Answers to the Languages of Spain Post

Map of the languages of Spain.
Map of the languages of Spain.

There are nine languages in the map above.

You folks were not able to answer all nine of them correctly, so I will give you the answers.

Pink – Catalan

Light green – Aranese or Occitan (no one got this one)

Purple – Aragonese (no one got this one)

Aquamarine – Basque

Red – Castillian

Green – Asturian-Leonese

Yellow – Galician

Dark green – Extremaduran (no one got this one)

Brown – Fala (no one got this one)

Aranese is the Aranese dialect of Occitan which is either a separate language or a dialect of Occitan depending on how you look at it. Fala is actually a dialect of Galician but it is considered a language for sociopolitical reasons. There is another part of the dark green Extremaduran language which is typically not recognized. This is Cantabrian, spoken to the east of the green Asturian-Leonese area and to the west of the aquamarine  Basque area.

Mutual Intelligiblility in the Romance Family (Reading)

Just a personal anecdote. I have been reading a lot of Italian lately (with the help of Google Translate). I already read Spanish fairly well. I have studied French, Portuguese and Italian, and I can read Portuguese and French to some extent, Portuguese better than French.
But I confess that I am quite lost with Italian. This is worse than French and worse than Portuguese. A couple weeks of wading through this stuff hasn’t made me understand it any better.
Portuguese and Galician are said to be so close that they are a single language. I don’t agree with that at all, but they are very close, much closer to Spanish and Portuguese. Intelligibility may be on the order of 80-90%.
Nevertheless, the other day I tried to read a journal article on Galician. It looked like it was written in Portuguese, and who would write in Galician anyway? I copied the whole thing into Google Translate and let it ride. I waded through the whole article, and I must say it was a disaster. I had a very hard time understanding many of the main points of the article.
Then I remembered that Translate works on Galician now, so I decided on an off chance that the guy may have written the piece in Galician for some nutty reason. I ran it through Translate using Galician as target. The article went through perfectly. You could understand the whole thing. It was then that I realized how far apart Portuguese and Galician really are.
You can try some other experiments.
Occitan is said to be nearly intelligible with Spanish or maybe even French, better if you know both. There’s no Google Translate for Occitan yet, but I had to deal with a lot of Occitan texts recently. I couldn’t make heads or tails of them despite by Romance reading background. So I tried using Translate to turn them into Spanish or French. French was a total wreck, and there was no point even bothering with that. Spanish was much better, but even that was a serious mess.
Now we come to the crux. Catalan and Occitan are said to be so close that they are nearly one language. Translate now works in Catalan. So I ran the Occitan texts through Translate using Catalan. The result was a serious mess, but you could at least understand some of what the Occitan texts were about. But no way on Earth were those the same languages.
People keep saying that if you can read Spanish, you can read Portuguese. It’s not true, but you can see why people say it. Try this. Take a Spanish text and run it through Translate using the Portuguese filter. Now take a Portuguese text and run it through Translate using the Spanish filter. See what a mess you end up with!
Despite the fact that I can read Spanish pretty well, I have tried to read texts in Aragonese, Asturian, Extremaduran, Leonese and Mirandese. These are so close that some even say that they are dialects of Spanish. But even if you read Spanish, you can’t really read any of those languages, and they are all separate languages, I assure you. Sure, you get some of it, but not enough, and it’s a very frustrating experience.
There are texts on the Net in something called Churro or Xurro. It’s a Valencian-Aragonese transitional dialect spoken around Teruel in Aragon in Spain. It also has a lot of Old Castillian and a ton of regular Castillian in it. Wikipedia will tell you it’s a Spanish dialect. Running it through both the Spanish and Catalan filters didn’t work and ended up with train wrecks. I doubt if Xurro is a dialect of either Catalan or Spanish. It’s probably a separate language.
There is another odd lect spoken in the same region called Chappurriau. It is spoken in Aguaviva in Teruel in the Franca Strip. The Catalans say these people speak Catalan, but the speakers say that their language is not Catalan. Intelligibility with Catalan is said to be good. So effectively this is a Catalan dialect.
I found some Chappurriau texts on the Net and ran them through Translate using Catalan as the output. The result was an unreadable disaster, and I couldn’t really figure out what they were saying. Then I tried the Spanish filter, and that was even worse. I am starting to think that maybe Chappurriau is a separate language as its speakers say and not a Catalan dialect after all.
I conclude that the ability to cross read across the Romance languages is much exaggerated.
Not only that, but many Romance microlanguages, transitional dialects and lects that are supposedly dialects of larger languages may actually be separate languages.

