The Languages of Northeastern Spain: Aragonese, Catalan, and Occitan

Gus Love: No, the Aragonese language looks different. I might put up a sample sometime. This is Catalan. Occitan looks different but I’m not sure how different or in what way. I’ve seen quite a bit of Occitan writing but that was a while back.

This is Catalan. Occitan looks different but I’m not sure how different or in what way. I’ve seen quite a bit of Occitan writing but that was a while back. There is a type of Occitan, the western half of which is nothing but Catalan. The eastern half of that Occitan language is not fully intelligible with Catalan. This is the Occitan language that is spoken across the border from Catalonia. I am not talking about Northern Catalan or French Catalan. That’s also spoken across the border but that’s more over by the coast.

No, the Aragonese language looks different. Aragonese looks much more Castillian and it’s not nearly as Frenchified as Catalan. The Kingdom of Aragon never came under the influence of France. Aragonese is spoken in the Pyrenees on the west side of those mountains. On the French side it’s not even French. It’s Occitan. For instance, Aranese Occitan is intelligible with Comminghese Occitan across the border in France. The Pyrenees are very high mountains, and they probably served as a barrier to French influence.

There were different lects of Macro-Spanish spoken in the various kingdoms in France. Aragonese was spoken in the Kingdom of Aragon. Asturian was spoken in the Kingdom of Asturias. Castillian split away from all of them around 1100 and started expanding south from its homeland in Cantabria on the north coast. It was a crapshoot fora while which kingdom would come to rule Spain and supplant the others. It turns out that the kingdom of Castille and Leon won the contest but it could just as easily have been the kingdoms of Aragon or Asturias.

Asturian-Leonese has been split from Castillian for 900 years. Aragonese split off much later around 1600. It used to be spoken in all of Aragon but Castillian took over Southern and Central Aragon, and Aragonese was relegated to the hinterlands of the inaccessible Pyrenees Mountains where it still holds out. There are children coming to school as Aragonese monolinguals in one town to this very day.

 

The Languages of Spain

This is pretty nice for a rough draft, but I have a lot more information on all of these languages and dialects, including lots of links. But this should do for now.

Spanish or Castillian hit the other languages hard, but after the dictatorship things got a lot better.

Catalan is the official language of the region. Catalan is not part of Macro-Spanish.  Instead it is part of a larger family called Catalan-Occitan. I recently met several mostly-Castillian speakers from Catalonia and they told me that they all understood Catalan. Whether they spoke it or not was another matter. A young man there was a native speaker. Native Catalan speakers might be ~35% of the population, and many children are still being brought up in Catalan.

There are Catalan schools, Catalan media, Catalan as an official language in the government, etc. There is a huge pool of Catalan second-language speakers. There are probably not any Catalan monolinguals left, but if there are, it is some old lady in a tiny village in the mountains.

Island Catalan is a form of Catalan that is spoken on the Mallorca Islands in three different dialects. Some have difficult intelligibility with Catalan, and they are probably closer to Valencian. Whether these qualify as separate languages is not known. Mallorcan is one of these dialects of Catalan.

Valencian is spoken in Valencia and the Valencian speakers insist that they speak a different language from Catalan, although there is 94% intelligibility between the two. Catalan speakers do not want to break up the language. There is an Institute of the Valencian Language, an official orthography, etc. In particular, Valencians reject the Catalan orthography, as they say it does not suit the language that the speak. ~20% of Valencians speak Valencian. It is in much worse shape than Catalan. The Catalan authorities refuse to recognize Valencian as it is just a Catalan dialect, first, and second because they see Catalan as endangered and they do not wish to split it up.

Chapurillo is a form of Catalan spoken in La Franga and the Strip in Aragon that speakers say is a separate language. There are regular calls to have it recognized. However, Catalan speakers say that they understand this variety perfectly. Nevertheless, an attempt to call this dialect Catalan and have it translated into English resulted in a big mess. Its name is a variation on the term churro, etc. which means more or less broken Spanish or bad Spanish.

Many of the languages above are called churros or chapurros, and many Spaniards think they are just forms of broken Spanish spoken by poorly educated people. Even speakers of the languages often think that they simply speak broken Spanish or bad Spanish and are often ashamed of their speech and refuse to speak it. Speaking churro also implies ignorance, rural residence, poverty, lack of intelligence, etc. Any effort to get this lect recognized would run into a lot of opposition from the Catalan government, which would say is is just a form of Catalan, which in fact it is.

