Language secessionism: Wikis


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Language secessionism or linguistic secessionism is an attitude consisting in separating a language variety from the language to which it normally belongs, in order to make this variety considered as a distinct language. This phenomenon was first analyzed by Catalan sociolinguistics[1] but it can be ascertained in other parts of the World.


In Catalan and Occitan


Common characteristics

In the Occitano-Catalan Area, language secessionism is a quite recent phenomenon which has only developed since the 1970s. Language secessionism affects both Occitan and Catalan languages with the following common features[2]:

  • An unconscious refusal that Occitan and Catalan develop as normal communication languages in modern society. This is the principal reason which can explain linguistic secessonism in those subordinate languages. So language secessionism represents in fact an inability of reversing diglossia and language shift. It goes with an ideology which idealizes the coexistence between the subordinated language (a variety of Occitan or Catalan) and the dominant language (French, Spanish, Italian), by denying or minimizing language conflict. Secessionists want to separate their dialect from their own whole language (Occitan or Catalan) which they brand as their main enemy, while they don't see the objective dominant language (French, Spanish, Italian) as a danger.
  • A breakaway from the tradition of Occitan and Catalan revivalist movements, which usually claim the unity of both languages since the 19th century.
  • An often deliberate ignorance of the tradition of Romance linguistics which also claims the unity of Occitan and Catalan[3].
  • An exacerbation of the cultural identity linked to dialects which secessionism considers as separate languages.
  • A lack of success (or a very marginal position) in linguistic scientific research [4].
  • An active lobbying in regional political circles.
  • The support of a writing system or of any prescription which breaks up linguistic unity and exaggerates dialectal particular features.

In Catalan

In Catalan, there are three cases:

  • Valencian language secessionism, or blaverism, appeared during the Democratic Transition at the end of the 1970s, after the fall of franquism. It is supported by some conservative circles of the Valencian society, which are branded as “post-franquist” by partisans of Catalan unity. It has variable impact in the population: Valencian people usually name their language “Valencian” but are divided about the unity of Catalan: some people agree in that “Valencian” is just the regional name for “Catalan” while other people think that “Valencian” would be a distinct language from “Catalan”. Blaverism has no impact in the scientific community of linguists. Valencian institutions and Valencian partisans of Catalan unity use the official norm of Catalan (as codified by Institut d'Estudis Catalans and Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua), while “Blavers” (partisans of blaverism) mostly write Valencian using a spin-off, nonstandard system called “normes del Puig”.
  • Balearic language secessionism is quite marginal and is supported by some cultural groups. It has very little impact in the population. It is included in a wider (but unorganized) tendency called “gonellisme”, which struggles against the standardization of Catalan.
  • In Franja de Ponent (a Catalan-speaking strip in eastern Aragon), language secessionism is quite marginal. It appeared during the 2000s. It is supported only by a fraction of the already minoritary pro-Aragonese movements, they overstate a so-called Aragonese ancestry in the Catalan spoken in Aragon.

In Occitan

There are three cases in Occitan:

