Logotip de la revista Noves SL





Sociolingüística catalana
Winter 2002

The studies carried out by the Andorran Administration as a point of reference for the language planning, by Marta Pujol i Montserrat Badia

This article reviews the language policy actions carried out and the resources used in the promotion of the Catalan language before the setting up of the Service of Language Policy of the Government of Andorra in 1998; it summarizes the sociolinguistic studies promoted by this Service in order to discern the linguistic knowledge and uses of the adult population and shows several examples of language policy measures taken by the Government according to the results of these surveys which stated the increase of the use of Spanish in most contexts: general campaigns to promote the use of Catalan among the population, sectorial campaigns in those socio-economic sectors less favourable to the use of Catalan, and the approval in 1999 of the Law regulating the use of the official language. The Service of Language Policy focuses nowadays on the linguistic uses among young people and the factors determining the use of one or another language. This year the Service has published the results of a survey carried out by the Centre de la Cultura Catalana and the UNESCO among young students while it funded last year the project submitted by Dr. Ernest Querol Uses and social representations of Catalan in Andorra, which studies pupils of the last course of secondary compulsory education.


PDF printing version. 293 k



1. Introduction

2. The 1995 survey
2.1 Mother tongues
2.2 Index of use
2.3 Linguistic uses in relations between citizens and public administration
2.4 Linguistic uses in the relations within the socio-economic domain
2.5 Linguistic index
2.6 Outcomes

3. The 1999 survey
3.1 Mother tongue of the adult population of Andorra
3.2 Linguistic use at home, with friends and at work
3.3 Indicator of use
3.4 Linguistic uses in the relations of citizens with the public administration
3.5 Linguistic uses in the relations with the socio-economic domain
3.6 Fundamental variables
3.7 Linguistic indicator
3.8 Outcomes and implications for the Andorran language policy

4. The young people
4.1 Analysis of the results and publication of Linguistic competences and uses among the school population of Andorra
4.2 Uses and social representations of Catalan in Andorra

5. Forthcoming projects

6. Conclusions

1. Introduction

The story of the sociolinguistic studies promoted by Andorran institutions is rather recent. The deep changes experienced by the Andorran society during the second half of the XXth century have caused important cultural and linguistic changes among the population, especially during the last 25 years.

Up till then the General Council (Consell General, i.e. the government) and many municipalities had to pass legislation, in their respective domains of competences, on various cases or contexts in which the language to be used was unclear. The agreement of the General Council dating from the end of the 19th century (1898) via which the síndic ordered that "passports and guides should be printed in the Catalan language and not in Spanish, because the former is the own language of the Valleys" shows that the ambiguity in the use of languages is a long-standing theme and is not related only to the most recent immigration.

Nevertheless, the directives issued to regulate on some irregular use of the language (mainly in labelling, advertisements or documents submitted to the Andorran administration) was for many years a useful and adequate tool assisting Catalan to hold the place which corresponds to it as the official language. During the eighties the resources devoted to language policy were clearly insufficient and it was this, probably, which led to the creation of two fundamental institutions for the promotion of Andorran culture and the integration of immigrants: the most relevant was the setting up of the Andorran education system from the school year 1982-1983, while the second one was the creation in 1988 of the language policy service to support private companies and commerce in the use of Catalan, to improve the level of knowledge of the official language among the population and to promote its use according to the article 2.1. of the Constitution and the directives of the General Council regulating the use of Catalan.

After an initial settling-in phase of this service, which for the first time provided resources in domains other than that of education, the Andorran government expressed the need to analyse the sociolinguistic situation in-depth. This was the origin of the survey on uses and linguistic knowledge of the population in Andorra carried out in 1995.

Previously, other studies had analysed the Andorran situation from different perspectives, for example Lixfeld's work on "The relationship between social and linguistic structures in a multiethnic state" (an author’s study that made relevant contributions), or the better known study by Boix & Farràs on use, competence and linguistic ideologies in Andorran high schools, which focused on young people and combined both quantitative and qualitative analysis.

Furthermore, the population census was carried out in 1989 and two questions were included on the languages spoken at home. Unfortunately, the results were hardly useful due to the low number of replies.

2. The 1995 survey

Despite of the relevance and value of all the studies carried out previously by different researchers, Andorran experts worried about the tendency to assimilate or make too hasty comparisons between the Andorran situation and that of Catalonia which was quite different from both psychological and sociological points of view, especially at that time. For this reason, the highest priority of the survey was that it should be undertaken by Andorran experts who nonetheless could be advised by Catalan specialists. This surveys was aimed at providing the first sociolinguistic picture of the adult population of Andorra as a whole.

The study was entitled Usos i coneixements lingüístics de la població d’Andorra. Its technical characteristics and main results are described below :


1995 Survey

Territorial scope

All the municipalities of Andorra


Residents in Andorra aged 14 and over.

Sample size

1,016 surveys

Sampling method

First, the place of residence of the interviewee was selected according to randomised routes and then the interviewees were chosen according to the quota method.
The sample was stratified by gender, nationality and place of residence (municipality)

Absolute margin of error

Error calculated for a probability below 95% if P=Q=50%.

Type of interview

Approximately 25/30 minutes-long personal interview based on a previously structured questionnaire.


Undertaken from September 11 to October 10, 1995 by a team of 19 interviewers.

2.1 Mother tongues

The distribution percentages of the population according to the mother tongues established in this first survey were as follows:

Catalan 42.7%
Spanish 34.6%
English 18.8%
French 10.7%
Portuguese 1.7%
Other 4.8%

2.2 Index of use

The frequency of use of each of the languages in each situation was evaluated according to a scale ranging from 1 to 5: 1 meaning "n", 2 "little", 3 "from time to time", 4 "quite often" i 5 "very often". To set up the indicator of use we took into account the relations within the household, with friends and at work as these activities constitute the fabric of daily life, and later on a weighted average was established between the frequencies of use in these domains. The results were:

Catalan Spanish French Portuguese
3.4 2.7 1.4 1.3

2.3 Linguistic uses in relations between citizens and the public administration

In order to analyse these uses we asked the interviewees which language they used in their relations with the governmental offices, municipalities, social security offices (CASS), the public-owned electricity company (FEDA), the public hospital (Hospital Nostra Senyora de Meritxell), the immigration services, and in which languages they received the reply.

Broadly speaking, this emerged as the most favourable domain for the use of Catalan.

2.4 Linguistic use in the relations within the socio-economic domain

The situations taken into consideration were as follows:

– when going to the doctor or dentist;
– when going to shopping centres;
– when going to restaurants;
– when taking a taxi or a bus;
– when going to a shop;
– when going to a bar, pub or disco;
– when going to a bank, an insurance company or a service agency;
– when going to the hairdresser.

We gathered the different domains in order to establish the situations more or less favourable to the use of Catalan. The results were as follows:

– situations with a high level of use of Catalan: banks/insurance companies/service agency and doctors/dentists;
– situations with a fair level of use of Catalan: restaurants, shops and hairdressers;
– situations with a low use of Catalan: taxi/bus, shopping centres and bars/pubs/ discos.

1 de 4