Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Language Profile: Valencian

Today we're continuing our look at the closely related language varieties known as Catalan, Valencian and Balearic. On Monday we looked at the Catalan language, and today we'll be focusing on Valencian.

Valencian is an official regional language of Spain in the area known as the Valencian Community. While it has high levels of prestige among its speakers, its use is not as widespread as that of Catalan within Catalonia. In large cities such as Valencia and Alicante that have experienced a recent influx of immigrants, Spanish tends to be the dominant language. However, in certain areas of the Valencian Community, Valencian is the preferred language and is used in all social situations.

Since Spain recognizes both Valencian and Catalan as official regional languages, government texts are translated into both languages, though the resulting documents are often identical. When it comes to defining Valencian, the linguistic consensus seems to show that it is the name for Catalan in the Valencian Community. It is also important to note that while it is another name for the same language, there is no consensus that Valencian should be seen as a dialect of Catalan, as there isn't sufficient historical evidence to show that Catalan preceded Valencian.

A prawn sculpture in Vinaròs, a primarily
Valencian-speaking town.
The status of Valencian in relation to Catalan has been controversial for several decades, for both cultural and political reasons. Valencians have a strong sense of cultural identity with their own literary history, cultural traditions, and linguistic characteristics, which they consider different from the Catalan identity. Some politicians claim that Valencian is a completely distinct language, generally because they believe that some Catalan nationalists want to eliminate the Valencian identity by creating a political union between Catalonia and the other Catalan-speaking areas of Spain.

There are several regional dialects of Valencian which are mainly distinguished due to phonological differences. The Southern Valencian dialect spoken in the area between the cities of Valencia and Alicante is generally considered to be the standard variety. Standard Valencian is regulated by the Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua (AVL), which was created in 1998. Its official position is that the language spoken in the Valencian Community is the same language spoken in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. Some linguists from the AVL believe that Valencian should be used as the name for the language as a whole instead of Catalan, which seems to us like a great way to stir up even more linguistic controversy. 

There are many differences between Valencian and Catalan despite their high levels of mutual intelligibility. Besides differences in the pronunciation of vowels, there are also differences in verb conjugations. Spelling differences include the use of huit instead of Catalan's vuit for the word "eight", and meua instead of the Catalan meva for the word "my". Valencian also contains several lexical differences, including the use of roig for "red" instead of vermell and xiquet for "boy" instead of the Catalan term nen. Valencian lexical differences are often due to influence from the Spanish language, such as as the use of per favor for "please" instead of the preferred Catalan term si us plau or sisplau, which more closely resembles French.

We'll be back on Friday with a brief look at Balearic, yet another language variety related to Catalan and Valencian.

Catalan | Valencian | Balearic