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Spring 2003

Surveys with sociolinguistic content carried out in Catalonia, by Joaquim Torres

This article focuses on the quantitative surveys, totally or partially sociolinguistic in nature, and covering large areas of territory, which have been carried out in Catalonia over the last few years, and not commissioned by the Directorate General for Language Policy of the Generalitat of Catalonia. In the case of each of the surveys presented here a summary is given of its main features. Such features include the aims and objectives of the survey, the methodology used, plans for the subsequent use and exploitation of the data, and the access to the data envisaged. The most interesting result or results of the surveys will also be given. In this article we shall be looking at a total of nine such surveys - varying considerably amongst themselves both in terms of the number of sociological questions and in sample size and the extent of the analyses carried out. If we furthermore add the other surveys carried out recently, it emerges that the quantity of currently available data on the sociolinguistic situation in Catalonia is more extensive and more complete than ever before.


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1. Introduction

2. Studies looked at

3. Basic information from each of these surveys
3.1. "National and regional awareness"
3.2. "Language use in bilingual communities: Catalonia"
3.3. "Social and political situation of Catalonia"
3.4. "Use, habits and attitudes of the population of Catalonia"
3.5. "The web society in Catalonia: an empirical analysis"
3.6. Two surveys by the Institut d’Estudis Regionals i Metropolitans of Barcelona
3.7. "On the linguistic behaviour of students at 52 schools in all Catalonia"
3.8. "Language and school in primary education in Catalonia"

4. Conclusions

1. Introduction

This article takes its place among the diverse range of different publications, in many cases published in NOVES SL, which present sociolinguistic research carried out in the last decade in the territories where Catalan is spoken. The present report looks at a particular type within the total range of such studies. It specifically focuses on those research initiatives not carried out under the auspices of the Directorate General for Language Policy, which have the following characteristics:

- Based on data which provide quantitative information.

- Dealing with the whole of Catalonia or a part of the latter containing a major part of the population of Catalonia.

- They are specifically sociolinguistic in aim, or alternatively they deal mainly with other aspects but include one or more questions on knowledge of Catalan or on language use.

- Carried out between 1994 and 2002.

2. Studies looked at

Nine surveys with the above-mentioned characteristics were found. These were as follows:

1. Five studies which deal with the adult population in the whole of Catalonia, namely:

- Three carried out by the CIS containing questions on language. Only one of these was more specifically sociolinguistic in nature. The other two contained a few questions on language.

- A sociolinguistic survey not carried out by any institution, but done on the initiative of the authors themselves.

- A large scale survey of the so-called information society, containing several different questions on language, and carried out by the UOC (Open University of Catalonia)

In the case of four of these surveys (the most significant ones) a test of the reliability of the data has been carried out consisting in taking the number of individuals included in the sample who were born outside Catalonia and comparing these with the figures given on this from the latest available census. (1) In all four instances the difference between the two figures is minimal, and so the studies pass the test. In the case of the fifth survey, one of the CIS studies, containing little information of relevance, it was not possible to carry out the test because of lack of data.

2. Two of the surveys by the l’Institut d’Estudis Regionals i Metropolitans in Barcelona, one dating from 1995 and the other the year 2000. The first deals with the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona and the other with the Province of Barcelonia. Here, too, the reliability test was carried out with satisfactory results.

3. Two surveys of the school population.

Below we consider the main features of each of these surveys. A file was created for each of the works in question, except in the case of the two carried out by the Institut d’Estudis Metropolitans, which were grouped together in a single file because of their similarity. In all cases the following aspects, at least, are looked at: the aims and objectives, the methodology, the planned exploitation of the information, the most significant sociolinguistic results and how to gain access to the information.

3. Basic information of each of the surveys

3.1. "Conciencia nacional y regional"
(National and regional awareness)

CIS study 2228, 1996

Initial note

This reports a survey which covers the whole of the Spanish State, that is, both Catalonia and the rest of Spain.


Basically to obtain information on the language afiliation and associated identity of the population and the incidence (social presence) of the coofficial languages.


a) The sample and data collection

The initial sample of 2,500 individuals throughout Spain, was enlarged in the six Autonomous Regions with a cooffical language, so that the final sample of 4,932 subjects was not pro-portional, and coefficient weightings are therefore necessary. The universe in question was individuals aged 18 or over, and the data were collected at the end of 1996. The sampling method used was multistage, stratified by groups, with random proportional selection of the primary units (the municipal areas) and of the secondary units (censoral divisions), and of the ultimate units (individuals) by random routes and quotas of gender and age groups. The primary units were selected by constructing strata formed by the crossing of 17 Autonomous Regions with 7 categories of size of habitat. The questionnaires were administered in personal interview in the subjects' homes.

b) The questionnaire

In each questionnaire there are a series of questions which are asked in all areas and others which are asked in certain Communities (Autonous Regions) and not in others. Questions about the language or languages used are asked only in the six above-mentioned Autonous Regions. These relate to knowledge of Catalan, to mother tongue of speaker, and to language learning, as well as language use at home, when shopping, when talking to local or central government officials, at the workplace, with friends, with a stranger, and when answering the telephone. Another question was the language in which subjects watched television, listened to the radio and read the newspaper.

It has to be said that some of the questions on language use are confusing, such as the question "¿Habla, lee o entiende la lengua propia de su Comunidad Autónoma?" (Do you speak, read or understand the language of your Autonomous Community?). Furthermore, the study invariably distinguishes between Catalan, Valencian, and Majorcan/Balearic, which gives rise to errors, as in the case of Majorca where those who have the language of their community as mother tongue cannot include the 11% who give Catalan as the answer to the corresponding question. Only those whose response is Majorcan are included, which clearly skews the results.

Sample of the Catalonia survey

There were 747 individuals in the sample. In this instance it has not proved possible to check whether the sample passes the born-outside-Catalonia test, for lack of the relevant information.

Planned exploitation of the data relating to Catalonia

The only results that give data for all of the above-mentioned six communities and therefore for Catalonia, are those precisely relating to the language. Only the results of the questions have been made known, with no information on cross-tabulation between variables.

Sociolinguistic results relating to Catalonia

Despite the confusing items we have just mentioned, the results seem not to be totally off target, since for example the proportion of those questioned who claimed that Catalan was their initial (that is, first) language was 40%, a figure which is similar to the one arrived at in other surveys carried out soon after or not long before. (2) At all events, this study does not offer any information of especial interest or relevance.

Gaining access to the information

The statistical findings of this survey may be found in the following CIS publications:

- Opinion poll, CIS, 9 (this publication, which contains results of the language use questions, can be consulted from March 2003 at the CIS Website).

- Opinions and attitudes, CIS, 18 and 26

- Reis 88, pgs. 155-183

What is more, as with the rest of the surveys carried out by the CIS, the data can be bought from CIS as required.

3.2. "Uso de lenguas en comunidades bilingües: Cataluña"
(Language use in bilingual communities: Catalonia)

CIS study 2298, 10-98

Miquel Siguan


To obtain information on knowledge, use and language attitudes, as well as information on collective identities and other social questions, in Catalonia. This work forms a part of a series of 6 similar surveys, each one devoted to one of the autonomous communities with a co-official language.


The universe is the population of Catalonia aged eighteen or over, and the sample consists of 1,006 individuals from whom data were collected in October 1998. The sampling procedure, as before, was multistage, stratified or broken down into groups, with random proportional selection both at primary (municipal) level and at secondary level (census divisions) with quotas for gender and age. Distribution of the sample was proportional, so that there was no need for weighting coefficients. Data was obtained by means of personal interview at home.

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