Category Archives: Occitan

Problems with Newly Created Standard Languages and Speakers of Traditional Varieties: Evidence from France In Occitan and Breton

Mountleek: And it’s quite problematic that there are five Breton languages. The official written version is probably quite alien to actual speakers. Then they don’t use the written form, and extinction will probably speed up. Or maybe not. It depends on how people speak among themselves. I wonder how much it is possible nowadays to maintain a spoken language through generations where the written language is different.

There is an official Breton. It may be used on radio and TV and whatnot. I have no idea if the traditional speakers understand it. Who knows? It would be nice to have a Breton koine.

The problem is that they have created some Neo-Breton that is being taught to the youngsters. Some young people are growing up to speak it quite well. The problem is that it is a fake language, and tragically the Neo-Breton speakers say they cannot understand the speakers of the traditional Breton languages and the traditional speakers say they cannot understand the Neo-Breton speakers either. I do believe that Breton will continue on until the end of the century though if only in the Neo-Breton form . A Breton koine is certainly needed if it does not already exist, but given the gap between traditional and new speakers, it seems a schism has already opened between the two groups.

A somewhat similar situation is developing with the creation of a new Neo-Occitan out of the ~20 Occitan languages and many more dialects. It isn’t a language that anyone ever spoke. There is some sort of problems regarding this Neo-Occitan but I am not sure what they are. The main thing is the traditional speakers are not giving up their native lects in favor of this new fake language.

Occitan also should last until the end of the century if only in the Neo-Occitan form. However, children are still being raised speaking Occitan, especially in the Occitan Valleys of Italy where entire villages speak the local lect which in most cases is actually a separate language. There are still many speakers of the traditional Occitan languages. Most are older, but there are quite a few speakers in their 30’s and 40’s in some areas. Aranese Occitan in Spain seems to be spoken by most everyone, but people worry that even it is in trouble.

A koine for Occitan would also be very nice, or they could just speak French, but that sort of defeats the notion of speaking Occitan in the first place.

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Western Europe: What Native Languages Are Spoken in France?

Montleek: Robert, is it possible that in Western Europe, the regional lects have been preserved better, while in eastern Europe are preserved worse? There was communism/socialism in Eastern Europe, therefore more tendency not to continue speaking with regional lect.

In France, the regional lects are the langues d’ oil (still spoken, believe it or not!), Occitan, Breton, Alsatian, Franconian, Arpitan, and Flemish.

With Arpitan, Alsatian, Occitan and the langues d’oil, you can definitely get to the point of having a different lect in every major city if not every town in some cases.

There are a number of languages split through these regional lects. There are probably at least 10 full languages in the langues d’oil, ~20 in Occitan and Arpitan, five in Breton and more than one in Alsatian. The Flemish spoken in France is a separate language from that spoken in Belgium, hardly intelligible to a Belgian.

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Western Europe: What Native Languages Are Spoken in Spain?

Montleek:  Robert, is it possible that in Western Europe, the regional lects have been preserved better, while in eastern Europe are preserved worse? There was communism/socialism in Eastern Europe, therefore more tendency not to continue speaking with regional lect. Robert, is it possible that in western Europe, the regional lects have been preserved better, while in eastern Europe are preserved worse? There was communism/socialism in eastern Europe, therefore more tendency not to continue speaking with regional lect .

In Spain, there is are several major languages such as Asturian-Leonese, Extremaduran-Cantabrian, Eonavian/Berciano, Basque, Catalan, Aragonese, Benasquesque, Galician and some odd forms of Portuguese. Murcian, Andalucian, Churro and Manchengo are very marginal cases, but are probably better seen as divergent dialects of Castillian.

With Catalan and Asturian-Leonese, you are absolutely in a situation of a different lect in every town or even village.

Eonavian is absolutely a separate language though it is not recognized. Berciano is the southern part of the Eonavian language.

There is definitely more than one language in Galician.

Cantabrian is actually a language and not a Spanish dialect. In fact, it is a part of the recognized language called Extremaduran.

There may be 3-4 languages inside Basque; surely there are at least two.

Benasquesque is actually a separate language between Catalan and Aragonese.

Occitan is only spoken as Aranese, but is probably a separate language.

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Answers to the Languages of Spain Post

Map of the languages of Spain.

Map of the languages of Spain.

There are nine languages in the map above.

You folks were not able to answer all nine of them correctly, so I will give you the answers.

Pink – Catalan

Light green – Aranese or Occitan (no one got this one)

Purple – Aragonese (no one got this one)

Aquamarine – Basque

Red – Castillian

Green – Asturian-Leonese

Yellow – Galician

Dark green – Extremaduran (no one got this one)

Brown – Fala (no one got this one)

Aranese is the Aranese dialect of Occitan which is either a separate language or a dialect of Occitan depending on how you look at it. Fala is actually a dialect of Galician but it is considered a language for sociopolitical reasons. There is another part of the dark green Extremaduran language which is typically not recognized. This is Cantabrian, spoken to the east of the green Asturian-Leonese area and to the west of the aquamarine  Basque area.

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Romance Languages and Latin

A linguist named Mario Pei undertook a study of Romance languages to determine how far they had deviated from Latin. This is what he came up with. Lower scores means closer to Latin and higher scores means further from Latin:

Sardinian  8% 
Italian    12% 
Spanish    20% 
Romanian   23.5% 
Occitan    25% 
Portuguese 31% 
French     44%

I had always heard that Sardo was like Latin frozen in time. Italian is also said to be quite close to Latin still. In fact, it is from this land that Latin emerged in the first place. Spanish has deviated quite a bit, but I am not certain why that is. For one thing, quite a bit of Arabic has gone into Spanish. As far as other influences, I am not sure. There are influences from pre-Latin languages, but I am not sure how significant they are. The impact of Basque (which would be included under pre-Latin influences, is also not known, but it has effected Aragonese and Aranese.

