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Catalan (Catalan: català, or ) is a Romance language, the national and official language of Andorramarker, and a co-official language in the Spanish autonomous communities of the Balearic Islandsmarker, Cataloniamarker and Valencian Communitymarker, where it is known as Valencià (Valencian), as well as in the city of Algheromarker on the Italianmarker island of Sardinia. It is also spoken, although with no official recognition, in the autonomous communities of Aragonmarker (in La Franja) and Murciamarker (in Carche) in Spainmarker, and, officially recognised to some extent, in the historic Roussillon region of southern Francemarker, roughly equivalent to the current département of the Pyrénées-Orientales (Northern Catalonia).


The Catalan language developed from Vulgar Latin on both sides of the eastern part of the Pyreneesmarker mountains (counties of Rosselló, Empúriesmarker, Besalúmarker, Cerdanyamarker, Urgell, Pallars and Ribagorçamarker). It shares features with Gallo-Romance, Ibero-Romance, and the Gallo-Italian speech types of Northern Italy. Though some hypothesize a historical split from languages of Occitan typology, the entire area running from Liguria on the present Italian coast to at least Alicante in Spain is more scientifically viewed as a classic dialect continuum, with some eventual perturbation as a result of political divisions and overlay of standard national languages.

As a consequence of the Aragonese and Catalan conquests from Al-Andalus to the south and to the west, it spread to all present-day Cataloniamarker, Balearic Islandsmarker and most of Valencian Communitymarker.

During the 15th century, during the Valencian Golden Age, the Catalan language reached its highest cultural splendor, which was not matched again until La Renaixença, 4 centuries later.

See also History of Catalonia

After the Treaty of the Pyrenees, a royal decree by Louis XIV of France on 2 April 1700 prohibited the use of Catalan language in present-day Northern Catalonia in all official documents under the threat of being invalidated. Since then, the Catalan language has lacked official status in the Catalan-speaking region in France.

On 10 December 2007, the General Council of the Pyrénées-Orientales officially recognized the Catalan language as one of the languages of the department in the ARTICLE 1 (a) of its Charte en faveur du Catalan (b), and seek to further promote it in public life and education.

(a) <<ARTICLE 1="" :="" The="" General="" Council="" of="" the="" Pyrénées-Orientales="" officially="" recognizes,="" beside="" French="" language,="" Catalan="" as="" language="" department.="" (="" ')="">></<ARTICLE>

(b) Carta a favor del Català

See also Language policy in France

After the Nueva Planta Decrees, administrative use and education in Catalan was also banned in the territories of the Spanish Kingdom. It was not until the Renaixença that use of the Catalan language started to recover.

In Francoist Spainmarker (1939–1975), the use of Spanish over Catalan was promoted, and public use of Catalan was discouraged by official propaganda campaigns. The use of Catalan in government-run institutions and in public events was banned. During later stages of the Francoist regime, certain folkloric or religious celebrations in Catalan were resumed and tolerated. Use of Catalan in the mass media was forbidden, but was permitted from the early 1950s in the theatre. Publishing in Catalan continued throughout the dictatorship. There was no official prohibition of speaking Catalan in public or in commerce, but all advertising and signage had to be in Spanish alone, as did all written communication in business.

See also Language politics in Spain under Franco

Following the death of Franco in 1975 and the restoration of democracy, the use of Catalan increased partly because of new affirmative action and subsidy policies and the Catalan language is now used in politics, education and the Catalan media, including the newspapers Avui ("Today"), El Punt ("The Point") and El Periódico de Catalunya (sharing content with its Spanish release and with El Periòdic d'Andorra, printed in Andorramarker); and the television channels of Televisió de Catalunya (TVC): TV3, the main channel, and Canal 33/K3 (culture and cartoons channel) as well as a 24-hour news channel 3/24 and the TV series channel 300; in València canal 9 and Punt 2; in the Balearic islands IB3; there are also many local channels available in region in Catalan, such as BTV and 8TV (in the metropolitan area of Barcelona), Barça TV, Canal L'Hospitalet (L'Hospitalet de Llobregat), Canal Terrassa (Terrassa), Televisió de Sant Cugat TDSC (Sant Cugat del Vallès), Televisió de Mataró TVM (Mataró) and Catalan-dubbed television programs.


