Brief account of the evolution of Spanish prescriptivism

Antonio de Nebrija's Spanish GrammarIn the 13th century the process of standardization of the Castilian language started when Alphonse Xth, the Wise (1252-1284), ) acknowledged it as the official language. Likewise, Antonio de Nebrija wrote the 1st Spanish grammar in 1492 wherewith one of the basic rules of the Castilian language was established: spelling must be adjusted to pronunciation.

The period that spanned the 16th and the 17th centuries was the period that encompassed the phase of ‘Selection’, that is to say, the first stage of the process of standardization according to Milroy and Milroy (1991). The Toledan Castilian of the court was selected as the “pure” norm of the language at the expense of the Andalusian dialect so that national and social purisms emerged.

One century later, aimed at fixing the language and sanctioning former changes made by speakers throughout the centuries, the Royal Spanish Academy (Real Academia Española) was founded in 1713.

Inauguracion_AcadThis institution had a regulating role that implied the ‘purification’ of the language from other external linguistic influences. Besides, in search of linguistic norms, the first publication of its grammar in 1771 supposed the codification of the rules that embodied the pillar of the identity of Spanish society.

Nowadays, the Academy alongside the twenty-one Latin American academies fosters the language’s cohesion under the motto: “Unidad en la Diversidad” (that is, “Unity in Diversity”) whereby they strive to reach a consensus on a common norm for grammar, spelling and lexis (La función política de las academias de la lengua).

LUDWIG, R. (2000), “Desde el contacto hacia el conflicto lingüístico: el purismo en el español. Concepto, desarrollo histórico y significación actual”, Boletín de Filología (Facultad de Filosofía y Humanidades. Universidad de Chile) 38 (1): 167-196.
MILROY, J. and MILROY, L. (1991) Authority in Language. London, Routledge.
La función política de las academias de la lengua. In: (la página del idioma español).
Ortografía de la lengua española. In: Salvador Gutiérrez Ordóñez. Real Academia Española.
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