Aragonese is still spoken in Aragon. It is not fully intelligible with Castillian, and it is a separate language. This region was under the crown of Aragon, hence a different speech evolved here. It sounds a lot like Spanish. There are 30,000 Aragonese speakers. It is an official language in the state of Aragon, but Spain refuses to recognize it as it is seen as Macro-Spanish, which it is. It was formerly spoken in three forms like Extremaduran, and like that language, only the remote northern form survives.

Otherwise Southern Aragonese and Central Aragonese turned into dialects of Spanish called Aragonese Spanish. Aragonese is spoken in the very high mountains of the Pyrenees in villages that are often almost totally depopulated. There are still children being brought up in Aragonese though, especially around the Benasquesque-speaking region. The children show up at school as Aragonese monolinguals.

Churro is a Spanish dialect called spoken around La Franja on the border of Aragon and Catalonia. It is probably the most diverse dialect in Spain. It seems to be a form of Aragonese Spanish with a lot of Catalan or Valencian mixed in. It is not known how widely spoken this dialect is anymore. It’s apparently intelligible with Spanish, but an attempt to call a Churro text Spanish and translate it into English resulted in a complete mess.

Basque is actually doing quite well. ~20% of the population are native speakers, and there are quite a few second language speakers. There are Basque schools, Basque media, Basque signage, on and on. I recently met a young college-aged man who was a Basque native speaker. Quite a few children are still being brought up in Basque. I am not sure if there are any Basque monolinguals left. Basque is not related to any of the languages spoken in Spain. It is the remains of the original language of the area before it was conquered by the Romans. Basque is recognized as by the Spanish government.

Souletin is absolutely a separate language from Basque Proper or Official Basque. There are other dialects including Guipuzcaon and a few others which may also be separate languages, but that is much less clear. Souletin is spoken in France, where Basque is spoken by only 10% of the population.

Asturian-Leonese is a major language spoken in northern to northwestern Spain between Basque and Extremaduran and Galician. To the south, it extends to the Portuguese border. It consists of two major dialects, Asturian and Leonese and countless dialects therein. However, comprehension appears good between all of the Asturian and Leonese dialects, except that part of Eastern Asturian in the north and Eastern Leonese in far south have turned into a separate language called Extremaduan-Cantabrian.

Asturian one part of the Asturian-Leonese language. It is still very much alive, although it is not an official language of Spain. It is an official language of the state of Asturias. ~20% of Asturians speak Asturian and I believe there are children still being brought up in Asturian.

Leonese is the same language as Asturian spoken to the south and is in much worse shape. It is also not an official language of Spain, but it is an official language of Castille and Leon where it is spoken. Amazingly, there are still Leonese monolinguals in the high mountains in Northwestern Castille and Leon. Leonese was their first language and they learned Spanish in school but subsequently forgot Spanish and now speak only Leonese.

There are still children being brought up in Leonese in the tiny depopulated villages in the mountains of Southeastern Castille and Leon near the Portuguese border. This form of Leonese is often called Porteno, and it is quite close to the Mirandese language spoken in Portugal. Asturian-Leonese is seen as part of the general Castillian language family, but this is not really true.

Mirandese is spoken in a small part of northwestern Portugal by 15,000 people. It is a form of Asturian-Leonese that came under heavy Portuguese influence and became a separate language. It is similar to the Porteno form of Central Leonese spoken near the Portuguese and Galician borders of Castille and Leon.  Mirandese proper is spoken in Portugal, but other dialects of it are spoken in a few small villages on the Spanish-Portuguese borders. Most of these are considered to be extinct, but recent field trips found that they are still spoken in a few of these places.

Rio de Onorese is a tiny lect spoken in Rio de Onoro, a village on the Portuguese border. Half of the village is in Spain, half of the village is in Portugal and all residents are fluent in both languages. Everyone thinks this language is extinct, but if you go to the village, you will see it is still spoken there. It is a form of Mirandese spoken in Spain and should be recognized. It is a form of Asturian-Leonese as Mirandese is part of that language family. As a form of Asturian-Leonese, this is not recognized by the Spanish government. However, Mirandese is recognized by the Portuguese government.

