The Real Academia Española (“Royal Spanish Academy”), the RAE, is the official royal institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language. It is based in Madrid, Spain, but is affiliated with national language academies in twenty-one Spanish-speaking nations through the Association of Spanish Language Academies. The RAE's emblem is a fiery crucible, and its motto is Limpia, fija y da esplendor (“(It) Cleans, sets, and casts splendour”).
Its aristocrat founder, Juan Manuel Fernández Pacheco, Marquis of Villena and Duke of Escalona, described its aims as: to assure that Spanish speakers will always be able to read Cervantes — by exercising a progressive up-to-date maintenance of the formal language.
In 1994, it ruled that the Spanish consonants CH (ché) and LL (elle) would hence be alphabetized under C and under L, respectively, and not as separate, discrete letters, as in the past. The RAE eliminated monosyllabic accented vowels where the accent did not serve in changing the word's meaning, examples include: dio ("gave"), vio ("saw"), both had an acutely-accented vowel ó; yet the monosyllabic word: sé ("I know", the first person, singular, present of saber, "to know"; and the singular imperative of: ser,"to be") retains its acutely-accented vowel in order to differentiate it from the reflexive pronoun se.
In 1959 it added an acute accent (from upper-right to lower-left) to the orthography (spelling) of conjugations, for example, to: reunió ("reunited", "gathered together") a past form of: reunir ("to reunite", "to gather together") to ensure that the individual letters eu were spoken individually, and not as a single-sound diphthong.
The RAE is a major publisher of dictionaries and grammars, and has a formal procedure for admitting words to its publications. Its website includes an online dictionary and other resources, all in Spanish, of course. Its most famous publication is the Diccionario de la lengua española de la Real Academia Española (Dictionary of the Spanish Language of the Royal Spanish Academy), the "DRAE".
Moreover, the dictionary has been criticised for its partial definitions and somewhat limited coverage. Supporters respond that the RAE's purpose is not registering ephemeral Spanish usages, but to protect a united Castilian language and prevent national variants from becoming incomprehensible to other Spanish speakers.
Critics have acknowledged, however, that recent editions of the Diccionario de la Lengua Española de la Real Academia Española (the 20th, 21st, and current 22nd editions) show distinct improvement. One welcome innovation was its publication of a paperback edition in 1992. Partnerships with companies such as Telefónica, IBM, and Microsoft, enabled the RAE to update and adapt to the current information-technology era, offering a free on-line version of its Dictionary, which may be consulted free of charge at Real Academia Española
Moreover, while it is currently collecting historical Spanish texts, the Academia has come under fire for not making its research results available under free licences, despite public funding.
Members of the Academy are Académicos de número, "Number Academics", chosen from among prestigious persons in the Arts and Sciences, including several Spanish-language authors, known as the Los Inmortales, "The Immortals" (the possible Spanish translation of their Académie française counterparts), they are elected for life by the other academicians. Each academician holds a seat labeled with a letter from the Spanish alphabet; upper- and lower case letters are separate seats.