Learn more about Catalan language
|Catalan, Valencian |
|Spoken in:||Andorra, Spain, France and Italy|
|Region:||Catalonia, Valencia, Balearic Islands, Andorra|
|Total speakers:||More than 7.5 million|
|Language family:|| Indo-European|
|Official language of:||Andorra; Catalonia, Balearic Islands, Valencia in Spain|
|Regulated by:||Institut d'Estudis Catalans|
Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua
|ISO/FDIS 639-3:||cat — Catalan|
|Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. See IPA chart for English for an English-based pronunciation key.|
Catalan IPA: [ˌkʰætəlˈæn] (català IPA: [kə.tə'la] or [ka.ta'la]) is a Romance language, the national language of Andorra and co-official in the Spanish autonomous communities of Balearic Islands, Valencia (under the name Valencian) and Catalonia. Spain has the majority of active Catalan speakers. It is spoken or understood by as many as 12 million people who live not only in Andorra and Spain, but also in parts of southwestern France (most of Pyrénées Orientales) and in the city of Alghero in Sardinia, Italy.
- Indo-European languages
It shares many features with both Spanish and French, and is the language nearest to Occitan. Indeed, when comparing the modern descendants of Latin, Catalan is often thought of as a transitory language between the Iberian Romance languages (such as Spanish) and Gallo-Romance languages (such as French), though this characterization is not strictly accurate.
 Geographic distribution
Catalan is spoken in:
- Catalonia (Catalunya), in Spain.
- An adjacent strip (Franja de Ponent) of Aragon, Spain, in particular the comarques of Baixa Ribagorça, Llitera, Baix Cinca, and Matarranya, and parts of the comarques of Alta Ribagorça, Terra Alta and Ribera d'Ebre.
- Balearic Islands (Illes Balears i Pitiüsses), in Spain.
- Andorra (Principat d'Andorra).
- Part of the Land of Valencia (País Valencià), in Spain. (where it is traditionally called Valencian)
- Northern Catalonia (Catalunya Nord) (unofficial names), in France.
- The city of Alghero (l'Alguer) on Sardinia (an island in Italy).
- A small region in Murcia, Spain, known as el Carche in Castilian and el Carxe in Catalan.
All these areas are informally called Catalan Countries (Catalan Països Catalans), a denomination based on cultural affinity and common heritage, that some have subsequently interpreted politically.
 Official status
Catalan is the official language of Andorra. It is co-official in the Spanish regions of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and Valencia. It has no official status in the parts of Aragon where it is spoken, but has gained some recognition by Aragonese laws since 1990. It has no official status in the other places where it is spoken.
 Number of Catalan speakers
 Territories where Catalan is official
|Land of Valencia (Spain)||3,512,236||1,972,922|
|Balearic Islands (Spain)||733,466||504,349|
 Other territories
|Alghero (Sardinia, Italy)||20,000||17,625|
|Northern Catalonia (France)||203,121||125,622|
|Franja de Ponent (Aragonese Fringe)(Spain)||47,250||45,000|
|Carxe (Murcia, Spain)||No data||No data|
|Rest of World||No data||350,000|
|Catalan Countries (Europe)||10,416,328||7,317,648|
|Rest of World||No data||350,000|
Notes: The number of people who understand Catalan includes those who can speak it.
Sources: Catalonia: Statistic data of 2001 census, from Institut d'Estadística de Catalunya, Generalitat catalana . Land of Valencia: Statistical data from 2001 census, from Institut Valencià d'Estadística, Generalitat Valenciana . Balearic Islands: Statistical data from 2001 census, from Institut Balear d'Estadística, Govern de les Illes Balears . Northern Catalonia: Media Pluriel Survey commissioned by Prefecture of Languedoc-Roussillon Region done in October 1997 and published in January 1998 . Andorra: Sociolinguistic data from Andorran Government, 1999. Aragon: Sociolinguistic data from Euromosaic . Alguer: Sociolinguistic data from Euromosaic . Rest of World: Estimate for 1999 by the Federació d'Entitats Catalanes outside the Catalan Countries.
 DialectsManuel Milà i Fontanals proposed a division of Catalan into two major dialect blocks: Eastern Catalan and Western Catalan.
There is no precise linguistic border between one dialect and another because there is nearly always a transition zone of some size between pairs of geographically separated dialects, (except for dialects specific to an island). The main differences between the two blocks are:
- Western Catalan (Bloc o Branca del Català Occidental):
- Unstressed vowels: [a] [e] [i] [o] [u]. Distinctions between e and a and o and u.
- Initial or post-consonantal x is affricate /tʃ/. Between vowels or when final and preceded by i, it is /jʃ/.
