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


2. Code switching, he argued, only happened in isolated cases. In inter-group communication, Andorrans resorted to the language of the interlocutor. Spaniards (non-Catalan Spaniards) and French people only rarely used Catalan.

3. Many if not most Spaniards and French are against the exclusive use of the Catalan language in public institutions, especially education. This is where prejudices came to the surface, negative attitudes towards Catalan and the country’s history, institutions and current problems, and the idea that Catalan is a minor language, all too often referred to as a "dialect " or "patois".

4. There is (was) little inclination on the part of the newcomers to adapt linguistically and culturally to the Andorran society.

3.3 Methodology and data collection: the conducting of 20 in-depth interviews

Lixfeld turned to methodology which was both quantitative and qualitative. The quantitative part of his approach was a questionnaire containing 51 questions, some closed, the rest open, in a document of eleven pages. This was administered to inhabitants aged over 18, Spaniards, French and native Andorrans, selected at random, forming a proportional and stratified overall sample of 600 persons which was his theoretical sample (5) (2.6% of the population, see page104), according the following dependent variables: parish of residence, sex and age. At the end of the questionnaire there was a space for interviewees to put their final comments.

Technical details of Lixfeld's thesi

Geographical area

All the parishes of Andorra, except Pas de la Casa


Residents aged over 18 years (22,869 persons)

Sample size

600 (6) chosen (2.6% of the population)

Type of interview

Random extraction, stratified by parish, sex and age

Field work

Structured interview, lasting 60-90 minutes. In Catalan, Spanish and French.

Twenty unstructured interviews, carried out by the author


10-12 months, in 1981, carried out by the author

The questions asked have / had as their basic aims (Cf. page 86):

- Gauge linguistic knowledge of Catalan, French and Spanish of the sample.

- Determine the use made of each of these, and the situations in which switching occurs, if it occurs at all.

- The attitude, linguistic awareness and knowledge that interviewees have / had of Andorra and the Catalan language.

Table 1, below, shows the distribution of the population of Andorra, over the age of 18 (at that time), for each of the parishes, plus their origin. This, facilitated by the Andorran authorities, formed the basis for Lixfeld's sample. We add the actual number of those extracted for the sample and those actually interviewed for each parish.

Table 1. Population of Andorra aged over 18, by parish (16/10/80)








Les Escaldes





















La Massana














Andorra la Vella







St. Julià de Lòria












582 (7)



20,79 %




Source: Figures calculated from the data in the the thesis

The in-depth interviews: Parallel to this, twenty unstructured interviews were carried out and recorded on tape. These featured very general questions (Cf. page 101).

Grosso modo, the interviews were concerned with:

-General information about the interviewee: place of birth, years of residence in Andorra, profession, reasons for immigrating, etc.

-Their relationship with Andorra and the Andorrans, and also with the Spanish and French.

-Linguistic knowledge, use and attitude to Catalan.

-Exchange of opinions regarding massive immigration and the eventual integration of the migrants.

-Knowledge of the Catalan language.

These interviews were carried out with people employed in different activities. Ages ranged from 19-65 years, ten were men, ten women, with different lengths of residence in the country, six were French, six were Spanish, and eight were Andorrans.

Fieldwork lasted almost a year, since Lixfeld himself delivered the questionnaire personally to the interviewees and arranged to collect it subsequently. He obtained only 259 completed questionnaires, despite his considerable efforts to obtain a greater number than that. Lixfeld felt that the time needed to answer it -between 60 and 90 minutes- was a dissuading factor in getting people to participate. There were also wrong addresses, changes of addresses and refusals to answer.

3.4 Results and conclusions

Analysis of the data on knowledge: Lixfeld noted that by 1982 (the year he was writing up his thesis) all Andorrans were bilingual, and often trilingual. Passive knowledge of Catalan was more or less adequate among the non-Catalan speaking Spanish immigrants, and poorer among immigrants of French origin. He went on to describe the multilingualism of Andorra as heterogeneous, given the numerous groups of foreign-born residents. He refers to what he calls instrumental multilingualism for certain speakers, for the Andorrans and Catalans, but also for the French and Spanish people who knew Catalan. He also refers to the multilingualism as limited, given that it exists

only among the population that had been brought up in Andorra and knew the languages that coexist there.

He noted that the command of these languages varied markedly not only from one linguistic group to another (that is, between French, Spaniards and Andorrans) but also within these groups. While all Andorrans could be considered bi- or trilingual, the Spanish –with the exception of the Catalans- and the French, had little active knowledge of the Catalan language. He stated that the Catalan population of Andorra was generally bilingual in Catalan and Spanish, and showed greater ability in Spanish in the written mode. The French population of the Principality tended to be monolingual in French, and where there was multilingualism, this was usually receptive, asymmetric, and with a clear preference for Spanish.

