Friday, October 11, 2013

Fiesta Nacional de España: The Languages of Spain, Part 1

Today we'll be looking at the languages spoken in Spain as tomorrow is the country's national day, known as the Fiesta Nacional de España in Spain's principal official language, Spanish. Since we covered the Spanish language as one of our first language profiles, we felt today would be best suited looking at the other languages spoken in Spain.

Regional Languages

Since Spain is made up of autonomous communities, certain languages, particularly those native to a certain region, can hold co-official status with the national language, Spanish, also known as Castillian Spanish.

Catalan/Valencian

The Catalan language is principally spoken in the autonomous community of Catalonia, known as Catalunya in Catalan. The Catalan language is a descendant of Vulgar Latin, which was spoken in the regions surrounding the Pyrenees during the time of the Roman Empire.

As a relative of Occitan, which is principally spoken in France, Catalan shares more similarities with other Gallo-Romance languages such as French and Italian than it does with its geographical neighbours on the Iberian peninsula, such as Spanish and Portuguese.

The Mediterranean coast seen from Vinaròs, a town in the
Valencian Community near its border with Catalonia.

In the Valencian Community, the language is known as Valencian, or to use its endonym, valencià. This has been subject to much debate amongst those in the Valencian Community and Catalonia and as it stands, both Catalan and Valencian are considered the same language and different languages. Some linguists even believe that they are immensely similar languages that just so happened to evolve identically side-by-side and become mutually intelligible, though we're a bit sceptical of that last one.

The Catalan/Valencian language has a total of 7.2 million native speakers and the regions where it is spoken are home to some of the highest levels of bilingualism in Europe, not to mention being the largest communities where the main spoken language is not a national official language.

Galician

Galician, which is another language that may or may not be a language, is spoken principally in Galicia. As a close descendant of Portuguese or arguably a dialect of the language, Galician shares many qualities with the Portuguese language.

In the 13th century, the language known as Galician Portuguese diverged to become what some linguists say is now the Portuguese language and the Galician language. Other linguists believe that the two are part of a dialect continuum that includes Galician, Portuguese and rural dialects of both languages which are mutually intelligible between one another.

In Galicia, around 58% of the population are said to speak Galician as their first language, while over 3 million people are said to speak the language natively worldwide.

On Monday we'll be back with more regional languages of Spain and some of the prominent immigrant languages that have shaped the culture, history, and modern lifestyle of the country.

Part 1 | Part 2