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In a message dated 4/11/2000 5:05:50 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
[log in to unmask] writes:

<< My roommate's last name is Irizarry, and he tells me that an alternate
 spelling is Yrizarri.  He also sais that both Y/i-rizarr-i/y and
 Y/i-barra are probably Basque names, which could account for the spelling
 differences.
  >>
The "spelling reform" I particularly had in mind was promulgated by various
Chilean writers in the post-independence period, perhaps as a way of setting
"American" Spanish apart from the Old Country. Nice idea, but it never really
caught on. After all, Spanish spelling needs very little reforming, and this
use of y- for unstressed _i_ AFAIK is about the only feature that caught on
at all, variably at that, and probably limited to proper names and a few
forms like yerba ~ hierba.  Basques might have taken to it to make their
names look less Spanish.......?