Romanian has obviously been flooded with Slavic words.

Occitan is also different, but this is probably due to the French influence as Occitan is sort of a Spanish-French hybrid language like Catalan.

Portuguese is also very different, but I am not sure why that is. Clearly the Portuguese vowels have gone crazy, but why is that? Brazilian Portuguese had influence from Indian languages, but that did not affect European Portuguese.

French is the most different of all. The odd vowels appear to originate from a Celtic base (Gaulish). In addition, quite a bit of Germanic has gone in via the Franks and there was a strong Norse influence in the far north. Basque and Breton influences are not known. It is due to this strong differentiation that other Romance language speakers say that no one can understand the French.

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What Romance Languages Do You Know?

If you are interested, tell us in the comments what Romance languages you have knowledge of. As you can see, I am into Romance languages.

Spanish: I had four years in school and then another 1 1/2 years at university, so I can speak it fairly well. I often use it with Spanish speakers around town. However, I am not fluent like a native speaker by any means. I can also read it fairly well to the point where I can actually do research in it. But I certainly do not know every word, and it is not like doing research in English. I can write Spanish fairly well. When I meet South Americans on the Net, they ask me if I was born in Latin America. However, some of them catch on that I am not a native speaker. I can understand it pretty well when spoken but I have a lot of problems with radio, TV and any video or audio in Spanish. I can understand it better if I read it.

I was talking to this Guatemalan woman, and after a while, she said, “You know…You don’t really speak Spanish, do you? But boy do you try!”

This is the only Romance language I can write.

Portuguese: Well I studied it a bit because I was dating a Brazilian woman. I started to learn the language within 24 hours after meeting her. I spoke to her in English and Spanish and she spoke to me in Portuguese, English and Spanish. She spoke some English and Spanish. This arrangement actually worked out pretty well!

I used to get emails a lot from another Brazilian woman I know. I tried to read them, but it was pretty slow going. I still study Portuguese and I try to read it sometimes. I even try to do research in Portuguese, but research in Portuguese is so much harder than doing it in Spanish. To tell the truth, reading Portuguese is a pain. I do know some words of Portuguese but not a lot. I can’t really speak it at all at the moment. When it is spoken, I can understand some of it, but that is mostly due to Spanish resemblance. All in all, I consider Portuguese to be a pain in the ass.

Galician: Cannot speak it but can understand it pretty well when spoken in the standard dialect. I understand it a lot better than I understand Portuguese because it sounds a lot more like Spanish. I have quite a hard time reading Galician. It really isn’t fun at all. Galician is a pain to read. I know a few words, hardly any really.

Asturian/Leonese: Cannot speak it. Cannot understand a word of it when spoken. I have tried to read it and even do research in it, but that is just awful. One of the worst languages in Iberia to read. I do know a few words here and there.

Mirandese: Cannot speak it. Haven’t listened to it in a while. Surprisingly, I find this language fairly easy to read. It looks a lot like Spanish. It is much easier to read than Portuguese or Galician. Don’t really know any words though.

Aragonese: Can understand some of it when spoken. It is very hard to read and I cannot speak it. Do not know any words.

Extremaduran: Reading this language is a complete pain, more or less like reading Asturian-Leonese if not worse. Do not know any words.

Fala: I have heard Fala spoken on videos and I can understand some of it, but honestly, this language is quite a mess, and Galician is a lot easier to understand. I don’t know any words. I have never seen it written down, and I am not even sure if it is a written language.

Catalan: I cannot understand a word of it when spoken, and I cannot speak it. Reading Catalan is quite difficult and very slow-going. It is not pleasant at all. This language is very different from the rest of the Iberian languages. I do not think I know any Catalan words.

Occitan: Cannot speak it. Can understand Aranese fairly well when spoken. I have tried to read Occitan many times but it is a complete nightmare to read. I do not know one word of Occitan.

French: I did take a semester of French at university. I also had a French girlfriend for a while. Not that it did me any good. I cannot understand one word of spoken French. I have tried to speak it a bit, but French speakers kept laughing at me (including the girlfriend) so that inhibited me. I have tried to write French to French speakers on the Net but I can hardly write it at all. French is very hard to read, much worse than Spanish. I have even tried to do research in French, but it was extremely slow-going. French is very different from Iberian languages. I continue to study French off and on. I do know quite a few French words.

Arpitan: Never seen it written, cannot speak it. When listening to it, I can only get occasional words. Very hard to understand. I do not know any words.

Italian: I have studied Italian somewhat but it is very different from Spanish or French and many words do not have obvious connections to Spanish or French. I can read a bit of Italian, but it is very slow-going. I do know some words. I cannot speak Italian at all, and I have never even tried to write it. Italian varies when listening to it on video. With some slow TV-type announcers, I can get some of it. With regular speech, I often will not get one word in a 5 minute broadcast. Italian is extremely hard to understand.

Romansch: I can hardly understand this at all when spoken on TV broadcasts. Interviews with native speakers are easier to understand if they speak slowly. Intelligibility is about like Italian. I do not know any words.

Romanian: Simply awful. I have listened to 8 minute broadcasts of this language and I could not understand one word. Romanian is very hard to read. It is much worse than Italian when it comes to not having obvious connections to other Romance languages I know. This is one of the worst ones of all in terms of reading. I do not know any words. Cannot speak it.

