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On the non-difference between Valencian and Catalan.


The headlines in the Barcelona press announcing – on May 6th last – that the Valencian government had finally accepted that Valencian and Catalan are one and the same language, didn't go round the world or even past the Pyrenees; yet they marked an end to what surely must have been one of the most superfluous linguistic controversies on the planet. Background: in 1232, Jaume I, the Count-King of Barcelona and Aragon, began to conquer the territory due west of Lleida (owned by the Caliph of Baghdad). By 1238, Jaume had taken Valencia City and went on to seize Alacant. He populated this newly acquired region, known in English as Valencia - which, in its final form, stretched from just beyond the Catalan border town of Ulldecona all the way south to Elx - with mainly Catalan settlers (a minority came from Aragon, which is why a snippet of the Valencian area is traditionally Spanish-speaking). Over the following centuries, Valencia became a key part of the Catalano-Aragonese empire, in which Catalan was the universal language of administration, law and commerce. In the 18th century the cultural ties between Valencia and Catalonia were loosened following their forced incorporation into Castile's new hegemonic version of Spain (the one we still live in today). In the 20th century, to weaken the demographic importance of Catalan, the dictator Franco decreed that it was a completely separate language from Valencian (despite there being less difference between the two than between, say, Liverpudlian and Mancunian). Since then, the post-fascist right-wing in Valencia, headed by the governing Partido Popular, has toed Franco's linguistic line. As a result, for decades teachers from Catalonia and Majorca with degrees in Catalan have had to take a separate degree in 'Valencian' if they wanted to teach south of Ulldecona. This, at a time when Catalan writers were selling like hot cakes in Valencia and vice-versa, and when Catalan TV's soap operas - beamed over the border - were followed by tens of thousands of Valencian viewers with no linguistic difficulties whatsoever. So: after spending court fees amounting to 16.500€ per taxpayer in countless attempts to demonstrate that Valencian is not Catalan, the Valencian government has finally ratified the self-evident fact that it is. So now we know: the world is not flat; the Holocaust happened; fairies don't live at the bottom of anybody's garden, and 'bon dia' means the same up in Figueres as it does in down in Xātiva. Phew!

- Textos i contingut: Matthew Tree - Disseny i programaciķ: Nac -