- 1st person present indicative is -e or -o.
- Inchoative in -ix, -ixen, -isca
- Maintenance of medieval nasal plural in proparoxiton words: hòmens, jóvens
- Specific Vocabulary: espill, xiquet, granera, melic...
- Eastern Catalan (Bloc o Branca del Català Oriental):
- Unstressed vowels [ə] [i] [u]. The unstressed vowels e and a become /ə/ and o and u become /u/.
- Initial or post-consonantal x is the fricative /ʃ/. Between vowels or final preceded by i it is also /ʃ/.
- 1st person present indicative is -o, -i or ø.
- Inchoative in -eix, -eixen, -eixi.
- The -n- of medieval nasal plural is dropped in proparoxiton words: homes, joves.
- Specific Vocabulary: mirall, noi, escombra, llombrígol...
In addition, neither dialect is completely homogeneous: any dialect can be subdivided into several sub-dialects. Catalan can be subdivided in two major dialect blocks and those blocks into individual dialects:
See Catalan dialect examples for examples of each dialect.
Standard Catalan, as regulated by the IEC, centres on the speech of the educated classes of Barcelona, and so is closest to Central Catalan; however, not all of the features of Barcelonese speech can be considered standard, as there are lots of traditional dialectal traits and a Castillian influence in that area. Additionally, most important dialectal traits of other dialects are also considered standard. The orthography used to write Standard Catalan (and basically any Catalan text) is closest to Valencian pronunciation, although some instances of grave accented <è> correspond to Central Catalan. There is also a second standard form of the language, Valencian (valencià), regulated by the AVL. The Valencian standard is very close to IEC's but adds features characteristic of Western Catalan.
 The status of Valencian
The official language academy of the Land of Valencia (the Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua) considers Catalan and Valencian simply to be two names for the same language. There is a roughly continuous set of idiolects covering the various regional forms of Catalan/ Valencian, with no break at the border between Catalonia and Valencia (i.e. villages contiguous to both sides of the border speak exactly the same), and the various forms of Catalan and Valencian are mutually intelligible. All universities teaching Romance languages, and virtually all linguists, consider these all to be linguistic variants of the same language (similar to Canadian French versus Metropolitan French).
Nevertheless, differences do exist: the accent of a Valencian is recognisable, there are differences in subjunctive terminations, and there are a large number of words unique to Valencian; but those differences are not any wider than among North-Western Catalan and Eastern Catalan. In fact, Northern Valencian (spoken in the Castelló province and Matarranya valley, a strip of Aragon) is more similar to the Catalan of the lower Ebro basin (spoken in southern half of Tarragona province and another strip of Aragon) than to apitxat Valencian (spoken in the area of L'Horta, in the province of Valencia).
The Valencian language has often been seen as a dialect of Catalan due to their mutual intelligibility. However, the issue of language versus dialect is as much a matter of politics as of linguistics. By the criterion of mutual intelligibility, Valencian and other varieties of Catalan are dialects of a single language; but according to this criterion, Galician and Portuguese are also dialects of a single language, as are Norwegian and Swedish, a contentious conclusion in either case. A language is defined by several factors, political ones among others.
What gets called a language is defined in part by mutual comprehensibility, but also by political and cultural factors. Historically, the perceived status of Valencian as a "dialect of Catalan" has had important political implications including Catalan nationalism and the idea of the Països Catalans or "Catalan countries." Conversely, some Valencians who advocate distinguishing the languages do so to resist a perceived Catalan nationalist agenda aimed at absorbing Valencian language and identity, and incorporating Valencians into a constructed nationality centered on Catalonia. However, this idea is mostly supported by extreme right-wing organisations who usually don't support actual use of Valencian, but rather fear a possible union between Catalonia and Valencia towards their independence. It should be noted as well that it is common consensus amongst linguists to consider Valencian and Catalan to be the same language.
Similarly to Serbian and Croatian, the issue of whether Catalan and Valencian constitute different languages or merely dialects has been the subject of political agitation several times since the end of the Franco era. The latest political controversy regarding Valencian occurred on the occasion of the drafting of the European Constitution in 2004. The Spanish government supplied the EU with translations of the text into Basque, Galician, Catalan, and Valencian, but the Catalan and Valencian versions were identical. While professing the unity of the Catalan language, the Spanish government claimed to be constitutionally bound to produce distinct Catalan and Valencian versions because the Statute of the Autonomous Land of Valencia refers to the language as Valencian. In practice, the Catalan, Valencian, and Balearic versions of the EU constitution are almost identical, although some compromises over spelling may have been involved in making them so.
