This is a canonical question / Esta es una pregunta canónica

Recent repeals of long-standing orthographic rules in Spanish have gotten me curious. I know of the latest revision, dated 2010. I know of the 1999 revision. I have seen references to a 1959 set of revisions. What about earlier revisions to the orthographic rules? Where would I find out about them, and the changes they made?

Las recientes derogaciones de reglas ortográficas largamente presentes en español me han producido curiosidad.

Conozco las revisiones de 2010, las últimas. También las de 1999. Vi referencias a las de 1959. ¿Qué hay de las anteriores revisiones a las reglas ortográficas? ¿Dónde puedo encontrarlas, así como los cambios que introdujeron?

  • The link goes to a previous comment to the 2010 edition. No recent reviews. Apocalyptic predictions were unsuccessful...
    – Rodrigo
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 22:25
  • 1
    I added a canonical question! Cool! Does that give me a special prize? Can I henceforth be known as "the canonical student"? (Of course, @guifa would be then known as "the canonical teacher").
    – ltcomdata
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 19:58
  • @ltcomdata - Sure! Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 4:49

1 Answer 1


Well, the first bit is knowing what the different editions are:

  • 1741 Orthographía española

    • Initial alphabet of 24 letters (ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVXYZ)
      • U and V considered variations of the same letter
      • J called i jota, Z called zeta or zeda
      • Ç rejected as a letter, to be replaced by z
      • W called walima rejected as a letter, foreign words with it to be pronounced as vv as vowel-consonant (that is, uv /ub/)
    • Began use of x for /ks/ (but rejected /gs/)
    • Rejection of the spelling ll for /l/
    • Rejection of double consonants (except for ss, and cc/mm/nn when pronounced as such)
    • Absolute distinction of r /ɾ/ and rr /r/, except for word-final (always r /r/)
    • Circumflex on vowel after x /ks/ or ch /k/ (reflexîona, chârácter)
    • c instead of q before u except when etymology dictates otherwise.
    • qu[aou] and qü[ei] is /ku̮/ (qu[ei] is /k/)
    • z before e or i when etymologically sensible.
    • Rejection of apostrophe for synalepha
    • Description of Spanish numbers (as opposed to Roman or Arabic, seriously, these are mega awesome cool, look on pages 86-87, or pages 110-111 in the PDF)
    • Initial accent rules:
      • No accents on monosyllabic words
      • Accents always on words stressed on the antepenultimate syllable (esdrújula)
      • Words ending in A, E, O, S stress penultimate. Accent otherwise.
        Exception: words ending in N follow this rule when they are third-person plural forms of verbs
        Exception: Don't remove accents when pronouns added to verbs Exception: Don't remove accents when making adverbs
      • Words ending in I, U stress ultimate. Accent otherwise.
      • Words ending in Y stress ultimate. No exceptions.
      • Words ending in consonants stress ultimate.
        Exception: Surnames -az and -ez stress penultimate.
      • Preposition á and conjunctions é, ó, ú always accented.
      • Comma has a space before it (not specified, but shown)
    • NB: There's a cool listing of handwriting and letter formation at the end on PDF pages 383-395 worth checking out.
  • 1754 Ortografía de la lengua castellana

    • Introduction of ¿ and ¡ punctuation marks (just to disambiguate, not required)
    • Added letters CH che, LL elle, and Ñ eñe to the alphabet (“oops we left them out before”, they said)
      • J also called jota, U deemed u vocal, V called v consonante (U/V still considered one letter with two forms, though)
    • Removed the “erudite” spellings (their words in the 1803 intro, not mine), mainly th, rh, ch /k/ and ph but not completely
    • Simplification of rr to r after l, n, or s and at beginning of words.
    • For the handful of ch /k/ words left, circumflex no longer needed on following vowel.
    • K is now explicitly for foreign words only.
    • Qua, qüe pronounce u, all others silent.
    • Accent rule modifications:
      • Addition of accents on monosyllabic words that may not by diphthongized (dé, sé, etc.)
      • Accents also on preantepenultimate syllables
      • Presumption of penultimate stress — only mark ultimate stress
        Exception: Words ending in DLNRXZ stress ultimate, except foreign words and names ending in -EZ
        Exception: The rules for S became a giant clusterf***
  • 1763 Ortografía de la lengua castellana

    • Simplification of accent rules
    • Simplification of ss, ſs, ſſ and ß to s
    • Also s is only s and doesn't alternate with ſ
    • Only Hebrew/Greek names to use ch /k/
    • Standardization for spelling of toponyms and surnames.
    • Cultismos with hie- become -ge-
    • Introduced rules for Latin f to Spanish *h conversion
      • h always if -ue- comes next, or a vowel comes next, and especially between two vowels
      • h if it's been reduced to a "mayor suavidad"
      • hie or ye depending on whether pronunciation has a semivowel or semiconsonant (see next rule)
    • i normally for semivowel, y as semiconsonant, etymology be damned (no unstressed i betwixt vowels)
      • Exception: use y for rising diphthongs except for vosotros conjugations and ui combinations
      • Exception: use Y when capitalized (Probably to avoid confusion with lowercase L)
    • /χe/ and /χi/ written ge/gi except for certain names and when -jo or -ja get suffixes attached
    • Established rules on the use of X
    • Omit p before t or s if not pronunciation, but
  • 1770 Ortografía de la lengua castellana

