Catalan is the most widely-spoken language in Spain, after Spanish. It is the (co-)official language of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencia, although, given the close relationship between linguistic status and political autonomy, claims are sometimes made, particularly in Valencia, for a separate linguistic identity for each of these regions.
   Catalan is a romance language which developed from Latin. Though it became the language of an influential seaborne empire in the Middle Ages, it later suffered marginalization and persecution. As with other regional languages of Spain, the nineteenth century brought a revival in the use of Catalan, first as a vehicle of regional culture and artistic expression, but later as a symbol of political difference. By the turn of the century Catalan was being used in local government, the press and public life in general. This prompted work on the codification of Catalan, including the publication of a major grammar and dictionary.
   The Second Republic (1931–6) saw a major increase in the use of Catalan, brutally curtailed by the Nationalists" victory in the Civil War and the resulting Franco dictatorship. Catalan was proscribed, particularly during the earlier period of the Franco regime. With the return to democracy and the 1978 constitution, Catalan was given the impetus to flourish once more. Language planning in Catalonia, and to a lesser extent in Valencia and the Balearic Islands, vigorously promotes Catalan in all public domains, from local government, administration and education, to commerce and the media. Catalan is found on street signs, official forms and advertisements. It is heard on radio, and the high-quality channel TV3, showing films and other programmes in Catalan. Catalan is increasingly used in the education system.
   Over six million people live in Catalonia (with some ten million resident in the wider Catalanspeaking area), of whom over 90 percent declare themselves able to understand Catalan, and more than 60 percent competent to speak it. Enormous strides have been made to establish Catalan as the normal language of Catalonia, despite the challenge of mass communications in Spanish, and also the high proportion of non-Catalan speakers in Catalonia.
   Catalan's relative success (impressive when compared with most other minority language situations) can be attributed to the high prestige it enjoys as the language of all social classes, of social mobility, and culture. More resources have been available for this language's revival because Catalonia is the wealthiest region of Spain, a position which reinforces the commonly-held view that Catalonia is a separate nation (within the Spanish state) whose identity is symbolized by its distinct language.
   See also: Catalan culture; language and national identity; language normalization; linguistic policy and legislation
   Further reading
   - Ros i García, M. and Strubell, M. (eds) (1984) Catalan Sociolinguistics, Journal of the Sociology of Language 47(a comprehensive overview of Catalan from its history through to the early language planning activities of the post-Franco era).
   - Siguan, M. (1993) Multilingual Spain, Amsterdam: Swets & Zeitlinger (the best overview in English of the role of languages in Spain).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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