I do not think I have ever heard any of these languages spoken or even seen them written down: Arumanian, Barranquian, Cajun French, Campidanese, Corsican, Emilian, Romagnol, Friulian, Gallurese, Istriot, Istro-Rumanian, Italkian, Ladin, Ladino, Ligurian, Logudorian, Lombard, Megleno-Rumanian, Neapolitan, Picard, Piedmontese,  Sardinian, Sassarese, Sicilian, Venetian, or Walloon.

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Is Romance Mutual Intelligibility Overrated?

Paul S. writes:

I can speak Spanish decently, though I read it better, and that wasn’t a tough read. That being said, I can read Portuguese pretty well too and can’t understand it spoken much at all.

Well try doing research in Portuguese then. I can speak a bit of Portuguese, and I have been trying to read it for some time now. Lately I am doing a lot of research, and much of it is in Spanish. I use translators a lot, but even then I have to go back to the original Spanish. I can do research ok in Spanish, but it is not real easy.

I also run across a lot of Portuguese, Galician and Asturian. Research is quite hard in all of these. I am having an extremely hard time reading Portuguese, and previously I thought I could read it fairly well. Also I have a friend in Brazil, and she used to send me mails all the time in Portuguese, and honestly, I was pretty lost reading that stuff. I think Spanish-Portuguese written intelligibility is overrated.

I cannot understand much spoken Portuguese either. I watched a clip on Youtube the other day about some city council meeting in a town on the Spanish-Portuguese border, and I could not understand a word they said.

I have a feeling that the oral intelligibility of Romance is also overrated. You hear a lot of anecdotes. Eonavians said that Western Asturians could not understand one word of Eonavian, which is a Western Asturian-Eastern Galician transitional dialect!

Castillian speakers who went to Valencia to live said that after seven years, they still could not understand one word of Valencian and Catalan spoken at normal speed. However, they could understand TV announcers in those lects very well because the announcers used Castillian intonation as opposed to Catalan/Valencian intonation.

Some people from the north of Spain say that they cannot understand a single word of the hard Andalucian spoken on the streets of the big cities.

Commenter James Schipper lived in Brazil for years and is fluid in Portuguese. However, he only understood 40% of the strange lect spoken in Hermisende, Zamora, in Spain. Linguists say that this is a Galician dialect with heavy Portuguese influence and significant Leonese influences. On some linguistic maps, it is colored as a Portuguese dialect.

He was also able to understand only 25% of Alistano Leonese.

And we haven’t even left the Iberian Peninsula yet!

A while back, in a large city in northern Italy, an old woman had become lost. They took her into the police station and she was chattering away for a few hours. They kept asking her questions but she did not understand them as she didn’t speak Standard Italian. People had all sorts of theories on where she was from. Some thought Greece, and there were many other guesses. Finally a worker came in who was familiar with the strange Western Lombard dialect from the high northern Italian mountains that she spoke. The old lady and the cops all spoke a Northern Italian dialect, and none of them could understand the old lady.

On the border of France and Italy in and around the city of Menton near Nice, a lect called Mentonasque is spoken. It is close to the old language of Nizzard spoken in Nice. This is an Occitan-Ligurian transitional dialect, a halfway between Maritime Provencal Occitan spoken in France and Ligurian spoken in Italy. Nevertheless, Mentonasque speakers say that they cannot understand a word of the Ligurian spoken in Italy. And linguists now see Mentonasque as a Ligurian dialect!

One would think that if these languages were that close, one could learn one or another of them pretty easily. To some extent this is true, but not to the extent of dialects of a single tongue or very closely related languages where you can adjust fairly easy over a period of 1 hour-3 weeks.

For instance, in Asturias, there are many Castillian speakers who have been living there for some time who simply state that they cannot understand Asturian. If they were really so close, one would think they would have picked it up easily over the years.

Down in the Bierzo zone transitional between the Leonese and Galician languages, there are Castillian speakers who have been living there for years who cannot understand Leonese, Galician or Berciano. With languages like that being spoken around them all the time, one would think they would have picked up them easily over the years.

The truth is that these languages are not as close as they seem, and much has to do with intonation as the example of the Castillian speaker living in Valencia indicates. In addition, one way to tell that you are dealing with a separate language and not a dialect of a single tongue is that the other language doesn’t necessarily get easier to understand the more you hear it. The factor of motivation cannot be ruled out. The Castillian speakers above who cannot understand Galician, Leonese, Berciano, Asturian, Valencian, Catalan or Andalucian have obviously never taken the time to try to learn the language. They simply cannot be bothered. If people do not want to try to learn a language, even a very closely related one spoken around them all the time, they simply will not learn it.

It is said that after 2-3 months of close contact, a Castillian speaker can pick up Aragonese, Catalan, Asturian, Leonese or Galician. But that is if one is sufficiently motivated. The powerful variable of motivation in language learning cannot be underestimated.

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Why The ETA Political Wing Was Banned

Repost from the old site.

I received an interesting email from one Gonzalo Polo (website here), a Spanish nationalist. I am publishing the parts of it that can be published here. I normally don’t post the names of emailers as it is a violation of Netiquette, but he issued a veiled threat to me, so he gets named. If you don’t want me to reveal contents of your mails, don’t threaten me.

I always supported the Basque and even Catalan separatist causes. In the Basque movement, I supported the armed wing called the ETA. This mail points out some less than flattering things about the ETA, so I am running it, and it also tells us some interesting stories about the history of the Iberian Peninsula.

I am posting it to provide another perspective to the National Question in Spain.

I still think that Spain should allow a referendum on independence, and that is really what this whole fight is all about. I understand that Spain will never hold this referendum, which makes me wonder when they crow that only a minority of Basques support separatism. So hold the referendum already. Truth is, I do not think that Spaniards are civilized enough to split up their nation.

Few nations are.

