Catalan in the Community of Valencia (Spain)
Institut de Sociolingüística Catalana
Versió catalana
Version française
Catalan in the Community of Valencia (Spain)
  1. Introduction
  2. The language in the country
    1. General information on the language community
    2. Geographical and language background
    3. General history and history of the language
    4. Legal status and official policies
  3. The use of the language in various fields
    1. Education
    2. Judicial Authorities
    3. Public Authorities and services
    4. Mass media and Information technology
    5. The Arts
    6. The business world
    7. Family and social use of the language
    8. Transnational exchanges
  4. Conclusion

1. Introduction

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2. The language in the country

2.1. General information on the language community

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2.2. Geographical and language background

The Autonomous Community of Valencia (often called Pais Valencià) is on the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. It is bounded to the north by Catalonia and Aragon, to the west by Castilla-La Mancha, to the south by Murcia and to the east by the Mediterranean Sea. The total area of the region (divided into three provinces: Castelló, València and Alacant) is 22 291 km.

The region's Catalan language area accounts for 89% of the population and includes most of the comarques or districts of the territory of the Autonomous Community, with the exception of eleven hinterland districts which are Spanish-speaking. To the south of the Autonomous Community, Catalan is spoken in some 30 or so hamlets in Murcia.

The region has a population of 3 857(1991). The overall increase in recent years has not, however, been balanced: demographic growth has been greater along the coast (where the main towns are located) than in the hinterland. Almost one quarter of the population was born outside the region (chiefly immigrants from neighbouring regions and Andalusia, especially during the 1960s). There has also been substantial migration from the country to the towns.

In terms of geographical distribution, 35% of the population live in towns with over 50inhabitants (including over 600 in Valencia), 12% in medium-sized towns (10to 50inhabitants) and 53% in towns and villages of less than 10 inhabitants.

Since the 1960s the region's economy has been characterised by a combination of agricultural products (in particular citrus fruits which are exported to EU Member States), industry (which employs 28% of the population), construction (8% of employment) and in particular the service sector (chiefly tourism) which employs 57% of the active population. This has given the region a rate of economic development that is higher than the national mean.

The Catalan spoken in the region has also been widely known as Valencià since the 15th century at least. The official use of this name has led to some confusion as to the unity of the Catalan language, although since 1932 Valencià has been written in accordance with the standards of the Institut d'Estudis Catalans, while taking account of regional differences from the morphological and syntactical points of view.

According to the 1991 census, 1 909people could speak Catalan (51% of the population) and 502people (15%) could write it, in particular the younger age groups. According to a survey published in 1992 by the regional government, 67.5% of the people interviewed in Catalan-speaking districts said that they could speak Catalan "perfectly" or "very well" (some 2 300people), while 47.5% said that they could read it and 17.2% that they could write it.

This shows a rapid improvement with respect to the findings of a survey conducted in 1986, brought about by the increased use of Catalan in schools (although family or habitual use of Catalan is lower among young people). Progress has not been the same throughout the area. In the extreme south of the region Catalan has almost disappeared, and in most of the large towns only a minority of the population uses it habitually, not only as a result of migratory movements, but also a result of the current bilingual situation.

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2.3. General history and history of the language

Catalan was introduced into the region by King John I of Aragon and Catalonia, when these areas were won from the Moslems (13th century). The territory was very slowly repopulated by Catalan settlers (along the coast) and Aragonese settlers (in the hinterland). Despite their conversion to Christianity at the beginning of the 16th century, the population of Muslim origin (over 170people) was expelled, leading to the complete Catalanisation of the coastal settlements. The former Kingdom of Valencia kept its confederate links with the Kingdom of Aragon up to the beginning of the 18th century when it lost its own government institutions and in particular the Generalitat.

During the 15th century, Valencia reached the peak of its cultural and language development and produced major writers (for instance Ausiàs March and Jordi de Sant Jordi), although the Castilianisation of the ruling classes started in the following century (well before this took place in the other Catalan-speaking areas).

The loss of the literary use of Catalan in Valencia was only partially reversed, bearing in mind that the literary and cultural movement of the Renaixença (starting in Catalonia around 1840) was not very strong in the area. The region nevertheless produced major Catalan language writers during the 19th century.

