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'Abandonment' of minority language by Spain denounced at EU

The Aranese Academy of the Occitan Language delegation said so speaking at the European Parliament

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14 September 2018 05:00 PM

by

ACN | Strasbourg

Spain shows "abandonment and ignorance" of the minority language of Occitan. This was denounced by the delegation of the Aranese Academy of the Occitan Language at the European Parliament, during the Intergroup for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages meeting on Thursday. Here, the group claimed that "the Occitan language is not cared for nor is it taken into account by the Spanish government."

Esquerra Republicana (ERC) MEP Josep Maria Terricabras also stated that Spain's "disdain" for linguistic diversity "can be lethal to Aranese." Meanwhile, a representative of the Aranese Academy praised the Catalan government as a "global example of protection" of a "territorial language, though it may have few speakers."

The delegation is made up by the president of the Aranese Academy Jusèp Loís Sans, the president of the Aranese Section, Jèp de Montoya, and Ròsa Salgueiro, the secretary of the Academy.

What is Aranese?

Aranese is spoken in a quiet and picturesque valley in the northwest corner of Catalonia – the Val d'Aran, in the heart of the Catalan Pyrenees. The Val d'Aran is home to some 9,900 people, with Aranese spoken by few more (less than 10,000).

Aranese is a variety of Gascon, in turn, part of the Occitan language. Also known as 'lenga d'oc,' it's a Romance language, also spoken in Italy, France, and Monaco. Catalonia is, however, the only place in the world where Occitan is an official language – along with Catalan and Spanish. In Italy and France, the language only holds the status of a recognized minority language.

The Val d'Aran is cradle to its own culture and its own language – and this is not a coincidence. The fact that it's a valley has shielded the fragile minority language from extinction – but experts fear that this may not be enough in the 21st century. This is why Aranese was given official preferential treatment in 2006 and 2011 in Catalonia.  

New changes

At the European Parliament, the delegation further pointed out that Occitan had been declared as official in the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia of 2006; they spoke of the "enormous respect" towards Aranese identity" in Catalonia. "It's the only country where the Occitan language receives as important of a treatment."

Then, early in 2018, a Spanish Constitutional Court ruling banned the preferential use of Aranese in the Val d'Aran's own administrations, going against a bill passed by the Catalan Parliament in 2011. The Spanish court ruled as invalid the provision that gives “preference” to Aranese in local administrations, public media, education, and place names. The magistrates additionally claimed that giving more priority to Aranese than to Catalan and Spanish is not in line with the Spanish Constitution.

At the EP on Thursday, the delegation also regretted the Constitutional Court decision, deeming it worrying because "without being given linguistic preference, Occitan won't be able to hold an important space in administration, education, public media and in other fundamental social scopes that keep it alive." 

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  • The Aranese Academy of the Occitan Language delegation speaks at the Minority Intergroup meeting at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on September 13 (by ACN)

  • The Aranese Academy of the Occitan Language delegation speaks at the Minority Intergroup meeting at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on September 13 (by ACN)