How To Divide Languages from Dialects – Structure or Intelligibility?

There are many ways of dividing languages from dialects. The three general methods are:

1. Historical

2. Structural

3. Intelligibility

The traditional method has tended to utilize structural and sometimes historical, but intelligibility is also often used. For an example of historical, let us look at some lects in France and Spain.

The various “patois” of French, incorrectly called dialects of French, are more properly called the langues d’oil. It is often said that they are not dialtects of French for historical reasons. Each of the major langues d’oil, instead of breaking off from French Proper (really the Parisien langue d’oil) had a separate genesis.

This is what happened. France was originally Celtic speaking. Around 700-800, the Celtic languages began being replaced by vulgar Latin. People didn’t travel around in those days, so a separate form of vulgar Latin + Celtic evolved in each region of France: Gallo and Angevin in the northwest, Poitevin and Saintongeais in the west, Norman and Picard in the north, Champenois, Franche-Compte and Lorrain in the east, Berrichon, Tourangeau and Orleanais in the center. None of these split off from French (Parisien)!

Each one of them evolved independently straight up from vulgar Latin on top of  a Celtic base in their region from 700-1200 or so. The distance between the langues d’oil and French is almost as deep as between English and Frisian.

After French was made the official language of France in 1539, the langues d’oil came under French influence, but that was just borrowing, not genetics.

In addition, in Spain, there are various languages that are not historically related to Spanish. Aragonese is straight up from vulgar Latin on a Basque base, later influenced by Mozarabic. Catalan started evolving around 700 or so. Murcian evolved from vulgar Latin later influenced by Mozarabic, Catalan and Aragonese. Extremaduran, Leonese and Asturian also broke off very early. None of these are historically Spanish dialects because none of them broke away from Spanish!

Of course it follows that langues d’oil, Catalan and Aragonese, evolving independently of French and Spanish from 700-1200 to present, will have deep structural differences between themselves and French and Spanish.

So you can see that the historical way of splitting languages ties in well with the structural method. Where languages have a deep historical split and a millenia or so of independent development, it follows logically that some deep structural differences would have evolved in a thousand years or so. So these two methods are really wrapping around each other.

Now we get to intelligibility. Intelligibility actually ties in well to structural analyses. Linguists who say we divide on structure and not on intelligibility are being silly. Where you have deep structural differences between Lect A and Lect B, it logically follows that you have intelligibility problems. Profound structural differences between two lects makes it hard for one to understand the other. The differential structure really gets in the way of understanding. So once again, one method is wrapping around the other.

As we can see, historical, structural and intelligibility analyses of splitting languages all tend to be part of the same process, that is, they are all talking about the same thing. And they will tend to reach similar conclusions when it comes to splitting languages.

Does Language Learning Carry Over to New Languages?

Not nearly as much as one might think.

For instance, I am relatively well versed in the Romance languages. I can read Spanish quite well, but not fluently. I can read a bit of French. And I have studied reading Italian and Portuguese for a bit.

So one would think that with all that Romance under my belt, I could just jump right into some new Romance languages and read them just like that, right?

Not so fast now.

Lately I have been going through lots and lots of Occitan texts on the Net. Occitan is approximately between Spanish and French. Honestly, I can’t make heads or tails of Occitan. Sometimes I can pick out a bit of information that I am looking very hard for, but mostly I just throw up my hands. My online translator calls Occitan “Catalan” and tries to translate it into English. Some say that Catalan and Occitan are one language. According to my translator, that is not so. Running the Catalan translator through Occitan fixes it up a bit, but it still leaves a gigantic steaming mess on the page. It’s nearly useless.

