Catalonia, Catalans, Caterwauler

Well, reports are that sometime on Tuesday (that ought to be about publishing time on this posting given all the time zone stuff) the Catalonian Parliament might, maybe, could be, voting for independence from Spain.

This has already caused a heck of a caterwauler in Spain and they haven’t even voted yet. Well, the people voted in a referendum… Well, the people tried to vote, but Spain decided it didn’t like Democracy and would rather have a Police State (at least judging from all the Police sent in to beat people up).

So depending on what happens when, this might end up being a hot topic du jour. As things unfold, we’ll have a nice front row seat on it.

Now one odd question that comes to mind is simply this: Wasn’t it the EU who were busy saying they could hive off bits of The United Kingdom? Prune a bit of Scotland here, maybe some North Ireland there? Take a tuck in Wales, perhaps? Snack on some Gibraltar and Isle of Mann? So if it’s OK to nibble chunks off the Sovereign Nation of the UK and keep them in the EU, isn’t it also OK to snip a bit off of Spain and have it stay in the EU? Hmmmm?

Perhaps the British Brexit Negotiator ought to issue an offer to open free trade with the Nation Of Catalonia? You know, just to put a curling iron on some short hairs…

The Language

They kept saying on the news that Catalonia had it’s own language, but never said just what made it different. Looking into it, it is more like old French bits than Spanish. Which also says why France is all Pantaloons In A Bunch over the idea of independence. Seems they have a large chunk of Catalans / Occitan speakers in France who, one presumes, would just love to be part of a Catalonian Nation. Shades of Kurds and a group split between nations that don’t want to let them be free.

The Wiki on the Catalan language is pretty good.

Catalan (/ˈkætəlæn/;[4] autonym: català [kətəˈla] or [kataˈla]) is a Romance language derived from Vulgar Latin and named after the medieval Principality of Catalonia, in northeastern modern Spain. It is the national and only official language of Andorra, and a co-official language of the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencia (where the language is known as Valencian). It also has semi-official status in the Italian commune of Alghero. These territories are often called Catalan Countries.

Catalan evolved from Vulgar Latin in the Middle Ages around the eastern Pyrenees. 19th-century Spain saw a Catalan literary revival, culminating in the early 1900s.
Nowadays, France recognizes only French as an official language. Nevertheless, on 10 December 2007, the General Council of the Pyrénées-Orientales officially recognized Catalan as one of the languages of the department and seeks to further promote it in public life and education.

The language itself looks to me like a French / Italian relative more than a Spanish one. The Wiki has this to say:

Relationship with other Romance languages

Catalan shares many traits with the other neighboring Romance languages (Italian, Sardinian, Occitan, and Spanish). However, despite being spoken mostly on the Iberian Peninsula, Catalan has marked differences with the Iberian Romance group (Spanish and Portuguese) in terms of pronunciation, grammar, and especially vocabulary; showing instead its closest affinity with Occitan and to a lesser extent Gallo-Romance (French, Franco-Provençal, Gallo-Italian).

According to Ethnologue, the lexical similarity between Catalan and other Romance languages is: 87% with Italian; 85% with Portuguese and Spanish; 76% with Ladin; 75% with Sardinian; and 73% with Romanian.

Oddly missing from that last list is French. Anything having a high similarity with Italian and Portuguese ought to show some strong similarity to French, but it looks like they didn’t measure that.

The reference to Occitan in the first of those two paragraphs is an interesting one. It is another of those semi-forgotten Romance languages splattered about that part of Europe.

Occitan (English: /ˈɒksɪtən, -tæn, -tɑːn/; Occitan: [utsiˈta]; French: [ɔksitɑ̃]), also known as lenga d’òc (Occitan: [ˈleŋɡɔ ˈðɔ(k)] (About this sound listen); French: langue d’oc) by its native speakers, is a Romance language. It is spoken in southern France, Italy’s Occitan Valleys, Monaco, and Spain’s Val d’Aran; collectively, these regions are sometimes referred to as Occitania. Occitan is also spoken in the linguistic enclave of Guardia Piemontese (Calabria, Italy). However, there is controversy about the unity of the language, as some think that Occitan is a macrolanguage. Others include Catalan in this family, as the distance between this language and some Occitan dialects (such as the Gascon language) is similar to the distance among different Occitan dialects. In fact, Catalan was considered an Occitan dialect until the end of the 19th century.