The ascription of Catalan to the Occitano-Romance branch of Gallo-Romance languages is not shared by all linguists. According to the Ethnologue, its specific classification is as follows:

Catalan bears varying degrees of similarity to languages subsumed under the cover term Occitan. (See also Occitan language: Differences between Occitan and Catalan and Gallo-Romance languages.) As would be expected of closely cognate languages, Catalan also shares numerous features with other Romance languages, with similarities generally decreasing with physical distance.

Geographic distribution

Catalan is spoken in:

All these areas are referred to by some as Catalan Countries (Catalan: Països Catalans), a denomination based on cultural affinity and common heritage, that has also had a subsequent political interpretation but no official status.

Number of Catalan speakers

Territories where Catalan is official (or co-official)

Region Understands Can speak
Cataloniamarker (Spainmarker) 5,837,874 4,602,611
Balearic Islandsmarker (Spainmarker) 733,466 504,349
Valencian Communitymarker (as Valencian) (Spainmarker) 3,473,723 1,966,239
Andorramarker 75,407 61,975
Northern Catalonia (Francemarker) 203,121 125,621
TOTAL 10,359,591 7,260,795

Figures relate to all self-declared capable speakers, not just native speakers.

Other territories

Region Understands Can speak
Alguer (Sardinia, Italymarker) 20,000 17,625
Franja de Ponent 47,250 45,000
El Carxe (Murciamarker) No data No data
Rest of World No data 350,000
TOTAL 417,250 412,625

Figures relate to all self-declared capable speakers, not just native speakers.


Region Understands Can speak
Catalan-speaking territoriesmarker (Europe) 10,426,591 7,327,420
Rest of World No data 350,000
TOTAL 10,776,591 7,673,420

Notes: The number of people who understand Catalan includes those who can speak it.


[[Image:Mapa dialectal del català-valencià.png|thumb|right|250px|Dialectal Map of Catalan Language
Eastern dialects:

Northern Catalan

Central Catalan

Balearic and Alguerese

Western dialects:

North-Western Catalan

Ebrenc Catalan

Valencian]]In 1861, Manuel Milà i Fontanals proposed a division of Catalan into two major dialect blocks: Eastern Catalan and Western Catalan.

The different Catalan dialects show deep differences in lexicon, grammar, morphology and pronunciation due to historical isolation.

Each dialect also encompasses several regional varieties.

There is no precise linguistic border between one dialect and another because there is nearly always a transition zone of some size between pairs of geographically separated dialects (except for dialects specific to an island). The main difference between the two blocks is their treatment of unstressed vowels, in addition to a few other features:
  • Western Catalan (Bloc o Branca del Català Occidental):
    • Unstressed vowels: . Distinctions between e and a and o and u.
    • Initial or post-consonantal x is an affricate (there are exceptions in Xàtiva, xarxa, Xavier, xenofòbia... these are pronounced with ). Between vowels or when final and preceded by i, it is .
    • 1st person present indicative is -e or -o.
    • Latin long and short have become .
    • Inchoative in -ix, -ixen, -isca
    • Maintenance of medieval nasal plural in proparoxytone words: hòmens, jóvens
    • Specific vocabulary: espill, xiquet, granera, melic...
  • Eastern Catalan (Bloc o Branca del Català Oriental):
    • The vowels , and become /ə/ when unstressed and , and become .
    • Initial or post-consonantal x is the fricative . Between vowels or when final and preceded by i it is also .
    • 1st person present indicative is -o, -i or there is no marker.
    • Latin long and short have become (In most of Balearic Catalan they are pronounced and in Alguerese ).
    • Inchoative in -eix, -eixen, -eixi.
    • The -n- of medieval nasal plural is dropped in proparoxytone words: homes, joves.
    • Specific Vocabulary: mirall, noi, escombra, llombrígol...
In addition, neither dialect is completely homogeneous: any dialect can be subdivided into several sub-dialects. Catalan can be subdivided into two major dialect blocks and those blocks into individual dialects:
Western Catalan
  • North-Western Catalan
  • Transitional Valencian or Ebrenc
  • Valencian
    • Castellonenc (from region of Planamarker)
    • Apitxat, or Central Valencian
    • Southern Valencian
    • Alacantí (from the Alicante's metropolitan area and most of Vinalopó valley)
    • Majorcan from Tàrbena and la Vall de Gallinera Valencian municipalities
Eastern Catalan

Standards of Catalan language

There are two main standards for Catalan language, one regulated by the Institut d'Estudis Catalans (IEC), general standard, with Pompeu Fabra's orthography as axis, keeping features from Central Catalan, and the other regulated by the Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua (AVL), restricted scale standard, focused on Valencian standardization on the basis of Normes de Castelló, that is, Pompeu Fabra's orthography but more adapted to Western Catalan pronunciation and features of Valencian dialects.