With Portuguese, Spanish and French, one would think Catalan would be a breeze, right? Think again. My translator is almost always able to grab it, but sometimes it can’t. When it can’t, I am stuck with Catalan and I am well and truly lost. Once again, I just throw up my hands. Obviously, it looks like some kind of Iberian language, but it’s so screwed up and crazy that you just don’t want to bother with it.

It’s said that Aragonese is nearly a Spanish dialect. Intelligibility is on the order of 80%. But try reading an Aragonese text sometime. It’s clearly derived from something like Spanish, but it’s so screwed up and crazy that you just want to run away from it. Try to read it and you are quickly lost and angry. My online translator thinks that Aragonese is Spanish. Run Aragonese through the Spanish translator and it fixes it up a bit, but it still a crazy mess and you can’t make a lot of sense of it.

Galician is a sort of Portuguese-Spanish hybrid that is often intelligible to many Spanish speakers. But don’t bother with trying to read Galician texts. They’re a frustrating mess. I dipped into it a bit, but it’s so screwed up and confusing that I quickly gave up.

One would think that with a bit of French under the belt, one could pick up on the various French patois of the langues d’oil. Forget it. It looks like a chaotic disaster on the page. The translator calls the various patois French. Running them through a French translator in general doesn’t really improve matters all that much. It’s still a messy disaster.

The moral to the story is don’t think that semi-getting a few languages under your belt is going to help you even with reading closely related languages. Things are not so simple.

Militant Secessionist and Autonomist Movements in Europe

We already went over the IRA struggle in a previous post.

I support most of these movements.

I support the armed Corsicans in Corsica fighting for independence from France. They are very careful about their bombs and bullets and rarely even hurt an innocent person, much less kill one. They mostly blow up unoccupied second homes being built on the coast. Sometimes there are people in the homes. In that case, they evacuate them so they can blow it up. Sometimes they strafe police cars and police stations, but that usually doesn’t cause any casualties. Sometimes they bomb police stations, but that usually doesn’t cause any casualties either.

I can hardly think of a more moral guerrilla movement. All they do is cause property damage and scare people. So what?

I also support the ETA in the Basque Country. They’ve declared a cease-fire anyway, and since then, they’ve been hit with endless raids and arrests. If that’s the way it’s going to be, why not take up arms again? Even when they were fighting, they just killed security forces and sometimes a few traitors. They gave ample warning of all their bombs so people could get out of the way.

Plus all of the Basque pro-independence youth movements and political parties have been outlawed as “wings of the ETA.” There are continuous arrests of these unarmed militants. Now that peaceful struggle is outlawed, why not take up arms again? However, the Basque language is in quite good shape these days. They have really turned things around in the past 30 years. It’s not in good shape in France, but even there, things are looking up.

The truth is that Spain and France are basically fascist countries. The fascists never left power in Italy, Spain or Portugal. They’ve been ruled by the Hard Right behind the scenes ever since fascism started. That’s who really runs those countries, no matter how many ruling “Socialist” parties there are. That’s why the Basques and Corsicans have to fight. Until they get a vote for self-determination, they need to fight.

It’s true that Spain has done better than France. Basque, Aranese and Catalan are recognized as official languages of France. The Catalan government mandates schooling in Catalan, TV and radio is in Catalan, signs must be bilingual, etc. This reasonable state of affairs has caused the Spanish speakers to rise up and scream that they are being discriminated against by Catalan fascists. Ridiculous, no?

I also support the Catalan movement, but it’s generally unarmed these days. Surely, they have a right to self-determination too? The Catalan language is actually in pretty good shape, but the Catalans are always screaming about it anyway. There are a few warning signs here and there, and there’s some hostility to Catalan on the part of local governments, especially in Murcia, France, the Balearic Islands and Valencia.

In Brittany, the movement is in very bad shape. I support autonomy there, not independence. The armed movement is dead. A bomb in a MacDonald’s in 2001 killed a young girl employee, and since then, the Breton movement has been more or less unarmed due to public revulsion over the act. The Bretons were very careful to try not to hurt innocent people with their bombs, but it looks like in this case, they fucked up.

