On Monday, the director of the Spanish speaking diaspora’s main linguistic institution rejected a suggestion to rename the Spanish language to “Ñamericano”, to mark the continent where the majority of its speakers now live.
The Real Academia Española or Spanish Royal Academy was founded in 1713, and is widely revered for compiling and maintaining the Spanish language dictionary. It also presents itself as a gatekeeper for correct uses of Spanish and linguistic conservation.
The academy’s recent statement comes in response to Argentinian author and journalist Martín Caparrós’ call to rename Spanish to Ñamericano, to primarily remove its colonial origins. At a press conference in March, Caparrós said “The letter ñ is an ‘archetype’ that modifies the idea of ‘American’ to make it ours,” and referred back to his 2021 book about Spanish speakers in the Americas, entitled ‘Ñamérica’.
He added “The globe is overflowing with countries speaking languages that still bear the name of the colonizing country. English and French, of course. Spanish, too”.
When asked to review the idea, director of the 46-member Spanish Royal Academy Santiago Muñoz Machado outright rejected the idea.
“It’s a witticism, which is fine as a witticism,” Muñoz Machado explained to Spanish news agency EFE, adding –
“No one doubts that the language is called Spanish or Castilian. Our constitution says Castilian, and in the Americas they say Castilian or Spanish.”
In recent years the academy has made efforts to include the study and usage of Spanish in Latin America in the institution’s work, while acknowledging a global community of Spanish speakers. Its headquarters however remain in Madrid and its top officials are Spanish.
Caparrós and other campaigners have argued that the official gatekeeping of the Spanish language does not represent a global community, with less than 10% of the world’s half-billion native Spanish speakers living in Spain. Despite this, the country retains a disproportionate level of ruling over Spanish language rules , status and education.