Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Catalan from Philip's Encyclopedia

Romance language spoken mainly in NE Spain, but also in the Balearic Islands, Andorra, and S France. There are c.6 million speakers.


Summary Article: CATALAN from Dictionary of Languages
6,500,000 SPEAKERS

Spain

Like the other major ROMANCE LANGUAGES, Catalan grew out of the Latin of the Roman Empire, and it shows strong similarities both with Spanish to the west and with Occitan to the north. After centuries of decline Catalan has now emerged as the language of the autonomous region of Catalunya, established in 1979.

When the Kingdom of Aragon and the County of Catalonia were united in 1137 Catalan became the language of a major state, one with interests and connections far across the Mediterranean. The language remained important administratively until the 15th century, when the centre of power moved successively to Aragon and then to Castile, where Spanish was spoken. Since then the prestige of Catalan has depended on the success of movements for local autonomy, which first gained momentum in the late 19th century.

The language of lyric poetry in early medieval Catalonia was Provençal (Occitan). Catalan literature developed later, and is important for its prose, including the chronicles of Bernat Desclot and Ramon Muntaner and the political writings of Francesc Eiximenis.

Catalan and Occitan

Standard Catalan is based on the language of Barcelona, an Eastern dialect: others in this group are Roussillonais and Mallorquí. The dialect of Alghero in Sardinia also belongs here: Alghero has been a Catalan-speaking enclave since the 14th century. The major Western dialect is Valencian (see map at OCCITAN).

OCCITAN (Provençal) has no single widely accepted standard, in spite of the efforts of many activists. The numerous dialects range from Provençal and Languedocien in the south to Limousin in the neighbourhood of Limoges.

Quite distinct is Gascon, notable for its unusual sound changes, such as the replacement of Latin f by h, a feature shared with BASQUE.

A group of dialects transitional between French and Occitan, Franco-Provençal, is spoken in south-eastern France near the Swiss and Italian borders. Its territory covers the Italian autonomous district of Aosta, where there are about 70,000 speakers.

Numerals in the Iberian languages

Calician

Portuguese

Spanish

Catalan

un, unha

um, uma

1

uno, una

un, una

dous, duas

dois

2

dos

dos, dues

tres

tres

3

tres

tres

catro

quatro

4

quatro

quatre

cinco

cinco

5

cinco

cinc

seis

seis

6

seis

sis

sete

sete

7

siete

set

oito

otio

8

ocho

vuit

nove

nove

9

nueve

nou

dez

dez

10

diez

deu

Dictionary of Languages © 1998 + 2004

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article CATALAN
Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature

The Middle Ages and the Baroque Period The first examples of Catalan erotic literature are to be found in the Middle Ages, when the...

Full text Article Catalan
The Penguin English Dictionary

/katəlan/ noun 1 a native or inhabitant of Catalonia, region of NW Spain. 2 the Romance language of Catalonia, Valencia, and...

Full text Article Catalan
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

A Romance language spoken by about five million people in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands in Spain, Andorra, and the Roussillon region of...

See more from Credo