Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The tilde

The tilde is a common diacritical mark. I wrote to Luis Verano, of the University of Oregon, about it recently, and here is what he said.

One of the diacritical marks in Spanish is the tilde. When placed over the letter n (ene), the tilde creates a new letter—the ñ (eñe)—which produces the palatal nasal sound ny, as in the word señora or señor. Ramón Gómez de la Serna (1888–1963), a writer from Spain, referred to the ñ jokingly as “una n con bigote” (an n with a mustache). The ñ is an entirely different letter, however, and words that begin with ñ appear in a separate section in dictionaries.


Samantha said...

I wanted to add that although it is a distinct letter and does have it's own section in the Spanish dictionary, very few Spanish words actually begin with the ñ. More commonly we see the ñ within words. I'm not sure of the etymology, but most of the words I'm familiar with that have the ñ at a word-initial position come from Latin America and have indigenous influences.

Pat said...

Wonderful comment, Samantha; thank you :)