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Everybody agrees that the Spanish digraphs "ch" and "ll" used to be officially separate "letters" up to the time the RAE changed the rules of Spanish alphabetization in 1994.

But when it comes to the digraph "rr" it seems there is a lot of confusion and conflicting information on whether it was also formerly an official separate letter.

I remember learning that "rr" unlike "ch" and "ll" was not considered a separate letter despite also representing a single sound. I always remembered it because it seemed so oddly inconsistent.

But now that I do some searching on the Internet I do find lots of people asserting that "rr" was a separate letter. I do also find the opposite and I find some debates and arguments. But most of this is in English where I would expect a greater degree of wrong information. I dont' think my Spanish is good enough to do Internet searches on this topic.

So I'm not asking for opinions and I'm not asking about pronunciation or spelling. Since Spanish has an official language academy I'm only asking specifically, "Was "rr" ever considered officially a letter of the Spanish alphabet?"

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

The Diccionario Panhispánico de Dudas (see translation to English by Google) claims that the RAE has not considered rr a single letter at least since 1803.

There is an entire article explaining the letter r (translation to English) but the most relevant fact is:

La letra r, duplicada, forma el dígrafo rr

Which means

The letter r, duplicated, is the digraph rr

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While I don't have an authoritative source, these two facts seem to suggest rr was never a single letter:

  • When learning the alphabet, we used to include ch and ll in the sequence, but not rr
  • The "Traditional Spanish" database collation considers ch and ll when sorting, but not rr
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Yes I've actually implemented traditional Spanish collation before and I did it this way. But I allowed that I could've been wrong. – hippietrail Nov 20 '11 at 7:20
When I was growing up and learning spanish in grade school, we always sang the alphabet with the the double letters.. 'ch','ll', and 'rr'. Sung to the tone of a miliary marching chant. – dockeryZ Apr 14 '14 at 18:28
@zane, it's possible that, if you were learning Spanish as a foreign language, the distinction was created to help. – Diego Mijelshon Apr 14 '14 at 18:31
Most likely so. This was in 1st to 5th grade. – dockeryZ Apr 14 '14 at 20:00

The obvious explanation is that words cannot begin with 'rr'. In older encyclopedias you would search chino or llama in the Ch and Ll chapters, but now they are listed in the C and L chapters instead.

In other words, Ch and Ll were considered letters and had their own chapters, but rr couldn't have its own chapter and perhaps partly because of that it did not count as a letter.

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