  • In the Auvernhat dialect, language secessionism has been supported since the 1970s by Pierre Bonnaud, which founded the Bonnaudian norm, the group Cercle Terre d'Auvergne and the review Bïzà Neirà. It has negligible impact in the population. Auvernhat cultural circles are divided between the unitary vision of Occitan (associated with the Occitan classical norm) and secessionism (associated with Bonnaudian norm).
  • In the Provençal dialect, language secessionism appeared during the 1970s with Louis Bayle and has been reactivated since the 1990s by Philippe Blanchet and groups like “Union Provençale” and “Collectif Provence”. This secessionism supports the Mistralian norm (but it doesn't represent all Mistralian norm users, since some of them claim traditionally the unity of Occitan). It has little impact in the population. Provençal cultural circles are divided between the unitary vision (supported by users of both Mistralian norm and classical norm) and the secessionist vision (only supported by some users of the Mistralian norm). The Regional Council of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur voted a resolution on the 5th of December 2003 which approved the principle of the unity of "Occitan or Langue d'Oc" and the fact that Provençal is a part of it.
  • In the Gascon dialect, language secessionism is claimed since the 1990s by Jean Lafitte, who created during the 2000s a group called "Institut Béarnais et Gascon". It has negligible impact in the population. Lafitte's secessionism supports two original writing systems: one is a nonstandard spin-off from the classical norm and the other one is a nonstandard spin-off from the Mistralian norm. Gascon cultural circles almost unanimously support the unitary vision of the Occitan language. In Aran Valley (a little Gascon Occitan-speaking area in Spain), Aranese, the local variety of Gascon, is officially recognized as a part of the Occitan language. The status of half autonomy of Aran Valley (1990) presents Gascon Aranese as “Aranese, the variety of the Occitan language peculiar to Aran ("Er aranés, varietat dera lengua occitana e pròpia d’Aran"). Similarly, the status of autonomy of Catalonia, as reformed in 2006, confirms it with the following expression: “The Occitan language, which is named Aranese in Aran” ("Era lengua occitana, denominada aranés en Aran").

In Romanian

The official standard language of Moldova is identical to Romanian. However, its official name in that country is "Moldovan" and at least one local linguist has asserted that it is, in fact, a separate language in its own right. During the Soviet era, the USSR authorities officially recognized and promoted Moldovans and Moldovan as a distinct ethnicity and language. A Cyrillic alphabet was introduced in the Moldovan SSR to reinforce this claim. Since the independence of Moldova (in 1991), the official language switched to the Latin script and underwent the same language reforms as Romanian, but has retained its name, Moldovan.

Nowadays, the Cyrillic alphabet remains in official use only on the territories controlled by the breakaway authorities of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, where it is named "Moldovan", as opposed to the Latin script version used elsewhere, which the local authorities call "Romanian".

In Serbo-Croatian

Serbo-Croatian has a strong structural unity, according to the vast majority of linguists who specialize in Slavonic languages.[5] But it is spoken by populations which have strong, different, national consciousness: Croats, Bosniaks and Serbs.

Then, since Yugoslavia collapsed in 1991, Serbo-Croatian has lost its unitary codification and its official unitary status. It is now divided between three, or four official languages which follow separate codifications: Croatian language, Bosnian language, Serbian language and the Montenegrin language.

The common, basic, Serbo-Croatian system still exists in a strictly structuralist point of view: it is a diasystem or an Abstand language. On the other hand its is cultivated through three, or four voluntarily diverging varieties, Croatian language, Bosnian language, Montenegrin language, and Serbian language, which are each Ausbau languages[6].

On the contrary, the Serbo-Croatian kind of language secessionism is now a strongly consensual and institutional majority phenomenon. This makes legitimate to say that such a language secessionism has led to "Ausbau languages" in the cases of Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian, since their diverging evolutions now succeed in general practice.

In Portuguese

The Portuguese kingdom, originally a southern county belonging to the kingdom of Galicia (with its capital at Oporto) was created by Afonso I of Portugal in 1126 and expanded towards the Islamic south, like its neighbouring kingdoms. That southern part of Galicia (Portugal) became independent while the northern part of the country remained under the Kingdom of León during the 12th century and early 13th century and later under the kingdom of Castile (core and ethnic base for the future Spain).

But the culture was the same in both sides of the political border and attained great prestige during the Low Middle Ages. The language of Portugal was called "Galician" until the 15th century (later changed as independent culture developed).

In the late 15th century, Castilian domination became harder, banishing their language in all official uses, including the church.

Galician Portuguese survived diglossically for the following centuries among the peasant population, but it suffered a strong Spanish influence and having a different evolution.

Meanwhile, the same language (under the reintegrationist view) remained fully official in Portugal, and it was carried across the world by Portuguese explorers, soldiers and colonists.

