Monday, October 14, 2013

Fiesta Nacional de España: The Languages of Spain, Part 2

On Friday we started our look at the languages of Spain as Saturday was the Fiesta Nacional de España, Spain's national day. We covered two of Spain's regional languages, Catalan/Valencian and Galician, and today we'll be continuing our linguistic journey with more of the recognised, regional, and immigrant languages found in modern-day Spain.

Regional Languages


Whilst only spoken by around 1% of Spain's population, the Basque language, known as Euskara in Basque, is interesting as it's a language isolate. We discussed the interesting nature of Basque as a language isolate back in May. Since Basque is a language isolate, it is also the only non-Romance language with official status in Spain.


Aranese is considered to be a dialect of Gascon, a type of Occitan. However, it does hold co-official language status in the Spanish region of Catalonia along with Catalan. It was given co-official status as recently as 2010 and, as a result, is the newest of Spain's regional co-official languages.

Today there are only around 5,000 speakers of Aranese, and whilst there are estimated to be between 100,000 and 800,000 speakers of Occitan, Aranese is not considered endangered as the language has seen somewhat of a revival since it has been taught alongside Spanish in schools since 1984.


Though the name may sound similar to Aranese, the Aragonese language is another distinct Romance language with around 10,000 speakers. It doesn't hold co-official language status but it is recognised as a language native to the region of Aragon.


Astur-Leonese is a group of mutually intelligible languages. Central Asturian is the principal dialect of the Astur-Leonese languages and is spoken natively in central Asturias by around 100,000 people and understood by around 450,000 people. Western Asturian, also known as Leonese, is spoken in western Asturias as well as Castile and León, principally in the province of León.

The language is also present in parts of Portugal, where the Mirandese dialect is used. There are around 15,000 people who speak this form of Astur-Leonese.

Due to its geographical proximity to other languages, Astur-Leonese also has various dialects that are considered transitional languages between Astur-Leonese and other Romance languages. As you approach Galicia, you are more likely to encounter Galician-Asturian, which has been proposed to be either a dialect of Galician, a dialect of Astur-Leonese, or its own distinct language, known as Eonavian. Eonavian is spoken by around 45,000 people.

Sede de Caja Cantabria, Santander.
In Cantabria, the transition language between Astur-Leonese and Castilian Spanish is known as montañés, or Cantabrian. Only 3,000 people are considered to be speakers of Cantabrian.

In the region of Extremadura, there is another transitional language between Astur-Leonese and Spanish, but here it is known as Extremaduran or estremeñu. This version of the language is said to have around 200,000 speakers, but it is very difficult to measure as there is not a clear consensus on the boundary between the Spanish spoken in Extremadura, castúo, and estremeñu.

Immigrant Languages

Spain has various speakers of immigrant languages principally owing to immigration across Europe, and because of Spain's historic empire, many speakers of Latin American Spanish. Languages such as Arabic, Romanian, English, French, German, Italian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Portuguese, and Javanese are also spoken by immigrant populations and communities.

Part 1 | Part 2

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