Catalan Language Facts

Catalan Language Facts

1. The Origins

Catalan is a Romance language derived from Vulgar Latin. Widely used across the Mediterranean world during the Middle Ages, Catalan declined when Spain was unified in 1479 onward. Catalan saw a revival in the 19th century, before being banned during most of the 20th century by the Francoist dictatorship.

2. The Speakers

It is estimated that Catalan is spoken by 9 million people, mainly in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, the Valencian Community, and in the French department of the Pyrénées-Orientales. Catalan is an official language in Andorra, Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and the Valencian Community and a co-official language in the Italian city of Alghero in Sardinia.

3. The Repressed

Catalan has been banned and repressed several times during its long history. It was banned for the first time in 1714 after the Catalans’ defeat in the War of Spanish Succession. The Spanish language was used as a tool to unify Spain and the use of Catalan declined as a result. After the renaixença movement which saw the revival of Catalan in the 19th century, Catalan was banned once again in the 20th century. From 1940 to 1978, Catalan was strictly banned by Franco. Despite this, Catalan managed to survive and is today spoken by over 9 million people.

4. The Dialects

Catalan has six dialects, from East to West:

  • Alguerese, spoken in Alghero;
  • Balearic, spoken in the Balearic Islands;
  • Rousellonese, spoken in Roussillon, a region in southern France;
  • Central Catalan, spoken mainly in Barcelona, Tarragona and Girona;
  • Northwestern Catalan, spoken in Lleida, in parts of Tarragona and La Franja;
  • Valencian, spoken in Valencia.

5. The Related

Catalan is a Gallo-Romance and is very similar to Occitan. It has more in common with French and Italian than with Spanish.


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