Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
The orthographic norms proposed by the Royal Spanish Academy (institution established in 1713) were made official for the first time in 1844 by Royal Decree. The officialization addressed the reform of Spanish spelling advanced by a group of teachers in Madrid who designed and implemented a simplified alphabet in their schools. This orthographic conflict was part of a broader struggle over the control of education between the central government and independent teachers struggling to keep a meaningful position in Spain’s education system. The teachers resisted the crown’s orthographic standards by different means. For instance, they discussed the benefits of their reform in an open public meeting attended by radical liberals, including Ramón Joaquín Domínguez, who wrote Spain’s first encyclopedic dictionary and died in a popular uprising in 1848.
In this presentation, I examine how these debates about orthographic reform served as a forum for political activism, by looking at how this spelling debate entered the pages of Domínguez’s Diccionario Nacional ó gran diccionario clásico de la lengua española (1846–1847). First, I present Domínguez’s criticism of Spain’s governmental and cultural institutions. Second, I focus on the lexicographer’s political disapproval of the Royal Spanish Academy and its popular Diccionario de la lengua castellana (1843, 9th ed). Finally, I study Domínguez’s support to the simplification of the orthography proposed by the teachers in Madrid to further denigrate the Royal Spanish Academy and to reinforce his defense of the nation’s progress.