Languages are always changing, and what we consider normal today often started as slang or "incorrect" grammar in the past! To know what Spanish will sound like in the 22nd century, all you need to do is pay attention to the new patterns and informal vocabulary you can find in Spanish today.
Here are 5 changes we might see in Spanish in 100 years!
🔮 Prediction 1: Spanish will sound more like French
It's true: For decades now, Spanish pronunciation has been going the way of French… at least, when it comes to the sound "s." In many dialects of Spanish, including in Puerto Rico, "s" is hardly pronounced or even deleted at the ends of words and inside words before many consonants. That means you're likely to hear hasta pronounced as ha'ta, español as e'pañol, and los gatos as lo' gato'.
This isn't "bad" Spanish or lazy pronunciation—it's a real linguistic process, one that happened to French in centuries past! In fact, many French accent marks indicate places where there used to be an "s" sound long ago: Compare Spanish espinaca with French épinard (spinach), or Spanish escuela with French école (school).
So the disappearance of Spanish "s" may be de e'perar (to be expected)!
🔮 Prediction 2: The preterite has been a thing of the past
Spanish may also be gradually replacing the preterite (like yo hablé, "I spoke) with the present perfect (yo he hablado, "I have spoken"). This change will also be familiar to French speakers!
The 2-part present perfect is slowly being used in more and more contexts where the preterite used to be the standard form. As with many language changes, it's happening on a continuum, with European Spanish using the present perfect in many contexts, including for things that happened just earlier today (Hoy he desayunado con Antonio, "Today I ate breakfast with Antonio"), and Argentinian Spanish at the opposite end, resisting the change.
Could that mean Argentinian Spanish is set to become a dialect so distinct that it turns into a separate language?
🔮 Prediction 3: If the subjunctive were to survive…
The subjunctive is another Spanish verb form that might not make it another century—and in fact, it has been on a long, tumultuous journey throughout the history of Spanish already. The present subjunctive comes from Latin, while the *2* Spanish imperfect subjunctive forms (as in hablara and hablase) come from a combination of Latin tenses, and there even used to be a future subjunctive (!) that has basically gone the way of Latin. 🪦 (Spanish speakers can go their whole lives without seeing or hearing hablare!) What's next for this vexed verb form?
The reality is that Spanish speakers vary quite a lot in how and when they use the subjunctive! There are many typical uses of the subjunctive and a number of set expressions that use it—which Spanish learners in particular will be familiar with—but as soon as Spanish speakers themselves can't agree on exactly when or why to use it, and they swap it freely with the indicative (non-subjunctive) form, you know the change is already well underway.
🔮 Prediction 4: The (consonant) cycle begins again
There's another predictable sound change happening right before our eyes (or ears?). Advanced Spanish learners may know that in between vowels, "b," "d," and "g" are pronounced a bit softer, like in the words iba (I used to go), cada (each), and hago (I make). This has been the case for a long time… and it may lead to these sounds' demise!
This "weakening" of "b," "d," and "g" in between vowels is quite advanced in some dialects, and for example, in the Caribbean it's common to hear words like hablado pronounced as habla'o—without the "d" at all!
In fact, this isn't the first time in the history of Spanish that these sounds have been "weakened" and then disappeared. Did you know that all those imperfect -er and -ir verbs used to have a "b" sound in them (just like the -ar verbs)? That's right, learners: If you've ever complained that the imperfect endings aren't quite uniform, you can blame this sound change!
|Imperfect -ar||Imperfect -er and -ir||Very old -er and -ir imperfect|
|yo cocinaba||yo comía||yo comiba|
|tú cantabas||tú bebías||tú bebibas|
|ellas hablaban||ellas vivían||ellas viviban|
For these Spanish consonants, their past may also be their future!
🔮 Prediction 5: This change is going to be huge
As you can see from these prophecies, the whole Spanish verb system may be in flux, and here's one more example: The future verb conjugation may not be long for this world. Spanish has two ways of expressing future actions: ir a + verb (Voy a cocinar mañana, "I am going to cook tomorrow") and verb endings added to the infinitive (Cocinaré mañana, "I will cook tomorrow").
While there have traditionally been some contexts where one kind of future is more typical than the other, the differences are dwindling and the multi-word ir a + verb is gaining ground. When it comes to the Spanish spoken 100 years from now, ¿va a ser sin el futuro?
The future of Spanish is now!
In the next century, Spanish will inevitably change—although it's impossible to predict how! Observing these seeds of change today can be fun and exciting for learners and soothsayers alike. (Want to gaze into the future again? Check out our predictions for the next 100 years of English!)