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Language

What is Catalan and where is it spoken?

Catalan belongs to the western branch of the Romance languages. There are two fundamental dialectal varieties, eastern and western, which contain lexical, phonetic and grammatical differences. The Catalan language in the Valencian Country is also called Valencian for reasons of historical tradition. The linguistic domain extends over 68,000 square kilometres in four European states: Andorra; Spain (Catalonia, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, the Western Strip, in Aragon, and El Carxe, in Murcia); France (Northern Catalonia); and Italy (the town of Alghero on the island of Sardinia).

These territories have over 13 million inhabitants – most of them in Spain – of which about 10 million speak Catalan.

Speakers and territory

Catalan is a medium-sized language of the European Union in terms of number of speakers, on a par with languages like Swedish, Greek or European Portuguese.

In Spain, 41% of the inhabitants live in autonomous communities that have more than one official language (Catalan, Basque or Galician), and almost a third of the population (29%) live in territories where the other language is Catalan. In the Aran Valley, in north-western Catalonia, Occitan, or Aranese, is also official. 95% of the citizens of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Andorra understand Catalan. In the Valencian Country 80% of the citizens understand Catalan.

Catalan, a language of today

Catalan is a language of a medium-sized population that is actively used in the territories in which it is spoken:

  • It is the ninth most spoken language in the European Union.
  • It is official in one sovereign state (Andorra), and in three Spanish autonomous communities it is co-official together with Spanish (Catalonia, Valencia and Balearic Islands).
  • It is transmitted inter-generationally in a normal fashion and is present in all the media in the Catalan-speaking territories.
  • It has a literary tradition and vitality, besides a rich culture.
  • It is a language that is fully coded, normative and standardized with full academic consensus
  • It is the eighth language on internet

Legal framework

In Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands Catalan is stated by the respective charters of autonomy to be the language of the territory and is an official language there along with Spanish. Additionally, in Catalonia, in the Aran Valley it co-exists with Occitan, there called Aranese, which is also recognised as an official language.
Each autonomous parliament has adopted specific linguistic laws:

  • In Catalonia, Law 1/1998, of 7th January, on linguistic policy.
  • In the Valencian Community, Law 4/1983, of 23rd November, on the use and teaching of Valencian.
  • In the Balearic Islands, Law 3/1986, of29th April, on the linguistic normalization of the Balearic Islands.
  • In the Western Strip, Law 3/1999, of 10th March, on the Cultural Patrimony of Aragon.
  • In Northern Catalonia, the law relative to the use of the French language, Toubon Act (1994).
  • In Alghero, Norme in materia di tutela delle minoranze linguistiche storiche (1999).
  • In the Principality of Andorra, in accordance with the Constitution of 1993, Catalan is the sole official Language.

As regards recognition in the European Union, agreements have been established by which any person may address the European Commission, the Council of Ministers or the Ombudsman in Catalan. Also, in 1990 the European Parliament passed a resolution to include a Catalan version of the fundamental texts and resolutions of the EU.

Catalan is a medium-sized language of the European Union in terms of number of speakers, on a par with languages like Swedish, Greek or European Portuguese.

Mapa del domini  lingüístic del català
Map of where Catalan is spoken

Catalan is a medium-sized language of the European Union in terms of number of speakers, on a par with languages like Swedish, Greek or European Portuguese.

Llengües a europa
Generalitat de Catalunya Infographics, July 2012
The Institut Ramon Llull is a consortium that comprises the Generalitat (Government of Catalonia), Balearic Islands Government and the Barcelona City Council, and its mission is the promotion of Catalan language and culture abroad.
Generalitat de Catalunya Govern de les Illes Balears Ajuntament de Barcelona
The IRL forms part of the Fundació Ramon Llull, which was established by the Government of Andorra, the Ramon Llull Institute, General Council of the Eastern Pyrenees, the city of Alghero, Balearic Islands Towns and Entities Network and the group of Valencian Cities, and has its central offices in Andorra.
Fundació Ramon Llull