Spanish Writing System

Spanish is written using the Latin alphabet, with the addition of the character ñ (eñe, representing the phoneme ?, a letter distinct from n, although typographically composed of ann with a tilde) and the digraphs ch (che, representing the phoneme W?) and ll (elle, representing the phoneme ?). However, the digraph rr (erre fuerte, “strong r”, erre doble, “double r”, or simply erre), which also represents a distinct phoneme U, is not similarly regarded as a single letter. Since 1994, the digraphs ch and ll are to be treated as letter pairs for collation purposes, though they remain a part of the alphabet. Words with ch are now alphabetically sorted between those with ce and ci, instead of following cz as they used to, and similarly for ll. Thus, as from 1994 Spanish uses the 26 letters of the International Alphabet plus the Spanish letter ñ. The 2 digraphs ch and ll are currently separated from the alphabet:

a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, ñ, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z.

ch, ll, rr, qu, gu. And South America and seseante dialects; sc, xc.

With the exclusion of a very small number of regional terms such as México (see Toponymy of Mexico), pronunciation can be entirely determined from spelling. A typical Spanish word is stressed on the syllable before the last if it ends with a vowel (not including y) or with a vowel followed by n or s; it is stressed on the last syllable otherwise. Exceptions to this rule are indicated by placing an acute accent on the stressed vowel.

The acute accent is used, in addition, to distinguish between certain homophones, especially when one of them is a stressed word and the other one is a clitic: compare el (“the”, masculine singular definite article) with él (“he” or “it”), or te (“you”, object pronoun), de (preposition “of” or “from”), and se (reflexive pronoun) with té (“tea”), dé(“give”) and sé (“I know”, or imperative “be”).

The interrogative pronouns (qué, cuál, dónde, quién, etc.) also receive accents in direct or indirect questions, and some demonstratives (ése, éste, aquél, etc.) can be accented when used as pronouns. The conjunction o (“or”) is written with an accent between numerals so as not to be confused with a zero: e.g., 10 ó 20 should be read as diez o veinte rather than diez mil veinte (“10,020″).

Accent marks are frequently omitted in capital letters (a widespread practicein the early days of computers where only lowercase vowels were available with accents), although the RA advises against this.

When u is written between g and a front vowel (e or i), if it should be pronounced, it is written with a diaeresis (ü) to indicate that it is not silent as it normally would be (e.g., cigüeña, “stork”, is pronounced ?L?kZH?D; if it were written cigueña, it would be pronounced ?L?kH?D. Interrogative and exclamatory clauses are introduced with inverted question ( ¿ ) and exclamation marks ( ¡ ).