Lexical Change In The Field Of Information Technology In The Spanish Language
The rise of information technology is the single most important technological development of the 20th century. It has revolutionised almost every facet of modern life. Areas as diverse as stock-holding, banking, publishing and personal communication have been transformed thanks to the computer. As a result, computer jargon is one the fastest and widest-reaching areas of lexical change in Spanish, in that a whole new area of terminology has evolved. How has the Spanish language coped with this influx of new terms, for which a need had never previously existed? My main aim in this essay is to give a general survey of common (and some less common) computing terms in Spanish, firstly concerning hardware and software, and secondly concerning the Internet. I intend to analyse throughout the lexical processes involved.
There are two main processes by which new words are being adopted into Spanish. Firstly, it has utilised the process of ‘borrowing’. This means that it has adopted words from other languages, in this case, primarily from English. Secondly, it has used ‘neologism’. This is where it has taken existing words and roots from its language stock, and altered them to endow them with new meanings. The more common of the two, in the sphere of information technology, is borrowing. Since the vast majority of technological development in this field takes place in the USA, the majority of technical vocabulary devised is in originally in English. Therefore, it takes a deliberate effort to hispanicise such terms. Although such efforts do take place, English terms do tend to ‘catch on’ earlier than their neologised Spanish counterparts, since technology is currently developing at such an incredible rate that Spanish often struggles to keep up.
One of the areas in which Spanish language terms hold sway is in the names of the physical hardware of a computer system. For example, in Peninsular Spanish the term for a computer is ordenador, despite the existence of a word similar to its English counterpart. Other hardware terms derived from Spanish roots include teclado for keyboard (although this is not a new term, as it was used previously to refer to typewriter keybofer to typewriter keyboards) and impresora for printer. Both of these terms are bona-fide neologisms. Teclado is derived from the noun tecla, meaning key. Impresora is probably derived from the verb impresionar, meaning ‘to leave an impression’. The suffix -or(a), which suggests functionality, has been added to the root of the verb impres-.
When talking about hardware, we also see examples of ‘loan translation’ or ‘calquing’, whereby foreign terms are translated verbatim, giving an authentic Spanish term. For example, the English term ‘mouse’, itself a metaphorical neologism, is given in Spanish as ratón, and hard disk is given as disco duro. (Floppy disks, on the other hand, are generally referred to as un floppy, despite the existence of terms such as disquete or disco flexible).
A headline taken from the website of the highly respected Madrid-based daily newspaper, El País: (‘Parlamentos, escuelas y hospitales instalan un software que interfiere la señal de los teléfonos móviles para evitar la polución sonora'. [Ciberpaís, 25/1/2001]) highlights the dependence of borrowed words in the field of information technology. The Oxford Spanish-English dictionary informs us that the only equivalent English ‘software’ is the borrowed software. However, Fernández Calvo’s on-line terminology guide offers two alternatives: componente lógico and programa. It is difficult to imagine however, either of these two terms becoming commonplace, the former being too long-winded, and the latter being too vague. Nevertheless, when software does appear in printed media, it is more often than not italicised. Clearly then, the word has not been fully assimilated into the Spanish vocabulary. (Interestingly, specific varieties of software tend to have neologised terms. ‘Desktop publishing’ is given as autoedición [note the use of the prefix auto- conveying the ‘autonomous’ nature of desktop publishing]. ‘Spreadsheet’ is translated as hoja de cálculos, and ‘word processing’ as procesamiento de textos).
The use of borrowed English terms is also evident in more recent developments in hardware. For example, scanner is rendered as escáner. Clearly, this has been adapted to suit Spanish spelling rules, which forbid an initial ‘s’ when followed by a