IEC's Standard, apart from the basis of Central Catalan features, takes also other dialects features considering as standard. Despite this, the most notable difference between both standards is some tonic "e" accentuation, for instance: francès, anglès (IEC) - francés, anglés (AVL) (French, English), cafè (IEC) - café (AVL) (coffee), conèixer (IEC) - conéixer (to know), comprèn (IEC) - comprén (AVL) (he understands). This is because of the different pronunciation of some tonic "e", especially tonic Ē (long "e") and Ǐ (breves "i") from Latin, in both Catalan blocks ( in Eastern Catalan and [e] in Western Catalan). Despite this, AVL's standard keeps grave accent "è", without pronouncing this "e" , in some words like: què (what), València, èter (ether), sèsam (sesame), sèrie (series) and època (age).

There are also some other divergences like the tl use by AVL in some words instead of tll like in ametla/ametlla (almond), espatla/espatlla (back) or butla/butlla (bull), the use of elided demonstratives (este this, eixe that (near)) in the same level as reinforced ones (aquest, aqueix) or the use of many verbal forms common in Valencian, and some of these common in the rest of Western Catalan too, like subjunctive mood or inchoative conjugation in -ix- at the same level as -eix- or the priority use of -e morpheme in 1st person singular in present indicative (-ar verbs): "jo compre" (I buy) instead of "jo compro".

In Balearic Islandsmarker, IEC's standard is used but adapted into Balearic dialect by the University of the Balearic Islands's philological section, Govern de les Illes Balearsmarker's consultative organ. In this way, for instance, IEC says it is correct writing "cantam" as much as "cantem" (we sing) and University says that priority form in Balearic Islands must be "cantam" in all fields. Another feature of Balearic standard is the non-ending in 1st person singular in present indicative: "jo cant" (I sing), "jo tem" (I fear), "jo dorm" (I sleep).

In Algheromarker, the IEC has adapted its standard to the Alguerese dialect. In this standard one can find, among other features: the article lo instead of el, special possessive pronouns and determinants la mia (mine), lo sou/la sua (his/her), lo tou/la tua (yours), and so on, the use of -v- in the imperfect tense in all conjugations: cantava, creixiva, llegiva; the use of many archaic words, usual words in Alguerese: manco instead of menys (less), calqui u instead of algú (someone), qual/quala instead of quin/quina (which), and so on; and the adaptation of weak pronouns.

The status of Valencian

The official language academy of the Valencian Communitymarker (the Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua) considers Catalan and Valencian simply to be two names for the same language. All universities teaching Romance languages, and virtually all linguists, consider these two to be linguistic variants of the same language (similar to Canadian French versus Metropolitan French, and European versus Brazilian Portuguese).

There is a roughly continuous set of dialects covering the various regional forms of Catalan/Valencian, with no break at the border between Catalonia and the Valencian Community, and the various forms of Catalan and Valencian are mutually intelligible even between the most eastern and western varieties. This is not to say that there are no differences between the two and the speech of Valencians is recognizable both in pronunciation as well as in morphological and lexical peculiarities. However, these differences are not any wider than among North-Western Catalan and Eastern Catalan. In fact, Northern Valencian (spoken in the Castelló province and Matarranya valley, a strip of Aragonmarker) is more similar to the Catalan of the lower Ebro basin (spoken in southern half of Tarragona provincemarker and another strip of Aragon) than to apitxat Valencian (spoken in the area of L'Horta, in the province of Valencia).