Today, Occitan is an official language in Catalonia, where a subdialect of Gascon known as Aranese is spoken in the Val d’Aran. Occitan’s closest relative is Catalan. Since September 2010, the Parliament of Catalonia has considered Aranese Occitan to be the officially preferred language for use in the Val d’Aran.

Across history, the terms Limousin (Lemosin), Languedocien (Lengadocian), Gascon, and later Provençal (Provençal, Provençau or Prouvençau) have been used as synonyms for the whole of Occitan; nowadays, “Provençal” is understood mainly as the Occitan dialect spoken in Provence.

So you can see how if a language based splintering were to get started, it could easily have some parts of France choosing to get cozy with their cousins and closest language neighbors.

The French spent many decades trying to eradicate local languages in favor of French, though now the EU discourages that. They’ve pretty much eradicated the Celtic Breton language on the coast. During W.W.II the Irish and Scots Gaelic speakers could ‘get along OK’ with the Breton speakers on landing. Now not so much as the Irish have forgotten their language and the Bretons have had it discouraged. But I digress…

Here’s the Occitan area of France, just over the border from Catalonia:

Occitan areas of France

Occitan areas of France

Now here’s the parts of Spain speaking Catalonian. Note they include more than the Catalonian State (or Provinces, or Districts, or whatever they call the subdivisions…)

Catalonian speaking areas of Spain

Catalonian speaking areas of Spain

The part where the vote is happening is only the large Provence of Barcelona (autonomous community named Catalonia) near as I can tell, but the language area included down to Valencia, and out to the Balearic Islands.

So once a separate Catalonia is declared, it is quite possible several other Provinces might want to exit Spain and join up. Thus the vigor with which Spain is fighting the one Province getting things going…

Back at the language:

Spanish has much more Arabic influence in it, both in the harder sound profile and in the various Arabic loan words. Ever wonder why French sounds so much smoother than Spanish? Several hundred years of Arabic influence.

Here’s a small part of a chart from the language Wiki showing the same word (by meaning) in different of the related languages:

Gloss 	Catalan Occitan     Sardinian 	Italian  French Spanish
cousin 	cosí 	cosin 	    fradili 	cugino 	 cousin primo
brother germà 	fraire 	    fradi 	fratello frère 	hermano
nephew 	nebot 	nebot 	    nebodi 	nipote 	 neveu 	sobrino
summer 	estiu 	estiu 	    beranu 	estate 	 été 	verano, estío
evening vespre 	ser, vèspre seru 	sera 	 soir 	tarde-noche
morning matí 	matin 	    mangianu 	mattina  matin 	mañana
bed 	llit 	lièch, lèit letu 	letto 	 lit 	cama, lecho
bird 	ocell 	aucèl 	    pilloni 	uccello  oiseau ave, pájaro
dog 	gos, ca gos, canh   cani 	cane 	 chien 	perro, can
plum 	pruna 	pruna 	    pruna 	prugna 	 prune 	ciruela

It largely comes down to how much of the other substrate language in an area survived the Romans (so how many Celtic words ) and how many were borrowed from occupier or neighbor languages. See:

That actually lists the origin of many words from other languages too.


From English:

túnel “tunnel”

From French:

bachiller “graduate”, from French bachelier and this from late Latin baccalaureatus “bachelor”.
batalla “battle”. From bataille from battualia “military drill in fencing,” from Latin battuere, see batir below.
billar “billiard”.
brigada “brigade”
Inherited Hispano-Celtic
acarrear= to cart, to transport: from a- + carro (see carro below) + the verbal infinitive suffix -ar.
álamo “white poplar” (also Asturian llamera); akin to Irish leamhán “elm”, Welsh llwyf, Cornish elow, Breton evlec’h “elm”
alondra “lark” (OSp aloa), from Gaulish alauda “crest lark”, derivative of *ala “swan”, akin to Ir eala, W alarch
ambuesta, (also Catalan embosta, almosta), from Gaulish ambostā “hands together”; akin to Old Irish imbas

As Roman Latin overlaid prior languages, then the empire broke up and other language speakers arrived, the various areas had their polyglot tongues diverge. In many ways, the different languages of Western Europe are just various mixtures of Celtic, Latin, German, and the odd bits of Arabic in Iberia. (Honorable Mention for some Greek too). Then mixed, shaken, and slurred / blurred over time.