Valencian and Catalan have fewer differences from one another than do American English and English English (that is, the English of England), although this is partially because the English phonetical system is much more complex than that of Catalan. The differences between English English and American English are very similar to those between Valencian and Catalan. For example, English English and American English have a different vowel system, as do Valencian and Catalan. In Valencia, as in America, the language is generally rhotic (that is, final "r" is pronounced); in Catalonia, as in England, it generally is not. There are pairs of words similar to "truck"/"lorry" or "cookie"/"biscuit", for example "mirall"/"espill" (meaning "mirror") or "rentar"/"llavar" ("to wash"). There are different spellings for the same word à la "color"/"colour", for example "seva"/"seua" ("his"); although in this case the pronunciation is not the same, it is a common feature in dialectal and not-so-old Catalan to turn intervocalic "u" into "v", so "seva" and "seua" are phonologically identical (/'seua/), although phonetically different (['sevɘ] vs. ['sewa].) There are differences in conjugation just like "lit"/"lighted", for example, "acomplix"/"acompleix" ("accomplishes"). There are verbal forms which are not frequently used in either dialect - "aní"/"vaig anar", just like "I advise that he come"/"I advise him to come". In short, much like English, Catalan is a multi-centric language - there exist two standards, one for Oriental Catalan, regulated by the IEC, which is centered around Barcelonese Catalan (with slight variations to include Balearic verb flexion) and one for Occidental, regulated by the AVL, centered around Valencian.
Most current (21st century) Valencian speakers and writers use spelling conventions (Normes de Castelló, 1932) that allow for several diverse idiosyncrasies of Valencian, Balearic, North-Western Catalan, and Eastern Catalan.
 Sounds and writing system
An interesting feature of Catalan, as compared to most other modern Romance languages, is its complex and extremely conservative system of pronoun clitics.
Catalan developed by the 9th century from Vulgar Latin on both sides of the eastern part of Pyrenees mountains (counties of Roussillon, Empuries, Besalú, Cerdanya, Urgell, Pallars and Ribagorça). It shares features with Gallo-romance and Ibero-romance, and it could be said to be in its beginnings no more than an eccentric dialect of Occitan (or of Western Romance). The language was spread to the south by the Reconquista in several phases: Barcelona and Tarragona, Lleida and Tortosa, the ancient Kingdom of Valencia, and transplanted to the Balearic Islands and l'Alguer (Alghero).
Catalan was exported in the thirteenth century to the Balearic Islands and the newly created Valencian Kingdom by the Catalan and Aragonese invaders (note that the area of Catalan language still extends to part of what is now the region of Aragon). During this period, almost all of the Muslim population of the Balearic Islands were expelled, but many Muslim peasants remained in many rural areas of the Valencian Kingdom, as had happened before in the lower Ebro basin (or Catalunya Nova).
During the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the Catalan language was important in the Mediterranean region. Barcelona was the pre-eminent city and port of the Aragonese Empire, a confederation nominally ruled by the King of Aragon (Aragon, Catalonia, Roussillon, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Sicily, and — later — Sardinia and Naples). All prose writers of this era used the name 'Catalan' for their common language (e.g. the Catalan Ramon Muntaner, the Majorcan Ramon Llull, etc.) The matter is more complicated among the poets, as they wrote in a sort of artificial Langue d'Oc in the tradition of the troubadours. Italian resentment of this Catalan dominance appears to have been one of the wellsprings of the so-called "Black Legend".
During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the city of Valencia gains pre-eminence in the confederation, due to several factors, including demographic changes and the fact that the royal court moved there. Presumably as a result of this shift in the balance of power within the confederation, in the fifteenth century the name 'Valencian' starts to be used by writers from Valencia to refer to their language.
In the sixteenth century the name 'Llemosí' (that is to say, "the Occitan dialect of Limoges") is first documented as being used to refer to this language. This attribution has no philological base, but it is explicable by the complex sociolinguistic frame of Catalan poetry of this era (Catalan versus troubadouresque Occitan). Ausias March himself was not sure what to call the language he was writing in (it is clearly closer to his contemporary Catalan or Valencian than to the archaic Occitan).
Then, during the sixteenth century, most of the Valencian elites switched languages to Castilian Spanish, as can be seen in the balance of languages of printed books in Valencia city: at the beginning of century Latin and Catalan (or Valencian) were the main Catalan languages of the press, but by the end of the century Spanish was the main language of the press. Still, rural areas and urban working classes continued to speak their vernacular language.
During the first half of the nineteenth century, Catalan and Valencian experienced a major revival among urban elites due to the Renaixença, a romantic cultural movement. The effects of this revival continue to be felt to this day.
