Catalonian separation from Spain: How guilty is the Royal Spanish Academy?
Here’s the perspective of a non-European, non-Hispanic author who has been writing and speaking publicly about the topic for many years.
In case you didn’t notice, Catalonia declared its independence from Spain last Friday. There are many factors that caused a substantial number of Catalonians to want to separate from Spain. This article is about an important one not being discussed in the general media. I’ll start out by explaining what Catalonia is today, how Catalonia is properly called and written in Castilian, Catalán and English, as well as the relevance of each of those three languages in this discussion. Finally, I’ll demonstrate the Royal Spanish Academy’s (Real Academia Española) guilt by sparking this situation in 1925 and then ignoring the related Constitutional decree of 1978, which finally caused the eruption last week.
What is Catalonia today?
What Catalonia is today depends upon which Wikipedia language page you check: the Castilian one, the Catalán one… or the English one.
- The Castilian-language page says that Catalonia is an autonomous community of Spain.
- The Catalán-language page says that Catalonia is an independent European country since October 27, 2017.
- The English-language page says that Catalonia is a region in the Iberian peninsula whose status is currently in dispute: The Spanish central government maintains that Catalonia is an autonomous community of Spain, while the Government of Catalonia (Generalitat de Catalunya) views it as an independent republic following a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain on October 27, 2017.
This published information might change if you go to verify it, since the quite-valued Wikipedia contributors represent different opinions, and the situation itself could change in any possible direction.
The different spellings and pronunciations of Catalonia among the 3 relevant languages
I wrote this article in English, so that’s why its title has the name written in Catalonia’s accepted name in that language: Catalonia. In English, Catalonia’s name is pronounced quite differently than in Castilian or in Catalán.
In Castilian (which includes the letter Ñ in its alphabet), the name is spelled and pronounced Cataluña.
In Catalán, the native Romance language of most native Catalonians, the name is written as Catalunya. Although with other words, the difference in pronunciation from the perspective of a Castilian speaker between the Ñ and intervocalic “ny” sound (i.e. niño versus Tanya), Natalia Aguilera, a recent Catalonian guest of my CapicúaFM show who speaks both Catalán and Castilian fluently, assured us that the daily pronunciation between Catalunya (in Catalán) and Cataluña (in Castilian) is identical. This is different from the case of the Catalán pronunciation of Barcelona (the capital city of Catalonia), which although written the exact same way in both languages, is pronounced differently in Catalán than in Castilian. That’s because in the Catalán language, the “c” (prior to the vowels “e” and “i”) is pronounced the same as an “s”, not like the sound English speakers know as the “th” produced by the “c” in Castilian as it’s spoken (prior to the vowels “e” and “i”) by native Castilian speakers in places like Barcelona, Madrid or Zaragoza. Most native speakers from the Canary Islands and the Americas also pronounce the “c” the same as an “s” before the vowels like “e” and “i”. Despite popular belief, in Andalusia — aka Andalucía, there is actually a mixture of some people who pronounce the “c” prior to the vowels “e” and “i” like an “s”, and others who pronounce it like a “th”, from the English perspective.)
Catalonia’s demonyms in the 3 languages
Demonym? What’s a demonym? According to Wikipedia, a demonym (/ˈdɛmənɪm/; δῆμος dẽmos “people, tribe”, ὄνομα ónoma “name”) is a word that identifies residents or natives of a particular place, which is derived from the name of that particular place. In Castilian, a demonym is called gentilicio.
- In Castilian, Catalonia’s demonym is catalán (for a man) and catalana (for a woman).
- In Catalán, the demonym is català (for a man) and catalana (for a woman).
- In English, the demonym of Catalonia can either be Catalonian or Catalán. When expressing myself in English, I personally choose to use Catalonian when referring to people and nouns, and reserve Catalán to refer to the name of the language.
The official Spanish languages, and the unofficial ones
Despite worldwide unawareness of the facts I am going to reveal ahead, there are indeed several official Spanish languages, each with its own name. They are all Spanish languages, in plural.
