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Spring 2003

The sociolinguistic situation in Andorra: results of differents studies, by Jaume Farràs

This article brings together the approaches and concerns, methodologies and analyses of three pieces of sociolinguistic research on the linguistic state of affairs in Andorra, subsequent to the Pla d’andorranització (Andorranisation Plan) initiated in the seventies. These are two academic theses and the results of a sociological survey. These three pieces of work have quite different objectives and methodologies and draw quite different conclusions. German Volker Lixfeld (1982) produced a thesis on the languages of Andorra, and Pere Notó (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 1983) wrote his thesis on the psycho-sociolinguistic situation in the educational sector, and finally there are the interesting aspects examined in the survey by Emili Boix and Jaume Farràs carried out in 1992 on children and young people attending Andorran schools. The fast-moving demographic, economic and social changes in the country provide the background to these studies.


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1. General introduction

2. Justification

3. Volker Lixfeld: Les llengües d'Andorra: Les relacions entre les estructures socials i les lingüístiques en un Estat multiètnic
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Research objectives and hypothesis
3.3 Methodology and data collection: the conducting of 20 in-depth interviews
3.4 Results and conclusions

4. Pere Notó's thesis on La identitat andorrana des d'una perspectiva psicosociològica (Andorran identity from a psychosociological perspective)
4.1 Theoretical framework, hypothesis and objectives
4.2 Methodology
4.3 Results and conclusions

5. The Sociolinguistic study by Emili Boix and Jaume Farràs on Usos, coneixements i ideologies lingüístics dels joves de secundària andorrans
5.1 Introduction, justification and objectives
5.2 Methodology and methods of data collection
5.2.1 The survey
5.2.2 Semi-directed interviews
5.3 Results and conclusions

6. Bibliography

"The Principality of Andorra (468 km2) had 46,166 inhabitants in 1989 (1989 census), of whom 10,938 (24,3%) had Andorran nationality. Some 44.5% of the population of the Principality were Catalan-speaking, a figure which had been swelled by the large number of immigrants from Catalonia.

The way of life has changed very rapidly. In forty years Andorra has gone from being a poor country, with an economy based very largely on agriculture and livestock, to having a per capita income of 15,403 dollars in the year 1987, with an economy based on the tertiary sector (77% of the population). An area that thrives on tourism and commerce, it receives visitors from many different countries. According to figures issued in 1986, these were mainly from France (43.56%) and Spain (35.67%) followed at a distance by Belgians (6.13%), Italians (3.9%), British (3.53%) and Germans (2.11%). Spanish and French are therefore the languages most used by visitors. In fact, almost everyone in Andorra speaks these two languages, which are almost always llengües d’educació (that is, Andorrans use Spanish or French to speakers of these languages out of courtesy).

The seven parishes into which the Principality is divided exhibit different demographic and sociolinguistic characteristics.

The only official language is Catalan, with every right to be so. It is the language used by all departments of the Administration and has to be used in any communication with them. Official forms are in Catalan and this language has to be used in all official demands: This circumstance is not felt to be an imposition, rather it is the way it has always been and no one has suggested anything else. (See Ganyet, R. et al.: "La situació lingüística a Andorra, Catalunya Nord, la Franja i l’Alguer", coordinated by Marí, I. (1992): La llengua dels països catalans. Barcelona, Fundació Jaume Bofill, pp. 87-88).

1. General introduction

With these introductory words and with some data on each of the parishes regarding its demographic make-up in terms of more or less indigenous or foreign extraction (1) the authors present a barium meal picture of the Andorran linguistic situation at the time of writing. "In general," they observe, "both Catalan and French have lost considerable ground to Spanish, which has emerged as the lingua franca in the large urban areas".

They continue with a rapid presentation of the educational structure and system which revolves around three types of schools: there were on the one hand, schools depending on the Spanish government (2) consisting of a primary school in every parish and an institut (sixth form college) at Aixovall. Spanish was used preferentially in writing and teaching in these schools, even though the students might talk in Catalan outside the classroom, and some teachers –appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs- taught partly in Catalan.

Secondly, there were the French schools with a similar level of coverage: one French primary school in each parish and a large lycée in Andorra la Vella, with French-speaking teachers to guarantee the learning of French language and culture. While for a number of years the aim seemed to have been achieved of having French as the language in general use in all areas of life at the lycée, above all in the corridors and the playground- this had been lost again in recent decades in favour of Spanish.

Lastly, there were three confessional (Catholic) schools: one at Santa Coloma and the other two at les Escaldes, with a tendency to follow the pattern of Spanish education with the difference being that the language used in class was the language of the teacher and school activities were in Catalan. For several years Catalan had gradually been being introduced into the classroom on a triple front or strategy: working to increase knowledge, use and correctness when teaching students about Andorran culture and institutions.

In order to endow students with knowledge of specific cultural elements of Andorran society, in 1982 the Government set about creating the Escola andorrana (Andorran school). The precedent for this was a report issued in 1972, compiled by the Consell General de les Valls. The intention was to introduce a programme of Andorranisation of the French and Spanish in order to ensure knowledge of the Catalan language, as well as familiarity with the geography, history and institutions of the country, a commendable way of preserving its identity.

