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Sociolingüística catalana
Summer 2002

The Ideas and Proposals of Precursors of Catalan Sociolinguistics, by Jordi Solé i Camardons

This article was prepared taking the survey that wins last year the ex aequo of the I Premi Jaume Camp on Sociolinguistics. The article analyses the pre-sociolinguistic discourse of eight Catalan autors and its aim is to disseminate sociolinguistic ideas and proposals of these autors.

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1. Linguistic conscience

2. The Precursors

3. The ideas of the precursors

4. Factors influencing language use

5. Bibliography

1. Linguistic conscience

Generally, in critical sociolinguistics, an important emphasis has been placed on linguistic conscience by all authors (Catalan or otherwise) who have attempted to use sociolinguistics as a tool for analysing and transforming reality in such a way that a language involved in a process of language shift reverses the trends of the shift and starts or consolidates a process of language standardisation.

Lacking a coherent linguistic conscience is like lacking the conscience of nationhood. In this case, the community can only walk mechanically on without direction, towards its death. As one essayist recently commented, in these cases, we could sing "ni som ni serem" (we are not now nor shall we be in the future). A linguistic community without linguistic conscience would be a phantom, a shadow without key strategic references. A community without a linguistic conscience would not know either its objectives or its arms; it would be unaware of who its people were and even its language or the name of its language.

The Catalan linguistic community has suffered each and every one of these pathologies and deficiencies: in the nineteenth century, it showed signs of not even knowing the historical name of its own language – nobles used the term llemosí; Catalan nobles considered the use of Catalan in formal contexts unnecessary and even absurd; Yxart, who promoted Catalan in literature, believed it inappropriate to use Catalan in journalistic or scientific writings; the leading figures of the Renaixença fostered the use of Catalan in poetry amidst violins and sweet-briers, but paid no attention to educating the population in Catalan and did not contemplate the need to set up schools to teach in this language. During the twentieth century, even the name of the language was denied to the south of the Catalan linguistic community and the Franja de Ponent, as many people fell into the trap of ignorance and began to call into question the linguistic unit. Assimilist linguistic ideologies and others that support subtractive bilingualism have taken root, jeopardising the future of Catalan.

The Diccionari de Sociolingüística (2001) defines linguistic conscience as "the series of thoughts, expressed and documented or implicit and masked, through which a linguistic community sees itself as different because of the language that it uses, and as linked or opposed (depending on the context), to the languages and communities that surround it. It therefore encompasses ways of thinking, beliefs, motivations and attitudes that make up symbolic values for a given linguistic group". The thoughts that shape linguistic conscience can be of two types: (a) expressed and documented or (b) implicit and masked. That is to say, there is a difference between the ideas that an average person on the street without a university education has of the language that they speak and those of people who have documented their theories and proposals on their own language and neighbouring languages. Thus, although we should reject ignorance in linguistic science, we must not forget that we all have a linguistic perception and ideology which, in a minoritised community, are extremely important for the future of the language, since it is these perceptions and ideologies that will form the basis of the language attitudes adopted by speakers and, subsequently, of the language uses that they will choose and that will become hegemonic.

The aim of our research (of which this is a summary) is to study a series of Catalan thinkers who already spoke in sociolinguistic or ecolinguistic terms before sociolinguistics appeared as an autonomous discipline, (1) and who were, therefore, already making ecosociolinguistic proposals based on safeguarding the Catalan sociolinguistic sphere. The aim is that the ideas of these writers, clergymen, essayists and men of culture in general will help to shed some light on the reality of language use.

2. The Precursors

Precursors of what we could term the ‘Catalan sociolinguistic discourse’ include such men as Ramon Llull, Ramon Muntaner and the apologists of the Catalan language throughout the ages: Onofre Manescal, Andreu Bosc, Josep Romeguera, Josep Ullastre, Antoni Tudó, Carles Ros, Ignasi Ferreres, Lluís Galiana, Antoni de Bastero, Marc Antoni Ortí, Agustí Eura, etc, - despite the fact that anti-sociolinguistic ideas also abound in the majority of these literary-minded figures. Authors such as Cristòfor Despuig, Baldiri Reixach and even Josep Pau Ballot are of particular interest. During the Renaixença: Constantí Llombart, Marià Aguiló, Jaume Collell, editors of periodicals such as "El Vertader Català", etc. And in the pre-modernisme: Valentí Almirall and Josep Yxart are two figures who should be taken into consideration.

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