The French above all –but also a certain number of Spanish- wanted to maintain their mother tongue, to the point of positioning themselves (especially in the case of the French) in opposition to the consolidation of Catalan in Andorran public life, particularly in the education system. Despite that, a great majority of those interviewed approved of their children learning Catalan. Another finding was that all too often there were unfavourable language attitudes to the generalised use of Catalan evinced by the French, Spanish and even some of the Catalan-speaking migrants, who yet did not hesitate to use Spanish in out-group communication.

Difficulties in the way of learning Catalan most mentioned were the short time the interviewees were resident in Andorra, although in some cases this was actually 8 years or more, and the fact that Catalan was not in any way necessary to be able to live in Andorra, where Catalans and Andorrans used Catalan little in inter-group communication, especially where there were interlocutors whose knowledge of the language were insufficient.

He noted that Andorrans and Catalans evinced more language loyalty toward their own speech. While, as he saw it, the latter saw the language as a way of showing that they belonged to the same ethnic group as the Andorrans, the feeling of "Andorranness" of the former was arguably derived from or based on other elements such as the prestige, status and privileges that their group enjoyed as a result of having Andorran nationality.

Andorrans and Catalans certainly wanted the immigrants to be integrated, without their losing their mother tongue. And it was with this aim that a trilingual education system was set up in Andorra, where each child could receive an education in their own language up to a certain age.

The influx of immigration during the eighties, the tendency to interference and language contact, the intensity of such contact between the main language groups –Spanish, Catalan and French- and the desertion of many Andorrans and Catalans from the ranks of Catalan speakers, seemingly posed a threat to its continuing existence. It was against this background that, just a few years after Lixfeld’s research, the Andorran Government adopted a more decided language policy (politica lingüística) by means of advertising campaigns, the school system itself, and the media, all with the aim of improving knowledge of Catalan for all, and communicated loud and clear the idea that Catalan was necessary for inter-group conversation in Andorra.

4. Pere Notó’s thesis (8) on La identitat andorran des d’una perspectiva psicosociològica (Andorran identity from a psychosociological perspective)

4.1 Theoretical framework, hypothesis and objectives

Andorra was the subject, at about that time, of a psycho-sociolinguistic thesis, in this case focussing in the first instance, on the entire elementary school population of Andorra. Notó set out to observe and discover, via the analysis of these children, what he called Andorran social identity, a notion that was constructed in conceptual space at the meeting point or intersection between the psycho and the social. This was so since it was related to the experience and knowledge that people have of specific social groups, and to the specific way individual members of these groups have of experiencing and emotionally evaluating their belonging to the group or community.

What the researcher wanted to do was to determine at what stage of personal development this social identity emerged among the children and young people of this tiny country, employing a series of tests and experiments clustered around three areas of interest: capturing the knowledge that children and young people of their signs and symbols of identity, in order to take a closer look at their capacity for social representation of the country where they lived and determine the attitudes shaping the socio-centralism of these children. Thus the world of adults was left to one side, as an object of observation; instead Noté concentrated his energies on the captive audience or population of the school setting and very specific age groups.

This notion would ideally allow Notó to refer to the social representation of the children's Andorranness in terms of emotional and intellectual ties. At the same time as mechanisms which drive individuals within reference groups and groups of belonging, created the conscious feeling of belonging to a group, a community. Or, if the opposite was the case, the feeling of being excluded from specific groups, societies or communities.

This was a social identity, as he argued, that will become more evident "in a group of specific signs and symbols that produce a determined set of attitudes that are similar across a given group" and accordingly Notó sought to know the knowledge that students had of their specific symbols. An identity –according to Linton- that was forged during the first few years of childhood, when the complex processes of socialisation moulded the defining bases of the personality, temperamant and culture, along with the feeling of belonging to a specific identity, language or nation.

From this analystical perspective, Notó sought to grasp the components which forge Andorran social identity, to determine what the constituents of this Andorranness are which bring together the ties and forms of belonging to one and the same identity, community and state nationality. Understood from the psychosociological point of view, this notion of nationality forms part of Andorran social identity since it contains relevant traits in common across the group in question. These include linguistic traits, which cause the individual to feel he or she belongs to the same collective consciousness, rooted in the same territory, country and nation. It is in this context that the author takes advantage of the contribution to be made by sociolinguistics –and in the case of Andorra, there are some highly distinctive features in terms of the language (languages) and constituent signs of basic social identity: In Andorra, Catalan is the sole official language and is the language of the country. However, Andorran society has a very high incidence of multilingualism in the home, the school, the street, commerce, the media and in social and political life, all these being very active agents and means of socialisation.

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