Mixed families (that is, where couples were from different language groups), had led to the existence of many couples with mixed language use, and led to many different options or results, usually favourable to extension in the use of Spanish, depending on the parish, level of education and occupation of the parents among other variables. That is, many linguistic situations at family or individual level were resolved in favour of Spanish or French, depending on the parameters and the demographic and sociolinguistic structure of each of the parishes and urban areas. At the same time there was continuing pressure from the surrounding environment deriving from the French- and Spanish-speaking communities.

2 . Justification

Thanks to the publication in NOVES SL. Jornal of Sociolinguistics, Winter 2002 of the article by Marta Pujol and Montserrat Badia, "The studies implemented by the Andorran administration as a point of reference for linguistic planning", it was obvious what had to be done. There was a clear need to make available the analyses, results and conclusions of the other previous or subsequent studies, carried out with or without the support of the Andorran institutions, and with or without academic aims.

In this article we present three studies which are markedly different from each other, and not easily compared in terms of approach, objectives and research methodology nor of the final results achieved. These are the doctoral theses of Volker Lixfeld and Pere Notó, and a research project –carried out under the auspices of the Institut d’Estudis Andorrans- directed by Emili Boix and Jaume Farràs. They were completed before the macro research projects carried out by the Andorra government. What still remains to be done, undoubtedly in some subsequent monograph is the analysis of all materials that have been collected and processed by students of the University of Perpignan, in the context of the laboratory directed by professor Bernardó.

3. Volker Lixfeld Les llengües d’Andorra: Les relacions entre les estructures socials i les lingüístiques en un estat multiètnic (3)

3.1 Introduction

In 1982, in the prologue to his doctoral thesis, pioneer Volker Lixfeld, a researcher from the University of Bochum, stated that "in the present work, the intention was to set out to describe the linguistic situation in the Pyrenean state of Andorra", by means of "... an exhaustive written interview, and an oral interview". According to the Introduction, he saw in Andorra "... an ideal research area for discovering the relationship between the linguistic phenomena and socioeconomic, political and cultural factors."

Like many another explorer, Lixfeld fell in love, so to speak, with this micro-state –the second smallest in Europe, both in terms of its geographical area and population- nestling, as it does, among the valleys of the Pyrenees. He adopted a line of investigation that was relatively new, in a territory which, according to the introduction, "had been ignored until now by linguists and sociologists, alike".

A country where Catalan was the official language, but not the only medium of communication, where the indigenous population constituted less than 30% of the total 30,000 inhabitants of the country (at the time) and where the constant need for labour and the legend that the economic possibilities of the little state were limitless, all seemed to work in detriment of the Andorrans (and of Catalan?), ... a country where the official teaching of the Catalan language was all but non-existent, in which a part of the foreign-born population denied that they even understood Catalan, where both young children and adults could be designated partially illiterate in their native language, and where a complex political system made it difficult to adapt its structures to the social needs of the 20th century,...". Andorra was, at that moment, such a population. It was multiethnic and "multilingual with a growing foreign-born population in which the official language has always been Catalan but never the only language in which its inhabitants communicate", as the prologue duly pointed out.

From a scientific point of view, Andorra seemed a veritable gift for that German researcher. In fact it was a gift for any explorer working in any scientific area... A few years earlier it had been the target for the anthropological gaze focused on it by the American researcher Stancliff, when he wrote his doctoral thesis on Andorran customs entitled Cultural and Ecological Aspects of Marriage, Succession, and Migration in a Peasant Community in the Catalan Pyrenees, defended in 1966 at Columbia University.

Andorra was not just attracting tourism, the financial sector and consumers, but also scientists and scholars, too. And that had important effects… the Andorran state was receiving an inrush of migrants, (4) was the goal for thousands of tourists annually, and as official as the Catalan language might be, people were not using it too much. Andorra had ceased to be that rural society, almost monolingual in Catalan, that it had been at the beginning of the 20th century, to become a place where multilingualism was the rule, where people were bilingual above all in Spanish and there was extreme growth in the tertiary (or services) sector thanks to tourism, especially from the 60s onwards.

3.2 Research objectives and hypothesis

As aspects to consider in his thesis, Lixfeld enumerated (page 78):

-The linguistic knowledge of the most numerous ethnic groups (native Andorrans, French, Spanish).
-Modalities of language use.
-Attitudes of members of these groups towards the co-existing languages and the evaluation they made of the other linguistic groups, as well as their linguistic awareness and knowledge of Andorra and Catalan. The specific problem of the process of linguistic and cultural integration.

He proceeded immediately to formulate more than twenty hypotheses relating to four main areas:

1. In Andorra, the type of multilingualism differs according to ethnic group. These differences become evident when comparing the achievements of Andorrans, Spanish, French and Catalans in the skills of comprehension, speaking, writing and reading.

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