MULTILINGUAL DEBATE IN SPAIN.

I’m somewhat leery of posting on such a controversial topic, but what the heck, it’s interesting: the Spanish Senate is now allowing senators to debate in Catalan, Galician, Valencian, and Basque as well as Spanish. There has been considerable opposition, and this Guardian story appears to take the side of the naysayers, putting in the lead paragraph “with interpreters employed to turn their words into a tongue they all speak perfectly: Castilian Spanish” and then saying “Critics claim that allowing senators to speak Catalan, Galician, Valencian and the Basque language of Euskara has turned the Spanish senate into a tower of Babel. They accuse the senate of wasting public money at a time of swingeing public spending cuts.” You can read a great deal of commentary in the Log thread about the story; Quintesse writes “I have lived in Spain for over 5 years now and it never ceases to amaze me how heated discussions will become when talking about the regional languages. The bigotry displayed by both sides is incredible.” I wish people could be a little more rational about language.

Comments

  1. I wish people could be a little more rational about language.
    Hat, that is a pipe dream. Especially when language is tied up with so many aspects of identity and culture, how could it be otherwise? The modern identification of language and nationalism doesn’t help, of course.
    The Guardian is just applying perceptions of the wastefulness of the multilingual EU to Spain when it criticises the waste of public money.
    And there is an element of wastefulness in it. Spain is trying to turn the clock back to a time when each group had its own equally valid language. Since Castilian has become the lingua franca of Spain, giving equal status to these languages is something of a pretence. It’s a lot of resources being devoted to something of symbolic but not practical importance. I don’t particularly like mega-languages, but the fact is that mega-languages do allow us to communicate across far wider areas than if we all spoke our own individual languages. There are definite benefits for Spain to having a common language. And if equal status for all the regional languages is pushed to its logical conclusion, Spain could eventually break up into different countries.

  2. Suddenly I wonder — how does this work in the U.S.? We don’t have an official language here, and I seem to recall that speeches on the House floor have occasionally been given in other languages (such as Spanish) for symbolic reasons, but somehow I doubt the House hired translators to bring those speeches into English. Rather, I imagine the people who gave those speeches were expected to submit English versions into the Congressional Record (either alongside the other versions, or in place of them); but I’d be interested to know for sure. Of course, different countries have different ways of doing things, and I can easily imagine that some countries might want their equivalents of the Congressional Record to accurately reflect what actually happens in their equivalents of Congress …

  3. Spain could eventually break up into different countries.
    This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. It’ll just lead to a micro version of the EU, with everyone wearing headphones in parliament. Language is one of several grounds for people to push for devolution, and it’s happening all over: the Soviet Union, British Isles, Yugoslavia. In a few years, maybe “China” will acknowledge that it isn’t one lump of stuff, and the “United” States will dissolve. Language is the catalyst for this, but there are many reasons and “local” is a good thing.

  4. When the first recorded jazz band – the Original Dixieland Jazz Band – was being formed, they auditioned for a pianist. One of the others commented something to the effect of “we had to try hundreds of guys before we found a pianist who couldn’t read music”. Perhaps somewhere there is a Spaniard who can’t understand castilian?

  5. Caution: that story fits into the category that I think of as “showbiz fact”.

  6. As a Latin American and a Castilian speaker, never ceases to amaze me the increasingly virulent rejection of Castilian in Catalonia. I think it’s great and very important that Catalan be cultivated and protected, but I cannot understand how you might miss another cultural asset as Castilian among catalans.
    Bilingualism is an extraordinary gift, but I understand that the measures of recent years in Catalonia, will educate people who will only dominate Catalan. As a commentator says in LL, children do not receive bilingual education in Catalonia nowadays. As far as I know, there are only a few hours of Castilian in schools (if any).
    Isn’t it a terrible loss that future generations lose the gift of being able to communicate with millions of people who speak Castilian? People, like myself, who speak Castilian not for being contrary to Catalonia and their independence, but just by being born in Castilian-speaking countries.
    I must say I felt bad and strange when signs in Barcelona museums, for example, were written only in Catalan and English. Doesn’t the law says that it should be written in both official languages (Castilian and Catalan)? Well I do not really know that, but I can tell you that I felt that they couldn’t care less to communicate with Latin America, for example.

  7. When the Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowan held a press conference yesterday to announce he was resigning a leader of Fianna Fail yesterday, he gave his statement first in Irish – surprising and confusing London-based BBC News which had switched urgently to the press conference, then had to improvise until he repeated his statement in English. It got worse for them in the following Q & A as he switched back and forth according to the language in which the question was asked.
    I couldn’t see if any of the ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate had earphones for translation.
    On the original question, it does seem to play to the current trend to favour minorities over the majority.

  8. Hat, that is a pipe dream.
    I know, I know!
    It’s a lot of resources being devoted to something of symbolic but not practical importance.
    That is, of course, a natural response from someone whose ox is not being gored. If you were a native speaker of Catalan, Galician, Valencian or Basque, I put it to you that you might feel differently.
    And I share with AJP a lack of horror at the idea of Spain (or any other country, including my own) breaking up into smaller bits. Small is beautiful, as they used to say.

  9. ..whose ox is not being gored.If you were a native speaker of Catalan, Galician, Valencian or Basque, I put it to you that you might feel differently.
    so how Mongolian is different, can’t you apply the same logic in our case/discussion/ the other thread
    isn’t it the double standards, i say, or some kind of, i don’t know how to name it, split thinking
    where is nationalism and nationalism
    and bringing up the balkan wars in our example, it’s like so totally opposite and false analogy too

  10. J.W. Brewer says:

    I want to know who gets the cushy gig of being the official Catalan-Valencian “translator.”

  11. decentinterval says:

    A Barcelona friend of mine (born, raised, educated) saw that Guardian article and replied to me as follows:
    “The guy in the photograph will–unfortunately–be the next Spanish president. He and his party–PP–are a bunch of “fachas” (a very Spanish word meaning fascists, old-fashioned, right-wing guys).
    “Where other countries would find 5 languages a blessing (in fact 4 because Valencian and Catalan ARE THE SAME, but PP introduced the concept of Valencian–which is a Catalan dialect–as a language on its own, to create tensions with Catalonia), Spain sees this multilingual treasure as a problem. What a bunch of b*********s.”
    Aside from “mi casa es su casa,” my Spanish is nonexistent. So I’ve no way to consider her linguistic statements.
    Any thoughts?

  12. I absolutely agree that have more than one language is a blessing. What I don’t understand is why catalonians don’t regard as a blessing being able to speak and be fluent in two languages. I believe taht the way they’re vanishing castilian will guide them to this.
    Sorry I have to continue in Spanish (or Castlian as I always refer to my language):
    Los catalanes dirán que no quieren hablar el idioma del “imperio” que los sometió, pero es evidente que el castellano hablado y escrito en catalunia tiene sus propias particularidades, porque ellos mismos son también dueños del idioma, como lo somos los argentinos o los mexicanos. Entonces ¿por qué para enfrentarse al poder central lo hacen perjudicándose a sí mismos? Según yo lo entiendo para mantener y proteger un bien culturar no es necesario desprenderse o perder otro. No son bienes materiales, ni objetos físicos que no pueden ocupar el mismo espacio al mismo tiempo. Manejar dos idiomas y lograr refinamiento de comprensión y creación en ambos es un bien invaluable. ¿Por qué destruirlo y además aislarse de muchas culturas de las que tanto podrían ganar?

  13. Julia,
    virulent rejection of Castilian in Catalonia
    Can you please point me to any evidence for that? And before you do, please note that I, like any reasonable person, will not accept the mere insistence that Catalonian be used whenever possible as evidence of virulent rejection of Castilian.
    why catalonians don’t regard as a blessing being able to speak and be fluent in two languages
    Evidence again, please. I happen to pay attention to the situation of Catalonia and aside from a few fringe elements (which I’m sure you will agree do not represent the whole of Catalonia), I can’t say that I’ve ever seen what you describe here.

  14. Los catalanes dirán que no quieren hablar el idioma del “imperio”
    No. Els catalans diuen que volen parlar la seva pròpia llengua. ¿Por que es tan difícil comprender eso?
    Also, I wonder to what extent are Spanish and Catalan mutually intelligible. I know about Spanish and Portuguese, but nothing on Spanish and Catalan…
    * heads off to do some research *

  15. decentinterval says:

    I’m pretty sure that Spanish and Catalan are approximately 70-75% the same (vocabulary-wise, at least). But I’m no linguist.

  16. how does this work in the U.S.?
    Logistically, pretty much as you suspected. However, due to the 24-hour cable news effect, it is now polarizing.
    Recall that in 1983, then NM-rep Bill Richardson addressed the House partly in Spanish. It ended up in the Congressional Record in English.
    And that in 2005, Mel Martinez (R, FL) included three Spanish sentences in his 8 minute first floor speech, with now predictable results. See, for instance, discussion on Language Log.
    If you go to Thomas and search for, like, “English language,” you will see the usual suspects proposing over and over again to amend the Constitution, change US Code, etc., to declare / require English as the language of government.

  17. Yes, but that’s not enough. I read Norwegian. When I buy something at the hardware store, the instructions are in Norwegian (bokmål), Finnish, Swedish & Danish. But if there isn’t much room they’ll leave off the Norwegian, because written Danish is 90% the same (or whatever the exact figure is). It’s awful, I hate reading Danish! They write bog instead of bok for “book”. I end up cursing the Danes, poor things, and it’s not their fault. The nynorsk readers curse bokmål, and so on. If I buy something from a proper EU country it’s got instructions in about 19 languages, and I don’t curse anyone.

  18. And thus we see that progressive language policy helps destroy the ancient culture of cursing. No silver lining without a cloud.

  19. “Yes, but that’s not enough.” – I was referring to Spanish and Catalan are approximately 70-75% the same.

  20. I’m pretty sure that Spanish and Catalan are approximately 70-75% the same (vocabulary-wise, at least).
    True, but that’s not what I asked.

  21. Bulbul I pointed the “evidence” you require in my first comment. Though I’m not a linguist or a sociology, nor I pretend to be.
    It’s wonderful that their speak their own language, but you’re missing my point here: I regret the lost of something the catalonians already had. I don’t see why they have to loose something in order to gain another thing. In cultural matters I think you can have both.
    Spanish/castilian is also theirs I believe, as I think is also ours in Argentina. We speak it, we use it, we can do what we want with it.
    And one thing is being “mutually intelligible” and other completely different thing is to have literary and profound comprehension skills.

  22. Anybody know if the ratio of similarity of Catalan to Spanish is anything like the ratio of similarity of Scots to English?
    From the Scots Wikipedia article on Catalonia:
    “Catalonie is an Autonomous Commonty in the Kinrick o Spain. The Autonomous Commonty o Catalonie haps an area o 32,114 km² wi an offeecial population o 7,210,508 [1] o whilk immigrants mak up an estimated 12.3% o the hail population. It mairches Fraunce an Andorrae tae the north, Aragon tae the wast, the Valencian Commonty tae the sooth, an the Mediterranean Sea tae the east (580 km coastline). Offeecial leids is Catalan, Spainyie, an Aranese. The caipital ceety is Barcelona. Catalonie is dividit intae fower provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, an Tarragona. Its territory corresponds tae maist o the historical territory o the umwhile Principality o Catalonie.”

  23. Julia,
    I pointed the “evidence” you require in my first comment
    No you did not. You made two statements (one about the education and one about a Barcelona museum) and with all due respect, that’s just not enough.
    I regret the lost of something the catalonians already had.
    And I doubt very much that anything is lost, except for the privileged* status of Spanish. First, speakers of Spanish are still the majority in Catalonia (46.5% cited is as their llengua d’identificació as opposed to 37.2% who gave Catalan and 8.8% who gave both). Second, Spanish is heard on the radio and on the tv, Spanish newspapers and books are sold all over Catalonia. In fact, to get to your first point, the Catalan-language education was designed to offset the domination of Spanish.
    So where is the loss?
    Spanish/castilian is also theirs I believe
    Absolutely. And as we’ve seen, no one is supressing it or taking it away.
    one thing is being “mutually intelligible” and other completely different thing
    Oh yes, that was just an a propos on my part.
    *Stupid word, I always have to remind myself of its etymology and double check to get it right…

  24. Stupid word
    My sentiments. Recently a “d” has been insinuating itself, to give “priviledged”. Of course the instant I write it down, it’s clear that something’s wrong. I just now vaccinated myself with knowledge of the etymology, so it should be plain sailing from here out.

  25. the idea of Spain (or any other country, including my own) breaking up into smaller bits
    This reminds me of another Catalan-related broohaha a while back (some more info). This one was caused by the CEO of Air Berlin who, when his company was asked to include announcements in Catalan on their flights to the Balears, wrote an incredibly stupid and entertaining op-ed which denounced the very idea citing the threat of “Rückfall in mittelalterliche Kleinstaaterei.” Good times, good times.

  26. As a francophone from Quebec I must say the whole debate in Spain stands out because it is so un-exotic. I will simply write that Spanish- and English-speakers’ “arguments” against the promotion of Catalan and (Quebec) French (respectively) have proven one thing to me: however useful global lingua francas may be for cross-cultural understanding, being a native speaker of such a language does not appear, IPSO FACTO, to broaden one’s intellectual horizons or cross-cultural sensitivity. I’ll leave it at that.
    Bulbul: As a Romance scholar with a decent reading knowledge of Catalan and Spanish, I think I can say that mutual intelligibility is quite partial in writing and close to nil orally.
    Decentinterval: It’s quite misleading to say that the two languages are “70-75% the same”, lexically: this figure refers to the percentage of shared cognates, which through the effects of sound changes are often no longer transparently related: HAVEM FET and HEMOS HECHO “We have done” are cognates (Vulgar Latin *(H)ABEMUS FACTU) but I don’t think a monolingual speaker of Spanish could understand the Catalan form, despite the cognacy. To say nothing of semantic differences: when reading Catalan I always need to pinch myself to remember that (for example) VAIG FER is “I did”, not “I will do”, unlike the French (JE VAIS FAIRE) and Spanish (VOY A HACER) cognate forms.
    Julia: here’s a thought-experiment which may allow you to better understand things from Catalan-speakers’ perspective. Imagine that history had taken a different turn a few generations ago and that Argentina had been annexed by Brazil: Portuguese is now the only official language, Buenos Aires is being flooded with poor immigrants from Brazil, and the bulk of native speakers of (Argentinian) Spanish master Portuguese so well that they mix Spanish and Portuguese daily. So well that when speaking Spanish, even in the privacy of their homes, native Spanish-speakers, even professors of Argentinian literature, often forget Spanish words and turns of phrase and spontaneously replace them with Portuguese ones. Try to imagine that situation: one in which there is *nowhere, in Argentina* where you can hear Argentinian Spanish unmixed with Portuguese. In a context where native speakers of Portuguese are of course monolingual, all the while saying that Argentinian Spanish speakers are so enriched by their knowledge of two languages.
    One last little detail: imagine that history had taken yet another different turn and that Spanish was not spoken anywhere on the planet except in Argentina.
    Imagine that, imagine how you and your fellow Argentians would react, and I suspect that the Catalans’ actions (back here in the real world) would make a lot more sense to you.

  27. “taht’s just not enough”
    of course I know that. This is why I mocked the word “evidence” with inverted commas…
    Let’s see what happens in 15 or 20 years with the children that is being educated now. Will they be bilingual? I don’t think so.
    Perhaps you don’t believe me; certainly you don’t understand me, but I’m not contrary to Catalonian. I prefer to think language as a communication devise, though I know all the power it could have in the surface. So it was very strange for me when for instance in Barcelona people of my age refuse to talk to me in castilian, though they know it and understand it, as way to use language as a weapon or a political devise.

  28. decentinterval says:

    Etienne = Are you sure about HAVEM FET? My Catalan friend said, “Yet HAVEM does not exist. It’s HEM FET.”

  29. marie-lucie says:

    I agree with Etienne. It makes a big difference if you are a member of the linguistic majority or a linguistic minority. It is not that the minority does not want to know the dominant language, since in most cases they would have to go far out of their way to escape the presence of that language in most aspects of daily life, it is that they don’t want to be swamped and forgotten by the majority, and in order to keep speaking their language and passing it on to their children they have to be more “in your face” than the majority who can take the ubiquitous presence of their language for granted.

  30. marie-lucie says:

    Julia, it is not possible to think of a language simply as “a communication device” independent of our personality.
    Our own native language is not something we learn consciously like the practical use of a “device”, like we learn to do multiplications or drive a car, our learning of it begins almost at birth, and our basic knowledge is intimately bound up with the strong emotional experiences of our earliest childhood. No other language, learned later, can substitute for those experiences and relationships. If we only speak one language, we forget that what we have learned of it later was an overlay built upon those earliest memories. Few of us (let alone monolinguals) can believe that foreigners or minority speakers can be just as emotionally attached to their own language as we are to ours. Reasons for switching to a dominant language (as opposed to just leaning it) such as practicality or social advancement have to contend with the emotional factors, which if suppressed will erupt in other ways. I think that political fragmentation is more likely to result from minority suppression than from acceptance and accommodation.

  31. I agree with Etienne.
    I do too; a very cogent comment.
    mutual intelligibility is quite partial in writing and close to nil orally.
    Just what I would have guessed.

  32. decentinterval,
    both are possible. I’m not sure what the distribution is, but havem and haveu appear to be somewhat archaic.

  33. J.W. Brewer says:

    It seems to me that pretty much every ethnolinguistic nationalist movement that has arisen in Europe over the last two centuries has behaved in a petty or jerky or illberal fashion when it got its hands on the levers of political power, with respect to the status of other languages. So it is naive to expect the Catalans to be any better in that regard. Heck, maybe they should get points for not (afaik) having an overtly anti-Semitic tinge to their ethnolinguistic nationalism. But outsiders who are language buffs and thus inclined to think the revival of marginalized languages is inherently way cool should be mindful of the illberal political dynamics that typically accompany such revivalisms.
    There’s something I don’t understand about Spanish political history here. It seems that part of the political backdrop for all current controversies of this nature is that the government of the Franco era was strongly hostile both to minority language rights and to regional autonomy in non-linguistic form. But for the century prior to 1936, the hardline right-wing faction in Spanish political life (i.e. the Carlists) were much more pro-local-autonomy (e.g., w/r/t the so-called Fueros) than their liberal opponents, and had disproportionate strength in the Basque country, Valencia, and other language-minority areas. So something happened to make the wings of Spanish politics flip sides on centralization, both linguistic and otherwise. But I have no idea what.

  34. Etienne,
    I think I can say that mutual intelligibility is quite partial in writing and close to nil orally.
    As much as I appreciate your educated guess, do you know of any research on the subject? Any experiments?

  35. @dearieme “Perhaps somewhere there is a Spaniard who can’t understand castilian?”
    For the current territory of Spain, my guess is that the last ones were born in the Basque mountains in the 1910s

  36. How did large multilingual assemblies work before the days of microphones?
    Everyone at the Congress of Vienna, even Lord Castlereagh, just spoke French, right?

  37. Thank you, etienne, yes, I understand perfectly well your example and I totally agree. The same thing with what m-l says. I celebrate all the power and importance Catalonian is having now. I only wish they can found less totalitarian ways for preserve it.
    Using the same or similar methods your opponent used, the ways you suffered and rejected is not for me a good idea. But, what do I know? I’m speaking without any authority on the subject. Only my experience and thoughts. Maybe I shouldn’t have spoke at all.

  38. Filius Lunae posted a link to an article on the subject written in Galician. He says, “If you speak even only Spanish or Portuguese and are interested in the issue, read the entire article, beautifully written in Galician. If you speak both Spanish and Portuguese, you’ve probably read through it all already.”
    I took up the challenge in my own twisted fashion and ran the article through GT twice, once saying it was Spanish, the second time Portuguese. A little bit of the result is in my comment.
    J. W. Brewer: That’s because the term right wing blurs the distinction between actual conservatives like the Carlists, who typically want to maintain existing settlements and agreements unreformed, and ideological reactionaries like the Francoists, who typically adopt a subset of conservative views (centralized rule as a Good Thing, for example) and treat them as universal virtues. This trend toward universalism is a point that ideological reactionaries and ideological radicals have in common: they both react against the existing mess, and wish to go to the radix of their principles.
    J. W. Brewer, Decent Interval: Every sensible person takes the same view of Catalan vs. Valencian that the Valencian Language Academy takes, namely that Valencian and Catalan are two separate standardizations of the same language. They are rather like British and American English: though the latter two don’t have academies, they do have separate lexicographer-publisher communities. Indeed, the language tag “ca” is ambiguous, whereas “ca-valencia” means the Valencian standard (there has been no call as yet for a Catalan-proper tag).
    So while the job of Catalan-Valencian translator is by no means necessary, it certainly wouldn’t be trivial: I would be able to easily translate British English into American English, as could any competent copy editor, but surely not vice versa. In any case, I think the Spanish Senate has only X-Castilian and perhaps Castilian-X translators, not translators between arbitrary pairs.
    Zythophile: The Scots edeetion of Wikipedia is cried “Wikipædia”.

  39. Bulbul: I don’t know of any studies on Catalan-Spanish mutual intelligibility, and I doubt any are possible today: because there is no speaker of Catalan in Spain who does not know Spanish, there is no way to know how much Spanish a monolingual speaker of Catalan could understand on the basis of their knowledge of Catalan only.
    As for speakers of Catalan outside of Spain, they are typically bi- or multilingual in other languages, which would likewise pose a problem: the fact that Catalan spoken outside Spain differs significantly from the Barcelona standard, and that most such varieties are obsolescent, would not help matters.
    More broadly, most studies of mutual intelligibility within Romance either involve native speakers of the various major languages, or speakers of various minor languages/dialects: I believe there are some studies on Catalan/Occitan mutual intelligibility, for example (since French and Spanish are by and large mutually unintelligible, knowledge of French by Occitan speakers and of Spanish by Catalan speakers means that the degree of Occitan/Catalan mutual intelligibility does not involve speakers’ bilingualism).
    J.W. Brewer: I fail to see anything illiberal about Catalan linguistic nationalism. Indeed, even while promoting Catalan, Catalonia has also granted official status to the local Aranese language (a close relative of (Bearnese) Occitan). This is a crucial test to my mind: while it is entirely acceptable to promote a locally dominant minority language at the expense of an encroaching majority language, there is no justification for imposing such restrictions against smaller minority languages which do not threaten the locally dominant minority language.
    Hence to my mind Catalan linguistic nationalism, to the extent that it involves the promotion of Catalan *at the expense of Spanish*, and accepts and indeed promotes a local language weaker than Catalan (Aranese), is, if anything, a model for the world to follow.

  40. Julia: while I disagree with you, I certainly am glad that you wrote what you did. Not least because it forces me to clarify my own position.
    Let me ask you this: Argentina in the twentieth century received a huge influx of Italian-speaking immigrants. For these immigrants learning Spanish was absolutely required for social and economic advancement. Spanish was always the sole official language, the sole language of education. Despite the fact that for a time Buenos Aires came close to having an Italian-speaking majority.
    Why was it/is it legitimate to have Spanish institutionally imposed upon Italian speakers in Argentina, but illegitimate to have Catalan imposed upon Spanish speakers in Catalonia? A related question: why is this past and present institutional Spanish monolingualism never called “totalitarian” in Argentina? Or in any other established nation-state?

  41. Bearing in mind that minority languages in Spain were once brutally suppressed by Franco, the public display of these languages is not a linguistic exercise, but a recognition of their legitimacy as part of the Spanish nation, and along with it their speakers. Moves like this by the government in Spain have reduced ETA to a fringe group, even among Basque nationalists.
    Regarding Catalan, that language has close connections with Languedoc, the southern language (so-called dialect but really a language) of France. In that country, there was no Franco to put its speakers in prison, but the laws of France do not even allow collection of data of how many speakers of minority languages there might be.

  42. It says here that according to Lord Aberdeen, Castlereagh spoke French slowly but correctly. Aberdeen had been at the negotiations for the Treaty of Paris, so he would have known, assuming he spoke good French. Metternich had been ambassador to Paris, he spoke French well. The Final Act of the Congress was written in French.

  43. Julia,
    I only wish they can found less totalitarian ways for preserve it.
    Can you please explain to us what totalitarian means you are referring to? There are no laws against using Spanish in Catalonia, the number of speakers of Spanish is even on the rise, so what totalitarian means?
    I understand that like many before and many after, you have had a negative experience – someone who you feel should have spoken to you in your language refused to do so. I’m just not sure if it’s the wisest thing to do to interpret what might have been a simple act of discourtesy as a symptom of Catalan animosity towards Spanish. Especially when presented with evidence to the contrary.

  44. marie-lucie says:

    AJP, The diplomats involved had learned French as this had become pretty much a requirement for the very top of society if they wanted to interact with other people in the same class in other countries, but nobody forced those people, let alone the general populations of their countries, to adopt French and renounce English. Right now a lot of people in many countries are encouraged to learn English, but that does not mean they should abandon their own languages.
    It is one thing to encourage people to learn another language in addition to their own, it is another to force people (more or less benighnly) to abandon their own language and switch to another.

  45. J.W. Brewer says:

    For Etienne, I would say that while there is perhaps no clear consensus definition of what counts as illiberal, the problems always come when the policies aimed at resisting “encroachment” of some larger language viewed as an abstract historical force translate in practice into burdens placed on the lives of individual human beings who are not personally responsible for the last X centuries of sins committed against the Catalan language merely by virtue of the the fact that they are personally more fluent in Castillian.
    There’s a separate issue, however, which is that Spain has one of the largest rates of immigrant inflow in Europe, which is not unrelated to the fact that Spain has recently had one of the most castrophically low birthrates in Europe. Some of those immigrants come from Castillian-speaking countries, with the largest three being Ecuador, Columbia, and Bolivia, where the people tend to be poorer and (ahem) darker-skinned than Catalonians. Is Barcelona as welcoming to these immigrants as Madrid? How about immigrants coming from Romania and Morocco (the largest two source countries overall)? It is rather silly to expect them to learn both Catalan and Castillian in order to minimally function in a new country. Which will they choose absent heavy-handed government policies penalizing that choice? The Quebecois nationalists have at least been able to try to drum up immigration to Canada from Francophone countries, but the Catalans have nowhere to draw upon.
    More broadly, however, unless the birthrate for Catalan-speakers is much higher than that for Spain as a whole (and I don’t know what sort of regional variations there may be), Catalan will likely be, if not extinct, on its way to becoming as minor a language as Aranese by the end of the century. Those interested in its long-term preservation should focus less on what language is spoken in the national Senate and start having more babies.

  46. Etienne,may I answer you in Spanish? As you can tell my English is terrible.

  47. Interesting idea about having a Catalan-Valencian translator.
    Leaving politics aside, and speaking solely from a linguistics point of view, the average person in either Catalunya or Valencia isn’t probably aware of the differences of the subtleties between the Catalan and Valencian dialects, but a trained translator should be. Especially the fact that there are standardized forms for both, a single, well-trained translator is enough for Catalan and Valencian. I share in the idea that they are varieties of one language. In fact, the outer dialects in Catalunya, near Valencia, are closer to Valencian speech than anything you hear near Barcelona.
    Now, the interesting part would come with Galician in the Spanish Senate. I can imagine the Galician translator repeating quite a lot verbatim, as he translates into Spanish. If you think Portuguese and Spanish are similar, add to Portuguese a Castilian pronunciation, and, you pretty much arrive at Galician. If any of these languages could get by without a dedicated translator, it would probably be Galician.
    That’s speaking solely in linguistic terms, however. The move in the Spanish Senate has other motives behind it that push it forward, political and otherwise.

  48. 1) “If I buy something from a proper EU country it’s got instructions in about 19 languages, and I don’t curse anyone.” I do: because they are squeezing in 19 languages they use absurdly small font sizes and so I can’t read any of them.
    2) Use of Scots – if it’s not the dialect of the area between Annandale and the North Sea, I reject it. Why should I settle for something that wasn’t the tongue of my childhood playgrounds?

  49. I do not understand the passion for wanting to preserve one’s own, one’s very own minority language.
    -
    I am myself a native speaker of Dutch, I happen to love languages and I have devoted much time and energy to becoming fluent in Spanish and English, I get by in French and German, and whenever I visit a new country (Italy, Portugal) I try to learn the basics of the local language.
    It is extremely frustrating to find that, in various parts of Spain, local linguistic warlords put up incomprehensible roadsigns, and that I should have to learn a whole new language to understand what is being discussed in a bar.
    -
    But apart from that, I read analogies here like: “What would you think if your language were a minority language, and what if your children didn’t speak it anymore…? etc etc”
    What does it it matter? Let the interesting linguistic pecularities be preserved in libraries. Let Catalan, Breton, Basque, Frisian die a natural death like many languages before them.
    I wouldn’t care if in the long run Dutch were to disappear and I think the Belgians who so fanatically insist on it that they can’t even get a government together, are utterly crazy.
    -
    I mean isn’t language about communication? Why should anyone prefer to communicate only locally because their forefathers happened to speak some Latin dialect that did not make into the major league?
    -
    And extra kudos to the Catalans for not suppressing Aranese? What’s that? If a language is weak and nearly extinct it should be preserved and helped?
    Why why why??? A language is not a human being with rights. Or a suffering animal to be rescued. It is a construct. It may be interesting, beautiful and fascinating. Often is. But it is mortal…

  50. At first I agreed with Mr. Hat when he wrote, “I wish people could be a little more rational about language”, but then only one commenter (Julia) really seems to be “rational about language”, and neither I nor (apparently) anyone else agrees with that commenter. There is nothing merely rational about language and ethnicity, and we ignore that at our peril!

  51. Julia: unless Hat objects, I would be more than glad to read (and reply to) whatever comment(s) you might wish to write in Spanish.
    AJP: actually, Metternich mastered French better than most native speakers. At a famous spelling bee, known as the DICTEE DE MERIMEE, Metternich only made three errors: Alexandre Dumas, twenty-four (in my case, well, I’m no Alexandre Dumas. Let’s move on, shall we?)
    J.W. Brewer: I certainly agree that having to learn Catalan, for Spanish-speaking immigrants to Catalonia, is a burden. But then, learning either Catalan or Spanish is a burden for Arabic-speaking immigrants, and wouldn’t it be nice if Arabic enjoyed some official status? Indeed, one could make a case that Arabic would be a more legitimate second language for Catalonia than Spanish: Ramon Llull, who was the first to write scholarly prose in Catalan, also wrote in Arabic (but not in Spanish, a datum a lot of Spanish “cultural conservatives” seem ignorant of…).
    My point is this: imposing Catalan as the common language of Catalonia means that non-Catalan speakers are now expected to bear a burden which hitherto had been Catalan-speakers’. Agreed.
    However, the question is: why should Catalan speakers be the ones to linguistically adjust to newcomers instead of the other way around? Considering the fact that Catalan speakers in Catalonia have nowhere else to go if they wish to live in a Catalan-speaking society, whereas Spanish-speaking immigrants have plenty of places to move to if they wish to remain monolingual, it seems to me that a powerful case can be made that Catalan, in Catalonia, should indeed be the common language, should indeed be learned by all newcomers to Catalonia. It’s not a perfect solution: but it is the fairest, when considering everyone’s needs and interests.

  52. @read: Because language policy and linguistics are different matters. Language policy IS politics, so we expect that historical, emotional, … reasons are respected and taken into account. Linguistics, including etymology, is a science in which emotion and politics ideally plays no part. You may well put forward a hypothesis that bichig doesn’t come from Turkic, nor Chinese, motivated by national pride, but the hypothesis, once proposed, need to be judged by scientific merits in a strictly objective order. I hope you can get the difference.

  53. From what I have observed, attitudes towards the Mongolian language among Mongolians themselves are a sea of irrationality.
    For a start, Mongolians (of Mongolia) reject the Mongolian of the Inner Mongolians. They’re not interested in it. They find it funny. It’s full of Chinese loan-words and calques. It’s not the language of authentic Mongols, it’s the inauthentic language of ‘Chinese Mongols’. The roots of this attitude are quite clear — read expressed it well with a proverb about not bothering to pick up meat dropped in the morning. But it’s the result of a very narrow view the Mongolian language that completely rejects millions of Mongolian speakers because they don’t live in the state of Mongolia.
    Russian attempts to isolate the Buryats from other Mongols bore fruit in the imposition of a Cyrillic script that standardises Buryat as a separate language. Apart from swamping Buryatia with Russians, this was one way of ensuring that the Buryats didn’t feel too much solidarity with other Mongols.
    Mongolians’ attitudes towards their own ancient script is ambivalent. Attempts to revive the old script have been made (including recent attempts by the current president), but many young Mongolians are quite apathetic towards it, to the point of expressing complete lack of interest in knowing or learning it. This lack of interest is perhaps because the Inner Mongolians continue to use it. If use of the old script is a mark of Inner Mongolianness, then there is one more reason for the Mongolians of Mongolia to reject it.
    The result of all this is a very narrow view of Mongolian within Mongolia itself. Both Buryat and Inner Mongolian varieties have largely been marginalised as inauthentic or irrelevant. The standard language of Mongolia itself is Khalkha, with a strong admixture of Russian loanwords. Cyrillic is the de facto standard for writing, with the old script almost an alien curiosity. It is this narrow vision of Mongolian that now reigns in Mongolia. As I said, so much for rationalism in language.

  54. Back in the 1980s I lived in Valls for 9 months (originally it was going to be for 2 years but things happened). Anyway, before I went, I learnt a little Castilian in preparation, not knowing anything about the linguistic/political problems of Catalan v. Castilian. After I’d been there a while and had had a chance to pick up more from what I was hearing round me, I was told most of my vocabulary was Catalan, being used in rather stilted but grammatically correct Castilian sentence structures.

  55. Language policy IS politics, so we expect that historical, emotional, … reasons are respected and taken into account. Linguistics, including etymology, is a science in which emotion and politics ideally plays no part.
    i get the distinction, but in our case, of Mongolian, that pure linguistics could contribute to the wrongful policy (within China), i mean, politics, then what, shouldn’t one try to be careful in there, in the smallest details
    i just don’t see how Catalan can be so much defended, it’s something like Buryad to Mongolian i guess, which is essentially Mongolian, and our language could be like lumped to the Chinese as if it’s its derivative and be told that’s linguistics, be humble

  56. it’s something like Buryad to Mongolian i guess
    Not at all. Buryat has been forcibly hived off from Mongolian. Catalan has been forcibly suppressed in favour of Castilian. Totally different situations.
    our language could be like lumped to the Chinese
    Nobody is saying this. Nobody has ever said this. What is the problem?

  57. Both Buryat and Inner Mongolian varieties have largely been marginalised as inauthentic
    that’s not just varieties, that’s how we are getting assimilated, russified/sinicized, can’t you see from our viewpoint and understand how we feel threatened from both sides, we don’t want our language to become an extinct language, secondary to Russian/Chinese

  58. understand how we feel threatened from both sides
    Yes, I understand the laager mentality. It might be better if Mongolians stopped taking such a defensive attitude and became more confident about being Mongolian, including the ability to attract and inspire (instead of scorning and rejecting) Mongols caught in other countries’ territory.

  59. yes, we lack that policy to attract other Mongols, who would though turn out themselves, being a sitizen of a larger, more developed country even if feeling there as if a secondary grade person is more like financially and economically enjoyable, i guess
    and our /mentality/ is bor gertee bogd, khar gertee khaan
    not all, of course, there are many, sure, how to say patriots? cz it’s frowned upon to be a /nationalist/ here, but if to allow mass immigration which would come from the China side mostly and we’ll be extinct in a lifetime, so better to keep it as it is, there couldn’t be two Mongolias uniting like two Germanys, too long time passed alas

  60. marie-lucie says:

    read, the fact that one language has borrowed (= adopted) some words from another in the course of history does NOT mean that it is “derivative” of that language.
    Nobody here is suggesting that Mongolian is “derived from Chinese”, the two are completely different kinds of languages and have always been. No linguist worthy of the name, of any nationality, could defend the idea that the two languages are related. One has to consider the bulk of the languages, not just some individual words here and there. Languages spoken by millions of people have many tens of thousands of words, and a language which is geographically close to many others may have borrowed words from a number of those languages over the course of history (and the reverse is also true). Even if one language had borrowed more words from one particular language, that would not be a reason to think the two languages were related (= descended from a comon ancestor language). So you need not be afraid that linguists are trying to show that Mongolian is actually a type of Chinese: if anybody made that suggestion, it would show that they are not trained as linguists.
    I mentioned earlier that the Wikipedia article in English on the Mongolian language mentions some books and articles written on Mongolian by linguists of many nationalities, including Mongolians. Why not try to read the works of those Mongolian linguists?
    The case of Catalan is completely different. Linguistically, Catalan, Spanish, Occitan, French, Portuguese, Italian, and a few less-known others are all related, since they all descend from the Latin language spoken about 2000 years ago, evolving separately in different areas and under different conditions. Basque on the other hand is a completely different type of language than all those others, even if it has borrowed many words from Spanish (and Spanish has borrowed some from Basque too): apart from those borrowed words, the other parts of Spanish and Basque show that the two languages have nothing in common.

  61. you need not be afraid that linguists are trying to show that Mongolian is actually a type of Chinese
    it would be helpful if i was not counter asked every time i say i am Mongolian whether I am Chinese
    so any suggestion, impression of that, that Mongolian is a type of Chinese, perhaps should be that, refuted more visibly and that’s why i am making such a fuss about all this at the widely readable blog, being treated as a complete, now i say that, idiot
    hopefully a few people got the idea
    wrong public though, all are linguists
    The case of Catalan is completely different. Linguistically, Catalan, Spanish, Occitan, French, Portuguese, Italian, and a few less-known others are all related, since they all descend from the Latin language spoken about 2000 years ago, evolving separately in different areas and under different conditions.
    that’s why their right of self-determination, which is defensible this much in contrast, seems to me a bit exaggerrated

  62. m-l, I was only looking up the answer to MMcM’s question about Castlereagh & the Congress. We all “know” French was the nineteenth century diplomatic language, but it’s still interesting to check how it worked in practice. I said nothing about renouncing English, though. That must be someone else.

  63. Catalan and Galician (Romance languages) and Basque (non-Indo-European) are accepted as official languages in Spain. But not other Romance languages such as Leonese, Asturian, etc.
    At any rate, it will provide employment for Spanish/Euskara interpreters, which will boost the economic prospects of Euskara speakers. It would be a shame to let this unique language die.
    Europe is full of language pockets. At least the subject is being discussed. I think Asia has language pockets too. And probably Africa as well.

  64. Etienne, perdón la demora, tuve un problema con un gato y un árbol, que todavía no he podido solucionar, pero no quería demorar más mi respuesta. (Y me disculpo otra vez por usar el castellano).
    Ante todo, debo aclararte que si bien la inmigración europea fue enorme entre fines del siglo XIX y principios del XX (de ahí vengo yo y casi todos los que conozco), no fue únicamente italiana. Vinieron también españoles, alemanes, rusos, irlandeses, etc. etc. De modo que si bien en Buenos Aires en algún momento puede haber tenido una mayoría de hablantes de otras lenguas nunca fue únicamente de italiano. De modo que jamás se podría haber pensado qué lengua se hacía oficial en la nación (Buenos Aires además será siempre la ciudad más poblada, pero no es ni remotamente toda la Argentina).
    De todas formas, siguen sin entender mi punto. Porque no hablo yo sobre qué lengua oficial se elige. Algo además que, como dice J.W.Brewer en su comentario que comparto absolutamente, nos excede a los hablantes actuales.
    De hecho siempre lamenté mucho que mis bisabuelos o tatarabuelos italianos se hayan sentido compelidos, para encajar bien en la Argentina, a dejar de lado su idioma. Es una verdadera pena y una vergüenza que los descendientes de italianos no hablemos italiano además de castellano (algunas otras comunidades de inmigrantes sí mantuvieron más sus idiomas, pero esa es otra cuestión sociológica).
    Lo que lamento, como ya repetí muchas veces es la pérdida y el desapego a algo que ya se tiene o se tenía, como es en este caso la capacidad, la habilidad, el dominio y la propiedad del castellano que se habla en Cataluña. Tal como fue el italiano en el caso de mis abuelos que para poder sentir como propia la tierra donde estaban y poder mezclarse con todos los otros habitantes, hicieron grandes esfuerzos por abandonar su lengua y aprender la lengua del país, apropiándosela.
    Pero lo lamentable es que los catalanes ya saben hablar y escribir en castellano (o sabían, veremos cómo salen las nuevas generaciones educadas en escuelas donde el castellano es casi tan arrinconado como lo fue antes el catalán).
    Entonces lo que digo es, no de ninguna manera que abandonen su lengua, ni su literatura, ni que dejen de producir en catalán, desde ya que no, sino que me pregunto por qué empeñarse en despreciar un bien que ya tienen en su haber y es suyo propio.
    Decís en tu respuesta a Brewer que ahora los extranjeros que van a vivir a Cataluña son quienes tienen que cargar con el peso de aprender la lengua catalana, me parece justo, si yo fuera a vivir a Barcelona seguramente aprendería catalán. Sin embargo como turista, no me parece inaudito pensar que un catalán y un latinoamericano celebren la historia común que pueden tener y la suerte de encontrar un medio de comunicación a pesar de las enormes distancias y diferencias que los separan y puedan hablar en la lengua que los une, con grandes diferencias dialectales también. Como yo hago cuando viajo al sur de Brasil y tanto mi interlocutor como yo tratamos de acercarnos lingüísticamente para entendernos. Y conste que los problemas que relaté no son aislados y únicos; tengo miles de experiencias semejantes que han vivido conocidos míos. Desde ya que siempre hay gente educada y otra que no, pero lo preocupante son las políticas lingüísticas que parecen cada vez más incitar a la mala educación y a la discriminación para el que no habla catalán.
    Les recuerdo que la lengua oficial de Cataluña no es una sola, son dos. Es decir, se supone que es bilingüe, entonces ¿por qué, por ejemplo se sanciona con multas a los tenderos que ponen los carteles de sus negocios sólo en castellano y no se sanciona a los que los ponen sólo en catalán? Muchos museos, por lo que pude comprobar están sólo en catalán ¿qué sucedería si estuvieran sólo en castellano? Eso es para mí tendencioso y totalitario. Cuando hablo de totalitarismo me refiero a eso: a la ceguera de los políticos y burócratas -porque dudo mucho que la gente realmente culta o ligada a la lengua haga esas aberraciones de discriminar o despreciar por la lengua que mejor domina una persona- a la ceguera, decía, de quienes creen que para preservar un idioma tienen que despreciar otro. Totalitarismo de pensar que la cultura es todo o nada.

  65. Ran,
    then only one commenter (Julia) really seems to be “rational about language”
    Really?

  66. I would be able to easily translate British English into American English, as could any competent copy editor, but surely not vice versa
    In the ’60s I spent several years in a London office *translating* American into English, both words and style, for UK newspapers. It might have helped that in Australia we used a curious mixture of American and English spellings.

  67. Yeah, wrong public, read. While it’s always a concern that etymology or so can be bended to serve ideological pretensions, you need to find something more controversial than pit, for which it is ABC to know that it ended with a -t. You have a legitimate cause to advance, sure, but here you need to find something where the etymologist did introduce an implausible theory because of some vague intuition that Chinese is always exporter of words, or because of the linguist is himself Chinese, etc. Try harder; learn more about the history of Mongolic languages; learn more about Turkic and Chinese; point out real fallacies for the betterment of the Linguistic Science’s treatment of Mongolian. But maybe this is not your real concern.
    If your concern is that Mongolia is always reduced in popular minds as a part of China, try open a blog about Mongolia, talk about its glorious history and beautiful landscape, talk about the oppression suffered at Chinese and Russian hands. Do that in a graceful way that don’t evoke the painful memories of bloody chauvinism and bigotry.
    And one day try learn some Chinese. The Chinese netizens would be much better informed, if some Northern Mongolian guys have actually taken the pains to learn the enemies’ language, to present their point of view and to argue with the Chinese bigots. Post on forums like tiexue, Anti-CNN or Baidu, where the atmosphere is mostly chauvinist-leaning, but with no lack of reasonable and sober people. There are many ways to strive for a better world and to present a better image for your nation; categorically refusing to accept serious scholarship isn’t one of them.

  68. If your concern is that Mongolia is always reduced in popular minds as a part of China, try open a blog about Mongolia, talk about its glorious history and beautiful landscape, talk about the oppression suffered at Chinese and Russian hands. Do that in a graceful way that don’t evoke the painful memories of bloody chauvinism and bigotry.
    a good point and many are doing just that, and yes, that’s not my concern
    perhaps, i’m doing my job here too, however controversially perhaps, so hopefully, next time fewer people would ask me whether i’m Chinese
    and if my arguing that offends you and would only bring the opposite reaction, that’s a pity, i tried to be as open minded and willing to learn as it’s possible for me
    if silencing is that satisfying method for you scientists, one can only imagine how it works in the big politics game

  69. And linguists already know that Mongolia is an independent nation and Mongolian doesn’t fare ell in Chinese-administered part of Mongolia anyway.

  70. “Catalan and Galician (Romance languages) … are accepted as official languages in Spain.” Is there any trace of a Celtic language left in Galicia? If there is, could it be “revived” like Cornish? Look upon the idea as a potential job creation scheme.

  71. You have a legitimate cause to advance
    Really? The only cause I see is belligerent nationalistic ignorance.
    if my arguing that offends you and would only bring the opposite reaction, that’s a pity
    You have personally caused me to lose whatever interest I had in Mongolian, so congratulations.

  72. marie-lucie says:

    Julia,
    Perhaps the fact that the Italians in Argentina switched to Spanish more than did other immigrant communities is that Spanish was not as difficult for them to learn as it was for Germans, Russians, etc. Besides, those Italians no doubt came from different areas of Italy and therefore spoke different dialects (some of them quite different from each other), so that they did not form a linguistically homogeneous “Italian” community. If those dialects speakers had moved to cities in other parts of Italiy, or even gone to school, they would have had to learn Standard Italian almost as a foreign language, as they did with Spanish in Argentina.
    As to the inconvenience of having Catalan signs but no Spanish signs, I think that nowadays the Catalans may be bending over backwards NOT to accommodate Spanish speakers, but they will probably relax those regulations eventually (especially in places which attract tourists) when they feel that Catalan has a more secure place in the country. I doubt that Catalans will eventually stop learning any Spsnish. There are similar issues in the French parts of Canada, as Etienne mentioned without going into details.

  73. marie-lucie says:

    AJP, of course you did not suggest that Castlereagh, etc had renounced English in order to speak French well. I was comparing the additive bilingualism of such members of the elites with the substractive bilingualism which leads or forces many immigrants to switch to a new language and stop passing on their own to their children.

  74. you have personally caused me to lose whatever interest I had in Mongolian, so congratulations.
    i do not regret that

  75. Why not?

  76. cz he’s just a lost cause from the beginning, too involved with Russian and his Russophile instincts make him biased towards anything ours from the very beginning, many Russians behave that way irl too, they are oh so beyond reach, i think that’s something like racism in Russians, chauvinism it’s called or whatever, but it feels pretty similar to the same sentiments in the North America
    besides, i can’t trust a person who says one thing, but acts differently
    if my arguing causes one to lose their temper it seems really their problem though

  77. China, Russia and North America? Wow, that’s a lot of people to have against you.

  78. J. W. Brewer says:

    To navigate back from Mongolia to the Spanish Senate for a moment, here’s a humorous description from wikipedia of what to avoid when designing the legislature of a multilingual state (this is the last days of the lower house of the old Austrian Reichsrat): “The sessions of the Abgeordnetenhaus proceeded chaotically as the deputies did not even agree on a common language, though only speeches in German were taken into the official record. After Minister-President Badeni in 1897 had failed with his language ordinance, numerous Czech delegates did not acknowledge the authority of the ‘German’-Austrian parliament in general and sabotaged the meetings by countless emergency motions and filibusters. They were fiercely opposed by the German Radicals and the Pan-Germanists, who themselves sought the dissolution of the Monarchy and annexation of all its German-speaking territories by the German Empire. The conflicts culminated in shouting, roistering and brawls, which made the galleries a popular entertainment venue for Viennese citizens …”

  79. J. W. Brewer says:

    I have actually been wondering whether the tentacles of Mongolian ethnolinguistic nationalism had extended into North America and even unto Manhattan, given that the recent blockbuster exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Chinese art of the Yuan Dynasty consistently referred to the founding emperor of that dynasty as “Khubilai Khan” rather than the usual English “Kublai.” Wikipedia suggests that “Khubilai” is what you would get if you transliterate the cyrillic of how he is apparently referred to in (modern?) Mongolian (the Chinese version of his name comes out in PRC pinyin as “Hūbìliè”). Sometime between the death of Coleridge and my own birth English may have successfully transitioned from Kubla to Kublai, but it is not clear that any further orthographic change would be beneficial to anyone not pursuing some mischievous agenda.

  80. Russia and North America
    that i tried to say Russian chauvinism feels like racism in North America as if drawing that, parallels
    hope now it’s clear

  81. The Spanish Senate situation has started a thread today on the Economist’s Johnson blog.
    You may find some of the comments interesting and some of the opinions differ from those expressed here.

  82. Link don’t work, Paul…

  83. you have personally caused me to lose whatever interest I had in Mongolian
    Hat, I hope you don’t mean that, about losing interest in Mongolian, I mean. The day that LH loses interest in any language is a sad day for mankind. And Mongolian is an interesting language. One day I might actually learn how to speak it.

  84. Well, now that the thorn in my side appears to have been extracted, I’m sure my interest will revive.

  85. The transliteration Khubilai was already in the running early in the 19th century.

  86. Julia–
    You will forgive me if I respond in English (I hope your problem with the cat and the tree has been solved).
    You have to remember that knowledge of Spanish is not going to disappear in the immediate future in Catalonia: quite apart from the influence of the mass media, travel and the like, the Spanish constitution is quite clear: Spanish citizens must know Spanish. Period. Thus, the pressure upon all the inhabitants of Catalonia to speak and use Spanish under all circumstances is enormous.
    This being the case, for Catalonia to promote any language except Catalan would be worse than pointless: from the vantage point of the survival of the Catalan language it would be suicidal.
    Now, this promotion of Catalan does indeed entail using Catalan where, a generation earlier, Spanish would have been expected. I think this promotion is what you mistook for a complete rejection of the Spanish language. You certainly accept that Catalan deserves its place under the sun and you would learn it if you lived in Catalonia: we agree there.
    However, I think you don’t realize how powerless individuals are when it comes to social norms: this is very true with regards to language. I understand your regret that you never acquired your great-(great)-grandparents’ native Italian: I too wish my own grandparents’ language had been passed down to me. But let’s look at things from their point of view: within Argentina knowledge of Spanish was an absolute must, and every second spent cultivating Italian would have been a second not spent on improving their social and economic lot. When speakers know two languages, and only one of them (Spanish, in this case) is required within society, that one language will be the one that speakers will use and transmit to their children. Think, too, of what Italian was to your great-(great)-parents’ generation: the language of an Old World which they had, after all, left for the New.
    For this reason the loss of Italian in Argentina is deplorable, but unsurprising: in a Spanish-only environment there was no good reason for Italian-speakers to transmit this language to the next generation.
    By the same logic, however, it is unrealistic to expect that Catalan speakers in Catalonia could happily continue to speak, read and write Catalan in a society where everything is done in Spanish. Language is a SOCIAL reality, not an individual one. What is being sought in Catalonia is the promotion of a Catalan-speaking *society* within Spain. And such a society is a prerequisite if Catalan is to remain a living language.

  87. (vuelvo a disculparme por usar el castellano)
    marie-lucie, sí, es muy posible que la que mencionas sea una de las razones más importantes por las cuales los italianos no transmitieron su lengua a sus descendientes en Argentina (unos de mis abuelos, por ejemplo hablaban genovés no “italiano”). Las otras explicaciones que menciona etienne son también esenciales. De todas formas, hay curiosos estatutos sociales de elegancia y distinción en la Argentina que hicieron su parte en la desaparición del italiano, y no tanto del inglés, el alemán o el francés. Es algo que siempre me resultó interesante.
    Una anécdota: mi madre fue a un colegio de monjas irlandesas en Buenos Aires, muy elegante y de clase media alta (su apellido italiano, Macchi, no era demasiado bien visto, de hecho algunas compañeras trataban de convertirlo en escocés…). Una de las monjas irlandesas decía que en la Argentina era el único país del mundo en que los irlandeses eran vistos como elegantes y distinguidos… Lo italiano, vinieran de donde vinieran, era sospechado de poco elegante. Lo alemán, británico o francés, tenía siempre otro aura de elegancia o “paquetería” como se dice aquí.
    Conozco muchas razones para esto, pero sería muy impropio de mi parte seguir ocupando espacio.
    Etienne, ¡al fin conseguimos bajar a mi gata después de 24 horas de estar en un árbol, gracias!
    Desde ya que esas razones que nombras fueron las causas más importante del abandono del italiano para sumergirse en la lengua nacional. Mencionaba el asunto como una forma de hacer notar que no persigo un ideal chauvinista de lengua única para un estado único. Ni mucho menos. Ya quisiera yo dominar otras lenguas. Pero a algunos nos cuesta más que a otros. Tener más de una lengua como propia, aprendida desde la infancia y sin darse cuenta, es para mí un valor inigualable. Y era justamente este punto el que no veo tan valorado en las políticas catalanas. No es algo que me afecte a mí directamente, pero sí da pena que se entienda de manera tan poco inteligente lo que se puede hacer con el lenguaje. Lo que sí puede afectarme es la discriminación que bien mencionó Brewer y que yo comenté con el ejemplo de la sorpresa que sentimos los latinoamericanos cuando se nos pone una barrera de comunicación, como si formáramos parte del “imperio dominante” en una pelea política en la que no tenemos nada que ver.
    Espero que, como dicen, la situación encuentre un equilibrio razonable. Tal vez vuelvan a pensarse algunas políticas cuando se den cuenta de que muchos adolescentes, educados en los últimos años, alcanzan un dominio muy pobre del castellano y que no son verdaderamente bilingües como podrían haber sido.

  88. Congratulations on getting your cat down, Julia!
    I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before, but when we were living in Buenos Aires we had a plumber who had forgotten most of his Italian but never really learned Spanish, and spoke a jumble that nobody but me could decipher.

  89. Radio Rancher says:

    Now if only someone would propose a…neutral language to be used only when there’s a gathering of folks who insist on having their own national/ethnic/regional language dominate the proceedings. Hmmm…. seems I’ve heard somewhere about something… now what WAS that called? Oh yeah, Esperanto.

  90. As far as small being beautiful, I’m rather glad that I live in the USA rather than the CSA, even if I’m from south of the Mason-Dixon line.
    Also, Esperanto is ridiculous.

  91. Radio Rancher says:

    Yer mudda wears army boots!

  92. Thanks, LH! She’s asleep by my side, now.
    We’re very accustomed at this mixture with italian, of course. You know, the jumble of Italian and Spanish had a name of its own in the first decades of the XXth century: “cocoliche”. Though this plumber must have come after the Second World War, I mean, not with the big immigration waves of the beginning of the century.

  93. J. W. Brewer says:

    The “neutral” language as between Castillian and Catalan (and Galician etc etc) is obviously Latin. So maybe adopt a rule that all speeches on floor of Spanish Senate must be in Latin (which was supposedly the official language of the Hungarian parliament well into the 19th century, although I don’t know what that meant in practice). Problem solved! Admittedly, the Basques might feel left out, but Esperanto is as IE-supremacist as Latin and I’m skeptical that everyone would agree on, e.g. Finnish or Bahasa Indonesia as an equidistant compromise.

  94. Radio Rancher says:

    No, Mr. Brewer. When a language as difficult and complex as Latin is proposed, the problem is not solved.
    E is IE-supremacist? Yes, but so what? The learning/mastering process, it seems to pose no problem to the Chinese, who publish one of the most important magazines in E. It’s quite popular in Japan too, as well as Korea.

  95. I would prefer some form of Turkic if they are not so proud of their language.

  96. I suspect Ms Radio Rancher may be a teeny bit biased in favor of English.
    Latin is easy enough that they teach it to second graders in Britain.

  97. marie-lucie says:

    International Latin:
    I seem to recall reading of a serious proposal to adopt a simplified form of Latin as an auxiliary language for pan-European communication (more like Vulgar Latin than Esperanto, I think). After all, non-Classical Latin did quite well for scholarly and diplomatic communication for centuries. This was at a time of considerable linguistic and political fragmentation in Europe, though, when few people were expected to learn it.
    Alien vocabulary is not the primary obstacle to learning another language: differences and especially irregularities in morphology are much more difficult to overcome (eg learning all the forms of the declensions and conjugations as opposed to learning just lexical items). This is one reason why Esperanto with its simple and especially regular morphology has many adepts outside of the IE sphere.
    I once heard a talk by a Japanese linguist specializing in Pidgin English (specifically Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea). When asked why he had decided to focus on that language, he said that he found English very difficult (indeed he was not very fluent) and Tok Pisin was a bridge to learning English.

  98. Radio Rancher says:

    @ AJP:
    I plead guilty to the bias.
    Be that as it may, it changes nothing, really.
    Any language is easy to teach second graders anywhere (if it’s done properly, that is). They don’t yet know how difficult it can be. That’s the beauty of so young an age.
    M-L’s middle paragraph is on the mark. And beautifully succinct.
    And it’s Mister Radio Rancher to you, bub.

  99. Alien vocabulary is not the primary obstacle to learning another language: differences and especially irregularities in morphology are much more difficult to overcome
    Really? I would agree that differences in morphology make a language more daunting at first, but while inflectional morphology is (usually?) finite, vocabulary learning is a never-ending process. In my experience, learning Romance Languages like Spanish and Portuguese (complex and irregular morphology but a very high number of cognates) has been much easier than learning Japanese (complex but highly regular morphology, but mostly alien vocabulary). However, my intuitions about this could be wrong, and I have to account for other factors, like the order in which I learned each language, and the heavy burden of kanji. Does my point make sense though?
    Regarding the topic at hand, as an Iberian language enthusiast, I’m all for the resurgence of strong Catalan, Basque, and Galician at heart. I do have to ask myself how much it really matters though, and why. And would it really be a good thing if Spain split into smaller countries? I find it hard to think of any practical reason why endangered languages should be kept alive, but making it a question of practicality is one of the problems in the first place.
    Anyways, I’m glad Language Hat, Language Log, Filius Lunae and other blogs have been posting on this fascinating subject so I can see what people out there are thinking about it!

  100. Glad you agree it’s so easy to teach (& learn), Rancher. Declensions & conjugations are no sweat, don’t be wimps, let’s go with Latin.

  101. Radio Rancher says:

    Easy to learn at that age.
    Don’t Latin me that, my Trinity scholar!
    It’s dictionaries at ten paces!

  102. J. W. Brewer says:

    marie-lucie is probably recalling Latino sine Flexione (once also known as Interlingua, but which failed to protect that name from subsequent appropriation by the promoters of a rival “auxiliary language”), which alas failed to thrive in the competitive world of proposed artificial languages, perhaps because it was insufficiently novel and no one was going to get to have the fun of making up words. But realistically, as I said over at the LL thread, if Catalan and Castillian politicians are going to talk to each other in a mutally-comprehended “neutral” third language (to avoid the asymmetry of the Castillians not knowing Catalan and having no interest in learning it and the Catalans being too proud to resolve the impasse by just speaking the Castillian they in fact know), under current circumstances it’s pretty much inevitably gonna end up being English.

  103. marie-lucie says:

    TLO, I think that your comparison of Romance languages and Japanese has a flaw in that English shares a lot of Romance vocabulary. A better comparison would be Russian and Japanese, since Russian does not have too many obvious cognates with English or Romance (apart from currently fashionable borrowings) and there is a lot of irregularity in the declensions.
    Anglophone students of French complain endlessly about the terrifying complexity of French verbs. But when I was a student of English (in France), some of my fellow students complained about how hard English verbs were! even though the irregular verbs are a very small number, and the number of stem forms for each verb is very small (sometimes just one, as in hit, hit, hit), some students just could not cope with the lack of predictability.

  104. Ah, the joys of learning French young.
    “What’s the word for XYZ, dearieme?”
    “Je ne dinna ken pas, Miss.”

  105. michael farris says:

    “under current circumstances it’s pretty much inevitably gonna end up being English”
    Or French? I’ve heard more than once that at ground level some French will get you much further in Spain and Italy than English (esp outside those tourists spots that cater to the British). In theory not as many people are learning it but for Romance speakers it seems to offer a lot more bang for the buck than English.
    I’d say something similar about German and Hungary.
    As for English verbs, one big problem for learners (in Poland) is they just don’t practice enough. Compared to Polish where verbs can have up to 13 agreement affixes (for person, gender and number) it seems to simple that no one really puts much effort into them which results in massive failure at verb agreement (and bad past forms).
    Projects to ‘simplify’ English for international use are always fiddling around with vocbulary and eliminating words like ‘mouse’ and ‘piano’ while the real problems are elsewhere.

  106. @marie-lucie
    If I understand you right, that’s exactly what I meant (but stated unclearly); Romance languages are for me, as a native English speaker, easier to gain proficiency in precisely because there is so much shared vocabulary, as opposed to Japanese, which is arguably less difficult morphologically, but whose vocabulary is mostly completely unfamiliar. I would expect the opposite to be the case for a Chinese speaker, who would find much shared vocabulary in Japanese but very little in Romance languages.
    My basic point is that while morphological complexity determines the height of the wall to climb to reach basic competence, alienness of vocabulary determines the steepness of the remaining path to proficiency.
    I don’t know how accurate that idea is, but that’s what I meant to posit.

  107. marie-lucie says:

    TLO, I know that’s what you meant for yourself, but I was trying to put the problem into more general terms: would it be harder for a person like you to learn Japanese or Russian, since the vocabulary would not be much easier in Russian than in Japanese (I think). (And I too tend to think in concerete metaphors, like climbing the wall).

  108. Vocabulary is important.
    Going from Japanese to Chinese was tough, but there was the shared script/vocabulary that made things a whole lot easier.
    Mongolian is tougher because, despite considerable grammatical similarities to Japanese, the vocabulary is almost completely non-Sinitic. Actually, there are quite a few Chinese loanwords, such as цонх tsonkh ‘window’ (from 窗户 chuānghu), but that doesn’t make up for the fact that most of the vast reaches of the Mongolian lexicon are purely Mongolian. Of course, there is quite a lot of borrowing from Turkic languages, even in basic vocabulary, e.g. хар khar ‘black’, cf Turkish qara, and шар shar ‘yellow’, cf Turkish sarı — I’m pretty sure these are borrowed, although David probably has a better idea than I do — but that doesn’t help me much!

  109. Julia:
    Do please say hello to your cat on my behalf and offer her my sincerest apologies. I mean, in writing to you, I made you write back, during which time you couldn’t pay attention to her. Utterly unacceptable to any feline. Hence my apologies.
    I think we understand one another well enough, and I don’t wish to repeat any of my previous points/arguments. I have a last one to make, however. You wrote about the value of bilingualism: I agree with you. However, for Catalans you have no way of knowing how fluent their *Catalan* in fact is. A frequent feature of non-elite bilingualism where speakers’ first language is low in prestige is “semi-lingualism”: a situation where speakers do not speak any language well (It’s un-christian of me to point this out, but a former Canadian francophone Prime minister was renowned for his utter inability to speak either English or French properly).
    Young Catalans may indeed not be quite as fluent in Spanish as their elders: but I suspect that their command of Catalan has dramatically improved compared to the older generation’s, so that these younger Catalans may indeed be *more* bilingual than their parents: it may well be that their (somewhat weaker) Spanish is more than offset by their (much?) better Catalan.
    Marie-Lucie, JW Brewer:
    Actually, a form of “Latin”, stripped of those inflections not found in Romance, seems to have been what a lot of informal writing in Latin was tending towards in the early Middle Ages: perhaps, in an alternate universe, such a streamlined Latin could have become a supranational written language.

  110. marie-lucie says:

    a former Canadian francophone Prime minister was renowned for his utter inability to speak either English or French properly
    I think that he carefully nurtured this linguistic feature in public, in order to appear as a man of the people – the little guy from Shawinigan. He certainly made himself understood, although not in a standard manner.

  111. @marie-lucie
    Okay, I see what you mean now. That’s a good question, and hard to answer with any degree of certainty. Japanese may also not be the best example (I chose it mainly because it’s the only non-Romance language I’ve learned!); the morphemes are very regular, but there are still a lot of them, if not as many as in Spanish, and they are just as different from English. That said, if kanji weren’t an issue, I can imagine Russian’s more complex and irregular morphology making it harder to learn than Japanese.
    If I had to rank a language with simple morphology and familiar vocabulary (e.g. Esperanto), one with simple morphology but unfamiliar vocabulary (Mandarin, perhaps), one with complex morphology and familiar vocabulary (Icelandic), and one with complex morphology and unfamiliar vocabulary (Lushootseed, an unfortunately moribund local language) in level of difficulty (perceived, of course), I would probably say Lushootseed 1, Chinese 2, Icelandic 3 and Esperanto 4. There are so many complicating factors, though, that it’d be hard to judge even if I tried learning four such languages.
    @Etienne
    perhaps, in an alternate universe, such a streamlined Latin could have become a supranational written language.
    That’s an interesting thought. I like to think about languages that might have been. I remember in the days when my linguistic interest was just dawning reading a book in which Merlin is resurrected and turns out to speak an archaic British Romance language. I was excited to eventually find the conlang Brithenig which captures the spirit of the idea of a lost British Romance surviving and developing, although it aims for Welsh beauty and not linguistic plausibility. I suppose the real outcome would have been more like something on the langue d’oïl continuum. As for international Latin, I’d think it’d be too dependent on the model of Classical Latin to stray much farther from that source than it did, even if it did survive till now.

  112. There is, of course, Lancelot Hogben’s Interglossa, which is a proposed auxiliary language based on international scientific vocabulary (primarily Greek and also Latin) with an isolating grammar, inspired, I believe, by Chinese. Unlike Latin-based auxiliary languages, it’s much harder to get the hang of.

  113. Etienne: in the nearby alternative universe of Ill Bethisad, scientific papers are normally written in Latino sine flexione, designed in both universes by Giuseppe Peano, the mathematician.

  114. eliminating words like ‘mouse’ and ‘piano’
    I’m all for this.

  115. Etienne,
    My cat accept your (unnecesary) apologies, she was too busy holding onto the tree to bother for my lack of attention.
    And yes, I was just thinking the argument you’ve pointed out now, and I agree.
    Quizás sólo sea cuestión de tiempo para que se logre un equilibrio, pero como digo desde un principio, una mirada racional sobre el lenguaje permitiría tener las dos cosas, los dos idiomas sin colocar el rechazo a la sujeción política en el idioma mismo. Sería deseable que la agresividad hacia uno de ellos se suavice.

  116. dearieme wrote…
    When the Original Dixieland Jazz Band was being formed, they auditioned for a pianist. One of the others commented something to the effect of “we had to try hundreds of guys before we found a pianist who couldn’t read music”.
    I’m not totally sure…was he being sarcastic about that particular piano player, or did they want somebody who didn’t have any preconceived notions about how to play a piano?

  117. eliminating words like ‘mouse’ and ‘piano’ while the real problems are elsewhere
    This phrase is going to haunt me all day.

  118. dearieme, do you have any ideas where I could read about that Original Dixieland Jazz Band anecdote?

  119. was he being sarcastic about that particular piano player, or did they want somebody who didn’t have any preconceived notions about how to play a piano?
    The latter; the idea is that the ones who could read music had classical training that made it impossible for them to swing properly (to use the terminology of a later era). I have no idea if the anecdote is historically true, but it nicely sums up the situation.

  120. marie-lucie says:

    stephen, There are many cases of more or less self-taught musicians who don’t read music but learn everything by ear. Reading music is a different skill, and good performers are not necessarily good sight-readers. And in a musical genre where there is a lot of improvisation, reading music is not always a requirement (and can even stand in the way of creativity).
    The quote is sarcastic: they did hire the best pianist they could find, but that pianist did not read music, or not to the usual standard for professional performers.

  121. Two simultaneous and opposed interpretations! You pays your money and you takes your choice.

  122. Nick La Rocca had a reputation for saying things like that. That particular quote is given in Jazzmen and repeated in Günther Schuller’s Early Jazz.
    Dave Brubeck and Erroll Garner couldn’t read music.

  123. I’ve been thinking a bit lately about reading and writing music (I can do both but neither “fluently” — it is a slow, mechanical process) and improvisation — if you’re interested in reading my thoughts on that or listening to some improvised violin-playing, you can take a look at this blog post.

  124. marie-lucie says:

    LH’s and my interpretations are not incompatible: not reading music was not a disqualification for the pianist in question, and was perhaps an advantage in the particular musical context.

  125. “Allow me to press you to a trifle of this ragoo’d mutton, sir,” said Jack.
    “Well, if you insist,” said Stephen Maturin. “It is so very good.”
    “It is one of the things the Crown does very well,” said Jack. “Though it is hardly decent in me to say so. Yet I had ordered duck pie, alamode beef, and soused hog’s face as well, apart from the kickshaws. No doubt the fellow misunderstood. Heaven knows what is in that dish by you, but it is certainly not hog’s face. I said, visage de porco, many times over; and he nodded like a China mandarin. It is provoking, you know, when one desires them to prepare five dishes, cinco platos, explaining carefully in Spanish, only to find there are but three, and two of those the wrong ones. I am ashamed of having nothing better to offer you, but it was not from want of good will, I do assure you.”
    “I have not eaten so well for many a day, nor” — with a bow — “in such pleasant company, upon my word,” said Stephen Maturin. “Might it not be that the difficulty arose from your own particular care, from your explaining in Spanish, in Castilian Spanish?”
    “Why,” said Jack, filling their glasses and smiling through his wine at the sun, “it seemed to me that in speaking to Spaniards, it was reasonable to use what Spanish I could muster.”
    “You were forgetting, of course, that Catalan is the language they speak in these islands.”
    “What is Catalan?”
    “Why, the language of Catalonia — of the islands, of the whole of the Mediterranean coast down to Alicante and beyond. Of Barcelona. Of Lerida. All the richest part of the peninsula.”
    “You astonish me. I had no notion of it. Another language, sir? But I dare say it is much the same thing — a putain, as they say in France?”
    “Oh no, nothing of the kind — not like at all. A far finer language. More learned, more literary. Much nearer the Latin. And by the by, I believe the word is patois, sir, if you will allow me.”
    Patois — just so. Yet I swear the other is a word: I learnt it somewhere,” said Jack. “But I must not play the scholar with you, sir, I find. Pray, is it very different to the ear, the unlearned ear?”
    “As different as English and Portuguese. Mutually incomprehensible — they sound entirely unalike. The intonation of each is in an entirely different key. As unlike as Gluck and Mozart. This excellent dish by me, for instance (and I see that they did their best to follow your orders), is jabalí in Spanish, whereas in Catalan it is senglar.
         —Patrick O’Brian, Master and Commander

  126. I enjoyed reading the various threads of comment in response to the original article. The most interesting aspect to me is the situation in Spain vis-a-vis regional languages as a microcosm of English with respect to other national languages. Although we have several people talking about whether people should learn Spanish in order to communicate more effectively with the large international Spanish population, I didn’t see anyone suggesting that they should learn English — maybe that goes without saying? Or maybe we’re beginning to see a renewed appreciation for the value of regional languages in an increasingly multi-polar world.
    I was most struck by the observation in Nicholas Ostler’s recent book that English, although being widely learned as a second language, is not greatly increasing as a native language. This suggests to me that future generations may choose other languages. With the rise of regional powers, like China and Brazil, more people may choose to learn other languages as their second language, rather than English. It will be interesting to see if the huge investments that China has been making in universities and education result in a split in science, with a growing literature in Chinese that scholars in the US need to master. Interesting times are coming.

  127. My grandson has been learning Chinese since kindergarten, and I expect he will be fluent in a few years (most of the school day is conducted in Chinese, and he loves learning characters as well as the spoken language). He will be well positioned for success in the new century.

  128. Thanks for your varied answers!
    Now I’m thinking of the artificial language Solresol.
    And Larry Niven’s Puppeteers are aliens whose language is all music. He doesn’t provide any musical notation, but he has some interesting descriptions, like describing a Puppeteer’s reaction being like a musical traffic accident.

  129. TLO: Actually, Brithenig is quite linguistically plausible. The sound-changes separating it from Vulgar Latin are very close to those that separate Modern Welsh from proto-Welsh.

  130. Well, well, I just found this:
    List of the birds of Spain
    2005 English Edition
    Multilingual Version:
    Spanish-Scientific-English-Catalan-Galician-Basque

  131. I should add that standardised lists of bird species are quite a good marker of the “status” of a language. That’s because standardised lists are a bit of an academic luxury and thus a good marker of how much prestige and independence a language has. In China, AFAIK, the only language for which a standardised list exists is Chinese. There are no official lists for Tibetan, Uighur, or Mongolian. In other words, only Chinese has what one might call “full academic status” in China. The other languages are not taken seriously enough to be used for this kind of purpose.
    In Spain, however, it is quite interesting that someone has gone to the trouble of creating standardised lists not only for Castilian, but also for regional languages like Catalan, Galician, and Basque. And a quick inspection will reveal that the Galician and Catalan are NOT carbon copies of the Castilian names. They have been standardised independently — one might even suspect that the creators of the standardised lists took a mischievous delight in deliberately being different from Castilian.

  132. marie-lucie says:

    Actually, it is not at all surprising that those bird lists are quite different from each other. Birds, like plants, tend to have different local names in different regions of the same country, even if the language is the same.

  133. That is true, but ‘official bird lists’ are an animal all their own. They don’t necessarily follow popular usage. Besides which, even in English usage often transcends national boundaries — the Americans have learned to put up with various Britishisms in official bird naming.
    What I was actually referring to in the Spanish/Catalan/Galician list was the way in which Spanish would use the cognate of “common” in some places and “vulgar” in others. Catalan didn’t bother to follow the Castilian usage even in traditional matters like this.
    When I talked of the prestige and independence conferred by bird lists, I was really referring to the fact that such a list is often a sign of “linguistic independence”. The country of Mongolia has one, but the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia must do with Chinese for official purposes. Malaysia and Indonesia have each come up with their own naming systems, and one even suspects that the Indonesians took a particular joy in not following the Malaysians. So the quite independent naming systems for Catalan and Galician are a kind of linguistic declaration of independence on the part of the speakers of those languages.

  134. didn’t bother to follow the Castilian usage even in traditional matters like this
    I meant “even in trivial matters like this”.

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