During the 19th century a revival movement arose. This movement defended the Galician language, and created a provisional norm, with Castilian ortography and heavy loanwords). When the autonomy was granted a norm and orthography (based in rexurdimento writers) (Galician literature) for a Galician language was created. This norm is taught and used in almost all schools, high-schools and universities of Galicia.

But the most writers (Castelao, Risco, Otero Pedrayo) did not regret the tradicional Galician forms, some of them based in Spanish orthography, even though recognizing the essential linguistic unity, saying that the priority was achieving political autonomy and being read by the population. Other writers wrote with Portuguese-like orthography (like Guerra da Cal, e Carvalho Calero).

Reintegracionists defend that the official norm (released in 1982) was imposed by the Spanish state, with the covert intent of severing off Galician from Portuguese. But this idea is rejected by the Real Academia Galega, supporters of the official norm.

The Reintegrationist and Lusist groups are protesting against this (in their opinion) language secessionism, which they call Castrapism (something like "patois") or Isolationism. Like in the case of Valencian Blaverism, Isolationism has no impact in the scientific community of linguists, and it is supported for a few number of them, but has clear political support.

That discussion is only valid about nowadays, because nobody deny Galaico-Portuguese linguistic unity prior to XVI century.

See also


  1. ^ For example:
    • STRUBELL Miquel (1991) "Catalan in Valencia: the story of an attempted secession", Swiss Academy of Social Science Colloquium on Standardization: Parpan / Chur (Grisons) 15-20 April 1991
    • PRADILLA Miquel Àngel (1999) "El secessionisme lingüístic valencià", in: PRADILLA Miquel Àngel (1999) (ed.) La llengua catalana al tombant del mil·leni, Barcelona: Empúries, p. 153-202.
    • Article "secessionisme lingüístic", in: RUIZ I SAN PASCUAL Francesc, & SANZ I RIBELLES Rosa, & SOLÉ I CAMARDONS Jordi (2001) Diccionari de sociolingüística, coll. Diccionaris temàtics, Barcelona: Enciclopèdia Catalana.
  2. ^ SUMIEN Domergue (2006) La standardisation pluricentrique de l’occitan: nouvel enjeu sociolinguistique, développement du lexique et de la morphologie, coll. Publications de l’Association Internationale d’Études Occitanes 3, Turnhout: Brepols, p. 49.
  3. ^ BEC Pierre (1970-71) (collab. Octave NANDRIS, Žarko MULJAČIĆ) Manuel pratique de philologie romane, Paris: Picard, 2 vol.
  4. ^ Georg Kremnitz, "Une approche sociolinguistique", in F. Peter Kirsch, & Georg Kremnitz, & Brigitte Schlieben-Lange (2002) Petite histoire sociale de la langue occitane: usages, images, littérature, grammaires et dictionnaires, coll. Cap al Sud, F-66140 Canet: Trabucaire, p. 109-111 [updated version and partial translation from: Günter Holtus, & Michael Metzeltin, & Christian Schmitt (1991) (dir.) Lexikon der Romanistischen Linguistik. Vol. V-2: Okzitanisch, Katalanisch, Tübingen: Niemeyer]
  5. ^ COMRIE Bernard, & CORBETT Greville G. (2002), The Slavonic Languages, London / New York: Routledge [1st ed. 1993]
  6. ^ The Abstand language and Ausbau language concepts are developed by linguist Heinz Kloss. See:
    • KLOSS Heinz (1967) “Abstand languages and Ausbau languages”, Anthropological linguistics 9: 29-41.
    • KLOSS Heinz (1978) Die Entwicklung neuer germanischer Kultursprachen seit 1800, coll. Sprache der Gegenwart-Schriften des Instituts für Deutsche Sprache #37, Düsseldorf: Schwann [1st ed. 1952, München: Pohl]


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