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Problems Faced By Large Linguistic Minorities: An East-West Comparison. Jennifer Pyclik November 28, 2005. Catalan in Spain. Tension with Castilian speakers Catalonia established its own government in 1930s Catalan made official language. Catalan under Franco regime.

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Problems Faced By Large Linguistic Minorities: An East-West Comparison

Jennifer Pyclik

November 28, 2005

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Catalan in Spain

  • Tension with Castilian speakers

  • Catalonia established its own government in 1930s

    • Catalan made official language

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Catalan under Franco regime

  • Franco regime: 1939-1975

  • Prohibitions on use of Catalan; promotion of Castilian

  • Attempt to create unified Spanish state and identity

  • Influx of immigrants into Catalonia

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Catalan today

  • Became an official language of Spain in 1978

    • Castilian, Galician, and Basque

  • 7.3 million speakers

    • 7th most spoken language in EU

    • Given special status

  • Catalonia: 79% of population speaks it while nearly all can understand it

  • Catalan, not Spanish, identity

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Catalonian language policies

  • 1998 Language Law

    • Catalan official language; all required to learn it

    • Government officials must use Catalan

    • Public documents must be produced in Catalan

    • Names of individuals must be in Catalan

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Education Policy

  • Catalan primary language of education

    • Castilian may be used if mother tongue

  • Proficiency in Catalan and Castilian requirement for secondary school graduation

  • Either can be used at university level, but university required to promote Catalan

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  • Latvia not incorporated into Soviet Union until 1944

  • Russians began emigrating to Latvia after the war, creating a minority

    • Today there are over 500,000 ethnic Russians

    • Russian mother tongue for 40% of the population

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Russification under Soviets

  • Russian official language of gov’t

  • 1958: children did not have to learn minority language

    • Almost all children “chose” to study Russian

    • Few ethnic Russians studied Latvian

  • Promotion of united Soviet identity

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Post-Communist Language Policy

  • 1989: declared Latvian to be official language

  • Latvian proficiency exam required for citizenship

    • Applied to those who had lived in Latvia for decades

  • Political candidates required to know Latvian

  • Government oversight office created to implement pro-Latvian policies

  • Promotion of Latvian in at all education levels

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Education Policy

  • Revised in 1998: promotion of bilingual education (at lower grade levels)

    • Separate minority language schools

  • Gradual increase of courses taught in Latvian culminating in Latvian-only education at secondary level

    • Gov’t claims student requesting more Latvian education

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International Reaction to Latvian Policies

  • Russian government upset over treatment of ethnic Russians

    • 1993: Duma policy “maltreatment of Russians in the geopolitical space of the former Soviet Union could be construed as grounds for Russian military intervention”

    • Cause taken up by ultra-conservatives Russians

    • International community wants to prevent war

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OSCE intervention

  • Latvia revised language laws in 1998

  • OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities sent stern letter requesting that the law be revised

  • Law went through two revisions until OSCE approved

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  • Attempts by repressive regimes to suppress minority/promote majority language

    • Unified identity

  • After regime, “regions” gain autonomy/ independence and promote their own language and identity

    • Minority languages can be used but majority language strongly encouraged or required

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  • Official gov’t languages

    • National level: Spain has four; Latvia one

    • Catalonia recognizes Aranese in Aran Valley

  • International interference occurred only in the East

    • Threat of ethnic violence

    • Catalan policies only at regional level

    • Perceptions of what is harsh and what is acceptable language protection

Bibliography l.jpg

  • Aasland, Aadne and Tone Flotten. “Ethnicity and Social Exclusion in Estonia and Latvia,” Europe-Asia Studies 53(7) (2001): 1023-1049.

  • Adler, Katya. “Candidates play Catalan card,” BBC News, 14 Nov. 2003, found at (last visited 29 Sept 2005).  

  • Adrey, Jean-Bernard. “Minority Language Rights Before and After the 2004 EU Enlargement: The Copenhargen Criteria in the Baltic States,” Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 26(5) (2005): 453-468.

  • Burgen, Stephen. “Barcelona faces a new challenge of diversity,” The London Times 23 Apr. 2003.

  • Dunoff, Jeffrey L., Steven R. Ratner, and David Wippman. International Law: Norms, Actors, Process-A Problem-Oriented Approach (New York: Aspen Publishers, Inc. 2002).

  • Generalitat (Government of Catalonia); Catalan, Language of Europe; found at (last visited 29 Sept. 2005).

    • Language Policy Report 2002; found at (last visited 29 Sept. 2005).

  • Grenoble, Lenore. Language Policy in the Soviet Union (Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003).

  • Kolsto, Pal. “The New Russian Diaspora: Minority Protection in the Soviet Successor States,” Journal of Peace Research 30(2) (1993): 197-217.

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  • Lipset, Harry. “The Status of National Minority Languages in Soviet Education,” Soviet Studies 19(2) (1967): 181-189.

  • Llei de politica linguistica, Act No. 1, of 7th January 1998, on linguistic policy, found at (last visited 29 Sept. 2005)

  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Latvia, “Integration Policy in Latvia-A Multi-Faceted Approach” (28 Sept. 2005) found at (last visited 28 Oct. 2005) [“Integration Policy”]

    • “Minority Education in Latvia” (11 July 2005) found at (last visited 28 Oct. 2005)

    • “National Agency for Latvian Language Training” (11 July 2005) found at (last visited 28 Oct. 2005)

  • Rees, Earl L. “Spain’s Linguistic Laws: The Catalan Controversy,” Hispania 79(2) (1996): 313-321.

  • Resolution of the European Parliament A3-169/90, December 11, 1990, on Languages in the Community and the Situation of Catalan (OJEC-C19, 28th January 1991)

  • Sharrock, David. “Catalan children leave their native tongue in class,” The London Times 17 June 2003.

  • Wilkinson, Isambard. “Young Catalans say ‘no’ to their regional language,” Daily Telegraph (London) 12 August 2003.

  • Wright, Susan, ed. Language, Democracy and Devoluion in Catalonia (Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters Ltd, 1999).