The RAE considers the controversy settled with the tilde of only: it can be put if the writer believes that there is a risk of ambiguity | Culture | The USA Print

Only a word, onlyhas provoked a heated controversy in the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) and social networks in the last week that has led to the appearance this Thursday of the director of the institution, Santiago Muñoz Machado, after the plenary session held to try to clarify what was agreed on Thursday, March 2 and what caused the controversy. That day it was decided to “modify the wording of the rule” on whether or not to put a check mark to this word when it is an adverb and whoever writes believes that there is a risk of ambiguity by confusing it with its use as an adjective. As in the phrase “I’m going to the concert alone” (am I going without anyone else or am I just going to the recital). “Given the interest of this debate and so that there are not several voices that explain it,” he said, “the minutes of the previous plenary session were unanimously approved, in which the text of a rule that established since 2010 that no It should be labeled alone.” The exceptions established then, when there is a risk of ambiguity and the single adverb can be confused with the single adjective, “perhaps they were not as clear as possible”, he added. For this reason, with an eye on the next International Congress of the Spanish Language, from March 27 to 30, in Cádiz, this modification was decided, to present it together with others in the new online version of the Pan-Hispanic Dictionary of Doubts.

The novelty of Thursday 2, ratified on Thursday 9, is that the possible ambiguity of only remains “in the opinion of the writer.” This led to the euphoria of academics like Arturo Pérez-Reverte a week ago, because it seemed that the word could be ticked whenever you wanted, while the subsequent communication from the RAE’s own account, the next day, denied that there was a change in the rule. The filmmaker and academic Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón acknowledges that the agreement gave rise to tildists “A great euphoria, almost like Zarra’s goal”. Before today’s plenary session, a member of the corporation told this medium that the difference between what was said by Pérez-Reverte and by the RAE seemed to be due to “a misunderstanding of the text that was approved.” Because for some, “only” could be accentuated again, even without there being ambiguity in the sentence. And also in cases where there was. “That’s how I understood it,” declared one of those present to EL PAÍS. However, the RAE maintains the obligation not to tick when there is no ambiguity.

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The director of the RAE, Santiago Muñoz Machado, before the press conference on the use of the tilde in the word solo.Andrea Comas

For all these reasons, the director of the RAE – who joked that he was coming safe and sound – has acknowledged in this matter “communication problems and haste” when announcing what was agreed that day. For example, “by saying that the agreement was unanimous, when it was by consensus because there was a vote against.” He has also referred to the communication on Twitter from the very RAE official account when it was said that if there is no ambiguity, you should never check, and that when there is doubt, “the option to check or not is maintained.” And he went further: “If the speaker perceives that there is a risk of ambiguity and writes that tilde, he will have to justify it.” “How can that be justified?”, Muñoz Machado asked himself, for which he has disavowed that tweet, which incidentally ignited Pérez-Reverte on Twitter, who came to announce “a stormy plenary session” for this Thursday.

However, for Muñoz Machado, despite this commotion, “we are facing a minor issue, yes, an old controversy that has placed the writers of the academy in different positions, on the one hand, who say that this tilde is useful for them for its emphasis, and grammarians, who are in favor of eliminating it.” It is what a member of the plenary calls “a fight between creators and scientists.”

What was agreed tonight “for some represents an important victory,” said Muñoz Machado on behalf of the tildists. Two attendees at the plenary have corroborated that “Pérez-Reverte has confirmed his position and that his interpretation is that he has more freedom than before to mark.” In turn, “lexicographers believe that the rule remains the same,” the same sources point out, so both parties consider themselves victorious and satisfied. “Everything has been in courteous terms, although some have expressed themselves with the harshness that they have considered,” Muñoz Machado has acknowledged.

The director has also explained that since the changes in regulations require the agreement of the 23 Spanish academies in the world, he met them electronically on Wednesday to notify them and that they all agreed. With this he has resolved “an external controversy and an internal criticism” after a plenary session in which almost all the writers have intervened. Asked about what teachers and examiners should do with students who decide to mark only, he replied: “Until now it could be pointed out as a misspelling if it was marked when it was not due, but now it is in cases of ambiguity in the opinion of the writer , not the one who controls”. The house, which has in its old motto “clean, fix and give splendor”, leaves free will in this case.

Gutiérrez Aragón points out that perhaps the underlying problem lies precisely in the word ambiguity. “Who says what is ambiguous? It is a slippery term and the worst thing is not being clear on this matter, some of us had been asking for clarification of the rule for some time. The writer and columnist for EL PAÍS Félix de Azúa acknowledges that this discussion has become a “thorny issue.” He recommends, “in case of ambiguity, put the tilde, although it can be replaced by the word only, for example.” The academic Paloma Díaz-Más, who has the double condition of writer and philologist, pointed out: “The norm is clear and it seems correct and reasonable to me. I used that word for a while, but now I follow the norm.

If the rule had actually been changed, the rule would have been amended. new spelling, of 2010, which said: “The tilde may be dispensed with even in cases of double interpretation.” Antonio Muñoz Molina intervenes: “In principle, the 2010 change did not seem good to me, but I obeyed the rule, it must be complied with, and I try to avoid ambiguity.”

Since then, academics such as Mario Vargas Llosa, Javier Marías, Luis Mateo Díez, Pere Gimferrer and Pérez-Reverte, among others, opposed to the decision, decided to continue using the word alone. Gutiérrez Ordóñez, in an article in EL PAÍS in 2011, indicated: “Any spelling change is perceived as an attack that affects the very habit of writing. It provokes reactions and debates that, once tempers have cooled, are always positive, as they help us to reflect”. Well, the wound did not close. The director of the RAE himself recognized this in an interview in EL PAÍS in 2020: “There remains a remnant of disagreement about accents. In the word alone or in the demonstratives. We don’t have a consensus there.”

And so until the tear returned after the plenary session on March 2, in which, with the intention of a clearer wording of the norm, the atmosphere ended up cloudy. The oil stain has spread on social media and in the media. In EL PAÍS, with this one you are reading, there are seven articles published in a week, including those by the writer Sergio del Molino and the journalist Álex Grijelmo, defenders of the accent for sentimental reasons. As Díaz-Mas recalls: “At school they taught us to put that accent that the RAE never recommended. Hence that attachment, but we also accentuated monosyllables like foot and not today ”.

Perhaps the mess can be cleared up if the RAE achieves in the drafting of the standard what was asked of the young journalists who entered the United Press agency in New York almost a century ago: “Write so that the milkman from Ohio understands you.” ”.

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