In Francoist Spain (1939-1975), the use of Castilian over Catalan was promoted, and public use of Catalan was repressed and in fact forbidden. In spite of this, some few thousands of books were published in Catalan. Franco's effort to portray Catalan as an archaic dialect still allowed the publication of, for example, older poetry. Some modern works were sneaked under censorship by pretending that they were older.
Following the death of Franco in 1975 and the restoration of democracy, the use of Catalan increased and the Catalan language is now used in politics, education and the Catalan media, including the newspapers Avui ("Today"), El Punt ("The Point") and El Periódico de Catalunya (sharing content with its Spanish release and with El Periòdic d'Andorra, printed in Andorra; and the television channels of Televisió de Catalunya (TVC): TV3, the main channel, and Canal 33/K3 (culture and cartoons channel) as well as a 24-hour news channel 3/24 and the TV series channel 300; there are also many local channels available in region in Catalan, such as BTV and Td8 (in the metropolitan area of Barcelona), Canal L'Hospitalet (L'Hospitalet de Llobregat), Canal Terrassa (Terrassa), Televisió de Sant Cugat TDSC (Sant Cugat del Vallès)... Additionally, fluency in Catalan is a requirement for many jobs in Catalonia.
Some common Catalan phrases (pronounced as in the Central dialect -Barcelona and outskirts-):
- Catalan: Català /kətəˈlɑ/
- Hello: hola /ˈɔlə/
- Good-bye: adéu /əˈðɛw/ (sing.); adéu siau /əˈðɛw siˈaw/ (pl.)
- Please: si us plau /sisˈplaw/
- Thank you: gràcies /ˈgrɑsiəs/; mercès /mərˈsɛs/
- Sorry: perdó /pərˈðo/, ho sento /u ˈsentu/
- That one: aquest /əˈkɛt/ (masc.); aquesta /əˈkɛstə/ (fem.)
- How much?: quant val? /ˈkwɑmˈbɑl/; quant és? /ˈkwɑnˈtes/
- Yes: sí /ˈsi/
- No: no /ˈno/
- I don't understand: No ho entenc /ˈno wənˈteŋ/
- where's the bathroom?: on és el bany? /ˈonˈezəlˈβaɲ/; on és el lavabo? /ˈonˈezəlˈləˈβɑβu/
- Generic toast: salut! /səˈlut/;
- Do you speak English?: Que parla l'anglès? /kə ˈparlə lənˈglɛs/
- Do you speak Catalan?: Que parla el català? /kə ˈparləl kətəˈlɑ/
 Learning Catalan
- Digui, digui... Curs de català per a estrangers. A Catalan Handbook. — Alan Yates and Toni Ibarz. — Generalitat de Catalunya. Departament de Cultura, 1993. -- ISBN 84-393-2579-7.
- Teach Yourself Catalan. — McGraw-Hill, 1993. — ISBN 0-8442-3755-8.
- Colloquial Catalan. — Toni Ibarz and Alexander Ibarz. — Routledge, 2005. — ISBN 0-415-23412-3.
Catalan courses are given at many universities both in Europe and in North America.
 English words of Catalan origin
- Barracks, from barraca, used for several kinds of buildings. It passed to French barraque/baraque and, during the The Thirty Years War, passed to the European languages (English in 1678)<ref name="DCECH">barraca in Diccionario Crítico Etimológico Castellano e Hispánico, volume I, J. Corominas, J.A. Pascual, Editorial Gredos, Madrid, 1987, ISBN 84-249-1362-2.</ref>.
 See also
- Common phrases in different languages
- Institut d'Estudis Catalans (Catalan Studies Institute)
- Pompeu Fabra
- Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua
- Catalan literature
- Languages of France
- Catalan names
 External links
 About the Catalan language
 Dictionaries and phrasebooks
- Catalan English Dictionary from Webster's Online Dictionary - the Rosetta Edition
- Diccionari Català de l'IEC
- Online Catalan dictionary from Enciclopèdia Catalana
- (Catalan) Diccionari Català-Valencià-Balear. Published by the Institut d'Estudis Catalans and Editorial Moll.
- Diccionari Invers de la Llengua Catalana
- DACCO. Open source English-Catalan / Catalan-English dictionary project.
- Catalan phrasebook on Wikitravel
- Learn Catalan!. An introduction for the Catalonia-bound traveler.
- Interc@t. Set of electronic resources for learning the Catalan language and culture.
 Catalan-language media
- Televisió de Catalunya
- El Periódico
- Diari Avui — Catalan-language daily newspaper
- Diari El Punt — Catalan-language daily newspaper
- VilaWeb The main Catalan online newspaper
- Catalan Wikibooks
 Catalan-language web searching
 Catalan-language online encyclopedia