The Real Academia Española is the highest cultural institution of the Spanish language. Its main function is that of linguistic regulation in the Spanish-speaking world.
It was founded in Madrid in 1713, during the reign of Felipe V on the initiative of Juan Manuel Fernández Pacheco.
Although it was not until a year later, in 1714, that the academy approved its first statutes. Unlike other countries, Spain did not have an official dictionary of all the words and phrases of the language, so this was one of its main objectives. It can be said that the institution aimed at “setting the language” thanks to the relevance it had acquired during the 16th century.
The institutional model was based on the Italian and French academies and its purpose was, as we have already mentioned, to set the voices and words of the Castilian language in their greatest elegance and purity. Its first statute already stated the importance of this purpose by detailing that its mission was to “cultivate and establish the purity and elegance of the Castilian language”.
All this under a motto, which many schoolchildren learnt at school and which today sounds rather funny to Spaniards, which is: “Limpia, fija y da esplendor” (Clean, fix and gives splendour). A phrase that refers to the intention to eliminate unrecognised forms, to find solidity in the Spanish linguistic system and to give splendour by educating according to the norms of the Spanish language.
The institution of the Royal Spanish Academy is made up of 46 academicians whose names are distributed according to the letters of the Latin alphabet, from the letter A to the letter Z, in upper and lower case. These seats are for life and since its constitution it has had 485 members.
On a curious note, it should be pointed out that some of the letters of the alphabet of these “full members” have never been represented in their chairs. These letters are: v, w, x, y, z, Ñ, W, Y. These members are elected from among those who are considered the worthiest people, in a secret ballot and with an absolute majority.
In addition to these full academicians, the RAE also has corresponding and honorary academicians. The incorporation of the corresponding academicians was formalised in the statutes of 1859 and distinguishes people who are recognised for their research, studies and publications on subjects related to language or literature.
Becoming a corresponding academician is the dream of many researchers of the Spanish language. In addition to the recognition and a diploma, these academicians are allowed to participate in the plenary sessions where literary and linguistic matters are discussed. The corresponding members cannot be more than 60; besides, all the autonomous communities are represented. In addition to these, there are also Spanish-American and foreign members.