MADRID -- Fernando Lazaro Carreter, a respected linguist who worked to improve the way Spanish is spoken and written, died yesterday in a Madrid hospital where he was being treated for breathing problems. He was 80.
Mr. Lazaro Carreter, who was also a journalist and literary critic,
was a member since 1972 of the prestigious Royal Spanish Academy, the language's official referee. He was its president for seven years, until 1998.
Mr. Lazaro Carreter treated language as a vibrant, evolving entity and loved to listen to how it was spoken in the street, for better or worse.
"He was acutely seduced by the language of everyday people, by living language," said Victor Garcia de la Concha, the language academy's director and a former aide to Mr. Lazaro Carreter.
In a speech last year, Mr. Lazaro Carreter gave a pessimistic report.
"I perceive a linguistic anemia that is growing among Spanish-speakers to the point where a new language is emerging: gibberish," he complained, according to the Spanish news agency Efe.
Mr. Lazaro Carreter also suffered from insomnia and spent long nights listening to the radio and checking up on the way journalists spoke.
In 1997, he published "El Dardo en la Palabra" (The Dart in the Word), a collection of articles he wrote on linguistic gaffes in the media. It was a huge hit.