Following the restoration of the monarchy in the 19th century and up to the 1850s, however, the cultural movements for the defence of Catalan were not very effective and had little impact on society.

There were plans, under the Second Republic (1931-1939), to revive the regional government, but these never came to fruit because of the Spanish Civil War. It was only in 1978 that a provisional government and in 1982, following the implementation of the Autonomous Statute, that a permanent government was restored.

During the 1960s, various social groups (cultural and civic associations of all types, etc.) began to demand the use of Catalan for concrete political reasons. They demanded that the language should not just be literary, but also used in daily life. Among these, the most dynamic throughout the territory were the Secretariat de l'Ensenyament de l'Idioma, Acció Cultural del Pais Valencià, and, at local level, the Fundació Huguet (Castelló della Plana), the institution Alfons el Vell (Gandia) and the Collectius en defensa de l'idioma exerted considerable influence on society. Some social groups continue, moreover, to maintain language demands which go beyond the measures taken by the public authorities. In parallel, there are a number of very active groups opposing the Catalan language, which regularly organise campaigns to discontinue the use of Catalan and contest the unity of the language (leading them to promote the secession of the Valencian language).

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2.4. Legal status and official policies

Catalan (known officially as Valencià) and Spanish are the two official languages of the region in accordance with the Autonomous Statute of 1982.

In 1983, the Regional Parliament (Corts Valencianes) approved the Llei d'Ùs i Ensenyament del Valencià, which is currently in force. Under this law, the regional territory is divided into two, depending on the language traditionally spoken in the various districts (11 Spanish-speaking and 23 Catalan-speaking).

Under the Law, regional laws are published in a bilingual version, documents drafted in Catalan are fully valid and all public servants must have an adequate mastery of Catalan; the law also defines the use of Catalan in the education system and the mass media. The Law also requires the Generalitat to promote the use of Catalan in private (professional, association, leisure and other) activities.

In 1989, the regional government transformed the Servei d'Ùs i Ensenyament del Valencià into the Directorate General for Language Policy and in the following year published a Pla triennal per a la promoció de l'Ùs del Valencià a la Comunitat Valenciana (three-year plan to promote the use of Valencian in the Community of Valencia).

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3. The use of the language in various fields

3.1. Education

The Generalitat Valenciana has full powers at all levels of the education system. Official policy is to support the introduction of Catalan as a teaching language in schools and to establish language immersion programmes for Spanish-speaking pupils. The Llei d'Ùs i Ensenyament del Valencià therefore states that Catalan and Spanish are compulsory subjects at all levels of education outside university (except in the Spanish-speaking area, where Catalan is to be introduced progressively), that the public authorities should ensure that all pupils receive their initial education in their language of habitual use and that teacher training programmes should be brought in line with these objectives.

The teaching of Catalan as a subject is already a fait accompli. Since 1983, and in particular since the end of the 1980s, Catalan has been used increasingly as a teaching language. The initiative is often taken by the people involved (teachers, parents): official policy gives them decision- making powers. A 1991 proposal from the Generalitat Valenciana invites establishments to draw up their own language standardisation plans.

At the pre-school, primary and lower secondary levels (up to 14), Catalan is the main teaching language in some schools and is a compulsory subject in all schools and lycées (except in the Spanish-speaking districts). The use of Catalan as a teaching language in pre-school and primary education has also increased substantially in recent years following the creation of schools networks called Linies en Valencià. In 1983-84, only 10 schools taught entirely or partially in Catalan (i.e. some 1500 pupils) while, nine years later, this figure had increased to 392 schools (i.e. close on 40pupils). Almost all schools are public-sector schools. Despite this, a 1991 decree from the regional government which made it compulsory for all schools to provide a minimum number of classes in Catalan and Spanish from the age of 8-9 received a great deal of criticism from a number of groups opposed to the extension of the use of Catalan (especially in the town of Valencia) with the result that exemptions were introduced during the same year. Although progress has been made with immersion programmes for Spanish-speaking pupils (7740 pupils attended these programmes in 1992-93), this progress has been much slower in urban areas where Spanish is predominant. Consequently, only 4% of pre-school pupils in the towns of Alacant and Valencia attend these programmes, 9% in Elx and 14% in Castellò della Plana.

