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The origin of Ñ - Lingostan Forum


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The origin of Ñ

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  • The origin of Ñ

    A lot of foreign friends had asked me about this. Well, let's make it clear...

    Ñ is Spanish (but not just Spanish*) graph for /ɲ/ sound (palatal nasal); so is like "nh" in Portuguese, "gn" in French, "nj" en neerlandés or "ny" in Catalan, among others.

    ¿How this symbol appeared? In medieval and modern times was very usual to use a ~ symbol to express abbreviation (of any kind). To abbreviate latin graph "nn" Spanish scribes wrote "ñ", (like Portuguese did with nasal vowels, e.g. "ã").

    While the sound was changing from a latin "long n" to a spanish "ñ" (a process called palatalización, like annus>año) in Middle Age, this abbreviation was kept in order to difference to diverse sounds: "n" and "ñ".

    And that's all! Simple, right?

    * Also in asturiano, aimara, bretón, bubi, gallego, chamorro, mapuche, filipino, quechua, iñupiaq, guaraní, otomí, mixteco, kiliwa, o'odham, papiamento, rohingya, tagalo, tártaro de Crimea, tetun, wólof, euskera y zapoteco alphabets...

  • #2
    Gracias Victor. There are so many different accents in different languages! Most change the sound, but a few - like à in Italian - are just a marker of unusual stress.


    • #3
      We say signo diacrítico for this thing, I think...