Saturday, November 27, 2010

Spanish Royal Academy, in an Effort at Austerity, Reduces Alphabet by Two Characters

As has been reported heavily in the press recently, some of the European Union countries are having financial difficulties. Greece and Ireland have already had there hands out and gotten bailouts from the EU and the IMF. As part of their bailout packages they have had to cut back on their domestic government spending. Many financial pundits have pointed to Portugal, Italy and Spain as other countries that will also most likely experience financial difficulties and have to go with hat in hand to the EU and IMF.

In a brave effort to stave off financial ruin, the Spanish Royal Academy in an unprecedented move has proactively initiated an austerity program whereby two of the characters of their 29 character alphabet have been removed. This represents a reduction of 6.9% in the Spanish alphabet. In a collateral move they have also eliminated accent marks on some words. While it is difficult to measure exactly what this reduction will mean, it is clearly a step in the right direction.

Even though the Spanish Royal Academy has reduced the size of the alphabet by eliminating the characters "CH" and "LL", this does not mean that all will go smoothly. There has been some resistance to the change from a variety of sources. Some hispanophiles were quick to point out that instead of removing the two letters from the alphabet, the Academy should have eliminated the practice of certain Castillians from pronouncing certain words with the "th" phoneme as has been common practice for a number of centuries now in Latin America, thereby fostering more standardization and, perhaps, an increase in trade with their linguistic brethren. Also, the authors of the "Reverse Dictionary of the Spanish Language" have stated that they have no intention of following the lead of the Academy "at this time". They are not going in the same direction.

In fact, there has even been speculation that the IMF will not even accept these reductions by Spain as a bonafide reduction since there was no attempt to remove any Arabic numerals and roll back to the more "European" Roman numerals which were in use earlier. The EU has decried this proposed measure since it is a very thinly veiled demonstration of islamophobia. Italian sources have claimed that adoption of the Roman numerals would be a very good development for Italy since it would produce more revenue for them based upon the increased usage of their numerals.

Some have suggested that the numeral "O" should be considered for removal first since the very concept of "zero" is not indigenous to Spain in the first place. The Arabs originally introduced "zero" to the number system and brought it with them when they emigrated to the Iberian peninsula starting in 711. Since the expulsion of the Mulsems from Spain in 1492, many think this addition to the number system should finally go with them leaving the Alhambra in Granada, Spain as the one lasting legacy of the Moorish occupation.

Also, the American Mathematical Association claims that nothing will be gained by actually tossing out "zero", but others are quick to point out that it is an extreme budget cutting method to reduce the Spanish government spending from 338,623,164,850 Euro to 33,862,316,485 Euro - a reduction of 90%.