Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Real Academia Española
The Real Academia Española (Spanish for Royal Spanish Academy; often RAE) is the institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language. It is based in Madrid, Spain, but is affiliated with national language academies in 21 Spanish-speaking nations.
The RAE has as its goal the preservation and continuity of the Spanish language, and as such is considered conservative. One description of its aim is "to assure that Spanish speakers will always be able to read Cervantes", but it also exercises a progressive influence in keeping the formal language up-to-date: one such step was its 1994 ruling that the Spanish consonants ch and ll would be alphabetized with c and l, respectively, and not as separate letters as in the past.
The Academy also watches small details, such as adding an accent in 1959 to the orthography of conjugations of reunir (to reunite) to ensure that the eu was not taken as a diphthong.
The RAE has a formal procedure for "admitting" words to the Spanish language and is a major publisher of dictionaries and grammars. Its website includes an online dictionary and many other resources, all in Spanish.
Criticisms of the Academy
The Academy frequently receives criticism, particularly in the Americas, for being excessively conservative, elitist, and slow to change; excessively focused on usages found in the Madrid region and dismissive of variants found in other parts of Spain, let alone other countries; and excessively slow in revising its authoritative Dictionary of the Spanish Language . The dictionary is also the target of frequent criticisms for its imprecise, incomplete, archaic, and ideologically partial definitions and limited coverage. Supporters respond saying that RAE's purpose is not to register local or ephemeral uses of Spanish but to try and protect a united Spanish language and to prevent national variants from becoming incomprehensible to other Hispanics – a task in which RAE seems to be enjoying a degree of success.
Even most of the Academy's fiercest critics acknowledge that recent versions of the dictionary (the 20th and subsequent editions) have shown distinct improvements in this regard. One innovation that was particularly welcomed was its release in a paperback format in 1992. After partnerships with companies like Telefónica, IBM and Microsoft, the RAE is in the process of updating and adapting to the new information-technology era and now offers a free online version of its dictionary, which can be consulted at buscon.rae.es/diccionario/drae.htm.
Another criticism is the heavy statistical imbalance among male and female academicians. But this too has been improving since the fall of Franco.
List of past and present academicians
The Academy has académicos de número elected for life by the rest of the academicians from among prestigious Spanish authors. Each academician has a seat assigned, labelled with a letter of the Spanish alphabet (distinguishing upper case and lower case).
- Luis María Anson
- Arturo Pérez Reverte
- Margarita Salas
- RAE web site (in Spanish)
- A complaint on the coverage of zoology in the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (in English)
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