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Sociolingüística catalana

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


Carles Salvador, politician of language and avantguard educator along the lines of Alexandre Galí and Delfí Dalmau, is the personification of the humanist intellectual, fierce defender of the unity of Catalan in the Community of Valencia, and defender of the Catalan Republic. He theorises on language shift and proposes linguistic conscience and the self-centring of the Catalan nation, from Salses to Guardamar... against Spanish imperialist political interference. He demands that official status be bestowed upon Valencian and supports the theory of passive polyglottism and international linguistic egalitarianism of Dalmau and the Esperantists.

Salvador refers to Catalan as a "national language" and always speaks in terms of the speaking community, making a more society-centred, rather than language-centred, hypothesis; he uses the definition of the great humanist, Lluís Vives, on the importance of language as the basic principle of all human societies and considers that "To conserve a language, then, is to maintain the reality of the existence of a nation". This hypothesis is wholly modern, since it highlights the idea of language that is linked to existence, rather than simply the essence, as authors in Jocs Florals competitions had done; he is aware of the reality of "language change" and refers to language shift: "A language dies when nobody speaks it". As early as in 1936, he makes use of the terms "invading language" and "languages in contact", and is perfectly aware of the start of the diglossic era in the Valencian Country, referring to the theme illustrated by Lluís Millan in El Cortesano (1561) of placing Valencian into the mouths of morons and Spanish on the lips of lords, and of hiding the people’s own language: "conceal the Valencian language". He also refers to self-hatred, prestige/stigma, and to the conscience and need for language use. He suggests as a model for language policy that of the Helvetic Confederation

Joan Fuster, who we deal with last because, in a way, he is very much a synthesis of the above authors, opens up the path to sociolinguistic science with his explicit hypotheses on the need for study and critical development. He ironically warns that if things in the Principality go unharnessed, we will end up "speaking Valencian", and the metaphor is not a phonetics- or morphology-related issue. He correctly and ironically condemns shift ideologies of a colonial mentality and considers that languages, within a context of conflict, become tools or forms of domination; he stresses the importance of linguistic facilitation as a means of absorbing languages; he does not dismiss the self-hatred factor that he calls "bad conscience" or "alienation"; he explains that the language issue is a political issue; he looks for internal responsibilities in the process of language shift and makes a proposal for sociolinguistic sovereignty which, at the beginning of the twenty-first century is still wholly current: linguistic activism and language planning, a return to Catalan monolingualism, self-centring and defence of the common language of the Catalan people in the north and south of the same nation. To live in Catalan.

4. Factors influencing language use

The last section of this research (a) will comment on some basic factors influencing language use and (b) put forward some proposals: (a) motivation and perception of use, action and offer of use, linguistic competence, importance of macrospheres of administration, teaching and mass media and the changes that have taken place in these areas, attitudes and standards of language use... (b) We need to change the standards of current use, intervene in the perception of use of language, convince second and third-generation immigrants of the need to become the new Catalan-speakers, welcome new immigrants in Catalan, neutralise the cultural shock and invite them to use Catalan; we need to promote associations among young people and make them aware that will is more important than ability, that action (positive models) is more decisive than reflection; we need to increase the number of hours of Catalan and reinforce Catalan as a subject (more resources, smaller groups...), create a Catalan culture subject at secondary level and carry out linguistic immersion, also at secondary level; we need to promote awareness of the usefulness of Catalan and eliminate the perverse connotations of Catalan; we should refrain from Latinising the language; we should conduct pilot-schemes and promote research on the reasons for the continued negative standards of use; we must associate Catalan with modernity through popular and mass mobilisations such as Acampallengua; we should introduce new measures to promote reading, not pay too much attention to issues of correction, but avoid the use of Spanish barbarisms; we should make people aware that Catalan is not incompatible with any other culture and that standardisation also means bilingualisation; we must create a need for use of Catalan and supraregional bodies and language policy associations common to the whole of the Catalan territory; we should promote an interlanguage for Catalans that is not Spanish or any other imperial language; we need to promote and aid linguistic activism and ensure that existing organisations are effectively unified or coordinated.

5. Bibliography

Almirall, Valentí (1886): Lo catalanisme. Barcelona: Edicions 62 and La Caixa, MOLC, 1979.

Dalmau, Delfí (1936): Poliglotisme passiu. Barcelona: Edicions de "La Revista".

Lamuela, Xavier i Murgades, Josep (1984): Teoria de la llengua literària segons Fabra. Barcelona: Quaderns Crema.

Ninyoles, Rafael L. (1971): Idioma i prejudici. Palma de Mallorca: Editorial Moll, 1975.

Rovira i Virgili, Antoni (1916): El nacionalisme. Barcelona: Edicions del Cotal, 1978.

Sánchez Carrión, J. M. (1987): Un futuro para nuestro pasado. Estella: Gràficas Lizarra.

Solé i Camardons, Jordi (1998): Poliglotisme i raó. El discurs ecoidiomàtic de Delfí Dalmau. Lleida: Pagès editors.

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