Valencian language controversy
Sociopolitical issues surrounding Valencian
The Valencian sociolinguist Rafael Ninyoles i Monllor coined the term linguistic conflict by the end of the 1960s for referring to certain diglossic situations, such as the Valencian one. In his late works, he described the process of the ongoing substitution of Valencian by Castilian by social elites and the resulting loss of prestige of the vernacular language.
The status of Valencian was a continuous subject of controversy throughout the Spanish transition to democracy of the 1970s and '80's, and continues to be an emotive issue to this day. Generally, though not exclusively, it has been the political right in Valencia, particularly the blaverist movement, that has claimed that Valencian is a separate language. Such politicians often argue that Catalans, especially Catalan nationalists, are attempting to eliminate Valencia's own identity and force it into a political union of all Catalan speaking areas (sometimes defined as pancatalanism).
Many Catalan politicians, in turn, argue that the right wing is using this issue to portray Catalans as linguistic imperialists, in order to garner support in the rest of Spain for the centralist position of the Spanish right wing. They often refer to the fact that many of the most ardent defenders of Valencian's linguistic individuality often are not able to speak the language themselves.
The latest political controversy regarding Valencian occurred on the occasion of the approval of the European Constitution in 2004. The Spanish government supplied the EU with translations of the text into Basque, Catalan, Galician, and Valencian, but the Catalan and Valencian versions were identical. While professing the unity of the Catalan language, the Spanish government claimed to be constitutionally bound to produce distinct Catalan and Valencian versions because the Statute of the Autonomous Community of Valencia calls the regional language "Valencian", while those of Catalonia and the Balearic Islands call the regional language "Catalan" (even though in the Balearic Islands, the language is also often called "mallorquí", "menorquí", "eivissenc", or "formenterer" depending on the island — Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza, or Formentera, something that, nonetheless, does not imply major linguistic differences.)
Politically, language separatists claim it is feared that placing Valencian as a dialect of Catalan will put Valencia in a vulnerable position in front of Catalonia. In the 1990s, language separatists had a moderately political presence and power –around 10% votes, headed by Unió Valenciana– but nowadays the political parties supposed to hold this position have no political significance –staying under the 1% total votes–, thus showing the conflict is closed for a vast majority of the society.
Theories about the Valencian language origins
There are at least three theses on the origins of the Valencian language:
The Catalan Settlement Thesis
This thesis argues that the Kingdom of Valencia was settled entirely by Catalans and Aragonese, occupying first the coastal regions, and then later the inland areas. The Reconquesta of the Taifa of Valencia, commanded by the king James I, would eventually lead to the settlement of the kingdom by its new conquerors, who brought there their languages, the official ones spoken in the Crown of Aragon, Catalan in the coast and Aragonese in the inland territories.
Specifically, Valencian would constitute the most distinctive and established Western variety, with a sound written tradition which started as early as the 15th century. It can be then distinguished from the other major standard, the "Catalan of Barcelona" or Central Catalan group of varieties.
The Mozarabic Thesis
This thesis places the origins of Valencian in the population and linguistic continuum in the Valencian Region during the Muslim domination. Supposed documentation of several communities of Mozarabs (Christian population subject to Muslim rule) in the Valencian region might suggest it.
Historian Roque Chabás, in his article "Los Mozarabes Valencianos", examines several documents, both official and ecclesiastical, that attest to the presence, during the Muslim rule, of such Mozarabs, organized in communities located in various areas of Valencia.
There are supposed Arab records that attest to the survival of Latin-evolved languages during the invasion of the Mediterranean coast of Spain. Transcripts of this early Mozarabic language are found in some kharjas contained in the works of the Arabs living in what is now the Valencian territory such as Ibn Ruhaym (Bocairent), Kja Ibn Labbzn (Sagunt) and Ibn al-Labbana (Dénia). Ibn al-Labbana (also known as Ibn Sidah) (c. 1007–1066) was an eminent Arab writer and philologist of his time, under the patronage of the Muslim King of Dénia. In his 17-book treatise Kitab al-Mujassas, Ibn Sidah noted his tendency to make mistakes that could be due to the use of a Romance language.