Only the former USSR and Czechoslovakia have broken up peacefully, with Quebec and and the UK showing a willingness at least. Spaniards have always been terribly intolerant as a people, a tradition like the peculiar one of church-burning that is proving hard to break.

At least the intolerance part is traced by Carroll Quigley back to the Arab occupation, said influence of which makes the area from Latin America across the Mediterranean to Pakistan the Peru-Pakistan Axis, as he calls it.

That much of Spain’s industry is in the Basque Region makes separatism supposedly lethal for Spain, but I doubt it. Spain is a mature and wealthy country and I think they could handle separatism just fine, but Spaniards are just too backwards to do it. I include the famously liberty-lovers the French in this backwardsness, and all of Asia, including those supposedly more highly evolved humans in Northeast Asia.

China is utterly insane when it comes to Tibet (as we saw in the past few days) and Taiwan, and in this way they are firmly in a backwards Asian tradition. Burma, Indonesia and India won’t tolerate separatism either, and the result has been horrible massacres and even genocides.

I suggest that a willingness to break up one’s country is the ultimate act of a civilized people, and it is a litmus test for seeing how civilized you are. By that test, most of the world fails except for some Europeans, but that makes sense. Europeans are the only people who will even try to play by the rules of war either.

The Catalans seem to be debating separatism in their media, and there are some interesting debates going on. One of them is revolving around the nature of the ethnic nationalism that Catalan nationalism is. There are good progressive arguments saying that all ethnic nationalism leads to some variety of fascism, since, like the anti-Semitism I discussed previously, the impulse has nowhere to go but to the Right.

Put another way, internationalism is language of the Left (yet note armed separatists are often Leftists) and nationalism is the language of the Right. It was only the stew of 70 years of internationalism that so wore down the nationalist sentiments of the USSR and enabled them to cleave off 15 republics with very little bloodshed.

There were bloody and fascist-like nation-building episodes in many of these new countries, but that’s just the normal nation-building experience, and if we had to deny the legitimacy of every nation that had ever done this, we would have few countries left on the globe.

It’s probable that that same evil Commie internationalism allowed the Czechoslovaks to separate so amicably. You can’t say that 43 years of Goulash Communism didn’t do any good at all.

Nationalism created the Axis in World War 2 and probably led to World War 1 too. All these fetishists of the state that demand states have their precious “monopoly on violence” and that all armed non-state actors surrender all arms immediately or be destroyed as “terrorists” might want to think that one over sometime. Note that the worst enemies of the Axis ultranationalists were the armed partisans, often Communists.

If you lurk around Internet fascist, Nazi or nationalist forums long enough (and I like to do this for a lark) you will notice that these types hate no one worse than Communists. As nationalists are often not members of the towering heights of capital, one wonders what all the fuss is about.

Fascists, and the nationalists who dress up like them once in a while, Halloween-like, hate Commies over the nationalism question. Commies are dubious, at best, about nationalism. The blood drenched soil of ethnic and Lazarus-like nationalism is the essence of fascism. That’s what the whole bloody Commie-fascist fight is all about in a nutshell.

There’s also the fact that fascism is a last-ditch effort of capital to preserve its privileges in the environment of a serious threat by the Left. The seriousness of the Left Threat provokes a deadly anti-Communist reaction in the fascist. Commies are no longer some ludicrous phantasm – they are marching in the streets – and we need to kill as many of them as possible and put the rest in jail.

It’s curious why more don’t support ethnic separatism. Ask an American, if you can get lucky and find one who even understands the concept, and 90% chances are they support the state and oppose the armed separatists everywhere on Earth. Most folks you meet on the Net are the same way.

But go to a separatist region and you will find large numbers who support separatism. It seems we are not empathizing well enough with the national aspirations of our brother humans.

That ethnic nationalism brings out the caveman in anyone is shown how the separatist Catalans are total nationalist pigs when it comes to granting the Occitan speakers their legitimate human rights.

The ETA political wing was banned (although their men were elected in the last elections to the Basque Parliament under another name, and therefore they act as deputies in the Basque Parliament and mayors in some villages) because they used the public money they earned to send it to the ETA, and also because they gathered information about politicians and submitted it to ETA.

They have decided to boycott Spanish elections so they do not present candidates.

The current President of the Basque Parliament (the moderate Basque PNV) and all political parties of Euskadi (including leftist radical but non-violent Basque parties) define the ETA as a terrorist group (the EU and the US also).

In the last general elections of Spain the political wing of ETA asked Basques not to vote. Even considering that in the villages where ETA supporters have more influence, that this means that if you vote you become a target, people who decided not to vote grew 10 per cent since last elections.

ETA murdered a retired socialist politician who walked in the streets along with his wife and daughter a day before the elections. He was a poor man who worked in a highway booth and handed tickets to the drivers. ETA political wing’s major of the village of Arrasate-Mondragon refused to condemn the assassination.

For this reason all the rest of the parties who governed the town in coalition with this party (including radical left parties) determined not to back her position. This means that there will be soon be another mayor in this town formed by a coalition of the rest of the parties.

For your information I would like to highlight that the PNV (the moderate Basque party) is so scared about the ETA that in the last Basque elections, they could not find candidates for some towns. The Spanish socialist and conservative parties found candidates and, for instance, Mrs. Regina Otaola (Otaola is a Basque name and she is 100% Basque) is the current mayor of Lizarra.

All socialist and moderate candidates in the Basque Country have bodyguards. The man who was murdered two days ago had no right to have a bodyguard because he retired from politics so he was an easy target.

I also would like to inform you that the population of the Basque country is diminishing, the reason being that about 1/3 to 1/4 of 100% Basques have determined to run away from their homeland – the reason being that they want their children to live in a non-violent atmosphere so they have moved to other regions of Spain, for instance my brother-in-law Mr. Aguirre Ormaetxea (100% Basque).