Eonavian-Ibino is a separate language spoken between Asturian/Leonese and Galician. Locally it is referred to as fabla. It is a completely separate language but no one will recognize it as such. It even has an organization for the standardization of the language. The name Eonavian is a reference to the Eo and Nava rivers in the area where it is spoken. Ibino is this same language spoken in the southern part of the Eonavian area and it borders Leonese instead of Asturian.

Galician speakers cannot fully understand Ibino. It is closer to Galician but it is not Galician. At one time, maybe 75-100 years ago, this was a Galician dialect, and the older generation still understands Galician completely. The younger generation does not understand Galician so well, as they have not been exposed to it as much. So in a sense this is a new language or an emergent language. There are still many native speakers of Ibino and Eonavian.

As is usual in such cases (see Benasquesque below) the language institutes of both the Asturian/Leonese language and the Galician language have claimed this language. It’s certainly not Asturian/Leonese. A much better case can be made that it is Galician, and it was a Galician dialect until quite recently. However, Eonavian informants state that when they go to Galicia, they speak Castillian to Galician speakers results in too many misunderstandings. Since both Asturian/Leonese and Galician claim this lect a dialect of their languages, Spain does not recognize it.

Galician is is a separate language spoken in Galicia that is close to Portuguese. It is still doing quite well. ~35% of the population of Galicia speak Galician. Almost all also speak Castillian. It is an official language of Galicia and Spain. There are Galician schools. There is some Galician media but not nearly enough. You hear Galician a lot more in the rural areas than in the big cities.

A very Castillianized Official Galician is used in the media, and it has high intelligibility with Spanish of 78%. A much harder Galician is spoken in the villages in the mountains where intelligibility with Spanish is as low as 40%. The form of Galician spoken in the far south on the border with Portugal is not intelligible with Portuguese or the rest of Galician and is not understood outside the region. It is actually a separate language, though no one will recognize it.

Minhoto is a form of Galician that is spoken in and around the Minho region of Portugal and the part of Galicia neighboring it to the north. It is generally not understood outside the region. It appears to be an aberrant form of Galician that perhaps came under heavy Portuguese influence.

Fala is a language spoken in the far northwest of Extremadura near the Portuguese border. It is spoken in four different dialects in as many towns. It is still very widely spoken as a native language in all of these towns. This is Old Galician from the 1200’s that got isolated from the rest of the language and underwent heavy influence from Leonese, especially the Asturian-Leonese language spoken in Portugal called Mirandese.

Technically this is not a separate language as Galician speakers understand it perfectly, but it is nevertheless recognized as a language by SIL. Fala speakers reject the Galician orthography as far from what they speak, adding ammunition to the notion that this is a separate language. Spain does not recognize this language for whatever reason, but if it is a part of Galician, it should at least be recognized as that.

Portuguese is spoken in a few places in Spain on the border of Portugal, mostly in the South around Extremadura and Bajadoz. These are forms of Old Portuguese dating from the 13th to the 16th Centuries. However, they all seem to be fully intelligible with Portuguese. They are mostly spoken by the elderly now.

Oliveno is a form of Portuguese heavily mixed with Spanish that is spoken on the border of Portugal. It’s not Portuguese; it is actually a separate language. It still has ~3,000 speakers. It is spoken in a single village. Officials refuse to recognize this language, and Portugal says it is just Portuguese, but Portuguese speakers can’t understand it at all. Spain refuses to recognize it for whatever reason, but if the argument is that it is just a form of Portuguese, then it should be recognized.

Extremaduan-Cantabrian is a language spoken to the east of Asturian in the north and to the south of Leonese in the south. These are parts of Eastern Asturian-Leonese that got isolated in the mountains of Cantabria and Extremadura and split off from the rest 500 years ago. In the north, it went into Cantabrian and in the south, it turned into Extremaduran.

Extremaduran is still spoken in Extremadura by 100,000 speakers. It is a highly Castillianized form of Eastern Leonese that got cut off from the rest of Leonese 400-500 years ago. Otherwise Eastern Leonese is nearly extinct. However, it is not intelligible with Asturian-Leonese. Extremaduran speakers say that if they go to Oveido in Central Asturias, they will not be understood. Nevertheless, this is part of the same language as Cantabrian, and these same speakers say that if they go to Cantabria, their Extremaduran will be understood. It is spoken in the mountains in tiny depopulating villages, which is where it originated.

