Languages also have names, which can sometimes be ambiguous and controversial. The debate about whether the language spoken by more than 400 million people all over the world should be known as Spanish or Castilian will not be settled in this blog, but I would like to compare this name with that of other European languages.
Perhaps this could give us a more global perspective in this regard. The fact is that Spanish is a dialect derived from Vulgar Latin, just like other Romance languages such as French, Catalan, Italian, Aragonese, Romanian, Asturian, Corsican or Galician, among others.
Its medieval origins can be found in what was then known as Castile—a region that does not coincide with the present-day autonomous community of Castile-Leon, but instead with an area in the north of the Iberian Peninsula which would cover part of Cantabria, the north of Castile and La Rioja, roughly speaking. During that time in the Middle Ages, the political entity that is modern-day Spain did not yet exist and different Romance dialects were spoken on the Iberian Peninsula—not only those that still exist today, but also many others such as the Mozarabic dialects that are now extinct. With the unification of the Iberian Peninsula under the Catholic Monarchs and the colonization of the Americas, the idea of Spain began to take root and the Spanish language spread overseas[Sharer]
The language that we speak at present—Spanish—is much more than the medieval dialect called Castilian. Although Spanish originates from Castilian, it draws on many other substrates of language and has received many influences since then. Nevertheless, its archaic name has remained for historical reasons, in the same way that other archaisms still linger and whose use is absolutely correct. Now, let’s take a look at the solutions adopted by other European nations in naming their own languages. In France, where a struggle for dominance between the langue d’oc and langue d’oïl was waged for a very long time, the decision was made to call this language French—despite originating from one of the northern dialects—, as it was intended to be the language of all French people, as shown by its spelling.
In Germany, what is now known as German was originally a Frankish dialect originating from the Central German dialect. Although its standard written form is also known as Hochdeutsch, this name only refers to this particular use, as the language itself is known the world over as German. Neither is the modern language now spoken beyond the Italian region of Tuscany known as Tuscan, but instead as Italian. Based on this, we can deduce that all modern languages invariably have their origins in a certain dialect spoken in a specific region, whose borders have long since been crossed, and are now part of the heritage of a greater number of speakers. Everyone can draw their own conclusion.