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Iberian Romance languages: Wikis

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This article is about a subdivision of the Romance language family. For the broader group of languages spoken in the Iberian Peninsula, see Iberian languages.

The formation of Iberian Romance languages followed, more or less, this process:

  • A common Romance language with dialectal differences was spoken throughout the ancient Roman Empire. During this stage, we can speak of the Romance language, although it was probably somewhat different from one region to another. It can still be called Popular or Vulgar Latin.
  • From this point on, the Romance languages on the Iberian Peninsula followed a distinct path:

During this stage a group of Romance dialects collectively known as Mozarabic were spoken in Moorish Iberia. With the Christian Reconquest of the peninsula, they were replaced with the Iberian Romance languages of the north, becoming extinct. Another Iberian Romance language which shared some features with Mozarabic, Aragonese, still has some speakers today. It is in many aspects transitional between West Iberian and East Iberian. The Ethnologue classifies both Mozarabic and Aragonese as Pyrenean-Mozarabic, a separate group from Iberian Romance and Gallo-Romance.

History and official status

The languages of Spain (simplified)
     Spanish official; spoken all over the country      Catalan/Valencian, co-official      Basque, co-official      Galician, co-official      Aranese, co-official (dialect of Occitan)      Asturian, recognised      Aragonese, recognised      Leonese, recognised      Extremaduran, unofficial      Fala, unofficial

It is important to note that power structures enormously influenced the formation of the Iberian languages. If kingdoms and states had formed in a different fashion, there could now be a single Asturian language, or a multiplicity of languages. This political aspect was important in the development of every language.

  • Spanish/Castilian: The Crown of Castile pushed for Castilian to be considered the Spanish language, which it is today. However, it did not abolish all other languages within Spain.
  • Portuguese and Galician: Because Portugal became independent in the 12th century while Galicia remained subject to the Kingdom of Leon, political and sociolinguistic factors have caused them to be considered separate languages.
  • Catalan: The political structure and strength of the Crown of Aragon made Catalan a language of culture, science, and literature. Its importance diminished for some centuries, but the desire for more autonomy for Catalonia has given it renewed importance (it never ceased to be the language of a majority of the Catalan population up to the 20th century). It is now the official language of three of the four main regions of the former possessions of the Crown of Aragon, as well as of the independent state of Andorra. It is also still spoken in other enclaves.
  • The fact that Galicia and Catalonia are a part of Spain makes their languages prone to Castilian influences, especially in large urban centers such as Barcelona in Catalonia and Coruña in Galicia.
  • Minoritary languages like Asturian, Leonese, and Aragonese came to be regarded as mere dialects of Spanish by most people, although they are Romance variants with enough distinct features to be ranked as separate languages. Nowadays they are recognized as such, but unofficial.
  • On the other hand, in modern times, some authors have argued that subvarieties of Catalan, Aragonese, Galician, Asturian and Leonese, such as Valencian, Benasquese, Eonavian, and Mirandese, should be classified as separate languages, although these claims lack strong international support by linguists.[citation needed]

Thus, there are four major officially recognized Romance languages in Iberia today:

  • Galician, originated from the medieval Galician-Portuguese language continuum. It has had a strong influence from Castilian.
  • Portuguese, originated from the Galician-Portuguese language continuum. It is currently the sixth most widely spoken language in the world, with more than 200 million speakers.
  • Spanish (also called Castilian) originated from the common West Iberian Romance along with Galician, with some influence from Mozarabic and Basque. It is now spoken by an estimated 392 million people throughout the world.

Additionally, there are three main groups of minor Romance languages: Bable, recognized by Asturias, and Leonese language, recognized by Castile and León; Aragonese, recognized by Aragon; and (Occitan) Gascon (in its Aranese dialect), officially recognized in Aran by Catalonia; Mirandese officialy recognized by Portugal.

Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan and Occitan have the status of international languages, being officially spoken in more than one state:

  • Catalan: Andorra and Spain (it is also spoken by about 100,000 people in France and members of the older generations of one town in Sardinia, Alghero);
  • Occitan: official in small regions of Spain (under the name of Aranese) and Italy;
  • Portuguese: official in eight independent countries (see Geographic distribution of Portuguese);
  • Spanish: many countries throughout the world.