However, this theory has a major flaw: The incoherence of a different language is not shown in the dialectal map, this is, to support this theory would require proof that Valencian Mozarab was spoken not only in what is now the Valencian community but also in all of western Catalonia, part of eastern Aragon and in what is now Andorra. Plus, there is a true linguistic border between the current Valencian domain and the Murcian Spanish dialect domain and, more importantly, with the Spanish spoken inside of the Valencian Community (though all these varieties were supposedly influenced by the same previous Romance language).
The supporters of this thesis denounce a promotion of the implementation of pro-unification politics that supposedly lead to a catalanization of Valencian.
The Occitan Thesis
This alternative theory proposes that Valencian, alongside Catalan, was originated directly from Old Occitan. This would have arrived in Valencia with the court of the conqueror King James I of Aragon, since he was born in Montpellier (Occitania) and this was also the language in vogue among troubadours. At the time of the Reconquest of Valencia, Catalan and Occitan, which lacked a clearly standardised version as all languages by the middle age, were often assimilated as a single language (or the same family of dialects), under the common name of Lemosin or Provençal which shared a single poetic tradition, even though, when spoken, they were different; Catalan troubadours knew they weren't writing the same as they spoke; and there are texts previous to James I, such as the Homilies d'Organyà, which are clearly Catalan as opposed to Occitan.
Supporters of this theory criticize the current Valencian standard promulgated by the Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua because such supporters regard the Valencian Standard as a hybrid with the Catalan dialects.
The Valencian Language Regulator position
The Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua (AVL) is the Valencian language institution (language regulator) whose primary function is to determine and elaborate the official standard for the Valencian language as used in Valencia and foster its use.
According to AVL foundation law, the linguistic regulations for Valencian must follow current Valencian genuine linguistic reality, respect Valencian lexicographic and literary tradition and start from the consolidated regulations based upon the Normes de Castelló a set of orthographic rules for Catalan and Valencian signed in 1932.
In 2005, the AVL passed an Opinion, reaching consensus amongst all its members, stating that Valencian is the same language as that spoken in Catalunya, Illes Balears and Principat d'Andorra:
- the endemic and historical language of the Valencians, from a linguistic point of view, is also shared with the Autonomous Communities of Catalonia, Balearic Islands and the Principality of Andorra. In the same manner, it is the historical and endemic language of other territories of the former Crown of Aragon (the eastern Aragonese fringe, the Sardinian city of Alghero, and the French department of the Eastern Pyrenees). The different idioms of all these territories constitute a language, that is, the same "linguistic system", according to the terminology of first structuralism (Annex 1) in the opinion of the Valencian Council of Culture, as contained in the preamble of the Act Creation of the AVL. As part of this group of idioms, Valencian has the same status and dignity as any other local variant of the language system, and shows some characteristics of its own that the ALV will preserve and strengthen following lexicographical and literary tradition, the reality of Valencian language, and the standardization based upon the Normes de Castelló".
An important subgroup of those linguists, mostly from the local official language academy (Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua), has recently proposed to also use this name to refer to the language as a whole, including the entire Catalan-speaking area, stating a concept of two names for one language (glossonym). This linguistic and political concept is not unique. As stated in the Statute of Autonomy of the Valencian Community, there is another official language, Spanish, which is also used under another name, Castilian (see names given to the Spanish language for further information).
Controversy in society about the origins of Valencian
While AVL and the Institut d'Estudis Catalans (IEC) both state that Valencian and Catalan are the same language, most Valencian speakers (64.40%) assert that Valencian is a different language from Catalan.
Valencian and its status regarding Catalan became controversial within Spain (particularly in Valencia) in the 1970s and early 1980s. This query has both cultural and political aspects, including nationalism, rural versus urban, Valencia's literary history, dialect versus standard language, spelling reform, and orthography.
All universities teaching Romance languages, and virtually all linguists, consider Valencian and Catalan linguistic variants of the same language (as is the case with Canadian French and Metropolitan French, as well as Romanian's relationship with Moldovan).