One of my Castillian-speaking informants actually grew up in the region and has been hearing Extremaduran all his life, and he can only understand 17% of it. The accent is wild. There is much confusion, as Extremaduran is also called Castuo. Extremaduran is the northern form of Castuo from the mountains that survived, while Southern Castuo and Central Castuo turned into dialects of Spanish.

However there may be some “Extremaduran” spoken in the south too, as an informant has a word list from a tiny village in Bajadoz, and he said he could only understand 50% of the lexicon. This may be some far southern form of Extremaduran. Southern and Central Castuo are just Spanish dialects, albeit odd ones, but they are heavily spoken and often confused with Extremaduran because people refer to both by the same term. Extremaduran is an official language in Extremadura, but Spain refuses to recognize it because it is seen as part of the larger macro-Spanish although it is actually Asturian-Leonese.

Cantabrian is part of the same language as Extremaduran. This is the Asturian form of Asturian-Leonese that got cut off from the rest of Asturian 400-500 years ago and became very Castillianized. Cantabrian is not fully intelligible to Spanish speakers. It is still alive in the mountains where the children come to school as Cantabrian monolinguals, and the teachers from outside the region say that they can’t understand these children.

Mantegno is spoken in La Mancha and is part of a “Southern Castillian” that ranges to Andalucian and probably also includes Murcian. When Mantegno speakers go to Madrid, they say they are not understood. This is probably also a separate language. When spoken in rapid speech, intelligibility even with Castuo is 50%. Of course it is not recognized by the state as even native speakers hardly realize that it is a separate language.

Andalucian is mostly a Spanish dialect called Andalucian Spanish, albeit an extremely divergent one. However, there are a few villages in the mountains in the south where a hard Andalucian is spoken that is not intelligible even to other Andalucians. It would be valid to regard this form of Andalucian as a separate language, but no one is going to split it off.

There is also a hard Andalucian of the street associated with criminals and other street types. People from Northern Spain say they can’t understand it at all. There have been efforts to get Andalucian recognized by the state, but they always fail because all that remains is a Spanish dialect, and even if it were a separate language, Spain would argue that it is part of Macro-Spanish, which it is.

Murcian, spoken in Murcia, is mostly a Spanish dialect called Murcian Spanish, albeit quite a strange one. There are regular calls to have it recognized as an official language, but they go nowhere because it’s not really a separate language.

However, there is a hard form of it called Panocho spoken in the remote mountains in Eastern Murcia that cannot be understood outside the region. Andalucians cannot understand it either. It is probably a separate language. It has 6,000 speakers. There are efforts to get this recognized by the Spanish state, but they never go anywhere as what they try to legalize is simply a Spanish dialect called Murcian Spanish. The harder Panocho form would also not be recognized by Spain as they would see it as part of Macro-Spanish, which it is.

Aranese is a form of Occitan spoken in the tiny state of Andorra. It is still spoken by people of all ages, and children show up at school speaking Aranese. Although it is intelligible with the Occitan spoken directly across the border in the French Pyreneees, it is not fully intelligible with the rest of Occitan. It is not well understood by speakers of any of the surrounding speech forms. Aranese is actually recognized as a separate language by Spain.

Benasquesque is a form of speech spoken on the border of Catalonia and Aragon in the very high mountains that cannot be definitely shown to be either Catalan or Aragonese. It is certainly not Aragonese. It could be Catalan, but a Catalan informant told me that this lect is absolutely not Catalan. However, the official language institutes of Catalan and Aragon both claim these speech forms.

But as is usual in these cases, they are both wrong and it is a separate language altogether. This is a very remote mountain region. This is a sort of microlanguage transitional between Aragonese and Catalan. Since both Aragonese and Catalan language institutes claim this language, it is not recognized by Spain and there are no attempts to get it recognized.

Most of the Languages of the Iberian Peninsula Are Halfway Between Two Other Iberian Languages

Or Asturian-Leonese, Galician, and Oliveno are halfway between Castilian and Portuguese, better. Or Catalan, like Occitan, is halfway between Spanish and French, better.

