Case studies in puristic language planning

Catalan in Spain

General situation and status planning measures

Despite lacking official status, Catalan was the language of nearly all inhabitants of Catalonia up to and beyond the beginning of the 20th century (Vila i Moreno 2008:

159-160). However, the dictatorial Franco regime (1939-1975) vigorously promoted Castilian Spanish as Spain’s sole language while repressing regional languages. At the same time, large-scale immigration from other parts of the country brought massive numbers of Castilian speakers to Catalonia. By the dictatorship’s end, Catalan had been excluded from official activities, the vast majority of Catalan speakers were literate in Castilian and contact with Castilian was eroding language loyalty. In in-group interactions, admittedly, Catalan speakers still clung to their language (Vila i Moreno 2008:160-161). Moreover, even though Catalan was excluded from modern media, and the reproduction of literacy in Catalan was a minority activity, a certain level of cultural production existed; Catalan was also used in the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, in some places a language shift away from Catalan was underway (Vila i Moreno 2008: 162).

Contemporary Catalan language policy was born during the transition to democracy following Franco’s death in 1975. The new democratic Spanish constitution (1978) may have confirmed Castilian as the only official language of the state (all citizens “have the duty to know it and the right to use it”). But it also allowed other languages to enjoy official status in the self-governing regions set up under it (Vila i Moreno 2008: 163). Accordingly, Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy (1979) made Catalan co-official with Castilian.

Initially language policy in Catalonia, as set out in the 1983 “Linguistic Normalization Act”, focused on language status in official settings and in education (Vila i Moreno 2008:164; Branchadell and Melia 2011: 202). Catalan language broadcasting was instituted by the regional government during the 1980s; and Castilian was progressively replaced by Catalan as the language of education (Vila i Moreno 2008: 165). In the 1990s, policy started to focus more on the goal of promoting the “social usage” of Catalan. A Consumer’s Statute established the right to receive information on goods or proposed contracts in Catalan, and required companies active in Catalonia to be capable of communicating with customers in either of Catalonia’s official languages; however, regulations necessary for the Statute’s implementation were not passed (Branchadell and Melia 2011: 204-205). In 1998, the Linguistic Normalization Act was replaced by a new Language Policy Act, which made Catalan the working language of public institutions and sought generally to promote its use. Nonetheless, the act specified very few types of situations in which the use of Catalan was to be obligatory.

Finally, a new Statute of Autonomy was adopted in 2006. It establishes the duty of citizens to know Catalan, as well as the right of consumers to be served in the official language of their choice, rather than merely to be understood in both Catalan and Castilian as was previously the case (Vila i Moreno 2008: 165; Branchadell and Melia 2011: 205-206). In this connection, Vila i Moreno (2008: 169-171) mentions some general problems. The Spanish state is only mildly interested in promoting Catalan; laws on free domestic trade render language requirements (e.g., the requirement to label products in Catalan) illegal, while the introduction of private

TV stations broadcasting in Castilian created strong competition for Catalan public TV, reducing the latter’s de facto audience to Catalan native speakers.

Moreover, Catalonia’s linguistic legislation, like that of other autonomous regions, has often been contested by the Spanish central government and sometimes vetoed by the Spanish Constitutional Court (see the detailed discussion in Cobarrubias and Garmendia Lasa 1987). In particular, in 2010 the Court declared unconstitutional several provisions of the revised Statute of Autonomy agreed by the Spanish Parliament four years earlier (Branchadell and Melia 2011: 207). One result was again to weaken the legal status of Catalan (Quirion and Freixa 2013: 651).

Authors differ as to whether the Catalan story represents a success for language policy. Vila i Moreno (2008), along with Branchadell and Melia (2011), is sceptical. These authors stress that, while the situation of Catalan has improved, it remains to some extent precarious (Vila i Moreno 2008:178); Branchadell and Melia (2011) are especially sceptical about the effect of language policy in the business sphere. By contrast, a survey of language use in Catalan businesses carried out in 2009 (ELAN. cat) produced rather positive results (Mari 2009; Hagen 2010; Strubell and Mari 2013). Over 90% of the businesses surveyed reported that their staff could handle all situations in Catalan (Hagen 2010: 30), and “there is a very positive tendency for Catalan companies to try to respond to customers in their own language” (Hagen 2010: 38). Interestingly, Mari’s report of the study (2009: 110) is the only one to mention regional linguistic legislation (specifically, the 2006 Statute of Autonomy), and then only briefly. Yet the study itself was meant to inform language policy decisions, and language policy was obviously pertinent to the question of language use (e.g., as mentioned above, businesses are required by law to be able to serve customers in Catalan).

Finally, it must be taken into account that Catalan is spoken not just in Catalonia but also in other autonomous regions, especially the Balearic Islands and Valencia. Although these have their own language policies, both the status of Catalan and its promotion are generally much weaker outside Catalonia itself (for details see Vila i Moreno 2008:166-168; Branchadell and Melia 2011: 208-218).

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