Catalonia, Spain

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Catalonia, Spain

12 Jan, 2016 / 0

Catalonia is an autonomous community of Spain and an officially recognized nationality. Catalonia comprises four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. The capital and largest city is Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain, and the centre of one of the largest metropolitan areas in Europe. It comprises most of the territory of the former Principality of Catalonia, with the remainder now part of France. Catalonia borders France and Andorra to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the east, and the Spanish regions of Aragon and the Valencian Community to west and south respectively. The official languages are Catalan, Spanish and Aranese (an Occitan dialect).
In the 10th century the eastern counties of the March of Gothia became independent from the Frankish kingdom, uniting as vassals of Barcelona. In 1137 Barcelona and Aragon formed the Crown of Aragon, and Catalonia became the base of Aragonese maritime power in the Mediterranean.

Medieval Catalan literature flourished. Between 1469 and 1516, the crowns of Aragon and Castille united to form the Kingdom of Spain, while retaining their distinct institutions. During the Reapers’ War (1640–52), Catalonia rebelled against Spain, becoming a republic under French protection. Under the terms of the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, which ended the wider Franco-Spanish war, France retained the northern parts of Catalonia, mostly incorporated in the county of Roussillon. During the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14), the Crown of Aragon sided against Philip V of Spain, whose subsequent victory led to the abolition of Catalan institutions and the eventual imposition of the Spanish language in public life.

Despite the repression and the Napoleonic and Carlist Wars, Catalonia experienced economic growth and industrialization. During the second half of the 19th century, the region saw a cultural renaissance coupled with incipient nationalism, while several workers movements appeared. In 1913, the four Catalan provinces formed a Commonwealth, and with the advent of democracy during the Second Spanish Republic (1931–39), the Generalitat of Catalonia was restored. After the Spanish Civil War, the Francoist dictatorship enacted repressive measures, abolishing Catalan institutions and banning the Catalan language again.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Catalonia saw significant economic growth and became an important tourist destination, drawing many workers from across Spain and making Barcelona one of Europe’s largest industrial metropolitan areas. Since the Spanish transition to democracy (1975–82) Catalonia has recovered political and cultural autonomy and is now one of the most economically dynamic regions of Spain. The Catalan government has announced its intention to hold a referendum on possible independence from Spain in 2014.

Catalan Regional Language

Catalan is a Romance language named for its origins in Catalonia, in what is nowadays northeastern Spain and adjoining parts of France. It is the national and only official language of Andorra, and a co-official language of the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and the Valencian Community (as Valencian, with its own standard). It also has semi-official status in the city of Alghero on the Italian island of Sardinia. It is also spoken with no official recognition in parts of the Spanish autonomous communities of Aragon (La Franja) and Murcia (Carche), and in the historic French region of Roussillon/Northern Catalonia, roughly equivalent to the department of Pyrénées-Orientales.

Catalan evolved from common Latin around the eastern Pyrenees in the 9th century. During the Low Middle Ages it saw a golden age as the literary and dominant language of the Crown of Aragon, and was widely used all over the Mediterranean. The union of Aragon with the other territories of Spain in 1479 marked the start of the decline of the language. In 1659 Spain ceded Northern Catalonia to France, and Catalan was banned in both states in the early 18th century. 19th-century Spain saw a Catalan literary revival, which culminated in the 1913 orthographic standardization, and the officialization of the language during the Second Spanish Republic (1931–39). However, the Francoist dictatorship (1939–75) banned the language again.

Since the Spanish transition to democracy (1975–1982), Catalan has been recognized as an official language, language of education, and language of mass media, all of which have contributed to its increased prestige. There is no parallel in Europe of such a large, bilingual, non-state speech community.

Compared to other Romance languages, Catalan dialects feature relative uniformity, and are mutually intelligible. They are divided into two blocks, Eastern and Western, differing mostly in pronunciation. The terms “Catalan” and “Valencian” (respectively used in Catalonia and the Valencian Community) are two names for the same language. Standard Catalan, a variety accepted by virtually all speakers, is regulated by the Institute of Catalan Studies (IEC).

Catalan shares many traits with its neighboring Romance languages. However, despite being mostly situated in the Iberian Peninsula, Catalan shows greater differences with Ibero-Romance (Spanish, Portuguese) in terms of vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar than it does with Gallo-Romance (French, Italian, Occitan, etc.). These similarities are most notable with Occitan.

Catalan has an inflectional grammar, with two genders (masculine, feminine), and two numbers (singular, plural). Pronouns also inflected for case, animacy and politeness, and can be combined in very complex ways. Verbs are split in several paradigms and are inflected for person, number, tense, aspect, mood, and gender. In terms of pronunciation, Catalan has many words ending in a wide variety consonants and some consonant clusters, in contrast with many other Romance languages.