Getting even fancier, Extremaduran-Cantabrian is halfway between Asturian-Leonese and Castilian. Or how about Mirandese and Rio de Onorese, halfway between Asturian and Portuguese. Getting even crazier, how about Murcian and Andalucian, halfway between Mozarabic and Castilian. Or Eonavian-Ibino, halfway between Asturian-Leonese and Galician. Or Fala, halfway between Galician and Asturian-Leonese.

I’m not quite sure what to do with Manchengo and Aragonese. They’re just splits off the Castilian trunk. The latter is for sure a separate language. The former, could be.

The Spanish from the south of Spain is quite different from the Spanish of the north of Spain. Castilian actually came from way up in the north in Cantabria and spread south after 1100, taking out the Kingdoms of Leon, Asturias, Aragon, etc. as it moved south. The Kingdom of Castile is simply the kingdom that came out on top, so it’s language got to be the standard.

Leonese, Asturian, and Aragonese are simply the forms of Iberian Romance that were spoken in those Kingdoms.

Interest fact, Portuguese is actually a dialect of Galician and not the other way around! Not only that but Portuguese and Castilian were one language until Galician-Portuguese split off in 1300. Galician and Portuguese did not split until ~1500. The split between the two is analogous to the split between Scots and English.

Aragonese didn’t split from Castilian until later, I believe in the 1600’s. That’s why it is so close to Spanish. Asturian-Leonese and Castilian probably split ~1300 also.

The Non-Castilian Languages of Spain

Spanish hit the other languages hard but after the dictatorship things got a lot better. Catalan is the official language of the region. I recently met several mostly Castilian speakers from Catalonia and they told me that they all understood Catalan. Whether they spoke it or not was another man. A young man there was a native speaker.

Basque is actually doing quite well. I think ~20% of the population are native speakers and there are quite a few second language speakers. There are Basque schools, Basque media, Basque signage, on and on. I recently met a young college aged man who was a Basque native speaker. Quite a few children are still being brought up in Basque. I am not sure if there are any Basque monolinguals left.

Native Catalan speakers might be ~35% of the population, and many children are still being brought up in Catalan. There are Catalan schools, Catalan media, Catalan as an official language in the government, etc. There is a huge pool of Catalan second-language speakers. There are probably not any Catalan monolinguals left, but if there are, it is an old lady in a tiny village in the mountains.

There is a form of Catalan spoken in La Franga and the Strip in Aragon that speakers say is a separate language. There are regular calls to have it recognized. However, in spite of the fact that speakers say that they speak a separate language, Catalan speakers say they can understand it just fine.

I think it is called Chapurillo a variation on the term churro, etc. which means more or less broken Spanish or bad Spanish. Many of the languages above are called churros or chapurros, and many Spaniards think they are just forms of broken Spanish spoken by poorly educated people.

Even speakers of these languages often think that they simply speak broken Spanish or bad Spanish, are often ashamed of their speech, and refuse to speak it. Speaking churro also implies ignorance, rural residence, poverty, lack of intelligence, etc.

There is dialect called Churro spoken in this same region around La Franja. It is probably the most diverse Castilian dialect in Spain. It seems to be a form of Aragonese Spanish with a lot of Catalan or Valencian mixed in.

Valencian is spoken in Valencia and the Valencian speakers insist that they speak a different language from Catalan although there is 94% intelligibility between the two. Catalan speakers do not want to break up the language and refuse to recognize Valencian as a separate language.

There is an Institute of the Valencian Language, an official orthography, etc. In particular, Valencians reject the Catalan orthography as they say it does not suit the language that the speak. ~20% of Valencians speak Valencian. It is in much worse shape than Catalan.

There is a form of Catalan that is spoken on the Mallorca Islands in three different dialects. Some have difficult intelligibility with Catalan, and they are probably closer to Valencian. Whether these qualify as separate languages is not known. Mallorcan is one of these dialects of Catalan.

There are forms of speech spoken on the border of Catalonia and Aragon in the very high mountains that are definitely not Catalan and probably not Aragonese. However, the official language institutes of Catalan and Aragon both claim these speech forms. One is called Benasquesque. This is a very remote mountain region. Whether this is a form of Catalan, a form of Aragonese or a separate language altogether it not known. It’s obviously Catalan-Aragonese transitional.

