Challenge to the use of Catalan in Aragon


Gliog an seo gus an aiste seo leughadh sa Ghàidhlig
Click here tae read this airticle in Scots

Gaelic and Scots speakers sometimes look enviously at the status and position achieved by that other minoritised language, Catalan.  However Catalan has only secured these gains in the territory of Catalunya itself.  The Catalan language is widely spoken in other autonomous communities of the Spanish state, and here the standing of the language is rather more precarious.

The autonomous community of Aragon which borders Catalunya to the west is linguistically diverse.  Throughout most of the province people speak local varieties of Castilian Spanish but along the border with Catalunya is a strip of territory known as the Franja where Catalan is the everyday language, while in the valleys of the Pyrenees many people speak one of a distinctive group of dialects known collectively as Aragonese.  In recent decades attempts have been made to produce a standard spelling and orthography for Aragonese and it is recognised by linguists as a language in its own right.  

In recognition of this diversity, the previous Aragonese administration passed a language law, recognising the use of Aragonese and Catalan in those districts where they are spoken and offering a measure of official support and recognition for the languages.

The recent Spanish Spanish elections saw a change in many regional and local governments throughout the country.  The unpopular economic decisions adopted by the ruling PSOE which forms the national government led many to lend their support to the main opposition party, the conservative Partido Popular.  In the autonomous community of Aragon the Partido Popular took control of the regional government along with allies in the right wing Partido Aragonés Regionalista.

The new administration has now announced that it will overturn the existing language law, stripping Catalan and Aragonese of their status.  The new government claims that it will introduce legislation to promote “an active policy of preservation and fostering our linguistic modalities”  without specifying what these “linguistic modalities” actually are.  The PP manifesto also promised that it would give Castilian Spanish the unique position of “the common Aragonese language”.  

The move strips Catalan and Aragonese of their positions as officially recognised languages and threatens to dialectalise them by recognising only different local varieties which would each be considered without reference to its larger linguistic context.  This will effectively prevent any official use of these languages and put severe restrictions on their use in education.

The Catalan sociolinguist Natxo Sorolla, who has studied the linguistic situation in the Catalan speaking districts of Aragon, highlighted in a recent report that the PP in Aragon display a vehemently anti-bilingual policy and do not disguise their intentions of imposing Spanish language monolingualism.  

Catalan language rights have made great strides over the past decades, but for many Catalan speakers, the struggle for recognition of their language continues.