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About Catalan Language

Catalan (Catalan: català, pronounced [kətəˈla] or [kataˈla]) is a Romance language, the national and official language of Andorra, and a co-official language in the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencian Community, where it is known as Valencià (Valencian), as well as in the city of Alghero on the Italian island of Sardinia. It is also spoken in the autonomous communities of Aragon (in La Franja) and Murcia (in Carche) in Spain, and, officially recognised to some extent, in the historic Roussillon region of southern France, roughly equivalent to the current département of the Pyrénées-Orientales (Northern Catalonia).

History

The Catalan language developed from Vulgar Latin on both sides of the eastern part of the Pyrenees mountains (counties of Rosselló, Empúries, Besalú, Cerdanya, Urgell, Pallars and Ribagorça). It shares features with Gallo-Romance, Ibero-Romance, and the Gallo-Italian speech types of Northern Italy. Though some hypothesize a historical split from languages of Occitan typology, the entire area running from Liguria on the present Italian coast to at least Alicante in Spain is more scientifically viewed as a classic dialect continuum, with some eventual perturbation as a result of political divisions and overlay of standard national languages.

As a consequence of the Aragonese and Catalan conquests from Al-Andalus to the south and to the west, it spread to all present-day Catalonia, Balearic Islands and most of Valencian Community.

Geographic distribution

Catalan is spoken in:

  • Catalonia (Catalunya), in Spain.
  • Most of the Valencian Community (Comunitat Valenciana), in Spain, where it is called Valencian.
  • An adjacent strip (La Franja) of Aragon, Spain, in particular the comarques of Ribagorça, Llitera, Baix Cinca, and Matarranya.
  • Balearic Islands (Illes Balears i Pitiüses), in Spain.
  • Andorra (Principat d'Andorra).
  • Northern Catalonia (Catalunya Nord : name used officially for the first time on 10 December 2007 by the General Council of the Pyrénées-Orientales), in France.
  • The city of Alghero (l'Alguer) on Sardinia, Italy.
  • A small region in Murcia, Spain, known as Carche (El Carxe in Catalan).

All these areas are referred to by some as Catalan Countries (Catalan: Països Catalans), a denomination based on cultural affinity and common heritage, that has also had a subsequent political interpretation but no official status.

Dialects

In 1861, Manuel Milà i Fontanals proposed a division of Catalan into two major dialect blocks: Eastern Catalan and Western Catalan. The different Catalan dialects show deep differences in lexicon, grammar, morphology and pronunciation due to historical isolation. Each dialect also encompasses several regional varieties.

There is no precise linguistic border between one dialect and another because there is nearly always a transition zone of some size between pairs of geographically separated dialects (except for dialects specific to an island).Grammar

The first descriptive and normative grammar book of modern Catalan was written by Pompeu Fabra in 1918. In 1995 a new grammar by Antoni M. Badía i Margarit was published, which also documents the Valencian and Balearic varieties.

The grammar of Catalan mostly follows the general pattern of Western Romance languages.

Substantives and adjectives are not declined by case, as in Classical Latin. There are two grammatical genders—masculine and feminine.

Grammatical articles originally developed from Latin demonstratives. The actual form of the article depends on the gender and the number and the first sounds of the word and can be combined with prepositions that precede them. A unique feature of Catalan is a definite article that may precede personal names in certain contexts. Its basic form is en and it can change according to its environment (the word "en" has also other lexical meanings). One of the common usages of this article is in the word can, a combination of "la casa" shortened to ca (house) and en, which here means "the". For example "la casa d'en Sergi" becomes "Can Sergi" meaning "the house of Sergi", "Sergi's house".

Verbs are conjugated according to tense and mood similarly to other Western Romance languages—present and simple preterite are based on classical Latin, future is formed from infinitive followed by the present form of the auxiliary verb haver (written together and not considered periphrastic), and periphrastic tenses are formed from the conjugated auxiliary verbs haver (to have) and ésser (to be) followed by the past participle. A unique tense in Catalan is the periphrastic simple preterite, which is formed of "vaig", "vas" (or "vares"), "va", "vam" (or "vàrem"), "vau" (or "vàreu") and "van" (there is the usual wrong idea these forms are the conjugated forms of "anar", which means "to go"), which is followed by the infinitive of the verb. Thus, "Jo vaig parlar" (or more simply "Vaig parlar") means "I spoke".

Nominative pronouns are often omitted, as the person can be usually derived from the conjugated verb. The Catalan rules for combination of the object pronoun clitics with verbs, articles and other pronouns are significantly more complex than in most other Romance languages.

 

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