So given that, why does a given group feel so strongly about their particular mix of Latin / Celt / German vs their neighbors? Got me. Did Goths, Visigoths, Franks (in France) or more modern Germans bring their “have” helper verb to your language? Was it continental Celt that influenced (if French) or island Celt (if British)? Was your Latin mixed with folks from all over the Empire and simplified by their difficulties with the grammar? (Italian). That’s what makes the different Romance languages of today.

But it is what it is. Folks care about their particular variation on a theme. Celtic is dying out, but it started as Italo-Celt; and there are references saying that the Gauls of France spoke a Celtic language that was nearly mutually intelligible with Latin, so has it really died out, or is it just that the Island Celt was drifted far from most Celts?

We’ll find out soon just how much the Catalans care about their particular mix of Latin / Celt and misc. Do they accept a bit more of the harsh Arabic sound of Spanish? Will they demand to be free of it? Will the folks in Provance in France want to join them and escape French domination?

Only time will tell.

Then, should they decide to demand independence, will Spain let them be, or is a new Spanish Civil War in the wings? If so, what will the EU do? As the Kurds demand a separate Nation, how will things unravel in Turkey (as it gives up the EU dream) and Iraq and Syria as they all three fight each other and try to get the Kurds back in their pocket? With Conglomerate Nations disassembling from the UK Brexit to Catalonia to Kurdistan, what happens to the Globalist Dream? And will they take it laying down… I think not.

Personally, I don’t care if Catalonia declares freedom. Other than as entertainment via the news, it doesn’t involve me. I do have a small desire for the UK to use it as a needle to the EU (via announcing free trade with them if they separate) but I know the English are too polite to do that (despite the German / French dominated EU doing worse poking and “chain jerking” to them). From Mum I learned that British Reserve and politeness. It took me a couple of decades, but I finally learned from Dad that if someone jerks your chain, you use it to strangle them to death… fast. So I guess I’m more American now ;-) So “not my chain”, I’m just in it to watch. Popcorn anyone?

Well, with that, let the show begin.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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13 Responses to Catalonia, Catalans, Caterwauler

  1. jdseanjd says:

    This Catalan kerfuffle is not a grassroots thing: the Catalan elite are pushing this from the top.
    Less than one third of those eligible actually voted, albeit 90% in favour of “Independence”, which is illusory as the Catalan elite wanted to immediately sign on to EU servitude.

    Freedom is replacing Madrid with Brussels?
    The EU has turned its back on these fools.

    The Fascist idiot, Rajoy, has actually HELPED the separatist’s cause by sending in his heavy mob.
    & by heavy handed tactics in the courts also, severely watering down an agreement giving Catalonia greater autonomy, made by a previous Spanish Premier.

    I think cool heads will prevail & a settlement will be negotiated.

  2. Rhoda Klapp says:

    You don’t mention the only thing I know about Occitan, or Languedoc. It’s the language of Oc for yes as opposed to oui/si. My TV news showed a referendum ballot paper which illustrates this perfectly. The paper is bilingual. It had alternative boxes for si and oc.

    The region of France where they speak Occitan is called langedoc to distinguish it from the langues d’oïl regions.where they say oui.

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    Just heard that the “announcement” speech has been delayed by one hour. I guess folks are still arguing…


    Yeah… deciding where to edit always leaves some interesting bits on the floor ;-)


    Is there any insight into why the “elite” want independence and the “grass roots” doesn’t care as much?

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    Listening to the speech, it sounds like Puigdemont blinked.

    “Won the right to independence” but asking for dialog and “putting off the declaration of independence”…

    Methinks he found himself staring down the barrel of a large Spanish Legal Gun and decided to step off the line of attack…

  5. Paul, Somerset says:

    I’d imagine that the reason for the Catalan elite’s enthusiasm for independence is the region’s status as Spain’s economic powerhouse (which is also the reason for the rest of Spain’s fear of an independent Catalonia). They would like to keep the economic gains for themselves, gracias.

