Wow … what a week! Moving prevented me from getting this post earlier, but I’m ready to jump right into the last language of the blog and wrap up Part One.
The language we’re ending with is Catalan! It’s spoken by over nine million, primarily in Andorra (where it is an official language), the Catalonia region in Spain and a few southern regions in France. It’s in the Western side of the Romance language family, like Spanish, French and Portuguese.
REGIONAL HISTORY: Catalan first arose in the 10th and 11th centuries. It descended from Vulgar Latin, the mother language of Spanish and Portuguese. Around the same time, the country of Andorra and the now Spanish province of Catalonia, where Catalan is mainly spoken, were forming. Catalonia declared independence from the Barcelona counts in 989. Andorra eventually became independent in 1278 through a treaty between the Bishop of Urgell in Catalonia and the Count of Foix in France.
Andorra’s history is almost exclusively tied to Spain and France’s. The country was co-ruled between its neighbors up until the 20th century. Catalonia held on to its independence before officially becoming part of the Spanish kingdom in the 1700s. Catalan was later banned in parts of France and Spain. However, it went through a major revival in the 1800s by a movement called the Renaixença, in which Catalan language and culture flourished.
Catalan is now recognized as an official language in parts of Spain, most notably Catalonia, and to a lesser extent in parts of France. Andorra is one of the most prosperous nations in Europe with a booming tourism industry and Catalonia recovered its autonomy after the Spanish adopted a new constitution in 1978.
WRITING SYSTEM: A Latin alphabet, of course. Catalan has 27 letters, just one more than English’s. I was able to find a helpful guide from Wikibooks, which I used for describing their pronunciations. A letter with no notes means that it has the same sound as in English, approximately:
a – a as in father when stressed; schwa sound otherwise
b – like the English b but softer; p sound when at the end of words
ç – soft c as in ceiling
d – t as in tile at the end of words, th elsewhere
e – e as in pencil or ai as in paint when stressed; schwa sound otherwise
h – silent
i – y as in you before vowels, e as in bee normally
k – mostly in foreign words
r – trilled like Spanish r
s – like English s, but z sound when between vowels
u – u as in lute; a w sound when before vowels
v – b as in ball, but softer
x – sh as in ship
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Catalan sort of reminds me of a softer version of Spanish. From listening to it briefly, it seems to flow like Castillian Spanish, maybe even Italian. Bits and pieces of French seem to be noticeable more so in the vocabulary. It seems very elegant; perhaps a nice mix of Spanish and French, but it stands out.
To leave you with a taste, here’s a wonderful, spirited video by Catalan singer Cesk Freixas. Enjoy!
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