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Europe at Present [Spring 2003]

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The Spanish languages that are officially recognized by the Statutes of the Autonomous Communities are: Euskera (País Vasco and Navarra), Gallego (Galicia), Catalan (Cataluna and Islas Baleares) and Comunidad Valenciana where, as stated at the Dictionary of the Real Academia, this variety of Catalan is called Valenciano. Other Statutes give special protection for the following Spanish languages: Bable in Asturias and the linguistic diversity in Aragón. 65


Castilian is the official language of the State. All Spaniards have the duty to know it and the right to use it”.66

Castilian, which is spoken in all the national territory, Equatorial Guinea, the former Spanish territory of Sahara, Central and South America (except Brazil and the Guyanas) and parts of the Philippines, is the official and cultural language of some 350 million people the world over. Of these, nearly 300 million speak it as their mother tongue. These figures make the official language of the Spanish State the most widely spoken Romance Language, an expressive instrument of a community which embraces two different worlds and which is spoken by people of different races.

Declared the official language of Spain by Philip V in 1714, it is usually known as Spanish, a name that was already used in the Middle Ages in Castile, and frequently by the grammarians and authors of the 16th and 17th centuries. The Spanish Royal Academy preferred to say Castilian until the 1925 edition of its Dictionary, when it adopted the name of Spanish. The Real Academia Espanola located in Madrid, is entrusted with "purifying, clarifying and giving splendour" to the language, in close contact with other Latin American academies, and mitigating the problems arising from the use of a language spoken in such a large geographic expanse.67 Its members are recruited from among the most prestigious literary creators and erudites.


Catalan is a Romance Language of the West branch. It has common aspects with the Iberianromance languages - such as its morphology - and the Gauleromance languages - such as its phonetics and some vocabulary. It is quite similar to the Occitan language. Catalan’s the earliest literary text, the Homilies d'Organya, dates back to about the middle of 12th century. In the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, Catalan literature flourished, first under the influence of Provençal literature and later as the producer of its own thematic and formal resources. From the 16th to the 18th centuries it underwent a period of decline, from which emerged in the 19th century with the movement known as the Renaixença, Renaissance. Its modern linguistic normalization was brought about with the creation in 1907 by Prat de la Riba of the Institut d'Estudis Catalans, whose principal pursuit was higher scientific research of all the elements of the Catalan culture. In the Institut d'Estudis Catalans, Pompeu Fabra effected the regulation and grammatical systematization of the unifying norms for its spelling (1913).68 Both Castilian and Catalan (since 1979) are the official languages of Catalunya and the Balearic Islands (since 1983) and in Valencia the Catalan is called Valenciano, denomination which is recognized by the Statute of Autonomy. "The two official languages of the Autonomous Community are the Valenciano and the Castilian. Everyone has the right to know and use them".69 The old Kingdom of Valencia was set up as an Autonomous Community in 1982, and the Law for the linguistic nomalization of the Valencian language was approved on 23 November, 1983 (B.O.E. Number 20th of 20 January, 1984).70 Taking under consideration Catalan’s linguistic domain it is also spoken in some areas of Aragon and Murcia and, outside Spain, in the French Roussillon region, the Principality of Andorra and in the Italian city of Alguer (Sardinia). It is the mother tongue of some 5 to 6 million persons. Furthermore many Castilian or Spanish speaking people who live in any of the aforementioned areas speak and understand it.

Specifically, this is its domain: (In Spain): Catalonia 5.980.000 inhabitants 3/5 Valencian Country 3.350.000 in. Balearic islands 755.000 in. East part of Aragon 48.000 in. El Carxe (in Murcia) 2.000 in. (Andorra): Andorra 38.000 in. (In France): North Catalonia (in the South of France) 330.000 in. (In Italy): L'Alguer (in Sardinia island) 37.000 in.71

All these figures are just approximate, but the total population of Catalan speakers is about 10.540.000 people. From the linguistic point of view, these countries border on: Spanish - in the West and South- , Occitan -in the North and North-East- and Italian -in the East-. But the main influence is from: Spanish, French and Italian, official languages in the countries where Catalan is spoken. Catalan is found in the 21st place (out of 56)in number of speaker people if we compare it with other European languages, such as Danish, Norvegian, Eslovac, Eslovenian, Basque, and so on. As an example, its territory is bigger than Holland, Belgium, Denmark and Switzerland.

According to the demands made in a historic speech by the new leader of Catalonia's ruling nationalists, Artur Mas, there should be added pressure for an extensive rewrite of the rules that have governed Spain since the transition to democracy 25 years ago. Futhermore Catalonia would also have to be formally recognised by the rest of Spain as "a nation", he said.72


Galician-Portuguese originated in Galicia at the beginning of the Middle Ages, and was carried by the Christian reconquerors outhwards, that is, to present day Portugal. Its first literary and notarial text date from the 12th century. In the second half of the 14th century, after producing a splendid literature, the language split into Galician and Portuguese, for historical and political reasons. It was the War of Independence against Napoleon, and even more the ensuing struggles between absolutists and liberals, that encouraged a certain literary renaissance of Galician, especially of a politicial nature, with pieces in verse and dialogues or prose speeches, which are of interest today from the standpoint of the history of the language and society of the region. The true renaissance did not come till half-way through the 19th century, especially via poetry. It became the co-official language of Galicia in 1981 but it is also spoken in areas of Asturias and Castilla-León. Approximately two million people speak Galician, although due to its similarity to Castilian and the multiple interferences derived from a practically universal bilingualism, it is very difficult to make an exact calculation. To this figure we must add the Galician communities living in Latin American countries that use it.73 The Real Academia Galega, founded in Havana (Cuba) in 1905, dictated its official standardization although the differences in dialect are not too profound.
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