Valencian would serve as an ausbau language (to use linguistics parlance) within the wider Catalan domain, in that its rules are established by an autonomous language academy (the Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua) and given the fact that it shows a slightly different standard.
Roughly speaking, there is a continuous set of dialects covering the various regional forms of Catalan/Valencian, with no break at the border between Catalonia and the Valencian Community (i.e. villages contiguous to both sides of the border speak in exactly the same way), and the various forms of Catalan/Valencian are mutually intelligible. Nevertheless, real comprehensive linguistic competence may be limited between Valencian speakers and speakers of the most divergent Eastern dialects (such as those of Alghero or the Balearics).
Academics almost universally believe that Valencian has its origin in Catalan, that was brought to the territories that became the Kingdom of Valencia during the Reconquista. While Castile moved south conquering New Castile and Andalusia, Aragonese and Catalan settlers from the Crown of Aragon conquered and populated Valencia. Generally speaking it has been assumed that most of these settlers in what nowadays are Valencian-speaking areas came from South-Western Catalonia, and that would explain why the current Catalan-proper dialect spoken in that area shares fundamental traits with Valencian itself (the Aragonese settled the inland part of the territory, carrying with them the Aragonese and Castilian languages).
- See also Churro dialects
The Aragonese professor Antonio Ubieto Arteta in his book Origenes del Reino de Valencia, which is based on the numbers from El llibre dels repartiments (a book by James I the Conqueror which serves as the official account of the Reconquista) challenged this view, claiming that the percentage of immigration from Catalonia is only 5% of the total immigration, during the conquest and the subsequent 14th and 15th centuries. The population of Valencia remained 70% Mozarabic and Moorish, 11% originating from the rest of Castile, 10% from the Crown of Aragon, and 7% from foreign countries.
His claims have not been supported by anyone else in the mainstream academic world. On the contrary, further modern research such as that carried out by Valencian Medieval History professor Enric Guinot has even raised the immigrating population to more than 90% in certain areas. This divergence is based on a difference of methodology. While Ubieta focuses on the origins of the nobles who owned new lands, Guinot reads the towns' tax list in order to find the origin of the surnames of the new neighbors. In this way, Guinot claims an 80% new-Catalan population in Puçol and a 12% one in Segorbe (nowadays, Valencian is spoken in Puçol, whereas Spanish is used in Segorbe).
The issue of Valencian filiation is the product of hundreds of years of political evolution, throughout which the former Kingdom of Valencia and the former Principality of Catalonia developed in quite different ways. Individual Valencians have both embraced and rejected a Catalan background, and, accordingly, both regions have often been in conflict. Given this historic background, it is perhaps not surprising that a linguistic turf war erupted over the status of the dialect spoken in Valencia. The different background and evolution of local elites in Valencia and Barcelona fueled a sense of city rivalry, particularly present in the former. The absence of this perceived rivalry elsewhere in other Catalan speaking areas would explain that the speakers of more divergent dialects like Balearic Catalan or Algherese have not challenged their Catalan filiation (or done so to a much lesser degree, in the Balearic case).
The current official definition, according to the Spanish and Valencian governments, is somewhat unclear. The Valencian Statute of Autonomy refers to the Valencian language as valencià (Valencian) and could be interpreted as saying that Valencian is a language in its own right. The Academia Valenciana de la Llengua (AVL) —an official and state-bound entity created to regulate Valencian orthography— does state that Catalan and Valencian are the same language, and the standard taught by public educative institutions such as schools or universities does follow the AVL rules. Moreover, language certificates issued by public entities of all three Autonomous Communities (Valencian Community, Catalonia, and the Balearic Islands) are mutually endorsed.
In May 2006, the Spanish Supreme Court revoked the instruction ordered by the Valencian Education Department in 1995, which had established that validation of Catalan language qualifications issued by either the Catalan or Balearic autonomous governments no longer applied in the Valencian Community.
All in all, the AVL does set a separate written official standard for Valencian, and this is accepted as valid by the academic world since the two written standards are completely mutually intelligible and the AVL works together with the Institut d'Estudis Catalans, which sets the orthographic standard for the rest of the language.
