As the other Romance languages, Catalan developed from Latin. More specifically, the version of Latin spoken on the Iberian peninsula. The variants of Latin preferred by the commoners and spoken in the various corners of the empire were called Vulgar Latin. Over time, Vulgar Latin (the non-standard kinds) changed into the several members of the Romance languages spoken in today’s Europe. All of this means that Catalan is essentially one example of Latin spoken in modern Europe.
Below, you’ll find 7 more interesting facts about the language which will make you make you want to sign up for private Catalan lessons right away:
1. Catalan – the official language of…
Catalan is a language with a variety of statuses.
In Spain, it is famously the co-official language (with Spanish and Occitan) in the autonomous region of Catalonia. But also in the Balearic Islands and even in Valencia (although the language is called “Valencian” there). In the Alghero province of Italy, it retains a semi-official status. Although the language is also spoken across the border in France, it holds no status there.
However, in the tiny country of Andorra, Catalan is recognised as the only official language.
2. Its closest relative is Occitan
Contrary to what one might expect, Catalan does not share too many similarities with Spanish. In fact, it is more similar to Italian (and even French) than Spanish. The closest relative Catalan has today, however, is the obscure Romance language of Occitan, which is not even considered a real language by many.
3. It has about as many speakers as Swedish
While Catalan might not be “official” outside of Andorra, it is still spoken by a pretty big number of people. Of course, estimates vary, but Catalan in thought to have around 9 million speakers worldwide, about the same as the number of people who speak Swedish.
4. Catalan has a complicated history
Throughout history, the region known as Catalonia has gained and lost its autonomy several times. As it often happens in such cases, the language spoken there has experienced similar spells of repression in the times where the region has been occupied. Most recently, Catalan was banned in the public sphere by the Franco regime from 1940 to 1978.
5. The capital of Catalonia is Barcelona, but…
Barcelona is the capital and the biggest and most well-known city in the region of Catalonia. However, possibly since it is such a multicultural city, Catalan is not even the most spoken language there. In fact, it has the lowest number of people who use Catalan daily in the entire region, with most people speaking Spanish in their day-to-day life.
6. Arabic has not had much of an influence on Catalan
While Spanish has adopted a number of features from Arabic, due to the Moorish invasion and subsequent conquest of Spain in the 8th century, the Catalan language, by and large, avoided such influences. For example, Spanish has a long list of loanwords from Arabic and has adopted the prefix al- in a number of words, al being the definitive article in Arabic (much like the English the).
While Arabic also influenced Catalan, the effect was not as pervasive, especially when it comes to the addition of al to the beginning of the language’s nouns.
7. The Catalan renaissance is still ongoing
Due to the complicated history and status of the language, Catalan saw a long period of decline in the sixteen and seventeen hundreds. After the War of Spanish Succession, the language was subjected to a number of oppressive laws which saw Spanish become the language used in all legal documentation.
However, starting in 1833 with the publication of Ode to the Homeland by Bonaventure Charles Aribau, things started looking up for Catalan again. Since then, the Catalan renaissance, Renaixença, has been gathering strength, with many notable works of literature published in the language.
If this post has piqued your interest, you can sign up for a Catalan teacher below. Or, for more language facts, check out our lists of interesting facts for Cantonese, Ukrainian, or French.