In upper secondary education (age 14-18), there has been a substantial increase in the use of Catalan. Catalan is a compulsory subject in all schools, whereas fifteen years ago it was taught only very sporadically. While in 1983-84, 1280 pupils were taught entirely or partly in Catalan, the figure had increased to 79pupils (32% of the total) in 1993-94, chiefly in public-sector schools.

In contrast, the use of Catalan in higher education seems to be well below 10% in the four universities in the region, although some progress has been made. It would seem, however, that the demand for courses exceeds the supply. Catalan is used much more widely, however, as a language of social contact in university circles.

From the point of view of the teaching materials available, there are many manuals and textbooks in Catalan for history, geography and Catalan language classes, and a substantial number of dictionaries, vocational and technical vocabularies, video cassettes, etc. Most specialist university works are published in Catalonia.

There is a systematic language training programme for adults who can choose between several learning levels (using a wide range of educational works and specialist magazines); this has led to a substantial improvement of the language skills of the adult population.

In parallel, the Junta Avaluadora de Valencià, set up by the regional government in 1986 and answerable to the Direcció General de Politica Lingüistica, organises the Exàmens Oficials de Valencià for adults attending Catalan courses organised by the regional government and private cultural associations. The Junta's examinations are equivalent to the examinations of the Junta Permanent de Català and, under an agreement signed by the governments of Catalonia, the Valencian Community and the Balearic Islands, the equivalence of their respective examinations is recognised.

In the area of teacher training, the university teacher training schools use Catalan as a teaching language and its social use is much higher than in the remainder of the university world.

The Generalitat Valenciana organises annual refresher courses at three levels for its employees (in particular teachers). The regional government also organises summer schools for primary and secondary teachers. The Unitat Territorial d'Inspecció Educativa of the Departament d'Educació i Ciència (primary and secondary education) is responsible for the inspection tasks transferred by the State to the Generalitat.

Lastly, many movements and associations demand the increased use of Catalan in teaching (for instance the Coordinadora de les Associacions "Escola Valenciana") at demonstrations and rallies and cultural events such as the Festa par la Llengua (which was attended by some 70people last year). There are also opposing movements which would like a larger number of exemptions from Catalan classes or which are openly opposed to the Linies en Valencià, such as the Coordinadora pro libertad de enseñanza en castellano.

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3.2. Judicial authorities

Although Catalan is official throughout the region, it is hardly ever used in the courts, despite some initiatives by the Direcció General de Politica Lingüistica. Interpreters are sometimes available, although no measures have been taken to ensure the language proficiency of court officers.

Documents drafted in Catalan are admissible according to the 1983 law. The Regional Parliament's laws are published in bilingual Catalan and Spanish versions. General State laws are published only in Spanish.

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3.3. Public authorities and services

The State administration makes little effort to promote the use of Catalan in its offices, and leaves this task to the regional authorities. Even the government of the Generalitat makes little use of Catalan, provoking criticism from some opposition political parties and Catalan promotion associations (for instance, only 11 of a total 7064 official measures were in Catalan in the first nine months of 1993).

In 1989, however, the Generalitat Valenciana established the Direcció General de Politica Lingüistica which has implemented a strategic plan for the promotion of Catalan in the region. At present, it is concentrating chiefly on language attitudes and the business world.

The local authority situation differs greatly in different cases. Although very few municipalities operate exclusively in Catalan, some have established language development programmes: chiefly in the small towns, although the municipal councils of some large towns (Gandia, Vila-Real, Xàtiva, Alcoi, Borriana, Benicarló, etc.), use Catalan in many fields.

The use of Catalan at local level ranges from almost total Catalanisation to the complete absence of the language, while some departments of the town hall of Valencia (controlled by a regionalist party opposed to Catalan) have attempted to impose new spelling standards, provoking opposition from many social sectors.

The situation as regards the language practices of the various public services is as follows: in general, signs and notices in public hospitals are in Catalan, telephone receipts and bills and the telephone directory are in Catalan and Spanish and electricity bills, post office information and police station information and notices are exclusively in Spanish.

