SPAIN: Dialects of Catalan etc

From the UK, George Sassoon forwards this letter from a friend in Spain:  The problem with Catalan is that it was "normalized" by Pompeu Fabra in the late ninteenth century when he wrote a Catalan grammar. This grammar is pretty well accepted by all as the written Catalan. However, the lexicon in the Balearics, Valencia and the Perpignan area is highly variable and very rich in different words and expressions. Unfortunately this is being eroded in Mallorca (and elsewhere) by Catalan TV, and by school teachers in the Balearics who are teaching the "normalized" Catalan. School children correct their parents and grandparents for speaking badly. Those of us who learned the language orally feel that we are loosing part of our heritage.
The other problem is political. Catalonia has a strong separatist streak with "imperialist" overtones. Not only do they want to be a nation in their own right, they want the Balearics, Valencia and "Catalonia Nord" as part of their "nation". This harps back to the Second Republic, which ended in the Spanish Civil war, and Mallorca has always looked to Madrid rather than Barcelona for that reason.
The situation in Spain is not nice. We have a weak Socialist government who depend on the votes of Catalan and Basque nationalists. A Balkanisation of Spain is not out of the question. Let us pray that Catalonia Sud does not go for rugby. They have tried to set up a Catalan National hockey team which thankfully has not been recognised internationally.

RH: George's friend says he is "worried".  We can only hope that Basque and Catalan nationalists de not provoke another civil war.  As for Pompeu Fabra, I studied Catalan under him in Barcelona in 1932. Born in 1868, he taught chemistry and mathematics in Bilbao in his early years. He published then some minor studies of Catalan, but his Catalan grammar first appeared in 1912.  Other editions appeared later. He died in exile in Prades, France, in 1948. He is highly respected in Catalonia, where there is a university bearing his name in Barcelona.

Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: January 17, 2005