There’s a pretty simple solution to all of these conflicts. Just give the separatists or autonomists a vote. In Brittany, they want simple stuff like Breton classes or bilingual or immersion programs in school. They badly need this because frankly, the Breton language is in catastrophic shape.

The French have always resisted this, a centralizing tendencies dating back to Jacobinism. The French Left has always been infected with Jacobinism due to the history of their Left, hence the somewhat fascist nature of the French Left. They frequently attack movements for minority languages as a reactionary indulgence.

Unfortunately, Jacobinism has sunk deep roots into the French body politic, and most French are Jacobins out of instinct alone it seems. At this point, they are probably genetically selecting for it.

Catalan TV


This is the first video I have uploaded that shows the Catalan language.

I could only make out a few words here and there, and I was helped by the visuals about what they were describing. If this was on the radio, I would have done a lot worse. Keep in mind I can understand Spanish pretty well. If you understand Spanish, you most definitely cannot understand Catalan very well! It is for sure a completely different language. Also note that there are many complaints that Catalan TV uses a heavily Castillianized version of Catalan. If this is what the Castillianized version sounds like, I’d hate to hear the pure Catalan.

If any of you speak French, it might be interesting to play this video and see if you can pick up any more of this language than I can coming from Spanish. The best way to listen to it is to not watch the video, just listen to it like it’s on the radio.

On the other hand, I heard a guy speaking a short video about Catalan in which he spoke very slowly and carefully, and I could actually figure out a good part of it.

A Rather Subjective Analysis of European Minority Languages

One way to see how well European minority languages is if you run a popular website that gets a lot of hits from all over Europe. I run one here on my old site, which is in the top 1200 blogs on the Internet (This blog is also in the top 1200).
If you have a good weblog (a weblog allows a webmaster to monitor all of the visitors from your site), and I do, you can see what languages people are using on their browsers. When browsers come to the site, they are marked with language tracking. I am not sure if that is a language preference for webpages or if it is the language that the browser itself is written in.
Minority lanugages are languages that are not the main spoken language of the country or languages that only have a small speaker base. In this piece, we will be dealing with Irish, Welsh, Catalan, Basque, Galician and Luxemburgish. Those I am quite sure are offered as language versions of the major browsers.
Luxemburgish: Luxemburgish is the official language of Luxemburg, however, there are worries about it due to the small speaker base of only around 500,000. Further, there is a problem in that not enough new and technological words are coming into the language. Most browsers from Luxemburg are using the Luxemburgish language, so the language seems to be in pretty good shape.
Catalan: Catalan is the most popular of the remaining five. However, considering how many readers I get from the Catalan region, very few Catalans are using Catalan browsers. Most are using Spanish language browsers. So the situation of Catalan does not look so good.
Irish: I am amazed that there are any Irish browsers at all, but now and then, we do get one from Ireland. Needless to say, nearly all browsers from Ireland are using English. Still, everyone knows that Irish is in bad shape. Considering there are Irish browsers at all, I think Irish is in better shape than we think it is.
Galician: I was quite shocked to find a few Galician browsers out there coming out of Galicia in the far northwest of Spain. This language is probably in better shape than people think it is. Most Galician browsers use Spanish.
Welsh: Considering that most reports indicate that Welsh is doing pretty well, I was surprised that one almost never sees a Welsh browser. Almost all browsers coming out of Wales use English. I wonder if Welsh is in as good a shape as people say it is considering the dearth of Welsh browsers.
Basque: I have yet to see a Basque browser! If browsers are indeed offered in Basque (uncertain) this is very bad news. I get quite a bit of traffic out of the Basque country, and 100% of the time, Basque users are using Spanish as their browser language. Things don’t look good for the Basque language.
I can’t speak of other small languages in Europe because in general, browsers are not offered in those languages.
This was an interesting little experiment though.

Yet More Romance Intelligibility Figures

From here.

I happen to agree with these figures. The figures involve the intelligibility of various Romance languages, spoken and written, for speakers of Spanish.

Intelligibility for Spanish speakers, oral: 77% of Galician, 55% of Catalan, 54% of Portuguese, 25% of Italian, 1-5% of French and many Italian dialects.