For your information, the language spoken in Galicia is not a dialect of Portuguese, although both languages have a common origin. In the 8th century the Arabs invaded the entire Iberian Peninsula except the mountains of the north. Only the mountains of the North of Spain from Galicia to Catalonia were not invaded.

The original Spaniards (a blend of races and peoples united under the Roman Empire and highly sophisticated at that time, as opposed to people from Northern Europe) started to recover territory from North to South.

Little kingdoms such as Portugal, Castilla, Navarra, Leon and Aragon started to fight Arabs. Galicians joined the kingdom of Leon and Portuguese created the kingdom of Portugal.

Catalonia at that time was invaded by the Emperor of the Sacred Roman Empire, a German emperor of the tribe of the Francs who controlled France and Germany under the blessing of the Pope. The Catholic Church maintained the fiction that the Roman Empire was still alive.

Catalans expelled the Francs from the Hispanic Mark (the name of Catalonia at that time that included a province that nowadays belongs to France) and joined the kingdom of Aragon (a big kingdom that nowadays covers the regions of Aragon, Catalonia, Majorca and Valencia). The French Catalans do not have a Catalan department; Catalans have no rights as a minority in France.

The valley of Aran is part of the province of Lerida (Catalonia), although it is located in the Northern part of the Pyrenees Mountains. People from Aran speak an Occitan (Langue d’Oc) dialect similar to the one was spoken in all Provence before the Germanic tribes imposed French (the former Langue d’Oil that was spoken in Norther France).

Occitan is not spoken nowadays in France. The nationalist Catalan parties do not allow the Aranese language to be taught at school, and they force children to learn Catalan instead of their native language.

The Catalan and Spanish languages are spoken in all the Mediterranean coast from the Border of France to the region of Murcia (including the Balearic Islands). Catalan was never spoken in the current region of Aragon except in the border with Catalonia where children are able to learn the Catalan language thanks to the Aragon Government.

In the Regions of Majorca and Valencia, Catalan is freely spoken as well as Castilian. The people of these regions vote PP or PSOE – Spanish conservative or socialist parties. In the last general elections, the winning party was the Socialist Party, and nationalist CIU party obtained only 11 seats. Furthermore, the president of the Catalonian Parliament is also a socialist.

Catalan radical nationalists pretend to create a new country that would include the regions of Catalonia, Valencia and Majorca together with French Catalonia. French Catalans, Valencians and people from Majorca want to remain in Spain and dislike Catalan imperialism.

I would also like to point out that Guernica is a painting the Republican Legitimate Spanish Government asked Picasso (Picasso was born in Andalusia, namely in Malaga) to paint in order to show the world the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. Once the painting was finished, it was shown for the first time in the Universal Expo of New York, namely in the Spanish pavilion.

The US government refused to return the painting to Spain once the war was over, and it remained in the Metropolitan until Franco died. I would like to point you out that around one million people died in the Spanish Civil War. Guernica was bombed by the Germans, but many other Spanish towns were also bombed and destroyed by the Russians.

I would like to highlight that neither the US nor the European democracies helped the Republican Government of Spain because they were scared about Hitler so they preferred not to see what it was happening except for Germany (who backed Franco) and Russia (who backed Republicans.)

Once the Civil War was over, many republicans ran away from Spain and stayed for years in concentration camps in France (my grandfather among others).

Many democrats felt that the US and the European democracies were acting in bad faith, so many people (like Hemingway) came to Spain to fight as volunteers with the Republic.

P.S. In a recent poll published by The Economist, you can read that only between 1/4 and 1/3 of Spanish Basques back independence. In the last elections to Spanish parliament Basque PNV party obtained only 300,000 votes in the Basque Country.

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“Europe’s Crisis Spawns Calls for a Breakup—of Spain,” by Matt Moffett

Very interesting article! I support this secessionist movement 100%! It’s clear that Catalans really are a nation in need of national liberation. I think that Spain could still do quite well if they let Catalonia go. The Catalans have never been happy living in Spain, and nationalist sentiment is very high. It’s a typical subject of animated dinner table conversations at the family table – that’s how normal and heated politics is in this part of the world.

Catalan is a separate language from Spanish, and Spanish speakers can’t exactly understand Catalan speakers. I know I have a hard time reading Catalan myself. Catalan looks and sounds sort of like a mixture between Spanish and French. It is close to the Occitan language of which Provencal is a part.

Language politics is a big deal here. Valencians, who only speak a dialect of Catalan and not a separate language, have formed a ridiculous movement that says Valencian is a separate language from Catalan. It’s as if the British decided that British English and American English are two separate languages. However, the use of Valencian as a tongue is declining.

Catalan is most spoken in the north around Barcelona. It’s in pretty bad shape in France. It’s also spoken in the Balearic Islands, where it’s not in particularly good shape either. There is a tiny community of Catalan speakers on Sardinia.

There are also many Spanish speakers in Catalonia who do not speak Catalan. Lately, Catalan nationalists have taken the reigns demanding the Catalan be the language of instruction in schools. They advocate having no schools where Spanish is the language of instruction. In addition, all building signs must be in Catalan also, not only in Spanish. But Catalan signs need not carry a Spanish translation.

So Spanish speakers feel that they are being discriminated against, and they are angry.

If Catalonia got its independence, the new government would probably make Catalan the official language.

As you can see, Catalans feel that they don’t get their money’s worth out of the taxes they pay. They pay more than their fair share of taxes and don’t get back much in return. To them it’s a ripoff. With the horrific crash of the Spanish capitalist economy (30% unemployment), a lot if Catalans simply want out.

