New Spelling System in Spanish

Federico Escobar federicoescobarcordoba at GMAIL.COM
Tue Nov 9 18:56:16 UTC 2010

If anyone is interested in tracking how speakers react to massive changes in
the rules that are understood to govern normative language, then I would
eagerly suggest following up on what's happening with Spanish these days.

There are 22 Spanish-language Academies, one per Spanish-speaking country
--including the US and the Philippines--, and all of them tend to huddle
around the Royal Academy in Spain. These Academies are putting together a "New
Orthography", which has proposed to overhaul many aspects of the spelling
rules used in Spanish. Some letters will officially change their names, some
accent marks will officially be dropped, some traditional spellings will
officially be changed.

Of course, I've emphasized the "official" part in this process because many
people are resisting these changes fiercely, in a Roe v. Wade climate that
turns the decisions taken by the Academies into something akin to a Supreme
Court ruling. And that is precisely what has been very interesting. Across
the board, newspapers reporting on the changes rank that story as their most
read item. People have written scores of angry comments on the Internet,
arguing, say, that they're not prepared to give in to the Academies and
rename letters they've always called by another name. (Some have timidly
said they'll just have to learn the new names in order to forge a
transnational language.) I've been getting incensed emails from people who
are normally oblivious to anything language-related. And so on.

Some people have suggested these are all publicity stunts used by the
Academies to promote the "New Orthography", which of course people are going
to flock to the stores to buy just in time for Christmas. In case someone is
interested, here is one of the widely circulated stories, published by the
most renowned newspaper of the Spanish-speaking world:


The American Dialect Society -

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