See also

External links


This article is about a subdivision of the Romance language family. For the broader group of languages spoken in the Iberian Peninsula, see Iberian languages.

The formation of Iberian Romance languages followed, more or less, this process:

  • A common Romance language with dialectal differences was spoken throughout the ancient Roman Empire. During this stage, we can speak of the Romance language, although it was probably somewhat different from one region to another. It can still be called Popular or Vulgar Latin.
  • From this point on, the Romance languages on the Iberian Peninsula followed a distinct path:

During this stage a group of Romance dialects collectively known as Mozarabic were spoken in Moorish Iberia. With the Christian Reconquest of the peninsula, they were replaced with the Iberian Romance languages of the north, becoming extinct. Another Iberian Romance language which shared some features with Mozarabic, Aragonese, still has some speakers today. It is in many aspects transitional between West Iberian and East Iberian. The Ethnologue classifies both Mozarabic and Aragonese as Pyrenean-Mozarabic.

History and official status

File:Sprachen auf der Iberischen
Language of the Iberian Peninsula (simplified).

It is important to note that power structures enormously influenced the formation of the Iberian languages. If kingdoms and states had formed in a different fashion, there could now be a single Asturian language, or a multiplicity of languages. This political aspect was important in the development of every language.

  • Spanish/Castilian: The Crown of Castile pushed for Castilian to be considered the Spanish language, which it is today. However, it did not abolish all other languages within Spain.
  • Portuguese and Galician: Because Portugal became independent in the 12th century while Galicia remained subject to the Kingdom of León, political and sociolinguistic factors have caused them to be considered separate languages.
  • Catalan: The political structure and strength of the Crown of Aragon made Catalan a language of culture, science, and literature. Its importance diminished for some centuries, but the desire for more autonomy for Catalonia has given it renewed importance (it never ceased to be the language of a majority of the Catalan population up to the 20th century). It is now the official language of three of the four main regions of the former possessions of the Crown of Aragon, as well as of the independent state of Andorra. It is also still spoken in other enclaves.
  • The fact that Galicia and Catalonia are a part of Spain makes their languages prone to Castilian influences, especially in large urban centers such as Barcelona in Catalonia and Coruña in Galicia.
  • Minoritary languages like Asturian, Leonese, and Aragonese came to be regarded as mere dialects of Spanish by most people, although they are Romance variants with enough distinct features to be ranked as separate languages. Nowadays they are recognized as such, but unofficial.
  • On the other hand, in modern times, some authors have argued that subvarieties of Catalan, Aragonese, Galician, Asturian and Leonese, such as Valencian, Benasquese, Eonavian, and Mirandese, should be classified as separate languages, although these claims lack strong international support by linguists.[citation needed]

Thus, there are four major officially recognized Romance languages in Iberia today:

  • Catalan-Valencian-Balearic, originated from East Iberian Romance. Closely related to Occitan, it has many dialects and is spoken by about 7 million people, mostly in five variants: Central Catalan, Northern Catalan, North-Western Catalan, Valencian and Balearic.
  • Galician, originated from the medieval Galician-Portuguese language continuum. It has had a strong influence from Castilian.
  • Portuguese, originated from the Galician-Portuguese language continuum. It is currently the sixth most widely spoken language in the world, with more than 200 million speakers.
  • Spanish (also called Castilian) originated from the common West Iberian Romance along with Galician, with some influence from Mozarabic and Basque. It is now spoken by an estimated 392 million people throughout the world.

Additionally, there are three main groups of minor Romance languages: Bable, recognized by Asturias, and Leonese language, recognized by Castile and León; Aragonese, recognized by Aragon; and (Occitan) Gascon (in its Aranese dialect), officially recognized in Aran by Catalonia; Mirandese officially recognized by Portugal.

Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan and Occitan have the status of international languages, being officially spoken in more than one state:

  • Catalan: Andorra and Spain (it is also spoken by about 100,000 people in France and members of the older generations of one town in Sardinia, Alghero);
  • Occitan: official in small regions of Spain (under the name of Aranese) and Italy;
  • Portuguese: official in eight independent countries (see Geographic distribution of Portuguese);
  • Spanish: many countries throughout the world.

See also

External links


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