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I think the approach in Pluricentric language#Catalan-Valencian-Balearic is the most linguistically sound one. There is only one language - as in "compact dialect continuum" – (variously called Catalan, Valencian or Balearic), but more than one standard, and political borders do not coincide with linguistic borders (hence Catalan might be mistakenly interpreted as meaning "spoken in Catalonia"). Written Catalan is based on Eastern Catalan (as they are called in linguistics) dialects, Standard Valencian is based on Western Catalan dialects; both are two different standards (to avoid the notoriously polysemic and loaded word language). They are moreover both Ausbausprachen, and also Dachsprachen for their respective dialects, but they are not Abstandsprachen relative to each other; however, the differences are not big, either. The divergence has started only 500 years ago, in a period for which we have already texts. (Clearly, the attempt to show that Valencian has descended from Mozarabic is nonsense – if anything, Mozarabic was a substratum for Valencian.)
The situation is not quite comparable to Standard American vs. British English and the like, but more similar to that of Standard Portuguese and Standard Galician or Standard Macedonian and Standard Bulgarian. There are real differences (of an appreciable age) because the standards are based on different points in a single close-knit dialect continuum (dialects spoken in Northern Portugal may be more similar to Galician than to Standard Portuguese, and dialects spoken in Western Bulgaria may be closer to Standard Macedonian than to Standard Bulgarian). Continental North Germanic is very much like that (Scanian being historically closer to Danish than to Swedish, for once), too, as is East Slavic, as well as Czech and Slovak. Standard English vs. Standard Scots is a similar case, as there is, or was historically until recently, a single "Anglic" dialect continuum stretching all the way from the south coast to the north coast of Britain. It would be theoretically possible to use other traditional (rural) English dialects as the basis of new written languages, dialects that may have been diverging from (the ancestor of) Standard English for 1000 years or longer, all the way back to the pre-Norman period, that are therefore clearly different from Standard English in more than trivial points (not just choice of lexicon or a few minor differences in pronunciation or morphology/syntax) and may be almost unintelligible to an untrained/monolingual speaker of Standard English in their "broader" (less affected by Standard English influence) form – which would make the separation appear not completely artificial or arbitrary, but somewhat understandable appearing, even if the respective idioms are so closely related that a need for several separate standards is not felt – even in the event of political separation. Americans never felt the need to create a really distinctive language after their secession from Britain, nor did the Confederates after their own secession; even the Austrians and Swiss have, unlike the Luxembourgers, after the 18th century never made any attempts to create their own languages based on regional Upper German dialects, as distinctive as these are (more distinctive even than Luxembourgish!) – that although the Swiss and especially the Austrians have been eager to form their own national identity (ethnogenesis) and to dissociate themselves from the Germans ever since 1945, conflating German nationality/citizenship with "ethnic German" identity.
To sum up, I think that there are three cases to distinguish: Those in which there are only minor systematic (especially grammatical) differences between different standards (and differences may stem from conscious choice between several possibilities), as in the case of Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian/Montenegrin, which are all based on the exact same sub-sub-subdialect; those where there are genuine systematic, dialectal differences between competing standards; and those where the systematic differences cannot be reduced to a short list anymore even where the languages are patently closely related (think Spanish and Portuguese). --Florian Blaschke (talk) 20:33, 13 October 2012 (UTC)
Hi! What you said is very interesting. I'd like to add a few more details and observations.
First, the "Catalan-Valencian-Balearic language" is divided in two main "blocks": Eastern, and Western. Blaverists defend the opposition of "North" (Catalan) vs. "South" (Valencian). However, IMHO, the only truly valid dialectal dichotomy is that of East vs. West (a position held by most linguists). The language spoken in Lleida (closer to France than to the Valencian border) is *much* more similar to the one spoken in Valencia than to the one spoken in Barcelona.
Thus, we have two main dialect "blocks", each one having one distinct sub-dialect that has been standarized: Valencian for the Western block (which includes the provinces of Alacant, Castelló, València, Lleida, and most of Tarragona), and Central Catalan for the Eastern block (the rest).
Second, some conservative characteristics of the Valencian standard (like the distinction of b/v, and to a lesser extent the pronunciation of final r's) are missing in many other Valencian sub-dialects, thus bringing them slightly closer to the language spoken in Catalonia.
Third, Balearic, despite being traditionally included in the Eastern block (for having [ə]), should be considered something apart. Insular varieties are the closest to Medieval Catalan, the common ancestor of all modern dialects.
Finally, even though the grammar and word choices of each standard are different, the ortography is the same (with only minor differences with é vs. è in a few words); and this ortography mostly "favors" the Valencian phonology. Seriously, many adult native Central Catalans still make mistakes with unstressed a/e and o/u, and with final consonants.
This ultimate fact you point out (which is true) shows that, actually, in a general way, it's a mistake to say that general catalan standard would be based upon central or eastern Catalan. The standard was mainly inspired by Catalan medieval litterature, and the most important medieval authors were... Valencian people! Vocalic orthography of Catalan is in most case based on western (=valencian) pronounciation.