With the exception of services such as the offices of the civil government (answerable to the central State authorities), the police, etc., the use of Catalan is normally accepted, although this is not as true in towns such as Valencia, Alacant, Elx, etc., where Spanish is very widely used.

From the point of view of placenames and official public notices, most municipalities use the traditional and correct Catalan forms of placenames, although the regional government allows municipal councils to choose which language to use.

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3.4. Mass media and information technology

Article 25.1 of the 1983 Law states that "The Council of the Generalitat (...) shall ensure that there is adequate use of Valencian by radio and television broadcasters and by other means of communication administered by the Generalitat (...)". Article 2.1 of the law establishing Radiotelevisió Valenciana (RTVV) states that activities of the social communication resources of the Generalitat should be based (among other things) on the principle of the "promotion and linguistic protection of the language of the Valencian Community".

In the daily and periodical press, there are three main periodicals in Catalan: the weekly El Temps, containing political and general information (with a print-run of around 26 000 copies), the monthly Saó, containing regional information, and Butlleti ACPV which is the quarterly in-house bulletin of Acció Cultural del Pais Valencià. 60% of the content of a further quarterly periodical, All-i-oli, published by the teachers' trade union, is in Catalan. A substantial proportion of a number of other local publications (literary, scientific, etc.) is in Catalan.

In the radio world, Canal 9 Ràdio, which broadcasts entirely in Catalan is the public station of the Generalitat Valenciana and was set up in 1988. Ràdio 4, the FM station run by Radio Nacional del España which broadcast in Catalan closed some years ago. Other municipal and local stations also broadcast in Catalan, although the general situation as regards the extension of the use of Catalan in this area seems to have worsened.

On television, Canal 9 TVV is a public television channel opened by the regional government in 1989. Some 60% of programmes are in Catalan, in particular information programmes, programmes for children and young people and documentaries. According to recent figures, Canal 9 attracts 19.9% of the regional audience (some 725television viewers). The main channels are TVE1 (in Spanish, 27.3%), Antena 3 TV (in Spanish, 21.5%) and Tele 5 (in Spanish, 19.8%). Given the high-level skills available in this sector, Canal 9 has recently decided to broadcast the main cinema cycles in Spanish, which has had an adverse impact on the new dubbing industry which was starting to develop in the region.

The erection of relays financed by public subscription have also made it possible to receive Catalan television programmes (TV3) throughout most of the region, although audience figures have plummeted since regional television broadcasts started.

In the computing sector, there are two word processing packages in Catalan: the programme ILLA published by the Generalitat Valenciana and DITEXTO published by a private enterprise. The regional government also awards grants to promote the production of software in Catalan and has just published a mini computing glossary.

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3.5. The Arts

There is a very dynamic generation of young authors chiefly publishing high quality short stories and poetry. Some Valencian publishing houses, such as Tres i Quatre and Bromera, are also very active. The number of books published in the region has increased constantly over the last twenty years. 388 were published in 1991 and 422 in 1992. These are chiefly textbooks and children's books, works of poetry, short stories and encyclopedias.

Under the Generalitat's policy to support and promote publishing in Catalan, it purchases 250 copies of all books published in Catalan in the region.

Lastly, there is a very important annual literary festival, the Premis d'Octubre, organised by Acció Cultural del Pais Valencià. Several literary and communication prizes are awarded at the evening closing ceremony of a week of academic and cultural events. In 1994, the prizegiving ceremony was broadcast live by Catalonia's public television channel TV3 and by Canal 9.

There are several traditional music groups, such as Trullars (using modern techniques applied to traditional and Renaissance music) and La Xàfiga (a group specialising in the traditional festivals which commemorate the wars between Moors and Christians).

There are also several modern music groups which sing in Catalan including Carraixet, 4000 Som Prou, Kartutx, Remigi Palmero, Bobo Boix, Eduard Joanes, Partaka, Bustamante. Paco Muñoz plays music for children.

In the theatre world, many troupes of professional actors perform almost exclusively in Catalan: Xarxa Teatre, L'Horta Teatre, Ananda Dansa, Falaguera, Bambalina Titelles, PTV Clowns, L'Om Teatre, Pluja Teatre, Visitants, Teatre Dependent, Pimpinelles. Other troupes sometimes perform in Catalan: Trapezi, Pavana Espectacles, Teatre de l'Aigua, La Burbuja, Teatre de l'Ull and the institutional troupe Centre Dramàtic de la Generalitat Valenciana. There are also some amateur groups such as Pla i Revès, L'Home Dibuixat, La Barumba.

