject to regional and sociolinguistic variation. Despite some well-publicized heterogeneous characteristics, the range of variation is not very great and only rarely disrupts mutual comprehensibility.
Natural tendencies towards linguistic divergence are combatted in the case of Spanish by powerful cultural bonds and also by well-developed normative mechanisms, whose antecedents go back several centuries.
Spanish has sometimes been described as having free, or relatively free, word order. Without qualification, this is misleading. What is usually meant is that subject noun phrases are not fixed by grammatical requirements at a particular point in the sentence. This is a salient characteristic, one which differentiates Spanish from French (in its formal registers) and more so from the major Germanic languages, but which is less unusual among the southern Romance group. At the same time, Spanish has strong constraints on word order within the main syntactic constituents and even the theoretical freedom available elsewhere is subject to pragmatic conventions. As a general rule, themes precede rhemes and new information is located towards the end of the utterance.
On most of the criteria favoured by typological theory, Modern Spanish is a consistent YO language. Briefly: in simplex sentences VO/VC order is obligatory; noun phrase relationships are expressed exclusively by prepositions; genitives follow their head noun; the standard follows the comparative; most adjectives and all attributive phrases and relative clauses follow their head noun; most adverbs follow the verb they modify; auxiliaries are frequent and always precede the lexical stem; quantifiers and negatives precede the item they qualify and have only forward scope; interrogative words are always phrase-initial. Needless to add, there are some complications. Among the adjectives, some of the most common always precede their noun, most others may precede if used figuratively, and a few are polysemous according to position: un pobre pueblecillo 'a miserable little town ', un arist6crata pobre 'an impoverished aristocrat '. Adverbs acting as sentential modifiers are usually the first word, desgraciadamente,.. .'unfort unately, . ..'; adverbs modifying adjectives almost always precede whereas those modifying verbs just as regularly follow, so that scope (for manner adverbials at least) is pivotal.
Mexican law grants equal status to all native languages, regardless of the number of speakers or their origin. Therefore, over 10 different linguistic varieties of Spanish exist in Mexico.
The Mexican Spanish used in the north of Mexico (Chihuahua, Sonora, Nuevo León, Sinaloa and Coahuila) differs from that of other regions in Mexico mainly in the intonation of words (what is commonly called a northern accent). It preserves the same differences that the Mexican dialect has with respect to Peninsular Spanish (the almost universal use of the personal pronoun “ustedes” in formal and informal situations, the pronunciation of “z” and “c” the same as “s” and the pronunciation of “ll” the same as “y”.
An important point to remember, the large border with the USA and the high amount of tourism by Americans and Canadians adds English language terms permeating northern Mexican Spanish.
It is very important not to use European Spanish in any marketing material, as it is easily recognized and frowned upon in Mexico. There are slight written variants in specific Mexican Spanish dialects, but, in general, written material is fully comprehensible among the verbal variations.
For the USA and Canada, communications addressed to Spanish speakers must consider whether the intended target audience has Puerto Rican (particularly in the New York area) or Mexican (California, Texas, and Toronto) roots to be fully understood.