Murcian, spoken in Murcia, is mostly a Spanish dialect called Murcian Spanish, albeit quite a strange one. There are regular calls to have it recognized as an official language, but they go nowhere. However there is a hard form of it called Panocho spoken in the remote mountains in Eastern Murcia that cannot be understood outside the region. Andalusians cannot understand it either. It is probably a separate language. It has 6,000 speakers.

Mantegno spoken in La Mancha is part of a “Southern Castilian” that ranges to Andalucian. When Mantegno speakers go to Madrid, they say they are not understood. This is probably also a separate language. When spoken in rapid speech, intelligibility even with Andalucian Spanish/Extremaduran Spanish is 50%.

Andalusian is mostly a Spanish dialect albeit an extremely divergent one. However, there are a few villages in the mountains where a hard Andalucian is spoken that is not intelligible even to other Andalusian.

Aragonese is still spoken in Aragon. It is not fully intelligible with Castilian, and it is a separate language. This region was under the crown of Aragon, hence a different speech evolved here. It sounds a lot like Spanish. There are 30,000 Aragonese speakers.

It is an official language in the state of Aragon but Spain refuses to recognize it. It was formerly spoken in three forms like Extremaduran, and like that language, only the remote northern form survives. Otherwise Southern and Central Aragonese turned into dialects of Spanish, Aragonese Spanish.

Aragonese is spoken in the very high mountains of the Pyrenees in villages that are often almost totally depopulated. There are still children being brought up in Aragonese though, especially around the Benasquesque-speaking region. The children show up at school as Aragonese monolinguals.

Extremaduran is still spoken in Extremadura by 100,000 speakers. It is a highly Castillianized form of Eastern Leonese that got cut off from the rest of Leonese 400-500 years ago. Otherwise Eastern Leonese is nearly extinct. It is spoken in the mountains in tiny depopulating villages which is where it originated.

I know a Spanish speaker who actually grew up in the region, has been hearing Extremaduran all his life, and he can only understand 17% of it. The accent is wild. There is much confusion as Extremaduran is also called Castuo, and Extremaduran is the northern form of Castuo from the mountains that survived while Southern and Central Castuo turned into dialects of Spanish.

However there may be some “Extremaduran” spoken in the south too, as my friend has a word list from a tiny village in Bajadoz, and he said he could only understand 50% of the lexicon. This may be some far southern form of Extremaduran. Southern and Central Castuo is just a Spanish dialect, albeit an odd one, but it is heavily spoken and often confused with Extremaduran because people refer to both by the same term. Extremaduran is an official language in Extremadura, but Spain refuses to recognize it.

strong>Oliveno is spoken on the border of Portugal, but it’s not Portuguese. It still has ~3,000 speakers. It is spoken in a single village. Officials refuse to recognize this language, and Portugal says it is just Portuguese. It is a sort of heavily Castillianized Portuguese. Portuguese speakers say they can’t understand a word of Oliveno.

Asturian is still very much alive although it is not an official language of Spain. It is an official language of the state of Asturias. ~20% of Asturians speak Asturian and I believe there are children still being brought up in Asturian.

Leonese is the same language as Asturian spoken to the south and is in much worse shape. It is also not an official language of Spain but it is an official language of Castille and Leon where it is spoken. Amazingly, there are still Leonese monolinguals in the high mountains in Northwestern Castille and Leon.

Leonese was their first language and they learned Spanish in school but subsequently forgot Spanish and now speak only Leonese. There are still children being brought up in Leonese in the tiny depopulated villages in the mountains of Southeastern Castille and Leon near the Portuguese border. This form of Leonese is often called Porteno, and it is quite close to the Mirandese language spoken in Portugal.

There is actually a language called Eonavian/Ibino spoken between Asturian/Leonese and Galician. It is a completely separate language but no one will recognize it as such. It is closer to Galician but it is not Galician. There are still native speakers of Ibino, not sure about Eonavian.

Galician is still doing quite well. ~35% of the population of Galicia speak Galician. Almost all also speak Castilian. It is an official language of Galicia and Spain. There are Galician schools. There is some Galician media but not nearly enough. You hear Galician a lot more in the rural areas than in the big cities.