What gets called a language (as opposed to a dialect) is defined partly by mutual comprehensibility as well as political and cultural factors. In this case, the perceived status of Valencian as a dialect of Catalan has historically had important political implications including Catalan nationalism and the idea of the Països Catalans or Catalan countriesmarker. Arguing that Valencian is a separate language may sometimes be part of an effort by Valencians to resist a perceived Catalan nationalist agenda aimed at incorporating Valencians into what they feel is a "constructed" nationality centered around Barcelona. As such, the issue of whether Catalan and Valencian constitute different languages or merely dialects has been the subject of political agitation several times since the end of the Franco era. The latest political controversy regarding Valencian occurred on the occasion of the drafting of the European Constitution in 2004. The Spanish government supplied the EU with translations of the text into Basque, Galician, Catalan, and Valencian, but the Catalan and Valencian versions were identical Isabel I Vilar, Ferran. “Traducció única de la Constitució europea.” I-Zefir. 30 Oct. 2004. 29 Apr. 2009 />.. While professing the unity of the Catalan language, the Spanish government claimed to be constitutionally bound to produce distinct Catalan and Valencian versions because the Statute of Autonomy of the Valencian Community refers to the language as Valencian. In practice, the Catalan, Valencian, and Balearic versions of the EU constitution are identical: the government of Catalonia accepted the Valencian translation without any changes under the premise that the Valencian standard is accepted by the norms set forth by the IEC.

Catalan may be seen instead as a multi-centric language (much like English); there exist two standards, one for Oriental Catalan, regulated by the IEC, which is centered around Central Catalan (with slight variations to include Balearic verb inflection) and one for Occidental, regulated by the AVL, centered around Valencian.

The AVL accepts the conventions set forth in the Normes de Castelló as the normative spelling, shared with the IEC that allows for the diverse idiosyncrasies of the different language dialects and varieties. As the normative spelling, these conventions are used in education, and most contemporary Valencian writers make use of them. Nonetheless, a small minority mainly of those who advocate for the recognition of Valencian as a separate language, use in a non-normative manner an alternative spelling convention known as the Normes del Puig.

Sounds and writing system


The first descriptive and normative grammar book of modern Catalan was written by Pompeu Fabra in 1918. In 1995 a new grammar by Antoni M. Badía i Margarit was published, which also documents the Valencian and Balearic varieties.

The grammar of Catalan mostly follows the general pattern of Western Romance languages.

Substantives and adjectives are not declined by case, as in Classical Latin. There are two grammatical genders—masculine and feminine.

Grammatical article originally developed from Latin demonstratives. The actual form of the article depends on the gender and the number and the first sounds of the word and can be combined with prepositions that precede them. A unique feature of Catalan is a definite article that may precede personal names in certain contexts. Its basic form is en and it can change according to its environment (the word "en" has also other lexical meanings). One of the common usages of this article is in the word can, a combination of "la casa" shortened to ca (house) and en, which here means "the". For example "la casa d'en Sergi" becomes "Can Sergi" meaning "the house of Sergi", "Sergi's house".

Verbs are conjugated according to tense and mood similarly to other Western Romance languages—present and simple preterite are based on classical Latin, future is formed from infinitive followed by the present form of the auxiliary verb haver (written together and not considered periphrastic), and periphrastic tenses are formed from the conjugated auxiliary verbs haver (to have) and ésser (to be) followed by the past participle. A unique tense in Catalan is the periphrastic simple preterite, which is formed of "vaig", "vares", "va", "vàrem", "vàreu" and "van" (there is the usual wrong idea these forms are the conjugated forms of "anar", which means "to go"), which is followed by the infinitive of the verb. Thus, "Jo vaig parlar" (or more simply "Vaig parlar") means "I spoke".

Nominative pronouns are often omitted, as the person can be usually derived from the conjugated verb. The Catalan rules for combination of the object pronoun clitics with verbs, articles and other pronouns are significantly more complex than in most other Romance languages; see Weak pronouns in Catalan.

Catalan names

Catalan naming customs are similar to those of Spain; a person receives two last names—his father's and his mother's. The two last names are usually separated by the particle "i", meaning "and". (In Spanish the equivalent particle is written y, but often omitted altogether.)

For example, the full name of the architect Antoni Gaudí is Antoni Gaudí i Cornet after his parents: Francesc Gaudí i Serra and Antònia Cornet i Bertran.


