Do we accent ‘only’ when it is an adverb, or not? | The USA Print

Do we accent 'only' when it is an adverb, or not?

The controversy unleashed by the alleged modification of the doctrine of the Royal Spanish Academy around the tilde a only and the use of this to differentiate its adverbial use (when it can be replaced by only) of the adjective filled the Twitter network with examples of ambiguities semantics, from the famous “I want a black coffee” to the much more humorous “I’m going to have sex alone tonight”.

Let’s remember the origin of the controversy: the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) seemed at first to rectify the “mistake” made in its latest edition of the Spelling of the Spanish Language (OLE, 2010), in which this tilde, called a diacritic since its only function is to differentiate two meanings in the same word, it completely disappeared. The amendment would have returned the accent to “only”, in those cases in which, in the opinion of the editor, there could be ambiguity.

Some headlines seemed to point to a complete reinstatement of the tilde in only when it has adverbial value. However, from the Academy’s profile on Twitter (@RAEinforma) –in response to the linguistic query of the user @Talpio through the tag #RAEconsultas–, it was indicated that the standard had not changed at all and that its wording had only been modified to make it clearer.

The thread published by @RAEinforma caused a sour retweet by the Spanish writer and academic Arturo Perez-Reverte. This, after accusing the director of the Department of “Spanish up to date” of the RAE of “antitildista” and its communication service of provide “biased information”seemed to mean that the prohibition of the tilde in the only adverbial had been definitively abolished by the plenary session, without going into explaining what exact modification had been approved.

Also Read  "The great teaching of the monastery is attention instantly, to what is eternal in us" | The USA Print

Is the tilde a solo ‘forbidden’?

First of all, it should be remembered that, in Spanish, the tilde has an eminently prosodic function. It is used to indicate on which vowel the accent of a word falls. In the case of the diacritical tilde, its primary function is to distinguish stressed monosyllables (you, HE, of) from their unstressed counterparts (you, HE, of).

Only would actually be an exceptionsince it is a flat two-syllable ending in a vowel that should not have a graphic mark in application of the general rules of the prosodic accent.

On the other hand, the OLE clearly indicates that “the tilde may be dispensed with (…) even in cases of double interpretation”. It is important to note the use made of the verb can in this precept, which gives the omission an optional nature.

And it does so by referring to the use of language, since words used in communicative contexts in which it is possible to undo ambiguities through other types of strategies.

Nothing new under the sun

In this regard, the OLE adds that cases “in which there is an ambiguity that the communicative context is not capable of clearing up are rare and far-fetched, and can always be resolved by other means, such as the use of synonyms (…), an adequate punctuation, the inclusion of some element that prevents double meanings or a change in the word order”.

Also Read  Where can you see all the films nominated for the Oscars? | The USA Print

It does not seem, then, that the 2010 standard prohibits calling only when it has adverbial value. What it is about is rather an effort of persuasion on the uselessness of the diacritical accent in this case.

As indicated by @RAEinforma in the aforementioned thread, the Academy would only have reinforced that optional character –and, therefore, subjective– of the choice to check or not depending on whether the statement is considered to be ambiguous. In reality, all this was already contained in the “you can dispense with the tilde” applied even to the unusual and elaborate cases of “double interpretation”. Therefore, nothing new under the sun.

Second meaning of only in the RAE. RAE

The necessary update of the Panhispánico

According to the news mentioned above, the change would be published in the Pan-Hispanic Dictionary of Doubts (DP). It is understood that in its digital version.

This is without a doubt Good newssince the version available online, prior to OLE, still indicates that when only “can be interpreted in the same statement as an adverb or as an adjective, it will be used compulsorily the tilde in the adverbial use to avoid ambiguities” (my italics).

It is good news that the RAE standardizes the prescriptions contained in its sources and that it updates those that are more easily accessible by the public. The OLE is still a volume published on paper and hardcover, not always easy to consult, since it does not even have an analytical index. On the contrary, the DPO can be accessed online with a couple of clicks.

Also Read  the Latin diva who has dethroned Madonna | The USA Print

Much ado About Nothing

So it seems that the supposed change of criteria of the Academy has been nothing more than a storm in the glass of water of social networks. Of course, those of us who dedicate ourselves to sociolinguistics are giving us an interesting corpus of study.

From the point of view of the linguistic ideologies, the debate has brought to light a sort of quarrel between the ancients and the modernsin which the functional conception of the language of some is opposed to the conservatism or orthographic fetishism of the others.

It does not seem that the last agreement of the plenary session of the RAE has settled the controversy (on the contrary)but it is certainly a good sign that the reasonably logical and coherent doctrine of spelling rules is maintained.

Juan Jimenez SalcedoAssociate professor, University of Mons

This article was originally published on The Conversation. read the original.

The Conversation