Languages of Spain's separatist regions: Basque and Catalan
Over the course of history, languages and their evolution have proven to be an accelerator of brawls between nations, as language happens to be the one common denominator for different groups inhabiting the same area that we actually call a nation. Language is an identification mark of affiliation and there are still languages in Europe that bear the nation-building agenda, even in 2017. Examples of such languages are those of Basque and Catalan, the Spain's rebellious regions.
Basque is a language spoken by people in a geographic area in northeastern Spain stretching into parts of southwestern France. Over the past centuries, this region has contracted. Recently, as a result of the Basque nationalistic movement, the language has made a slight comeback. Basque is, in fact, a rather interesting language, as it is an isolated language and is not even remotely similar to any known existing language in the world. Presumably, Basque happens to be one of the few pre-Indo-European languages, the only one remaining in use in Western Europe.
Several dialects of Basque exist, however, the main dialect is Euskara Batua, a standard introduced in the 1960s that is generally taught in Basque schools. Basque is spoken by a little less than one million people. The language has co-official status in the Basque regions of Spain, but has no official status in the French regions.
During the era of Francoist Spain, the language was reluctantly tolerated in the Basque regions that supported the uprising of Franco, yet frowned-upon in those regions where the uprising gained little support.
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Catalan is a Romance language with somewhere between 9 and 10 million speakers, but not necessarily native. It is the official language of Andorra and enjoys co-official status in a few Spanish communities, mainly on Spain's east coast, among others in Valencia, where it is called Valencian, or in the Balearic Islands. Similar to Spanish, Catalan also originates from Vulgar Latin. It reached its golden era in medieval times, particularly the Low Middle Ages, when it spread through the Mediterranean. It was used as an official language even in Sicily (until the 15th century) and Sardinia (until the 17th century), while the city of Alghero in Sardinia still tends to use Catalan until the present day.
The decline of Catalan, that in fact still continues, can be traced back to a specific historical event, the union of Castille and Aragon crowns in 1479, which caused an increasing influence of Spanish in the region. Yet another blow came in 1659, when the northern parts of the Catalonia region was ceded to France. Not only did the language come under the influence of French, it was even drastically prohibited from public use, with efforts to revive Catalan literature coming no sooner than in the half of 19th century.
The language was banned in use yet again during the Francoist era and has been recognized as an official language only after Spain's transition to democracy.
Nowadays, there are efforts to revive the language, among others by the French General Council of Pyrénées-Orientales (who introduced Catalan as one of the official languages of the department), to further promote it in public life and education. This seems to be necessary, as statistical research showed a quite dramatic decline of the population in the Catalan region that self-identifies primarily with Catalan (from 44.3% in 2003 to only 36.4% in 2013), which is believed to be caused by immigration, mainly from Arabic-speaking countries. A share of Catalonia's annual budget is poured into promoting the use of Catalan and integration of newcomers. Another issue is that the Catalan-speakers are actually becoming extinct and outside Catalonia itself the language is being replaced by the stronger national languages such as Spanish, French and Italian.
Catalan uses the Latin alphabet and uses acute accents (é, í, ó, ú) as well as grave accents (à, è, ò).
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