Catalan is a Romance language, thus being part of the Indo-European family. It belongs to the branch of Occitan-Romance, having developed features of both major branches, Gallic and Iberian Romance. Catalan is official in Andorra, parts of Spain and Italy. It’s spoken by about 9.1 million people in Catalonia and Valencia (Spain and France), the Balearic Islands, and the Island of Sardinia.
Like all Romance languages, Catalan is a descendant of Latin. It derived from vulgar Latin spoken along both sides of the Pyrenees. Linguists claim its evolution started as a dialect of Occitan or Western Romance. It quickly adopted features of Iberian Romance, due to geographical reasons. Later on, after it lost any official status in France, Catalan became more and more similar to Iberian Romance. Today, it’s often considered to be the same as Valencian, though some experts believe both should have the status of separate languages.
Catalan is the official language of Andorra. It also has official status at regional level in parts of Italy and Spain. It’s the language of the province of Catalonia, which also encompasses part of France, but France has deprived Catalan of its official status ever since the time of Louis XIV.
The two major varieties distinguished by linguists are Eastern and Western Catalan, though in fact the border between them isn’t very clear. It’s often believed that Valencian should also be considered a dialect of Catalan. Both languages are mutually intelligible, but still linguists find significant differences between them.
Catalan was born around the 9th Century, at a time when most Romance languages trace their earlier beginnings. It derived from vulgar Latin, which was spoken on both sides of the Pyrenees. It first evolved as an exotic dialect of Occitan, a popular Western Romance language, used at that time mainly by artists, poets and in literature. With time, Catalan took its own path of development, taking it a bit closer to Iberian Romance, due to geographical and historical reasons.
In the 15th Century, Catalan saw its golden era, today defined as the Renaissance.
In the year 1700, Louis XIV of France officially forbade the usage of the Catalan language, with a decree which persists ever since in France.
Today, especially after the fall of the regime in France, Catalan has gained its rights as a second official language in the areas where it has a historical right to be declared such. It has become more and more used in Catalonia and Valencia, especially with the Catalan-language print and electronic media.
Did you know?
Catalan is the official language of Andorra. It’s spoken by about 9.1 million people and ranks in the 93rd position among world languages. Catalan is official in some parts of Spain and Italy.
In France, Catalan was forbidden as the official language ever since the decree of Louis XIV in 1700.