Catalan and Occitan

Benjamin Andreu   Friday, April 16, 2004, 02:42 GMT
Hello to All,
I am studying Catalan and am curious as to how Catalan (and also Occitan) has changed over the centuries. Specifically, how has Spanish changed Catalan since the so-called unification of the Spanish state, especially in terms of pronunciation? Conversely, I am interested in how French has impacted Occitan in a similar way.

I have read over and over how Catalan and Occitan were once the same language (essentially), and that Catalan and Occitan speaking people were also the same culturally, especially in the Middle Ages. So I am interested in how they diverged and the extent of that divergence, especially the part that changes introduced in those two languages from foreign sources (i.e. Spanish and French) played in the process.

Thank you.
Simon   Friday, April 16, 2004, 06:42 GMT
You may - as a comparison - wish to look at Frisian within the Dutch state, as I believe the situation would show similarities.
nic   Friday, April 16, 2004, 07:46 GMT
Occitan has changed because of the langue d'oïl influence. Some people still understand it like my grand parents (they speak and understand it) ; my parents (they understand it) and i (i understand a few expressions and words).

It's different because of school i guess, when our grands parents had to go to school they had to use french.

It's different from spanish because there has been some influences spanish did not have, like the italian and the german. On the opposite, i suppose spanish had arabians influences the french occitan did not have. Ths why there is the franco, provençal, the auvergnat...and some other versions in Spain.
Jordi   Friday, April 16, 2004, 08:03 GMT
I have studied both Occitan and Catalan and I'm a native Catalan speaker.
Occitan and Catalan have always been different literary languages with different spellings. You can see that reading the great Chronicles in Catalan from the 13th century. The literary languages are in fact quite close (the same way Portuguese and Spanish are also quite close in their written forms.) The further you go back in time the closer all Romance languages are until we all speak Latin again, of course. In the case of Catalan and Occitan the basic vocabulary is Gallo-Romance whilst in the case of Portuguese and Spanish the basic vocabulary is Iberian Romance. Catalan has evolved, since the Middle Ages, in a slightly more Iberian fashion and Occitan has become more heavily influenced by Spanish. Usual speakers don't understand each other very well but the Standard forms can be widely mutually understood by cultivated speakers, always more in written that in spoken forms. The relationship is more like that between Dutch and German, actually. I'm sure there must be more in an Internet seach. Catalan is the most widely spoken non-state language in Europe will approximately 10 million speakers, mainly in Catalonia, the Valencian Country and the Balearic Islands. It's also spoken in a strip of Aragon (Spain) the French department of Pyrénnées Oientales (capital city Perpinyà, (Perpignan, in French) and the city of l'Alguer (Alghero) in the Italian island of Sardinia. Catalan was an important Mediterranean power during the Middle Ages. Nowadays the language is co-oficial in the Spanish Autonomous Regions where it is widely spoken. The French, of course, refuse giving such treatment to their regional languages. Please excuse any typo you may find since I have no time to read this again.
Jordi   Friday, April 16, 2004, 08:05 GMT
I meant to say "Occitan has become more heavily influence by French" and not by Spanish. And "search" instead of "seach"
Miquel   Friday, April 16, 2004, 11:44 GMT

Catalan and occitan were the same language... when they were both latin.
Miquel   Friday, April 16, 2004, 11:48 GMT

In terms of pronunciation, spanish has not changed catalan. I'm a majorcan, and my pronunciation is the same of my ancestors many centuries ago.
Jordi   Friday, April 16, 2004, 13:11 GMT
I agree with Miquel that the Catalan accent has remained very distinct in the greater part of the territory and that it hasn't been affected by Spanish the way younger generation of Occitan speakers tend to speak with a more French accent. It's a question of vitality I would say.
Miquel   Friday, April 16, 2004, 15:46 GMT

Vous voudrez bien m'excuser de ne pas écrire en anglais, langue que je maitrise très mal, mais je tiens à faire une precision à propos de l'influence phonétique de l'espagnol sur le catalan: elle est inexistante. Bien sûr, nous avons une immigration très forte et les premières génerations gardent l'accent de la langue d'origine, surtout de l'espanyol. Mais voilà un exemple: en France, par exemple, notre accent n'est pas reconnu comme espagnol. Ou bien on nous identifie tout de suite comme catalans, ou bien on nous demande si nous sommes russes ou portugais (le "l" catalan a le même ton du "l" russe, anglais ou portugais, très différent du "l" français ou espagnol). Une anecdote: il y a quatre ans, me trouvant à Alméria, en Andalousie (où l'on parle espagnol), j'ai entamé une conversation avec un monsieur qui, tout-à-coup, m'a dit: "Pero usted habla bastante bien el español. ¿De dónde es usted?". Mes enfants sont bilingues catalan-français, et personne ne pense, jamais, quand ils sont à l'étranger, qu'ils puissent être espagnols.
Benjamin Andreu   Tuesday, April 20, 2004, 00:10 GMT
To Jordi:
I have done extensive searches on the Internet. That is where (obviously) I read that the two languages in question were in fact at one time basically the same. I merely wanted a fair-minded, 'insider's' perspective on this subject, something along the lines of the similarities between Serbian and Croatian, or Russian and Ukrainian. If you are as skilled as you claim, then perhaps you should have employed those comparisons instead. Nevertheless ...