In other hand, the Real Acadèmia de Cultura Valenciana, a public foundation adhered to the "Instituto de España" challenges the pancatalanic thesis. In this sense, its document Criteris sobre l’identitat de l'idioma valencià, dated March 12, 1998 states that "It is incorrect, therefore, strictly speaking to talk about its dialectal filiation to one of the minority languages that arrived to 13th century Valencia". The Real Acadèmia de Cultura Valenciana rejects that Valencian is the same language as Catalan, also rejects valencian to be a derivation of the Catalan, but instead, supports that traditional valencian is a derivation from the Vulgar Latin spoken in the romanized Valencian territory. At the same time, the Academy denounces that new grammar rules and dictionaries drafted in the later years have departed from the traditional valencian.
Also in this sense, there is a series of civil society private associations, specially within the Valencia province, from which the most influential is Lo Rat Penat. These associations campaign for Valencian as a separate language with a different written norm and have supported attempts by local mainly right-wing politicians to split Valencian and Catalan norms apart. Their theories have not been supported in academic circles outside their own.
On August 10, 2007, in reply to a blaverist demand, a different SIL code for val as different from cat was rejected by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), with the reasoning that "language identifiers are not language abbreviations". However, for those aiming to make clear the variant used a proper subtag exists, ca-valencia, which was refused as well by the plaintiffs. The ISO had already accepted from prior request adding "valencian" as an alternative name to the "cat" code. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) organization also has both "catalan" and "valencian" as names for its "ca" language tag.
- Fernand de Varennes (December 1996), Reading Literacy in an International Perspective, National Center for Education Statistics and U.S. Department of Education, pp. 125–126
- Based on Wheeler, Max; Yates, Alan; Dols, Nicolau (1999), Catalan: A Comprehensive Grammar, London: Routledge, p. xviii.
- "AVL statement: Valencian is part of the same language system as the language spoken in Catalonia, Andorra, the Balearic Islands, French Catalonia and Eastern Aragon...". (Catalan)
- CHABAS Roque (1890), in "Los Mozarabes Valencianos” Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes.
- The original text in Valencian is as follows: la llengua pròpia i històrica dels valencians, des del punt de vista de la filologia, és també la que compartixen les comunitats autònomes de Catalunya i de les Illes Balears i el Principat d’Andorra. Així mateix és la llengua històrica i pròpia d’altres territoris de l’antiga Corona d’Aragó (la franja oriental aragonesa, la ciutat sarda de l’Alguer i el departament francés dels Pirineus Orientals). Els diferents parlars de tots estos territoris constituïxen una llengua, és a dir, un mateix «sistema lingüístic», segons la terminologia del primer estructuralisme (annex 1) represa en el Dictamen del Consell Valencià de Cultura, que figura com a preàmbul de la Llei de Creació de l’AVL. Dins d’eixe conjunt de parlars, el valencià té la mateixa jerarquia i dignitat que qualsevol altra modalitat territorial del sistema lingüístic, i presenta unes característiques pròpies que l’AVL preservarà i potenciarà d’acord amb la tradició lexicogràfica i literària pròpia, la realitat lingüística valenciana i la normativització consolidada a partir de les Normes de Castelló.
"Dictamen sobre els principis i criteris per a la defensa de la denominació i l'entitat del Valencià". Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua. 2005. Retrieved 2010.
- CIS. Estudio Sociológico de la Comunidad Valenciana (III)
- "Comunicació Galícia". uv.es.
- Guinot, Enric (1999). Els fundadors del Regne de València: replobament, antroponímia i llengua a la València medieval. Valencia: Tres i Quatre. ISBN 8475025919.
- Autonomy Statute
- "The Supreme Court of Spain rules that Catalan and Valencian are different designations that one common language receives in different territories". ciemen.org.
- "Criteris sobre l’identitat de l'idioma valencià, Real Acadèmia de Cultura Valenciana.". Real Acadèmia de la Cultura Valenciana.
- "ISO 639-3 Change Request 2006-129". sil.org. Retrieved 9 October 2010.
- "Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages". Library of Congress.
- "Language Subtag Registry (RFC 4646)". IANA.