Real Academia Española contemplating eliminating accents

And they’re going descriptive, bit by bit.

Pity the journo is a thicko–he hasn’t heard of descriptive dictionaries–but the thrust of this Miami Herald story is interesting. I don’t really mind if they do spelling reform too: the Dutch rewriting of 1995 was a bugger because I’d just bought my paper Van Dale, but now all my dictionaries are digital. If the National Academies running Spain’s peripheral Romance languages were pragmatic, they’d rewrite their dictionaries to bring into line the spelling of words phonetically indistinguishable from the Spanish, thus eliminating a major source of errors in popular use. Commonsense is not, however, part of their mission statement.

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  1. It is said that Pompeu Fabra deliberately chose i as the Catalan for and for no other reason than that y was Spanish.

  2. In a particularly dull bookshop, just after I arrived, I read an edition of the letters he wrote around the time he was doing all this stuff, and the extent to which it was a political rather than linguistic project gave me one of those Ah! moments.

  3. It is so that language snobs can show off how clever and well-educated they are by making pointless distinctions between word forms: practice (noun) and practise (verb); dependant (noun) dependent (adjective); proceed and precede (from the same Latin root), and so on.

  4. So not the moderately clever and well-educated? I’d like to imagine that I’m above discriminating against bad spellers, but mediocrity dies hard.

  5. There is a lot of English spelling that we’re stuck with, for a variety of reasons, and so it should be got right for the sake of clarity and linguistic cohesion. But there is a fair amount (such as the examples that I have given) that have no logical or linguistic justification. They could be simplified tomorrow and no-one would suffer a jot. But they can’t be simply because some people fear that their spurious credentials as educated people will be undermined if such distinctions are abolished. Such is class warfare in the UK.

    It’s not only spelling. There are people who can bore for England on the subject of apostrophes, or split infinitives, or ending sentences with prepositions, or less and fewer, without any real idea of what they are wittering about.

    You might like to see this:

  6. Split infinitives have never been a real problem. To properly understand them, you need to look at the American schooling system.

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