Written: 93% of Galician, 90% of Catalan, 85% of Portuguese, 50% of Italian, 16% of French.

As you can see, the figures are much higher for written than spoken language. This makes a lot of sense. With my fluent Spanish and some knowledge of Portuguese, French and Italian, I can pick up a fair amount of the written text of any Romance language.

Orally though, I’m typically pretty lost. The best ones are those that are closest to Spanish, such as Andalucian dialect, Aragonese, Asturian and Galician. Leonese is a lot different, heading towards Portuguese. You get to Catalan and Occitan and I start having lots of problems. Portuguese is way harder than you might think, even with my rudimentary Portuguese. Standard Italian as spoken slowly by say a documentary narrator is a bit better.  Street Italian is nearly useless to me, as is Spoken French, Romansch, Romanian, Italian dialects and hard Andalucian.

It’s very interesting that Spanish speakers can understand Galician better than they can Portuguese, but it makes sense. After all, Galicia split off from Portugal long ago and came under the influence of Castillian. I am not sure which Galician they are referring to here. There is a soft Galician that is used on Galician TV which has very heavy Castillian influence. Even I can pick it up pretty well. But there is a hard Galician of the street and the rural areas that is much harder to understand.

The figure for Catalan is much lower than for Galician because Catalan has so much French influence. Look at the dismal figure for spoken French and you can see why Spanish speakers have a hard time with it.

25% intelligibility of Italian sounds about right to me. Spanish speakers can understand Italian much worse than they can understand Portuguese. The figure for French is shockingly low, but it makes sense, as previous studies have shown that nobody can understand the French.

I would agree that Standard Italian, especially spoken slowly by a professional speaker, is much easier to understand than many Italian dialects, which are actually spoken languages. I’ve seen them on Youtube and I can’t make out a single word.

With my Spanish, my figures for written intelligibility of Romance are not as high as those above, but I’m not really fluent as far as reading Spanish goes. I’m a lot better at speaking it and hearing it. Others have given much lower figures than the one above for Spanish speakers reading Galician, but it probably improves very quickly in a short period of time.

A Look At the Catalan Language

Updated September 25, 2011.
Catalan is a Romance language that is most closely related to Occitan. Although Occitan-Catalan started forming in 700-800, Occitan and Catalan are usually thought of as splitting from 1000-1300. However, scholars such as María del Candau de Cevallos and others present evidence that Catalan was already breaking away from Catalan-Occitan as early as the 700’s-800’s.
An alternate method is to see Catalan as part of something called Ibero-Romance together with the Romance languages of the Iberian Peninsula and to put Occitan in Gallo-Romance together with French and related tongues. It’s better to just avoid this and create a whole new category called Catalan-Occitan.

The Catalan-speaking world. Catalan is mostly spoken in Catalunya and Valencia in Spain, a bit in Aragon in Spain, and also in far southwestern France in Rousillon. The three shaded islands on the map are the Balearics. The tiny shaded area on the island at the far right represents Alghuerese Catalan spoken in Alghuero, Sardinia.
The Catalan-speaking world. Catalan is mostly spoken in Catalunya and Valencia in Spain, a bit in Aragon in Spain, and also in far southwestern France in Rousillon. The three shaded islands on the map are the Balearics. The tiny shaded area on the island at the far right represents Alghuerese Catalan spoken in Alghuero, Sardinia.