    • The preferred spelling of /χ/ is ja, ge, gi, jo, ju, unless there's an etymologic or overwhelming popular use to the contrary (Latin s becomes x, for instance) and word finally
    • in-/en- prefix on m- words no longer becomes doubled m
    • -mp- changed to n to match pronunciation (redempción to redención)
    • First time u and v (“de corazón”) are considered separately.
    • Accent rules modified:
      • No accents on monosyllables, except for when two different ones vary by their separation to other words (te vs té), or for single vowel words (but not y)
      • Next-to-last syllable stressed when ending in vowel absent an accent
      • Accent next-to-last syllable if it was a verb form with pronouns added
      • Consonant + two vowels treated as two syllables unless accent on the second vowel (frio /fri.o/ vs. frió /frjo/)
      • Accent all words 3+ syllables that end in ee, ia, ie, ua, ue, uo depending on where stress falls, no accent means they are diphthongs
      • Presume that words ending in ae, ao, au, ea, eo, oa, oe, oo stress the first vowel, accent otherwise
      • Words ending in y with final stress need no accents
      • All consonants stress final syllable, but still write accent for -ás/-és/-ís in verbs (because you don't adjust accents for plural, so -s normally is penultimate)
      • -ez patronym still counts for penultimate syllable.
    • Use ... or ::: for clipped text.
  • 1775 Ortografía de la lengua castellana

  • 1779 Ortografía de la lengua española

    • (Some of these changes may have occurred in the 1775 edition)
    • Quo /ko/ and qüo /kwo/ now distinguished, but more often written with c
    • More ch /k/ words rewritten as c or qu leaving just the most jarring ones (Biblical, mainly).
    • fi- that changed variably to hi- or y- is now always hi-.
  • 1792 Ortografía de la lengua castellana

    • No significant changes
  • 1803-1806 (Diccionario de Autoridades y por conferencias)

    • Addition of CH che /tʃ/ and LL elle /ʎ/ to the dictionary for sorting
    • Complete simplification of ch /k/ to c or qu
    • Complete removal of ph (always f)
    • Conversion of k to c or qu
    • Conversion of x /χ/ to j or g
    • Respelling based on actual pronunciation especially for now-silent letters.
    • Distinction of y as consonant, i as vowel (“with exceptions” according to the 1820 prologue, see 1815)
  • 1815 Ortografía de la lengua castellana

    • Confirms and codifies the changes made in the DdA and the conferences
    • J called exclusively jota, Z only zeda
    • I now called i vocal and Y is y consonante (matching U/V)
      • The only time y is used as vowel is when words end in a diphthong or for the conjunction
      • Words like iglesia when capitalized no longer change I to Y
    • Confirms and codifies the changes made in the DdA and the conferences
    • Use of accent to break diphthong established (no longer assumed ever except for two-syllable words consisting of a single consonant and two vowels, in which case you accent the second vowel if it's monosyllabic and the first is a weak vowel)
    • Inverted question and exclamation marks now standard, but in series of questions, only one inverted before the first question, and a closing one for each question.
    • Two styles of enclosing marks, () and []
    • Splitting hyphen recognized as both - and =
  • 1820 Ortografía de la lengua castellana

  • 1870 Prontuario de ortografía de la lengua castellana en preguntas y respuestas

    • Duplication of r to rr in the interior of compound or prefixed words.
  • 1952 Nuevas normas de prosodia y ortografía

  • 1969 Ortografía

  • 1974 Ortografía

  • 1999 Ortografía de la lengua española

    • Alphabetic sorting of the letters ch and ll to be considered two separate letters rather than one
  • 2010 Ortografía de la lengua española

    • Written accents to be used exclusively for phonetics and not semantics
    • ch and ll removed from the alphabet
    • Single name for letters (B be, I i, V uve, W uve doble, Y ye)
  • 2012 Ortografía básica de la lengua española

One of the biggest changes is evident from the spelling of the first to second editions — the th and ph digraphs were reduced to t and f. There were some other modifications made on accents on words (ia used to always be with hiatus similar to modern Portuguese), a bit with b/v.

  • 2
    (Note to all: I'm going to be updating this post as I read through the different editions, except for the 1952-1999 ones that I don't have access to) Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 22:36
  • 5
    +1 for you highly detailed answer. You put quite a lot of work into it.
    – Diego
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 23:37
  • 3
    @Diego still working on it :) — but probably needs to wait for tomorrow. It's amazing just how much thought is put into the orthography for Spanish. Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 23:58
  • 1
    Also there's a few things that seem odd, where the Academy's history of itself seems to not line up with the books I read, so hopefully as I go along I'll clean that up. Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 1:20
  • 2
    @guifa Your answer is going beyond my initial hopes when I asked the question. I love it! Let me know when you are finished so I can mark it as the official answer.
    – ltcomdata
    Commented Nov 29, 2014 at 22:32

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