Thursday, October 2, 2014

If you can’t beat them in the courts, change the dictionary!

How the Spanish Royal Academy is changing the definition of key political words to provide the Spanish Government with the necessary dialectical tools to win at the courts—and out.

The Spanish Royal Academy, an institution that has a final say on Spanish language-related matters in Spain, is getting ready to publish its 23th edition of the “Diccionario de la Real Academia Española,” the main reference dictionary in the Spanish-speaking world. 

Curiously, the new edition incorporates many changes in definitions of words that are directly related to the Catalan independence process. Words that in the past were defined in a scholarly, neutral way get new charged meanings more in line with the dictates of the Spanish regime. These changes are so pervading that one would tend to suspect that they were not, at the very least, suggested by political forces or people in power. In any case, use your imagination, cause we are not likely to ever know the truth.

Here is a list of some of the words that are getting a political facelift:


Referendum

Current definition:
‘Juridical process by which laws and administrative decisions are put to as vote by the people.'

Changed definition:
‘Juridical process by which laws and binding or non-binding political decisions are put to a vote.’


Nationality

Current definition:
1. Peculiarities specific to the peoples and citizens of a nation.
2. The state in which a person is born or is naturalized.
3. Autonomous community that is granted a special historical and cultural identity by its charter.
4. Official denomination of some Spanish autonomous communities.

Changed definition:
1. Peculiarities specific to the peoples and citizens of a nation.
2. Legal binding of a person to a state, which grants citizenship according to where the person was born, the parent’s nationality, or by having been granted naturalization.
3. Autonomous community that is granted a special historical and cultural identity by its charter


Sovereignty

Current definition:
1. Quality of one who is sovereign.
2. Supreme authority of public powers.
3. Highness or excellence not surpassed in any way.
4. Pride, arrogance, or haughtiness.
This definition includes ‘national ‘sovereignty,’ defined as follows: ‘That which belongs to the people and is executed through its constitutional representative bodies.’

Changed definition:
1. Quality of one who is sovereign.
2. Political power that belongs to an independent country.
3. Highness or excellence not surpassed in any way.
4. Pride, arrogance, or haughtiness.
‘National sovereignty’ is edited out from the new text.


State

Current definition:
1. The totality of government institutions in a sovereign country.
2. In a federal arrangement, a portion of the territory where people choose their own laws, while being bound in certain matters to the decisions of a government in common to all.

Changed definition:
1. Sovereign country, recognized as such internationally, settled in a specific territory, and having its own government institutions.
2. A kind of political organization, with sovereign and independent power, that integrates the population in a territory.
3. The totality of government institutions in a sovereign country.
4. In some countries organized as a federation, each of the autonomous territories that compose it.


•Martial Law

Current definition:
1. Rules that apply to a population when civilian authorities relinquish their jurisdiction to the military authorities.
2. Any state that would apply to aforementioned rules by reasons of public order, even when there is no war, be it abroad or civil war.

Changed definition:
1. State of siege: a situation declared by the parliament when its sovereignty, independence, or integrity are put in danger.
2. State of the population in time of war, when civilian authorities give up their jurisdiction in military matters.


•State of exception

Current definition:
1. In some countries, situation similar to that of state of emergency.

Changed definition:
1. State that, according to the constitution, and generally with the parliament’s approval, is put in place by the government in cases of serious alteration of the order or the functioning of the democratic institutions, and which implies suspension of constitutional rights and the reinforcing of the executive branch.


•Self-determination

Current definition:
1. Decision by the inhabitants of a territorial unity concerning their political status.

Changed definition:
1. Decision by the inhabitants of a specific territory concerning their political status.
2. Ability for a person to decide something by themselves.

This is important because when there is divergence in a court interpretation of a concept (for example the concept of 'referendum'), one of the criteria applied in addition to the case law, is the dictionary definition of the Spanish Royal Academy.



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