However, the Spanish state is horrified by this since Catalonia is a powerful industrial engine for the state of Spain. In addition, Spanish Francoist fascists never really went away, and to some extent, this mindset continues on at the upper levels of Spanish politics. The Francoist elements are so insane and awful that they would probably try to prevent Catalan separatism by force.

To the north, independentists have won election the Basque Country too. I have long supported their movement, and I even support the armed ETA guerrillas. It would also be difficult to split off the Basque Country as it is also an economic engine.

There is a similar movement in Galicia in the far northwest near Portugal, but it’s far less popular.

There is another movement in Belgium which is discussed in the article whereby Dutch speaking Flanders wants to secede from French speaking Wallonia.

This article also shows how asinine HBD theory is. Catalans have a reputation for being hard working and more productive than most of the rest of Spain, who the Catalans see as a bunch of layabouts. Yet the people of Catalonia and those of the rest of Spain are identical genetically. The differences are merely cultural. A similar dynamic is at play in Belgium, where the industrious Flemish are the same genetically as the purported layabout Walloons.

According to HBD idiots, every time you have harder working people and layabouts in the same country, it’s always a racial thing. Usually the busy folks are the Whites or the often more Northern type (who tend to be more White) while the lackadaisical parasites are the (often more southern), “niggerized” or “Indianized” folks.

We see this most typically in Italy (White Padanian “Celts” versus Sicilian-niggers), but you see it in other places too. Even the fight in the EU now over the north (read Whiter folks) supporting the unproductive welfare cases in the South (read: niggerized Whites, mongrels, off-Whites or non-Whites) boils down to this kind of a sick racist dynamic.

There may even be something similar going on in India with the Indian bread basket of Punjabi “white folks” complaining about having to support the more Australoid “Indian niggers” in the south.

There are some progressive people on here who are enamored of some aspects of this HBD crap, and I really urge you to be careful with these ugly racist arguments.

Europe’s Crisis Spawns Calls for a Breakup—of Spain

By Matt Moffett

Many people in Catalonia, a province known as “the factory of Spain,” feel that the rest of the country has become an economic millstone. They’re pushing for an independent Catalonia. WSJ’s Matt Moffett reports from Barcelona.

BARCELONA, Spain—This vibrant northern region of Catalonia has long been known as the “factory of Spain” for generating wealth that helped sustain the entire nation. Now Catalonia, beaten down by years of recession, has become the battleground in what threatens to become an economic civil war.

Protesters in Catalonia last month marched for independence in Barcelona.

In protests large and small, hundreds of thousands of Catalans are embracing a stark proposition: Only by breaking ties with Spain and becoming an independent country can Catalonia free itself from economic malaise.

Catalans go to the polls Nov. 25 for a regional parliamentary election, and polls show pro-independence parties in front.

“Madrid has been draining us dry for too long,” says Josep Casadella, a corporate human-resources administrator. He became an Internet sensation not long ago after posting a video of himself refusing to pay the fare at a toll booth and complaining that Spain should build free roads for all the taxes it collects.

The region’s president, Artur Mas, has called the marriage between Catalonia and Spain’s capital one of “mutual fatigue.” He has pledged to place an independence referendum before voters.

Appalled at the separatist sentiment, a military veterans’ association said that politicians pushing for Catalonian independence should be tried for “high treason.” In recent days, pro-Spanish- unity protesters held a smaller demonstration of their own. Marchers held a sign reading: “Help, Europe. Nacionalists are crazy.”

Spain’s internal struggle echoes a larger debate convulsing the euro zone itself, as wealthier northern nations complain about supporting poorer southern ones. But now, as Europe enters its fifth year of crisis, the economic strains are deepening the fractures within some nations.

In Spain and Belgium, and to a degree Italy, local and national governments are battling over how to allocate scarce resources. Even within Germany, which is economically stronger and politically stable, richer areas are grumbling about the cost of subsidizing the poorer areas.

Catalonia’s president, Artur Mas, called the marriage between his region and the Spanish capital one of “mutual fatigue” in a speech, likening it to the way “northern and southern Europe have grown weary of one another.”

Cultural and linguistic variances within many EU countries only make matters worse. Catalonia itself is a prime example: Its own language is widely spoken and instilled in younger generations as the main language in most elementary schools.

Throughout the continent “there are some very long-standing strains and tensions of unequal regional economic development that are now being brought to the surface,” says Adrian Smith, editor of the journal European Urban and Regional Studies.

Catalonia’s turmoil represents a major threat to European leaders’ hope of containing Europe’s crisis by stabilizing Spain, which is home to the euro zone’s fourth-largest economy but is also vying with Greece for the highest unemployment rate in the euro zone, around 25%. Policy makers had hoped that EU aid would keep Spain afloat while investors digest losses in Greece, which is even more troubled.

Spain’s financial markets are quivering at the mere talk of secession of Catalonia, which produces almost 19% of Spain’s economic output and 21% of its taxes. Investors fear the revolt will undermine Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s plan to get a grip on spending, particularly in the 17 regional governments that have been a big source of Spain’s deficit.

If pro-independence parties triumph at the ballot box in next month’s regional election, Catalonia’s leader, Mr. Mas, will face pressure to make good on a vow to place an independence referendum before voters. National authorities say that would be illegal.

Mr. Mas studiously avoids the word “independence” to define his goal. Some analysts believe he would satisfied simply with a more favorable revenue-sharing deal. Meanwhile, impelled by swelling support for secession, he has become bolder, asserting publicly several times that “Catalans demand the instruments of State.”