There is a common notion running about that Catalan speakers can understand Occitan. Although surely it differs with exposure, in general, Catalan speakers have a hard time understanding Occitan. Intelligibility between the two languages is probably on the order of 50%. But after only a few weeks of close contact and some intense coaching, they should be able to understand each other pretty well. On this basis, Occitan and Catalan are surely not dialects of a single tongue. However, Catalan and Occitan are very closely related languages.
The same type of folks (I call them “everyone can understand everyone” people or lumpers) also insist that Castillian and Catalan are mutually intelligible. If this were the case, there would be no grounds for a political fight in Catalunya from the Castillian speakers who do not wish to have Catalan shoved down their throats.
The truth is that Castillian speakers can only understand about 40% of written Catalan. Some estimates are that spoken Catalan and Spanish have less than 60% intelligibility. The actual figure may be even less. Catalan is surely not a dialect of Castillian.
There are claims that Catalan and Portuguese are mutually intelligible. This is not the case.
Catalan is also not intelligible with Aragonese. In the Medieval Period, Aragonese and Castillian were considered to be unintelligible to Catalan speakers in the Catalan region. Aragonese is not even intelligible within itself. Why would they be able to understand Catalan too?
Catalan, when spoken, sounds like a cross between Castillian and French.
There is a lot of intense language politics swirling around Catalan. It is the language of an autonomous region of Spain called Catalunya. The fascist Franco tried to kill the language by forbidding its use.
Spanish nationalists are just as horrible as French nationalists, if not worse. As an example, there is a tiny part of Portugal that Spain has occupied for hundreds of years. As per a treaty of 1812, Spain was required to hand over this bit of territory. In the 197 years since then, they have flatly refused to do so. An imperialist Spain continues to occupy a few small islands of frankly Moroccan territory off the coast of Morocco in defiance of Moroccan insistence that they are Moroccan territory.
After the fascists were toppled, Spain was arm-twisted into making Galician, Basque and Catalan into official languages. During the dictatorship, Galician and Catalan were referred to as dialects of Castillian. Recently, Aranese, an Occitan dialect, was also recognized. There are other languages in Spain such as Asturian, Leonese, Murcian, Andalucian, Extremaduran and Aragonese. These are not yet recognized by the imperialist Spanish state.
There are problems in Catalunya. At home, about 1/2 the population speaks Catalan and 1/2 speaks Castillian. However, 95% can understand Catalan, 81% can read Catalan, 78% can speak Catalan and 62% can write Catalan. The Catalan government, understandably, has been mandating the amount of use of Catalan on billboards, the percentage of foreign films translated into Catalan, the number of hours of school instruction that must be in Catalan and the hours of foreign language study in Catalan or Castillian.
For this, Castillian speakers have called them “fascist,” but it’s only normal for them to try to save their language, which is not necessarily doing all that well.
In Andorra, the official language is Catalan, and this is also the most widely spoken language. It is the only officially independent Catalan speaking country on Earth. French and Castillian are also widely spoken.
All dialects of Catalan are said to be mutually intelligible.
However, people say that about the Occitan lects, about Dutch and German, about the Scandinavian languages, about Spanish and Portuguese, on and on, so that is not very reliable.
Further, there is a strong politicization movement similar to Occitan whereby a language in trouble wants to see its various lects as unified under a single language. The notion is that splitting will further endanger a troubled language. Hence, there is a tendency for Catalan nationalists to scream that they can easily understand every variety under the sun. That’s ultimately a politicized response, and it is not scientific.
It’s only natural to wonder whether Catalan is more than one language, so an investigation was undertaken.
Method: Literature and reports were examined and Catalan-speaking informants were interviewed to determine the intelligibility of the various dialects of Catalan. >90% intelligibility was considered to be a dialect of Catalan. <90% intelligibility was considered to be a separate language. The emphasis was on intelligibility rather than structural factors. Overtly political argumentation was ignored.
Results: The result of this investigation was to split Catalan from 1 to 2 languages. Below, separate languages are in bold, and dialects are in italics.
Discussion: Catalan is a very tight-nit language family. The vast majority of Catalan lects can more or less understand each other with few problems. The Blaverist Movement is politically motivated and is not linguistically justified.
A great map of all of the languages and dialects of SW Europe. It's in Spanish, but you should be able to understand it anyway. All of the Catalan dialects are listed here in dark green.
An excellent map of the languages of southwest Europe. Catalan languages and dialects are in dark green.