In my travels through Catalunya and extreme Southern France I noticed that both languages are still extremely and uncannily similar. In fact, when I was in the south of France a couple of years ago not far from Tolosa (Toulouse) I heard Occitan spoken by some elderly people in a small town. Because I had just come from Catalunya and Andorra and did not speak French very well, I decided to perform an experiment and asked an elderly couple for directions in Catalan. To my astonishment they understood me perfectly (apparently). They replied in Occitan, and I understood them perfectly, better than I understood Catalan speakers in Andorra.

It is interesting that in the early Middle Ages Catalan and Southern French people considered themselves ethnically and culturally the same, Catalan people going so far as to refer to themselves as "Provencal". If you doubt this, see the seminal historical treatises by Archibald Ross Lewis on this subject ('The Development of Southern French and Catalan Society') By the way, notice that the word "society" is singular, not plural. I have even come across web sites by Occitan speakers that called for their "Catalan brothers" to reunite with them, explaining, again, that at one time the two peoples and languages were the same and were forced apart by the French and the Castillians. In the late 19th century the great Frederic Mistral once said that if all Romance languages were part of the same family, then Provencal (i.e. Occitan) and Catalan were "twin sisters". I believe he even called them "identical" twins, but I don't want to put words in the mouth of the master poet.

In conclusion, it would appear that Catalan nationalism has once again reared its unobjective and devisive head in most of the replies on this subject. Therefore, I see that I probably cannot get an insightful answer on this topic, at least not from south of the Pyrenees. Thanks anyway, for your time at least.

Consider this discussion closed and this thread terminated.
Jordi   Tuesday, April 20, 2004, 13:01 GMT
I suggest the first page of the Bible in Standard Catalan and Standard Occitan. The more learned you are the easiest it is to understand the two languages. If you know other Romance languages it is even more easier. I happen to have lots of contacts with Occitanists and I received a TV programme the other day from Tolosa de Lengadoc. For me (I have studied both languages and I'm also fluent in Spanish and French and have studied Italian) it was remarkably easy to follw. I asked my wife who is a native Catalan speaker and speaks, of course, Spanish (but had rarely heard Occitan and can't speak French) and she told me it was difficult for her to follow. I did answer in my previous mail when I said that Dutch and German --as all linguists know-- could have become the same language and "society". As you know Catalan writers used Provençal in poetry but prose has been written in Catalan from the very start. Spanish and Portuguese, in their written form, have also been called twins and mediaeval Spanish poets also used Galician-Portuguese in poetry. Nobody argues on similarities but, after all, Catalan and Occitan have been classed by Romance language linguists as different languages with a different codification. The fact that Catalonia and Occitania do not have a state does not mean they haven't had one (specially true durign many centuries in the case of Catalonia) or that they don't have a right to have one.
Andrew   Thursday, April 22, 2004, 18:24 GMT
This is a very interesting discussion, even though I know barely any French and am an amateur at best in Spanish. Even so, I've read some Catalan documents and seen some pictures of signs in the language, and while the spelling definitely shows a Castilian influence more than a Gallic one, I did notice how Catalan drops the "n" from many words where it would also be dropped from French. Various guidebooks about Provence and the Languedoc region that I've seen describe the two languages as basically representing the "blurring" between French and Spanish as one approaches the border.

One question I'd like to add: did Catalan perhaps influence Mexican Spanish at all? Father Junipero Serra, founder of the California missions (California was, of course, part of Mexico until 1847), and a key figure in California history, was from the island of Majorca.
Huber   Thursday, April 22, 2004, 22:34 GMT
Errmm.... Miquel, and how would you know that the pronuntiation of your ancestors is the same as yours today ????

As for Catalan's pronuntiation not having been changed by Spanish, well, have you ever taken a stroll through Barcelona? Come to Poblenou and ask around.

And while we are at it let's open another kettle of fish: is Catalan the same language as Valenciano or Mallorqui? I am far from persuaded specially when I hear my colleagues who have catalan as their mother tongue switching to Spanish when they got calls from customers from the Balearic Islands. The reason: "We cannot understand them most of the time!"
to Huber   Friday, April 23, 2004, 01:29 GMT
"is Catalan the same language as Valenciano or Mallorqui? I am far from persuaded...We cannot understand them most of the time!"

Well, let me ask you a question: Is Portuguese from Portugal the same language as Brazilian Portuguese? Most linguists say that they are, but oftentimes the Portuguese have a tough time understanding Brazilians, and vice versa.
mjd   Friday, April 23, 2004, 05:38 GMT
Actually it's the Brazilians that often have a hard time understanding the Portuguese. Portuguese from Portugal tends to have a lot of the "sh" sound in it and vowels are often clipped. Brazilian Portuguese tends to be a bit clearer (although the speech of the "nordestinos" in Brazil's Northeast is known as being difficult to understand), but there is a lot of the "tch" sound. This discussion is similar to the one about Spanish from Spain and Latin American Spanish going on in one of the other threads.

As to whether they're the same language of not...absolutely. Pick up any Brazilian book or newspaper and it's quite obvious. I don't care how many Tupi-Guarani words there are. It's Portuguese.