Saturday, October 8, 2011

Is Spain afraid of Occitan?

About the author of this article for Help Catalonia
Josep Bargalló Valls
First Minister and Minister of the Presidency of Catalonia 2004-2006
Minister of Education of Catalonia 2003-2004
Councillor on Torredembarra Town Council (1995-2003)
President of the Ramon Llull Institute (2006-2010)
Since 2010, Professor of Rovira i Virgili University
Aranese is the vernacular language of the inhabitants of the Val d'Aran, a valley high up in the Pyrenees, spoken by 4,700 inhabitants (according to figures for 2001). In fact, Aranese is a variant of Gascon, one of the dialects of Occitan. Covering a fairly expansive territory (the southern third of France, Monaco, the so-called Occitan Valleys in Italy –parts of the Piedmont and Liguria– and an enclave in Calabria, as well as in Aran), Occitan is spoken nowadays by little more than 500,000 people. Large territory, few speakers.

Spanish, on the other hand, is the second most spoken language worldwide (as a mother tongue) and also the second most studied. Some 400 million people speak it as their first language and close on 100 million as their second. It is official in over 20 countries on three continents and in a great deal of official bodies. Occitan, conversely, is only official in the Aran Valley, along with Spanish and Catalan, and only since the application of the new Catalan Statute of 2006. Before that however, since 1984, it had been the vehicular language of schooling.

On the 22nd of September, 2010, the Parliament of Catalonia, in compliance with its Statutory mandate, approved the Lei der occitan, aranès en Aran (Law of Occitan, Aranese in Aran), making the language official in the whole of Catalonia, bestowing futher rights to Aranese and its speakers and making it the preferential language in the Valley.

Now, the Constitutional Tribunal (Supreme Court) has, at the behest of the Spanish government, temporarily suspended the Law and, given recent rulings of the Supreme Court, everything points to its being debased in two key areas: the preferential consideration of Aranese within its territory and its official standing throughout the Catalan administration.

In other words, the legitimate defenders of the future of Spanish –all governments have to be defenders of the language they consider their own– are afraid that the Aranese language may cast a shadow over their own: 4,700 trilingual or tetralingual speakers (as well as their own language, the Aranese speak Catalan, Spanish and, often, French) against 400/500 million, for the most part monolingual Spanish speakers. Not even Asterix and Obelix had, at the best of form, ever set themselves to such an unequal fight. Is Spain afraid of Aranese, of its official condition, of its consideration as preferential...?

Unlikely. It must all be much simpler and more worrying than that. What Spain is afraid of is diversity and, particularly, of it recognition. In an exchange of Tweets, on the same day the law was suspended, @pepsauri said: “They don't worry about Spanish. It's in their DNA to crush everything that, even if inferior, is different from what they consider Spanish.” – “True. It's a DNA in black and white, colourless, insipid,.. with no nuances, or fragrances, or accents,..” I replied. They are not afraid of Aranese, of its 7,400 speakers. At least not just of that: they are endemically terrified of those who don't speak like themselves, whether they be seven thousand or seven million. They are afraid of diversity, plurality,.. of nuances, accents,..

And those of us who are lucky and willing enough to speak more than one language (although living one vernacular, like everyone around the globe) know that when there are languages in contact, these never meet under the same conditions: there is always one with more speakers, with greater international projection, more commonly used in the cultural and media industries... and that the languages in contact generate their own ecosystem that require action for sustainability and preservation, always in favour of the language with least speakers, least projection, least use in industry... Catalan before Spanish, Aranese before Catalan and Spanish... But there are those who, because of their DNA, are predatory by nature.

One additional point: I can just imagine the bigwigs in Madrid asking themselves in terror: Aranese, official in the whole of Catalonia, if it's only spoken in a tiny bit, in a corner, in the mountains, and isn't the language of all the Catalans? Aranese, the preferential language in Aran, and not Catalan (sorry, Spanish)? Imagine that it ends up just as says the Law passed in the Catalan Parliament... Come now, they'll be wanting the same for Catalan in the whole of Spain next! Forget it, unconstitutional and onward into battle!

And if anyone thinks I am exaggerating, it would be worse to believe that, really, the 4,700 Aranese speakers should be jeopardising the future of Spanish. If they want to live in black and white, then it's time for us to chose our own path. In colour.

P.S. However, we should not revel in complacency either: although the Catalan Government had already introduced Aranese as a teaching language in the compulsory education of Aran in 1984, we cannot avoid the fact that we too have taken too long to recognise Aranese speakers and all their rights. We could have been a little quicker.

Josep Bargalló Valls
http://josepbargallo.wordpress.com/
@JosepBargallo

Other posts by this author:
A Europe of Everyone, also of Catalans
Heirs of a Defeat

Read other Special Collaborators' articles

Related articles:
A tiny Language that threatens an Empire
The Attacks Against the Aranese People

1 comentaris:

  • Jacme says:
    October 9, 2011 at 8:50 AM

    Chifras actual.

    4% dels locutors naturals de l'occitan en Aquitània e Miègdia-Pirinèus, confirmat per una enquèsta en 2009 e 2011.

    4% de locutors alternatius de l'occitan en Aquitània e Miègdia-Pirinèus, confirmat per la meteissa enquèsta. Alternatiu, que vòl dire qu'entendon e que pòdon pas segir una conversacion sancièra.

    8 % dels locutors de l'occitan son actualament present sul territoòri lo mai bèl. I a 7,8 mlions d'abitants en Aquitània e Miègdia-Pirinèus. I a 15 milions d'abitants en Occitània.

    Amb una règla de tres podèm confirmar qu'i a 1,850,000 locutors d'occitan. Son vièlhs en majoritat. mas i a 74 per cent d ela populacion enquèstada que demanda l'occitan coma politica lingüistica, 74% !

    Lo personal politic es quitament espantat.

    Me sembla que cal rason gardar, mas l'occitan es pas encraa mòrt e segur pas sonque 500.000 locutors coma indicat dins l'article.

    L'enquèsta es estada persentada en Aquitània e Miègdia-Pirinèus ; se pdorà fintar sul meu blòg : democraciaoccitania.blogspot.com

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