    How many of those gains find their way down to the man and woman in the street though? They might have the well-founded fear of revolution common to everyone everywhere at the bottom of the pile. Life’s precarious enough, without risking what little you have, when you know that ultimately you’ll be the ones to suffer the upheavals with few of any subsequent benefits.

  6. philjourdan says:

    I bet the Catalans wished they had a second amendment. It is not to protect you from robbers, but from a government coming to get you for being you!

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, fat’s in the fire now. France24, Sky, & RT all reporting Catalonian Parliament voted for independant Republic and to leave Spain.

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    Interesting… the Catalonian vote completed just before the Spanish Parliament vote on article 155 suspension of local rule. So Catalonia wss officially still in charge when they voted…

  9. vip ondiu says:

    Hello, I agree with your point of view. Just to add to your post, as a catalan, I need to clear an important point that has been wrongly interpreted abroad. Politicians in Catalonia has always been anti-independence; like everywhere else, like the establishment tends to be. It was the massive increase in pro-independence support arising FROM THE PEOPLE in 2010-2013 that moved traditionally unionist politicians and high-class oligarcs to capitalise on that. If we have now a majority of independentist politicians is because there’s a huge push in the demographic support of the idea since 2010. Obviously political narratives, are attracted to that. The second most popular party, that won the elections in 2006 became basically residual in 2015, just 9 years later, because they refused the independentist push.

    I’ve been an independentist all my short life (30 years) and in 25 of them the independentist movement has been trying to convince the voter in Catalonia to vote for pro-independentist parties, since the main parties would NEVER push towards real independence. Then something changed in 2010-2013, way more people than the traditional 10-20% independentist “freaks” were considering this as a real goal, and in those 4 years catalan politics moved towards considering independence as a real goal. Is easy to grow when the other side has nothing to offer but threats, and you look at the demonstrations and you see people of all ages, of all political inclinations, of all social classes, smiling and singing together. You can watch the images of every National Demonstration (september 11th) since 2012 full of smiling and diverse people with absolutely no violence at all. That’s how a region with 60-70% of Spanish ascent due to massive immigration in the last 2 centuries, suddenly wants to leave Spain. Politicians come after that, they don’t lead anything

    Regarding the atrocious management of the EU of this issue, I would say that I’m really happy, since I’ve always been a Euro-sceptic in Catalonia, which was (for whatever reason) probably the most pro-EU region in the Mediterranian. But after 2017, I doubt the EU could be more unpopular anywhere else in the continent.

    Thanks, and excuse any gramathical errors that might have slipped through… English is not my first language

  10. philjourdan says:

    @vip ondiu – Your English is better than most native speakers.

    And thanks for the insight. Those of us on the outside can view things from our own biases, so it is always informative and refreshing to get the views from those in the middle of a situation.

  11. jdseanjd says:

    @ EM Smith.
    I spent about a day researching about 6 articles on & about 4 articles on the facebook site 21silkroad. The search box on is useful.

    The impression I’m left with is that pure greed is a main motivating factor: the Catalan political class seem to want to keep more of their revenues rather than, as now, supporting poorer areas of Spain.
    Also, were Catalonia to join the EU, many little work sinecures, vastly overpaid, would open up for said elite in the huge EU bureaucracy.
    Nothing noble there.

    I have read rumors, so far unsubstantiated, that Israel is stirring this messy pot.

    The referendum was banned by the Spanish constitution, & thus is illegal. Done properly, the Catalan politicians would have had to secure an amendment to the constitution allowing said referendum. This they did not bother to do. Idiocy piled on illegality. Over 800 people were injured by Madrids’ robocops. In “Democratic” Spain. Contrast the peaceful referendum for Crimea to rejoin Russia, with 85% approval, which the mendacious EU, US & UK term “An Illegal Annexation”.
    Truly Orwellian.

    There has been in recent years an upswell of popular support for Catalan independence.
    This I put down to the idiotic Madrid/EU policies of austerity for the masses alongside no prosecutions of, & indeed complete forgiveness of the debts of the Banksters who blew up the world financial system 2008. Austerity CANNOT lead to economic recovery, but only to further tensions.

    The EU I see as a failing project: a stepping stone to a world Totalitarian Govt.
    I voted Brexit.


  12. jdseanjd says:

    BY the way EM, thanks for this fine article, & others. :)

  13. Pingback: A busy 2017 #1 Referenda | Marcus Ampe's Space

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