Catalan is a Romance language spoken by about 9.5 million
people. It is the official language of Andorra and an official
language, along with Spanish, in Catalonia (Catalunya),
Valencia (Comunitat Valenciana) and the Balearic Islands (Illes Balears).
It is also spoken in parts of Aragon and Murcia, Pyrénées-Orientales in southern France, and in the
Sardinian city of Alghero (l'Alguer)
The language of Valencia is known as Valencian, which some
belief is a separate language, however most linguists view it
as a variety of Catalan. The Acadèmia Valenciana
de la Llengua (AVL) consider Catalan and Valencian to be two
names for the same language.
Catalan at a glance
Native name: català [kətəˈɫa/kataˈɫa]
Linguistic affliation: Indo-European, Italic, Romance, Western, Gallo-Romance, Occitano-Romance
Number of speakers: c. 9.5 million
Spoken in: Andorra, southern France, north east Spain, the Balearic Islands, Alghero in Sardinia, Italy
First written: 11th century
Writing system: Latin script
Status: official language in Andorra and in Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands in Spain. Recognised minotiry language in Pyrénées-Orientales in France, in Aragon in Spanish, and in Alghero in Sardinia in Italy.
Catalan appeared as a distinct language during the 10th and 11th centuries.
During the 12th century, Catalan began to appear in writing in scientific,
philosophical, financial, religious, legal, literary and historical
documents. At that time, Latin and Provençal were the preferred
languages for literary and philosophical texts.
After the War of the Spanish Succession (1705-1715), Philip V abolished
all the government institutions then existing in Catalonia and implemented
Spanish laws. Catalan went through various periods of prohibition and
In the 19th century, a period of economic, cultural and national recovery
began, known as the Renaixença (Renaissance). Catalan was reborn
as the language of literary culture through the Jocs Florals (Floral
Games - a poetry contest) and through distinguished figures such as
Jacint Verdaguer, Narcís Oller and Àngel Guimerà.
The Renaixença raised awareness of the lack of unity in the
use of the language (there was no model for a common written language)
and of the need to draw up rules on spelling. The founding of the Institut
d'Estudis Catalans (Institute of Catalan Studies) in 1907 led to the
language being codified through the publication of Normes ortogràfiques
(Spelling Rules) in 1913, the Diccionari ortogràfic (Spelling
Dictionary) in 1917, and the Gramàtica catalana (Catalan Grammar)
by Pompeu Fabra in 1918.
During the first 30 years of the 20th century, Catalonia went through
a period of political fervour, culminating in the recovery of a degree
of political power in the Generalitat (the Government of Catalonia)
during the 1930s. During the Second Republic (1931-1939), Catalan was
restored to its official language status, which it had lost in the 18th
century. However, this promising future was checked by the Civil War and its
consequences. The use of Catalan in public was forbidden and the language
retreated into the home.
Ever since the restoration of democratic institutions, there has been
a process to re-establish the use of Catalan. It is now a co-official language,
along with Spanish, in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands, and is widely
used an everyday language throughout Catalonia, Valencia, Andorrra and
the Balearic Islands. Catalan is used as a medium of instruction in many
schools, it is also used extensively in the media and in government.
Tots els éssers humans neixen lliures i iguals en dignitat i en drets.
Són dotats de raó i de consciència, i han de comportar-se
fraternalment els uns amb els altres.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood. (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)