The regional government's Department of Culture (and the provincial councils) support the activities of these various groups by funding tours, awarding production grants, etc.

In the cinema world, very few Catalan films have been produced in the region or shown in cinemas. We have already noted the problems that Canal 9's new policy of promoting broadcasts of Spanish films has raised for the fledgling Catalan dubbing industry.

There has been a constant increase in the number of cultural festivals and other cultural events over the last ten or so years: Festival de Teatre de Carrer (Vila-Real), La Mostra de Teatre (Alcoi), Dansa a València, El Festival de Teatre Amateur (Altea), Festival Intim de Sueca, Festival de Teatre i Música Medieval (Elx), Mostra de Titelles Vall d'Albaida, etc. A large number of popular events also take place in Catalan: Festes Majors, Moros i Cristians, Falles, theatrical performances during Sant Vicent (the region's patron Saint) in Valencia, the Sant Antoni, Sant Joan and Misteri d'Elx cycles, etc.

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3.6. The business world

Knowledge of Catalan is hardly ever a requirement for entry into employment, except for posts involving contact with the public. In the advertising world (on public highways, radio and television) some institutional notices and posters are in Catalan.

In recent years, progress has related largely to the attitudes of speakers: some recent surveys by the Department of Culture show that a substantial percentage of the population considers that the use of Catalan will become increasingly important in the labour market.

In the retail trade, the oral use of Catalan is very widespread, in contrast to department stores and commercial advertising where it is hardly ever used.

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3.7. Family and social use of the language

Outside the large towns, most parents speak Catalan with their children. After a long period during which families had stopped passing on Catalan (especially in the large towns), the process now seems to have slowed down and may even have been reversed, although in the large towns Spanish is still the habitual language of a substantial proportion of young people, except in towns such as Sueca or Alcoi which have larger numbers of Catalan speakers.

A knowledge of Catalan is also seen as useful for the future. All the surveys show good prospects for Catalan, as there seems to be a growing interest in Catalan (in particular among young people), not only in terms of its usefulness, but also from the point of view of its cultural value and the collective identity that it provides.

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3.8. Transnational exchanges

Despite some trade with northern Catalonia (France), it seems that the regional government has not taken any measures to promote cultural and language exchanges between the various Catalan- speaking communities.

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4. Conclusion

The large number of legislative provisions regarding Catalan seem to show that it is well accepted in the region. The fact that the language is not very socially institutionalised in the community does not, however, allow for comparable progress in all areas. Catalan is used socially in daily life to a much lower extent than in formal areas such as the education system.

Why has language standardisation taken place so slowly in the Valencian community? The language question became particularly acute during the 1960s and 1970s, a period of major economic growth. The stand in favour of Catalan went together with the emergence of a very dynamic cultural and language identity within a whole range of social sectors that were reacting against the traditional bilingual situation. In this context, the 1983 Law has had very uneven results in its various fields of application. Much progress has been made in education and, more recently, in the mass media, while very little progress has been made with the use of Catalan by the regional authorities and private enterprise; this seems likely to promote the substitution of Catalan by Spanish, a development which seems irreversible unless a new strategy on language policy is put into practice.

Although the various surveys conducted in the region in the last few years show that considerable progress has been made from the point of view of the knowledge of Catalan by young people, it is nevertheless evident that Spanish is used for most day-to-day communication, which has a clear-cut impact on the social dealings of speakers of both languages. The constant conflict surrounding the name of the language (Catalan or Valencian) and spelling standards, cannot but push speakers to adopt Spanish as their language of habitual use.

Catalan will be standardised as a regional language only if Valencians themselves decide that this is to be the case and use those language production and reproduction means which served in the past to marginalise Catalan from formal uses (teaching, mass media, regional authorities, judicial authorities, etc.). The family has a major role to play here as it is only the family that can tip the balance in favour of one or other language by passing it on from one generation to the next as, in contrast to Catalonia, there is no social consensus as to the socio-economic prestige of the region's language.

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