Some phrases in the Central dialect -Barcelona and outskirts-:

  • Catalan: català
  • Hello: hola
  • Good-bye: adéu ; adéu siau ; siau ; deu (colloquial use)
  • Please: si us plau or sisplau ; per favor
  • Thank you: gràcies ; mercès ; merci (colloquial use)
  • Sorry: perdó , em sap greu ; ho sento
  • This one: aquest (masc.); aquesta (fem.)
  • How much?: quant val? ; quant és?
  • Yes:
  • No: no
  • I don't understand (it): no (ho) entenc
  • Where's the bathroom?: On és el bany? ; On és el lavabo?
  • Generic toast: salut! ;
  • Bless you! (after sneezing): Jesús ; salut!
  • Do you (2nd person singular) speak Catalan?: (Tu) Parles català?
  • Do you (3rd person singular) speak Catalan?: (Vostè) Parla català?
  • Do you (2nd person plural) speak Catalan?: (Vosaltres) Parleu català?
  • Do you (3nd person plural) speak Catalan?: (Vostès) Parlen català?
The same phrases pronounced as in the standard Valencian:

  • Valencian: valencià
  • Hello: hola
  • Good-bye: adéu
  • Please: per favor
  • Thank you: gràcies
  • Sorry: perdó ; ; ho sent or ho lamente
  • This one: este (masc.); esta (fem.)
  • How much?: quant val? ; quant és?
  • Yes:
  • No: no
  • I don't understand: no ho entenc
  • Where's the bathroom?: on és el bany?
  • Generic toast: salut!
  • Bless you! (after sneezing): Jesús! ; salut!
  • Do you speak Valencian?: parles valencià?

Learning Catalan

  • Digui, digui... Curs de català per a estrangers. A Catalan Handbook. — Alan Yates and Toni Ibarz. — Generalitat de Catalunya. Departament de Cultura, 1993. -- ISBN 84-393-2579-7.
  • Teach Yourself Catalan. — Alan Yates. — McGraw-Hill, 1993. — ISBN 0340194995.
  • Colloquial Catalan. — Toni Ibarz and Alexander Ibarz. — Routledge, 2005. — ISBN 0-415-23412-3.
  • speakcat On-line basic course
  • Parla.Cat The Official free on-line complete course
Catalan courses are offered at a number of universities in Europe and North America.

Voluntaris per la Llengua is a Catalan language learning programme.

English words of Catalan origin

See also


  1. L'interdiction de la langue catalane en Roussillon par Louis XIV; taken from the website "CRDP de l'académie de Montpellier"
  2. Charte en faveur du Catalan
  3. Carta a favor de la llengua i la cultura catalanes
  4. Marc Howard Ross, "Cultural Contestation in Ethnic Conflict", page 139. Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  5. The Resurgence of Catalan Earl W. Thomas Hispania, Vol. 45, No. 1 (Mar., 1962), pp. 43–48 doi:10.2307/337523
  6. Orden del Excmo. Sr. Gobernador Civil de Barcelona. EL USO DEL IDIOMA NACIONAL EN TODOS LOS SERVICIOS PÚBLICOS. 1940.
  7. Ethnologue Report
  8. Sources: *Catalonia: Statistic data of 2001 census, from Institut d'Estadística de Catalunya, Generalitat de Catalunya [1]. * Land of Valencia: Statistical data from 2001 census, from Institut Valencià d'Estadística, Generalitat Valenciana [2]. * Land of Valencia: Statistical data from 2001 census, from Institut Valencià d'Estadística, Generalitat Valenciana [3]. * Balearic Islands: Statistical data from 2001 census, from Institut Balear d'Estadística, Govern de les Illes Balears [4]. * Northern Catalonia: Media Pluriel Survey commissioned by Prefecture of Languedoc-Roussillon Region done in October 1997 and published in January 1998 [5]. * Andorra: Sociolinguistic data from Andorran Government, 1999. * Aragon: Sociolinguistic data from Euromosaic [6]. * Alguer: Sociolinguistic data from Euromosaic [7]. * Rest of World: Estimate for 1999 by the Federació d'Entitats Catalanes outside the Catalan Countries.
  9. Dictamen de l'Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua sobre els principis i criteris per a la defensa de la denominació i l'entitat del valencià - Report from Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua about denomination and identity of Valencian.

External links


About the Catalan language

Monolingual dictionaries

Bilingual and multilingual dictionaries

Automated translation systems


Learning resources

Catalan-language online encyclopedia

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