There are many dialects of Catalan.
Some are: Rousillonese (Northern Catalán), Valencian (Valenciano or Valencià), Balearic (Balear, Insular Catalan, Mallorqui, Menorqui and Eivissenc), Central Catalan, Alghuerese, Northwestern Catalan (Pallarese, Ribagorçan, Lleidatà and Aiguavivan).
Northern Catalan is actually spoken in France by about 100,000 speakers. It receives no support from the Jacobin French state. Northern Catalan is a very divergent Catalan dialect, although Catalan speakers say that they can understand it just fine. It has a lot of French influence in the lexicon. Northern Catalan sounds very much like French to Southern Catalan speakers. About 40% of the population can speak the language.
Rousillonese is the main dialect of Northern Catalan spoken in France. It’s in better shape than many say it is, but the future prospects are probably not too good.
Rousillon is close to the Occitan language Languedocien.
There is a tremendous to-do over Valencian. Valencian activists, the Blaverists, insist that Valencian is a separate language from Catalan. This is a political issue, not a linguistic one. Linguistically, it is long settled. Valencian is simply a dialect of Catalan, and the two varieties have about 93% intelligibility. There is no scientific grounds for splitting Valencian into a separate language.
Balearic, Alghuerese and Rousillon (Northern or French) Catalan are much further from Central Catalan than Valencian is.
Balearic is spoken in the Balearic Islands and is said to be quite different. Majorca Catalan is somewhat hard to understand for Valencians. It is even hard for Barcelonans to understand. Central Catalan speakers say they go to the islands and communicate without problems, however others say that the old Catalan language of Ibiza is hard for Barcelonans to understand. Some Balearic speakers, like Valencians, say they speak a separate Catalan language.
Intelligibility between Balearic and Catalan Proper is said to be about the same as between Catalan and Valencian, which would mean that Balearic is a dialect of Catalan. We will tentatively split this off due to reports of intelligibility issues, but this remains very controversial. The best way to sort this out would be through intelligibility studies as have been done with Valencian.
Central Catalan is the main variety and is the most widely spoken. This is the variety of Barcelona, and this is what the literary language is loosely based on. Catalan TV usually uses this dialect.
Northwestern Catalan is extremely divergent.
Ribagorçan is transitional to the Aragonese language and is sometimes called a dialect of Aragonese. The truth is that the eastern part is Catalan transitional to Aragonese, the western part is Aragonese transitional to Catalan and the central part is Benasques.
Pallarese is also spoken in the same area and is said to be very different.
Aiguavivan is spoken in high valleys of Pyrenees and is very different. Related varieties called Chapurriau are spoken in Castellote, Torrevelilla and Matarraña nearby in Aragon and across the border in Valencia. These are mixtures of Old Castillian, Castillian, Valencian, Aragonese and a bit of Catalan. The Valencian element predominates. Although these lects are intelligible with Catalan proper, the speakers insist that they do not speak Catalan.
Benasquese is spoken in the same region as Aiguavivan and is often said to be a Catalan dialect. It is not. It is either a transitional lect between Catalan and Aragonese, a divergent Aragonese dialect, or a separate language in between Aragonese and Catalan. At any rate, however we wish to characterize Benasquese, it is not a Catalan dialect.
All of NW Catalan appears to be intelligible with the rest of Catalan.
At last we come to Algherese, spoken in Sardinia in the town of Alghero. This language is dying out, but there are still 20-30,000 speakers, mostly older people.
Many say that structurally, this is by far the most divergent variety of Catalan, created when Catalans landed on the island over 500 years. Algherese has been split from Catalan for over 500 years now. The lect sounds like Medieval Catalan and furthermore, lots of Sardinian language has gone in. Catalan speakers say it sounds like Italian.
Reports indicate that Catalan travelers to Alghero can still understand Algherese quite well, albeit as a somewhat Medieval form of Catalan.
However, the venerable Encyclopedia of Endangered Languages treats Algherese as a separate language, as all of the lects listed are treated as languages. However, this treatment will rely on intelligibility alone, and on that basis, Algherese is a dialect of Catalan, not a separate language.


Candau de Cevallos, María del C. 1985. Historia De La Lengua Española. Potomac, Md.: Scripta Humanistica.
Gulsoy, Joseph. 1982. “Catalan”, Chapter in Posner, Rebecca, Green, John N. Trends in Romance Linguistics and Philology, Volume 3. La Hague, Paris, New York: Mouton.
Moseley, Christopher. 2007. Encyclopedia of the World’s Endangered Languages. Abiding, UK: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group.

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