Howard, Lauren Kelli (2011-02). Racism and Religious Bias in Castilian Spanish Language Dictionaries. Master's Thesis. Thesis uri icon


  • The present study examines the evolution of the definitions of 31 terms having to do with three prominent religions in Spain: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The definitions are analyzed for racism and religious bias in reference to the cultural and ideological periods of Spanish society throughout history. Each word is studied from the earliest date of appearance in a Spanish language dictionary. The database used is the Nuevo Tesoro Lexicografico de la Lengua Espanola (NTLLE), published by the Real Academia Espanola (RAE) in 2001, which includes 70 dictionaries, 37 of which are written by authors not connected with the RAE. In an attempt to broaden the historical point of view, as many entries from dictionaries as possible are used in this analysis. Racist definitions are defined as containing abusive or pejorative language that insinuates that one race, or religion, is superior to another. Biased definitions use language that inhibits neutrality in the descriptions. It is shown that Christian terms are generally associated with positive concepts. Terms related to Judaism suffer much racism and religious bias through pejorative language and direct comparison to Christianity. Islamic terms reveal less racism in their entries and fall more often under neutral descriptions. That fewer biased entries exist for Islamic terms may be related to their status as a majority in Spain during large periods of history, whereas Jews suffered more racism because they were consistently the minority. The role of the Spanish Inquisition in the persecution of Jews will is shown to have heavy influence in the entries for several Jewish terms. While the item judio suffers the most extensive use of pejorative language, moro is the only term for which negative language endures to the present.

publication date

  • December 2010