A very Castillianized Official Galician is used in the media, and it has high intelligibility with Spanish of 78%. A much harder Galician is spoken in the villages in the mountains where intelligibility with Spanish is as low as 40%. The form of Galician spoken in the far south on the border with Portugal is not intelligible with Portuguese or the rest of Galician and is not spoken outside the region. It is actually a separate language though no one will recognize it.

Rio de Onoro is a village on the Portuguese border. Rio de Onorese is still spoken, though everyone thinks it is extinct. It is a form of Mirandese spoken in Spain and should be recognized.

Cantabrian is said to be a form of Spanish, but actually it is part of Extremaduran. Extremaduran is nothing less than Eastern Leonese and Far Eastern Asturian that started going over to a form of Old Spanish ~500 years ago. Asturian-Leonese survived in the coastal mountains and in the mountains of Extremadura to the far south, but the rest of it mostly went extinct. Today Eastern Leonese is just about dead.

But Extremaduran speakers say if they go to Cantabria, everyone understands them, and it sounds like they are speaking the same language. These same speakers say that if they go to Oviedo in Central Asturias where people speak Asturian and speak Extremaduran, they are not understood. Therefore Extremaduran and Asturian-Leonese are two different languages, and Cantabrian, instead of being a Spanish dialect, is part of Extremaduran.

Some Cantabrian speakers held out for a long time in the rugged mountainous province where some areas are still reachable only on foot or maybe by donkey. One speaker said his recently deceased grandmother was a Cantabrian monolingual who died in the last 20 years. She had stubbornly refused to learn Spanish as she considered it to be “an imposed language.”

Formerly there was a separate language called Montanes spoken in the mountains, while Cantabrian was spoken on the coast. Half a century ago, they could not understand each other. But now with leveling, the people in the mountains understand the people on the coast just fine.

There are reports that Cantabrian may be going out in Cantabria. But Cantabrian is still spoken and it is children are still being brought up as Cantabrian monolinguals. In the mountains, the children all show up at school speaking only Cantabrian, and the teachers can’t understand the students.

Are There Any Native Born Americans Who Are Monolinguals of a European Language?

SHI: Are there any descendants of European-origin Americans who don’t speak a word of English? Mostly as a result of living in isolated communities.

I’m thinking along the lines of the Amish, Old Order Mennonites, or Canadian French speakers in places like Maine.

It’s a very interesting subject. If you’re determined, no one can impose their linguistic hegemony on you or your families.

Oh I really doubt it. Everyone who grows up here speaks English. I really doubt if there are any US born monolinguals of any European languages. The monolinguals were mostly immigrants, not people who were born here. I know a Jewish gf of mine had a grandmother who was pretty much a Yiddish monolingual. She died maybe 20 years ago but she may have come here on a boat.

A friend of my Mom’s mother was pretty much a Norwegian monolingual. Worse a lot of them had no language at all anymore as they had forgotten their first language and they never learned English well. I know that Paula’s mother used to say,

“I have forgotten all of my Norvegian, and I never learned good the English!”

But that woman came on a boat too. It’s strange if you think about, people who are not fluent in any language anymore. How odd. What language do they think in? Broken whatever?

However, there are some Quebeckers in Canada who are French native speakers, and they just don’t speak English well at all. Whether you would qualify them as monolinguals or not, I am not sure.

I know there are some in Spain. There are still a few Leonese monolinguals and until recently, maybe 20 years ago, there were Cantabrian monolinguals. One man talked about his grandmother who died twenty years ago, a Cantabrian monolingual. She had stubbornly refused to learn Spanish or Castilian as she called it. She said it was an “imposed language.” So there is an example of a person stubbornly hanging on to their linguistic identity and refusing to have Spanish imposed on her. It’s a cool image, I think.

The Leonese monolinguals are old men in the mountains who learned Spanish in school but then forgot all of it and now speak only Leonese. And there are some Eonavian monolinguals too, old women. There are probably no more Catalan monolinguals, or if there are, it’s some old woman in a rural area. There might be a few Basque monolinguals. I doubt if there are any Extremaduran, Asturian, Aragonese, or Galician monolinguals, but you never know.

But those are languages native to Spain, so a corrolary of here would be monolingual speakers of Indian languages of which I doubt there are any. But there was a monolingual speaker of Chukchansi Yokuts until the early 1960’s. But even most of those folks spoke some English. For instance the Chukchansi speaker did speak a broken English.

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.