Catalonia, one of Spain’s stunning 17 districts, is tucked in the north-eastern corner of modern-day Spain and its official languages are Catalan, Spanish and the Aranese dialect of Occitan. So let’s discover a fact or two about our language pick of the month – Catalan – a modern Romance language that is often mistaken to be a dialect of Spanish. So let’s read on amigos…
Catalan – What’s that?
Catalan is spoken natively in parts of Spain (Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands) and a few parts of France and Italy as well. It is the official language of Andorra and is closely related to Occitan. Catalan people, for the most part, are bilingual in both Catalan and Spanish. According to recent censuses approximately 9 million people worldwide speak Catalan, out of which 4 million speak it as their native tongue and since the region of Catalonia has two official languages, you will find Catalan here almost everywhere alongside Spanish on road signs and shop advertisements.
Contrary to popular opinion, Catalan is not a dialect of Spanish. While many linguists initially believed that Catalan had developed from the Occitan language of France (also known as Provencal) during the Middle Ages, an alternate theory argues that Catalan has a much closer relationship to modern Hispanic languages than it does to Occitan.
As for the fun facts
Although Catalan, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and other European languages have their origin in Latin (what are known as Romance languages), each one has evolved in its own way and today Catalan shares a lot more similarities with French and more so with the Occitan language, than it even does with Spanish. Did you also know it has 6 dialects of its own? Talk about diversity!
Tracing back the links
Back in the 12th century, Catalan served as the official language in the Kingdom of Aragon. But otherwise, Catalan has had a tough time historically speaking; it was completely banned for political reasons on two occasions, and wasn’t until the late 20th century that a revival of the Catalan language led to a formal standardization of its cultural as well as literary value.
There is an on-going heated debate in Catalonia between the Spanish and Catalonian speakers, regarding which language should be the official one. But our take away remains that Catalan is spoken by about 7 million people and has evolved directly from common Latin, like other Romance languages. Hence, it is a language by itself and not a dialect. In fact, it is not even a form of Castilian Spanish.