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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 don't 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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  • 3
    A notorius difference between ch/ll and rr is that rr does not represent a different sound than non-intervocalic r; which makes it more of graphism of the same letter in an specific setting (the same way than "ga, gue, gui, go, gu"). But nice question.
    – SJuan76
    Jun 13, 2018 at 7:57

5 Answers 5

14

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. Nov 20, 2011 at 7:20
  • 2
    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, 2014 at 18:28
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    @zane, it's possible that, if you were learning Spanish as a foreign language, the distinction was created to help. Apr 14, 2014 at 18:31
  • Most likely so. This was in 1st to 5th grade.
    – dockeryZ
    Apr 14, 2014 at 20:00
4

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.

3

Yes, rr existed in the Spanish alphabet. I learned it in school growing up in Chile. It does not; however, show up in the dictionary because there is no word that starts with rr.

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    I'm from Mexico and I also learned "rr" as a letter of the alphabet. I'm astonished. The answer by Jaime Soto states that the RAE has not considered "rr" as a letter since 1803. But the fact that you and I still learned it as letter says a lot of the gap between Spain and Latin America. Nice first answer, keep contributing :)
    – prm296
    Feb 11, 2019 at 4:29
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    @prm296 I also studied in México around the 1980s, and I was taught at that time that the "rr" was not a letter of its own. When were your studies made? Perhaps it is a matter of generational trends instead of / in addition to geography?
    – ltcomdata
    Oct 30, 2021 at 19:23
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¿Se consideró oficialmente "rr" como una letra del alfabeto español?

  • La rr también es un dígrafo (son dos letras, no una) aunque representa un único fonema (el vibrante múltiple de perro o carro). Pero, a diferencia de lo que ha ocurrido con la ch y la ll, el dígrafo rr no se ha considerado tradicionalmente una letra del abecedario o alfabeto.

  • Por tanto nunca ha sido tratada como una letra del alfabeto español, probablemente porque no aparece escrita en posición inicial de las palabras, aunque sí tiene consideración de letra en el idioma albanés.

  • Sin embargo, cuando yo aprendí el abecedario, la "rr" (/dobleerre/) formaba parte de él, al igual que la "ll" y la "ch" y mencionábamos todas al recitarlo.

Antigua cartilla infantil

Antigua cartilla infantil

  • Sobre la ch y ll que se tratan igualmente de combinaciones de dos letras la RAE dijo que las palabras que comienzan por estos dígrafos o que los contienen no se alfabetizan aparte, sino en los lugares que les corresponden dentro de la c y de la l, respectivamente. La decisión de adoptar el orden alfabético latino universal se tomó en el X Congreso de la Asociación de Academias de la Lengua Española, celebrado en 1994, y viene aplicándose desde entonces en todas las obras académicas.
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  • Por tanto nunca ha sido tratada como una letra del alfabeto español mmm sí, tal y como documentan otras respuestas
    – fedorqui
    Mar 3 at 8:06

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