The Spanish language term castellano (Castilian) may refer to the Spanish language as a whole, to the dialects spoken in central and northern Spain or to the Middle Ages language which was a predecessor to modern Spanish.
The purpose of this article is to describe the features of the Spanish language spoken in Central and Northern Spain, especially in the way it contrasts with the Spanish varieties in the Americas.
The term Castilian Spanish can be used in English for the specific dialects of Spanish spoken in north and central Spain. Sometimes it is more loosely used to denote the Spanish spoken in all of Spain as compared to Spanish spoken in Latin America; however, there are several different dialects of Spanish as well as other official languages in Spain.
For Spanish speakers in academic contexts, castellano refers to some dialects of the Spanish language as spoken in the historical region of Castile, a former Kingdom in what is now Spain. In general usage, however, castellano can refer to the language as a whole, as a synonym of español (Spanish).
However, the sheer population of Mexico and its nearness to the United States gives Mexican Spanish significant weight within the United States. Furthermore, some traits of the Spanish spoken in Spain are exclusive to that country, and for this reason, in the United States, courses of Spanish as a second language often neglect them. While there is nothing comparable to American and British English spelling differences, grammar and to a lesser extent pronunciation can vary sometimes.
The most striking difference between dialects in Central and Northern Spain and Latin American Spanish is the pronunciation of the letter z, and of c before front vowels e or i, as a voiceless dental fricative /θ/, English th in thing. Thus, in most variations of Spanish from Spain, cinco (five) sounds like English “theenk-o” as opposed to “seengk-o” in American Spanish. Additionally, all New World dialects drop the non-formal vosotros verb form for the second person plural, while retaining ustedes, the formal you-plural.
Some other minor differences are:
The meaning of certain words may differ greatly between both dialects of the language: Carro refers to Car in some American dialects, but to Cart in Spain. Sometimes there also appear gender differences: El PC (personal computer) in Castilian Spanish, La PC in American Spanish, due to the widespread use of the galicism ordenador (from l'ordinateur in French) for computer in Castilian Spanish, which is masculine, instead of the American preferred computadora, that is feminine, from the English word computer. Also, speakers of the second dialect tend to use words and polite set expressions that, though recognized by the RAE, aren't widely used nowadays (some of them even deemed as Anachronism) by speakers of Castilian Spanish. For example, enojarse and enfadarse are verbs with the same meaning (to anger), being enojarse much more used in the Americas than in Spain, and enfadarse more in Spain than in the Americas.
Inside Spain, there are many regional variations of Spanish, which can be divided roughly into four major dialectal areas: