If you encounter a native of France or Spain, he will most likely speak French or Spanish, as the national language of his home country. However, a notable number of people speak a cultural language as well. The salience of these languages on the north vs. south side of the Pyrenees Mountains is substantial. Catalan, spoken in northeastern Spain and southeastern France, and Basque, a language isolate spoken in northern Spain and southwestern France, are minority languages. Both are distinct from Castilian Spanish with their own literature, people, and culture. While Basque and Catalan are prevalent in their respective Spanish autonomous communities, the “border” of the Països Catalans (Catalan Countries) and Euskal Herria (Basque Country) extends into the south of France. I will discuss the status of Basque and Catalan in their respective cultural regions, the social, political and economic implications of the two languages and cultures, and the effect the boarder between France and Spain has on these communities.
The historic oppression of identity and culture by the Spanish has created social tensions between these groups and the Castilians in Spain. During the time of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, attempts at Spanish centralization and assimilation were at an all time high, with these regional languages banned from use in publications, official documents, and public speech in the 16th century and again in the 1930s, although Basque and Catalan in particular had continued de facto use in government and in confided interactions (Alguera 89). This attempt at assimilation had already occurred previously in the French state as discussed early with the success of French public schooling and language promotion. However, in Spain ...
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