“We are convinced that an independent Catalonia is perfectly viable economically, ” says Albert Carreras, Catalonia’s finance secretary. “Rather, we question whether Spain is viable if Catalonia were independent. ”

Further muddying the Spanish political picture, pro-independence groups in Basque Country—another region where separatist sentiment is strong—won control of parliament there in elections Oct. 21.

Outside of Spain, Belgium faces the biggest separatist strain. There, a vibrant separatist movement in the wealthier, Dutch-speaking Flanders wants to cut ties with poorer, French-speaking Wallonia. For the moment, a political impasse has been avoided by formation of a coalition government that excludes the separatist N-VA party, even though it won the most votes.

Still, local elections this month only heightened tensions. The N-VA’s leader, Bart de Wever, won the mayoral race in Antwerp, the country’s second-largest city, and used his acceptance speech to call for more independence. “Your government does not have the support of Flanders,” he told Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, who hails from Wallonia.

In Italy, as in Spain, the regional spats are partly rooted in pre-crisis deals that gave regional governments more spending authority, but without more responsibility to raise revenue, says Alberto Alesina, a Harvard University economist. “All that people are talking about are enormous scandals and wasting of money at the regional level,” says Mr. Alesina. In Italy, he says, the south is the bigger culprit but says the north is hardly blameless.

When the southern island of Sicily recently needed a €400 million transfer, or about $520 million, from the central government to continue paying its bills, Northern Italians grumbled about claims of payroll-padding there. They cited as an example the island’s 27,000-strong corps of forest rangers hired during the fire season. Sicily is roughly the size of Massachusetts.

In Spain, financial woes are putting the union on the rocks. In August, Catalonia said it would seek a €5 billion bailout from the national government to make debt payments. Catalan officials say they would have no need for budget-cutting or bailouts if the central government were distributing tax revenue fairly. Some 43 cents of every euro Catalonia pays in taxes doesn’t come home, according to data compiled by the Catalonia government.

Underlying the grievances is Catalans’ image of themselves as a hardworking, thrifty people, “the Germans or Lutherans of Spain,” says sociologist Enrique Gil Calvo, who was born in a neighboring northern region. Residents of Catalonia, about three-quarters of whom speak Catalan, are openly scornful of what they consider to be the indolence of southern Spaniards.

People from Madrid, for their part, poke fun at what they perceive to be Catalans’ workaholic, stingy nature. The discovery of copper wire, one joke goes, came about as a result of two Catalans engaging in a tug of war over a penny.

The debate is no laughing matter to Catalan independentistas, as the secession supporters are known. They view themselves as patriots “just like George Washington,” says Jaume Vallcorba, a businessman who heads a pro-independence group, Fundacio Catalunya Estat.

As an independent nation, Catalonia would have GDP per capita of €30,500, which would rank it seventh in the European Union, just behind Denmark and ahead of Germany, Mr. Vallcorba’s group says in its presentation. He adds that Catalonia’s exports to the rest of the world recently surpassed its sales to the rest of Spain.

Spain’s prime minister, Mr. Rajoy, termed the Catalan independence push “madness of colossal proportions” in a speech this month.

In a briefing, a senior official in Madrid said that Catalans conveniently overlook help they get from the national government, such as the billions of euros being used to bail out a locally run savings bank.

Even some Catalans think the independentistas “are painting a picture that is prettier than the reality would be,” says José María Gay de Liébana, an economist at the University of Barcelona who can trace his Catalan lineage to the Middle Ages. How, he asks, would Catalonia’s already indebted and deficit-ridden government shoulder the added economic burden of opening embassies all over the world, creating its own police and customs agencies, and possibly an army?

Mr. Gay de Liébana adds that Catalonia would have to assume a reasonable share of Spain’s national debt, perhaps as much as €200 billion. And he wonders whether the breakaway nation would ever be accepted into the EU, particularly in the face of certain opposition from Spain. “People would say we abandoned the ship when things got tough, instead of rowing together,” he says.

As Spain’s economy sinks further into recession, however, more people seem willing to take the plunge to independence. “There are many people who didn’t favor independence a couple of years ago, who now view it as our only hope,” says Laia Serrano, an economist who last year formed a nonprofit group, BarcelonActua, to help the growing number of recession victims.

On a recent Thursday night, she had set up a soup kitchen on a downtown Barcelona street where about 60 people lined up for meal boxes. One 78-year-old retiree said the situation reminded him of waiting for ration tickets in the hard years after the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.

“Everyone says that independence will mean more jobs, so we have to support it,” said another man, who said he was 35 years old and unemployed for four years.

Clashes with central authority are a recurring theme in Catalan history. In the 18th-century War of Spanish Succession, Spain’s Bourbon king, Philip V, crushed Catalan forces who had cast their lot with his Austrian rival. Later, during the Civil War, Catalonia was a stronghold of resistance to another strongman, Gen. Francisco Franco, who would harshly suppress Catalan culture during his four-decade dictatorship.

Perhaps because Catalonia couldn’t count on much support from central authorities, an aggressive spirit of entrepreneurship flourished. “Catalonia was globalized before anyone knew what that meant,” says Salvador Cardús i Ros, a political writer. Even in the 19th century, he notes, a distinctively Catalan product, the tangy sausage butifarra, was marketed abroad and manufactured with machinery from Germany, meat from Northern Europe and spices from Asia.

Today Barcelona is home to international heavyweights such as Mango MNG Holding SL, the women’s fashion retailer, and Grupo Planeta, the dominant publisher in Spain and Latin America.

Catalonia is a big tax contributor to the central government. But officials in Barcelona complain the money isn’t redistributed fairly. The annual deficit between what Catalonia pays in taxes and what it gets back from Madrid represents about 8% of Catalonia’s total output, roughly €16 billion, Catalonian officials calculate.

