9

As this question points out, every Spanish word containing "k" is a loan word. Since Spanish already has "qu" to represent the same sound, why not simply omit the letter k? As I understand Spanish has a very tightly controlled orthography so it would seem that they would want to eliminate this kind of "fluff," especially since it is only present in "newer" words.


Como The letter “k” in Spanish indica, todas los palabras españolas con "k" son de otros idiomas, porque el español ya tiene "qu" para representar el mismo sonido. ¿Por qué no se elimina la "k"? Según entiendo, el español tiene una ortografía muy regulada, así que yo pensaría que esta letra se eliminaría, especialmente porque solo está en palabras más nuevas.

  • It's interesting that Korea is written Corea in Spanish. It seems it should be regarded as a foreign loan word from maybe English (?) as Korean has no such word and it is a corruption of Koryo or Goryo (K and G are practically the same in Korean). The choice of Romanization of Korean words is complicated, I just thought it was interesting. Also, there was a push in the early 2000s to have Korea written as Corea, but this seemed to be based that Japan (Nippon) had conspired somehow to have their countries name start one letter before Korea (Hanguk) to show some kind of weird superiority. Defini – chamjari Aug 16 '18 at 16:51
14

Spanish version

No es cierto que la letra K esté solamente en palabras nuevas. Baste con mencionar el prefijo kilo- en palabras como kilogramo, kilómetro, etc. Este prefijo viene del griego antiguo χίλιοι chílioi. De hecho, el español tiene la letra K porque la recibió de este idioma. A continuación transcribo (en español actual) lo que dice la primera ortografía de la lengua castellana (de 1741) sobre la letra K (negritas mías):

La letra K la tomaron los latinos de los griegos, y nosotros de los latinos [...]. Es de poquísimo uso, y se podría suplir con facilidad; pero no es intento de la Academia excluir letras, sino explicar el buen uso de las recibidas y admitidas en el abecedario.

Una vez dicho esto, sí es cierto que la propia RAE dice que se puede sustituir por qu- en algunos casos, como por ejemplo en el propio prefijo kilo-, que dice que se puede sustituir por quilo- en el caso de (por ejemplo), quilocaloría (aunque aclara que este caso es poco usado), pero no así en el más moderno término kilobyte.

Sin embargo, resulta curioso saber que al final la RAE se acabó contradiciendo a sí misma. En la última edición de la ortografía podemos leer (negritas mías):

Durante un tiempo, de 1815 a 1869, la ortografía académica llegó incluso a excluir la k del abecedario del español, de modo que para representar el fonema /k/ debían emplearse en exclusiva, según los casos, la letra c o el dígrafo qu. Por esa razón, muchos préstamos de otras lenguas cuyo étimo se escribe o se transcribe con k se adaptaron al español con c o qu, tendencia a la adaptación que se ha mantenido a lo largo del tiempo, también tras la reincorporación de la k al abecedario: cacatúa (del malayo kakatūwa), canguro (del fr. kangourou), cinc o zinc (del al. Zink), cococha (del eusk. kokotxa), disquete (del ingl. diskette), esmoquin (del ingl. smoking), etc.

Así que sí, efectivamente la K llegó a desaparecer del abecedario español durante el siglo XIX, aunque fue readmitida más tarde. No he podido encontrar ninguna explicación de por qué fue readmitida. Simplemente, en la undécima edición de 1869 del Diccionario de la lengua castellana se puede leer lo siguiente en la entrada correspondiente a la letra K:

Duodécima letra del alfabeto castellano, y novena de las consonantes. Ha estado en desuso por espacio de bastantes años, [...]

mientras que en la edición anterior (la décima, correspondiente a 1852), se lee:

Esta letra, que se ha contado hasta hace pocos años como perteneciente a nuestro abecedario, solo se usa en algunas voces tomadas de otros idiomas, y aun en estas se puede suplir [...].


English version

It is not true that the K letter is only present in new words. Think about every word starting with the kilo- prefix, such as kilogramo, kilómetro. This prefix comes from Old Greek χίλιοι chílioi. In fact, the Spanish language has the letter K because it was inherited from Latin, which in turn inherited it from Old Greek. Following is an excerpt from the Orthographía española from 1741 (bold emphasis mine):

The Latins took the letter K from the Greeks, as we took it from the formers [...]. It is very seldom used, and could be substituted easily, but it is not the intention of the Academia to remove letter, but to explain how to use the received and admitted ones.

This said, it is true that the RAE admits that it can be substituted by qu- in same cases, as in the previous example: you can write quilogramo, quilocaloría, but in other cases you cannot, as in the modern term kilobyte.

Nonetheless, fun fact: the letter K was indeed removed from the alphabet by the RAE, contradicting itself. You can read this in the last version of Ortografía de la lengua española (bold emphasis mine):

Between 1815 and 1869, the academic orthography even removed the k from the Spanish alphabet, so in order to represent the /k/ sound you had to use the letter c or the digraph qu, according to the case. Thus, many loan words that were written with k were adapted with c or qu, and this bias was sustained along time, even after the K was readmitted to the alphabet: cacatúa (from Malay kakatūwa), canguro (from French kangourou), cinc o zinc (from German Zink), cococha (from Euskera kokotxa), disquete (from English diskette), esmoquin (from English smoking), etc.

So yes, the letter K was removed from the Spanish alphabet in the XIX century, but was readmitted later. I cannot find any reason as to why the RAE readmitted the letter K, but in the 11th edition of the Diccionario de la lengua castellana, from 1869, you can read this in the entry for the letter K:

12th letter of the Spanish alphabet, and the 9th consonant. It has been in disuse for several years, [...]

whereas in the previous edition (10th edition, from 1852) you can read this:

This letter belonged to our alphabet until recently, but is used only in load words and even in those words it can be substituted [...].


Images

The following image is taken from the Ortografía de la lengua castellana, 8th edition from 1815. You can see that the letter K is missing:

Spanish alphabet from 1815

The following image is taken from the Gramática de la lengua castellana, edition from 1870. You can see that the letter K is once more present in the alphabet:

Spanish alphabet from 1870

Book scans available through HathiTrust.

  • 1
    If possible, could you add an English translation or at least an English summary to this answer? This question appeared in the Hot Network Questions sidebar, which led me here, and I'm curious about the answer as well, but my Spanish doesn't go much beyond asking for the bill and ordering coffee so that it's not made from powder. – Nzall Jan 12 '17 at 11:41
  • @Nzall English translation added, feel free to fix any mistake. – Charlie Jan 12 '17 at 12:00
  • 3
    On a side note, in Portuguese we also often include K in our alphabet although words like Kg are spelled quilograma. But we still use the letter in units. – ecc Jan 12 '17 at 13:14
  • 1
    I enjoyed the translation of resulto curioso as fun fact. Must remember that one. Translation is fine, no te preocupes. – mdewey Jan 12 '17 at 13:58
  • Fantástica respuesta. Es interesante mencionar que en Editions of Spanish Orthographies? / ¿Qué revisiones ha tenido la ortografía española? se reseña que en 1754 K is now explicitely for foreign words only. – fedorqui Jan 12 '17 at 14:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.