It is common knowledge to many of us that all the modern Romance languages are related to one another because they all stemmed from one common ancestor—Latin. If you learned Spanish, chances are learning French, Italian, and especially Portuguese would be a breeze because of the close lexical correspondence. But did you know there are more Romance tongues than the ones commonly know such as Italian, French, Portuguese, Romanian, and Spanish? Here’s the complete list and their respective geographic distribution. Some extinct:
Seychellois Creole (Seychelles, Africa)
Haitian Creole (Haiti)
Catalan (Spain and Italy)
Occitan (France, Spain, Italy, and Monaco)
Mirandese (Spain and Portugal)
Mozarabic (Iberian peninsula., Extinct)
Judezmo (Turkey, Israel, Bulgaria, The Netherlands, and Egypt)
Dalmatian (Croatia and Montenegro., Extinct)
What about English? Does English have close relatives? Of course! Most English speakers know that our language itself is vaguely familiar to German, Dutch, or Danish. But there is an even closer relative that is not very known—Frisian. Spoken by almost half a million people in northern Holland. Here’s a sample sentence that shows the striking similarity: English: “Bread, butter, and green cheese is good English and Fries.” vs. Frisian: “Brae, bûter, en griene tsiis is goed Inglesk en goed Frysk.”
Ok, cool. So does Spanish have a “closer relative” aside from Portuguese or Italian? Absolutely! Well, actually, a few of them. But there’s one I particularly want to pay attention to—Asturian.
If you were to look at a map of Spain in 1000AD, Asturian covered a good swath of current day Northern Spain. During the 15th century, Asturian and Spanish made races as far south of Castille, almost reaching the coast. But the Kingdom of Castille became victorious, and that was when Asturian gradually began being pushed back north into a tiny corner.
Asturian is basically Spanish, but instead of everything ending in O like in Spanish, everything ends in U e.g Uviéu (Oviedo), xurídicu (juridic), ríu (river), momentu (moment), conseyu (council), territoriu (territory). Those same words in Spanish would render Jurídico, río, momento, consejo, and territorio. The obvious conservative feature of Asturian is the retention of F in place of H. For example, the Spanish word for speaker is hablante, but its Asturian cousin would say falante. Asturian also makes more use of Germanisms: blancu (white), estaca (stake), tosquilar (tear), guadañu (back), serón (pannier), espetar (snap out). If you ask me, these words sound identical to Spanish. Be careful, though. Asturian is not a dialect; it possesses its own alphabet, orthographic norms, and verb conjugations.
Asturian was one of the few kingdoms in Spain that was fighting against other kingdoms, including the Muslims for Spain’s soul in the middle ages. I had a Galician-Spanish dictionary handy to help create a poem inspired by the Asturian region with some Asturian mythological elements that the celts brought:
Bailaban y cantaban las serranas sobre los cerros de Asturias, que sus mismos cónyuges de rabia se llenaron y decían:
–Baxanse agora! Nen sabe que facen.–
Seguían bailando y cantando las serranas sobre las colinas que las mismas flores envidia les daban y decían:
–Baxanse muxeres, que pour esso existimos nosotras flores fermosas.–
Seguían bailando, cantando, y ahora carcajeando sobre las barrancas de Asturias que las serpientes aladas silbaban:
–Nen llegan a las alturas d’ ninfas xanes, así que nen las protexemos. Así que a cumplir y obedecer.–
Seguían cantando, bailando, y riendo las serranas Asturianas y les cantaron un verso a todos los hombres, serpientes, y flores:
–Insolentes hombres • siempre pensando con las piernas. Orgullosas flores • carcomidas de gusanos, ni para adorno sirven. Desgastadas culebras • ¿Quién os obliga? Hermanas, vamos • más allá de vuestros maridos. Ayer levantábamos uvas azules • y hoy se levanta miel.–
Asturian Women (English translation)
The cowgirls sang and danced over the foothills of Asturias, that their husbands were filled with wrath and told them:
“Get down now. You don’t know what you are all doing.”
The cowgirls continued singing and dancing over the mounds of Asturias that the flowers were filled with jealously and told them:
“Get down, woman. That’s That’s why us beautiful flowers exist.”
The continued dancing, singing, and now laughing over the gullies of Asturias that the winged serpents hissed at them:
“You all don’t reach the level of nymphs, therefore we don’t protect you. Now get down and obey.”
The cowgirls continued singing and dancing, and sang a verse for their lovers, snakes, and flowers:
“Insolent men, always thinking with your limbs. Prideful flowers, eaten by worms and not even for decorations are you worthy of. Worn out serpents, who is obliging you? Sisters, let us go more above of husbands. Yesterday we picked blue grapes, but today we pick honey.