Catalans complain that, as a consequence of underinvestment, their local roads and infrastructure is inferior to that in poorer parts of Spain. “We have to choose between using public roads that are dangerous, or toll roads that are expensive,” says Manel Xifra, president of Comexi, a packaging-machinery company with €100 million in revenue.

In Catalonia, toll roads make up almost three times the proportion of the regional highway system as they do in the region of Madrid—a smaller geographical area, but one that is roughly similar in GDP and population.

He also complains that national officials have dallied for years in making a logistically important investment to connect Barcelona’s port to its train line. And that Barcelona’s airport provides too few international flights, forcing transfers when he travels for business.

Some Catalan executives, though, are worried about the impact of the independentistas on business. Jose Manuel Lara, the chief of Grupo Planeta, recently told a radio interviewer that much of the company’s operations would need to be transferred out of Catalonia if it seceded, because it wouldn’t make sense for a Spanish language publisher to be based in a region where Catalan was the official language.

To cover its expenses, Catalonia’s government has ratcheted up the top marginal income-tax rate to 56%. That is the highest in Spain, and only a hair below Sweden, at 56.6%.

“You can’t tolerate a Swedish level of taxes and African level highways,” says Xavier Sala-i-Martín, a Catalan economist who teaches at Columbia University and who says he is “pro choice,” supporting the Catalans’ effort to determine their future democratically.

Catalonia’s frustrations surged to the forefront during a Sept. 11 independence rally that drew more than one million demonstrators. Rosa Maria Sastre, an 81-year-old retiree, was too infirm to join the independentistas, so her granddaughter marched carrying a poster-size photograph of Mrs. Sastre. “We’d been waiting a long time to send a message,” Mrs. Sastre says.

On both sides, ardor is rising. The mayor of the Catalan city of Vic recently draped the red-and-yellow striped Catalan banner on the balcony of the historic municipal hall there. A few nights later, vandals climbed up and burned the flag to cinders.

—Frances Robinson and David Román contributed to this article.

Write to Matt Moffett at matthew.moffett@ wsj.com

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Mutual Intelligiblility in the Romance Family (Reading)

Just a personal anecdote. I have been reading a lot of Italian lately (with the help of Google Translate). I already read Spanish fairly well. I have studied French, Portuguese and Italian, and I can read Portuguese and French to some extent, Portuguese better than French.

But I confess that I am quite lost with Italian. This is worse than French and worse than Portuguese. A couple weeks of wading through this stuff hasn’t made me understand it any better.

Portuguese and Galician are said to be so close that they are a single language. I don’t agree with that at all, but they are very close, much closer to Spanish and Portuguese. Intelligibility may be on the order of 80-90%.

Nevertheless, the other day I tried to read a journal article on Galician. It looked like it was written in Portuguese, and who would write in Galician anyway? I copied the whole thing into Google Translate and let it ride. I waded through the whole article, and I must say it was a disaster. I had a very hard time understanding many of the main points of the article.

Then I remembered that Translate works on Galician now, so I decided on an off chance that the guy may have written the piece in Galician for some nutty reason. I ran it through Translate using Galician as target. The article went through perfectly. You could understand the whole thing. It was then that I realized how far apart Portuguese and Galician really are.

You can try some other experiments.

Occitan is said to be nearly intelligible with Spanish or maybe even French, better if you know both. There’s no Google Translate for Occitan yet, but I had to deal with a lot of Occitan texts recently. I couldn’t make heads or tails of them despite by Romance reading background. So I tried using Translate to turn them into Spanish or French. French was a total wreck, and there was no point even bothering with that. Spanish was much better, but even that was a serious mess.

Now we come to the crux. Catalan and Occitan are said to be so close that they are nearly one language. Translate now works in Catalan. So I ran the Occitan texts through Translate using Catalan. The result was a serious mess, but you could at least understand some of what the Occitan texts were about. But no way on Earth were those the same languages.

People keep saying that if you can read Spanish, you can read Portuguese. It’s not true, but you can see why people say it. Try this. Take a Spanish text and run it through Translate using the Portuguese filter. Now take a Portuguese text and run it through Translate using the Spanish filter. See what a mess you end up with!

Despite the fact that I can read Spanish pretty well, I have tried to read texts in Aragonese, Asturian, Extremaduran, Leonese and Mirandese. These are so close that some even say that they are dialects of Spanish. But even if you read Spanish, you can’t really read any of those languages, and they are all separate languages, I assure you. Sure, you get some of it, but not enough, and it’s a very frustrating experience.

There are texts on the Net in something called Churro or Xurro. It’s a Valencian-Aragonese transitional dialect spoken around Teruel in Aragon in Spain. It also has a lot of Old Castillian and a ton of regular Castillian in it. Wikipedia will tell you it’s a Spanish dialect. Running it through both the Spanish and Catalan filters didn’t work and ended up with train wrecks. I doubt if Xurro is a dialect of either Catalan or Spanish. It’s probably a separate language.

There is another odd lect spoken in the same region called Chappurriau. It is spoken in Aguaviva in Teruel in the Franca Strip. The Catalans say these people speak Catalan, but the speakers say that their language is not Catalan. Intelligibility with Catalan is said to be good. So effectively this is a Catalan dialect.

I found some Chappurriau texts on the Net and ran them through Translate using Catalan as the output. The result was an unreadable disaster, and I couldn’t really figure out what they were saying. Then I tried the Spanish filter, and that was even worse. I am starting to think that maybe Chappurriau is a separate language as its speakers say and not a Catalan dialect after all.

I conclude that the ability to cross read across the Romance languages is much exaggerated.

Not only that, but many Romance microlanguages, transitional dialects and lects that are supposedly dialects of larger languages may actually be separate languages.

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