After an art-themed concert, some musings about how language changes
A concert of Spanish music of the Renaissance a few weeks ago has gotten me thinking about whether the "center" of English has changed.
Hmm, I can see how that one needs some connecting of the dots, dear reader. Please bear with me for a moment. I went to hear the aforementioned concert, given by one of our many fine performing ensembles in Boston in connection with a big exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts of paintings by Velázquez and El Greco. (I want to borrow jargon from the news business here and say that the concert was "pegged to" the exhibition.)
As the musicians introduced the pieces they played and talked about the art, I was struck by the pronunciations of "Velázquez" and other Spanish names. Oh, yes, more of a "lisp" sound (forgive me, but sort of "Velathketh") than in the sibilant New World Spanish that is more familiar on this side of the Atlantic. Folklore has it that one of the Habsburg kings actually spoke with a lisp, and that others at the court, and later, across Spain, picked up this pronunciation.
That story truly is folklore, but it does seem to be true that Spanish pronunciation changed back in Madrid after the conquistadores set forth for the Americas. And this phenomenon fits into a larger pattern of the way languages evolve.
Here's the theory: When colonists leave their mother country to set themselves up in a new place, they take their native language with them (naturally) – as it is spoken at the time of their departure. It tends not to change all that much once they get where they are going. But meanwhile, back in the mother country, the language continues to evolve.
Thus, broadly, broadly speaking, American English is an older pronunciation than British English, Quebec French is older than Parisian French, and New World Spanish is older than Castilian.