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Iberian Romance languages: Map


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This article is about a subdivision of the Romance language family. For the broader group of languages spoken in the Iberian Peninsulamarker, see Iberian languages.

The formation of Iberian Romance languages followed, more or less, this process:

  • A common Romance language with dialectal differences was spoken throughout the ancient Roman Empire. During this stage, we can speak of the Romance language, although it was probably somewhat different from one region to another. It can still be called Popular or Vulgar Latin.

  • From this point on, the Romance languages on the Iberian Peninsulamarker followed a distinct path:

* Separation of East Iberian (Catalan) on one side of the peninsula from West Iberian Romance on the other. Catalan is sometimes regarded as a transition language between Iberian Romance and Gallo-Romance languages. Indeed, the ascription of Catalan to the Ibero-Romance languages is not shared by all linguists, since others prefer to group it with the closely related Occitan language in the Occitano-Romance branch of Gallo-Romance.
* West Iberian Romance split into Castilian (Spanish) and Leonese in central Iberia, and Galician-Portuguese in western Iberia.

During this stage a group of Romance dialects collectively known as Mozarabic were spoken in Moorish Iberiamarker. With the Christian Reconquest of the peninsula, they were replaced with the Iberian Romance languages of the north, becoming extinct. Another language close to Mozarabic, Aragonese, still has some speakers today. Mozarabic and Aragonese are classified by linguists as Pyrenean-Mozarabic, a separate group from Iberian Romance and Gallo-Romance.

History and official status

[[Image:Languages of Spain.svg|thumb|450px|The languages of Spain (simplified)

It is important to note that power structures enormously influenced the formation of the Iberian languages. If kingdoms and states had formed in a different fashion, there could now be a single Galician-Portuguese language, or a multiplicity of languages. This political aspect was important in the development of every language.

  • Spanish/Castilian: The Crown of Castile pushed for Castilian to be considered the Spanish language, which it is today. However, it did not abolish other languages within Spainmarker.
  • Portuguese and Galician: Because Portugalmarker became independent in the 12th century while Galiciamarker remained subject to the Kingdom of Leon, political and sociolinguistic factors have caused them to be considered separate languages.
  • Catalan: The political structure and strength of the Crown of Aragon made Catalan a language of culture, science, and literature. Its importance diminished for some centuries, but the desire for more autonomy for Cataloniamarker has given it renewed importance (it never ceased to be the language of a majority of the Catalan population up to the 20th century). It is now the official language of three of the four main regions of the former possessions of the Crown of Aragon, as well as of the independent state of Andorramarker. It is also still spoken in other enclaves.
  • The fact that Galicia and Catalonia are a part of Spain makes their languages prone to Castilian influences, especially in large urban centers such as Barcelona in Catalonia and Coruña in Galicia.
  • Minoritary languages like Asturian, Leonese, and Aragonese came to be regarded as mere dialects of Spanish by most people, although they are Romance variants with enough distinct features to be ranked as separate languages.
  • On the other hand, in modern times, some authors have argued that subvarieties of Catalan, Galician, Asturian and Leonese, such as Valencian, Eonavian, and Mirandese, should be classified as separate languages.

Thus, there are four major officially recognized Romance languages in Iberia today:

  • Catalan-Valencian-Balearic, originated from East Iberian Romance, which separated from West Iberian at an early stage in the development of the Iberian Romance languages. Closely related to Occitan, it has many dialects and is spoken by about 7 million people, mostly in five variants: Central Catalan, Northern Catalan, Valencian and Balearic.

  • Galician, originated from the medieval Galician-Portuguese language. It has had a strong influence from Castilian.

  • Portuguese, originated from a common Galician-Portuguese language. It is currently the sixth most widely spoken language in the world, with more than 200 million speakers.

  • Spanish (also called Castilian) originated from the common West Iberian Romance along with Galician-Portuguese, with some influence from Mozarabic and Basque. It is now spoken by an estimated 392 million people throughout the world.

Additionally, there are three main groups of minor Romance languages, Bable, recognized by Asturias, Leonese language, recognized by Castile and León, Aragonese, and Occitan (in its Aranese dialect, officially recognized by Catalonia).

Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan and Occitan have the status of international languages, being officially spoken in more than one state:
  • Catalan: Andorra and Spain (it is also spoken by about 100,000 people in Francemarker and members of the older generations of one town in Sardinia, Algheromarker);
  • Occitan: official in small regions of Spain (under the name of Aranese) and Italymarker;
  • Portuguese: official in eight independent countries (see Geographic distribution of Portuguese);
  • Spanish: many countries throughout the world.

See also

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