Languages of Spain: Catalan

September 16, 2019 10:30 am

Catalan (Català) is a Romance language closely related to the Occitan language of southern France and to Spanish, but it is clearly distinct from both. It is spoken in eastern and northeastern Spain, mainly in Catalonia (Catalunya), Valencia (Comunitat Valenciana) and the Balearic Islands (Illes Balears). But it is also spoken in the Roussillon region of France, in Andorra (where it is the official language) and in the city of Alghero (in Sardinia, Italy). It counts with over 9 million of speakers.

The earliest surviving written materials in Catalan date from the 12th century. The poetry flourished in the 13th century when it also began to appear in writing; scientific, philosophical, financial, religious, legal, literary and historical documents.

After the Spanish Succession War (1705 and 1715), Philip V abolished all the government institutions that existed in Catalonia and implemented Spanish laws throughout the country. Catalan then went through various periods of prohibition and repression.

In the 19th century a new period started: the Renaissance (Renaixença). The Renaixença meant the recovery period of the economy and culture of national matters and values. Catalan was reborn as well as the language of literary culture thanks to the Floral Games (Jocs Florals), a poetry contest. The Renaixença raised awareness of the lack of unity in the use of the language (as 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.

In the late 20th century, Catalonia achieved greater autonomy and Catalan was revived as the main language in Catalonia for politics, education and public life in general. It also achieved being a co-official language along with Spanish in 1978.



Catalan. Ethnologue. Accessed August 17, 2019.

Catalan. Accessed August 17, 2019.

Catalan (català). Catalan language, alphabet and pronunciation. Accessed August 17, 2019.

Languages. BBC. Accessed August 17, 2019.

Posner R, Sala M. Catalan language. Encyclopædia Britannica. Accessed August 17, 2019.

Written by Maria Blanca Escudero Fontan, trainee in the Direction of the Directorate B and in TermCoord. Holds a Degree in Translation and Interpretation ( Universidade de Vigo) and a MA in International Studies (USC).





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