At least before last Friday, October 27, 2017, among the official Spanish languages were Castilian, Catalán, Euskera (aka Basque) and Galician (gallego in Castilian or galego in Galician). Some people from Valencia, Spain will also want to include Valencian in that official list, while others won’t. I’ll leave that decision to you, amigos valencianos. That short list doesn’t include the many other unofficial Spanish languages which were previously considered dialects. The reason why many people incorrectly believe that there is a single Spanish language is by political design. Although I have covered this in great detail in my books The Castilian Conspiracy (originally written as La conspiración del castellano) and The Royal Spanish Coverup (originally written as El encubrimiento de la Real Academia), here is an extremely brief summary:
- In 1492, the first Castilian Grammar ever, published by Antonio de Nebrija (above) was properly titled with the legitimate language name: Gramática castellana. Nebrija is also honored as the name of an important university in Madrid.
- In 1770, King Carlos III declared that: “Castilian is official” in the Empire, which then included all of the Castilian-speaking areas in the Americas, including various territories that are now part of the United States, as well as the Philippines and other possessions in Europe. In his decree, King Carlos III naturally said castellano or Castilian, because it was — and still is — the name of the language, even though they might have told you otherwise.
- 10 years later in 1780, the Royal Spanish Academy (Real Academia Española) published the first edition of its own Dictionary, entitled: Diccionario de la lengua castellana (illustrated above) or Dictionary of the Castilian language. Fortunately, the Royal Academy used the proper name for the language then, and maintained it correctly for the first 14 editions of the Dictionary.
- The following countries in the Americas list Castilian (castellano) as the official language in their respective Constitutions: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú and Venezuela. Many other countries in the Americas don’t list any official language in their respective Constitutions. However, México’s former President Vicente Fox is quoted as having publicly said “With Castilian, we can cross 20 borders without losing the message” (my translation). Also, although Chile doesn’t mention any official language in its Constitution, a Chilean law properly states that the Castilian language must be taught in public schools. In addition, most Venezuelan report cards properly call the class Castellano y literatura.
- In 1847, Andrés Bello (dual nationality: Chilean and Venezuelan) published his properly named grammar book Gramática de la lengua castellana destinada al uso de los americanos (illustrated above)
- (Insert villainous music here…) In 1925, the Royal Academy damaged the title of its own Dictionary. This 15th edition was sadly poisoned. After 433 years and 14 editions of veracity, the supposed protector of the language betrayed it by cruelly removing its sacred, legitimate brand name, for reasons that are now obvious. There began the 53 dark year period for the Castilian language, as we’ll see ahead. 1925 was the year of at least two atrocities in Europe: the beginning of Nazism (with the publication of Hitler’s Mein Kampf and the beginning of the attempted linguicide in Spain. If you aren’t familiar with the compound word linguicide, it refers to linguistic genocide or intentional elimination or assassination of a language (or languages, in the case of Spain). Of course, an efficient way to achieve linguicide (in addition to what you’ll read ahead) is to call the desired remaining language with the demonym of the country, in this case, by calling it “Spanish” (español), which for Spaniards, makes the other Spanish languages sound “less Spanish”, i.e. less important or less legitimate, and for outsiders, masks their existence.
- General Francisco Franco entered into power in Spain in 1936 and as co-conspirator with the Royal Spanish Academy’s betrayal of 1925, he suppressed the other Spanish languages, like Catalán, Euskera (aka Basque), Galician and others. Franco made the use of the other Spanish languages illegal in signs, contracts, advertising, or its teaching in schools. Franco even sent soldiers to burn books written in Catalán in bonfires in the street in Barcelona.
Fortunately, Franco’s first linguistic mission failed, thanks in part because the Catalonians were smart enough to hide some of the Catalán-language books where the soldiers wouldn’t find them. But Franco’s second linguistic mission has been very successful, in part because of the help it has received from the Royal Spanish Academy, since it has been covering up the first one, as we’ll see ahead. That’s why many people who live on Planet Earth have no idea that many different languages are spoken natively in Spain, and that the most widely used one is properly called Castilian, not “Spanish”. As indicated earliar, Castilian is the same language spoken throughout most of the Americas too, as well as being the official language of Equatorial Guinea and the predominant official language in Puerto Rico. Castilian is the second language spoken in the United States, and the US represents number 2 in worldwide population for Castilian-speaking countries. The United States also spent US$9.6 billion on Hispanic Advertising in Castilian in 2016, according to Advertising Age. México is number 1 in population of Castilian-speaking countries worldwide.
In 1975 Franco died and (insert heavenly harp music here) in 1978, the Spanish Government fortunately published the new Spanish Constitution to correct the linguistic wrongdoing from 1925 forward. In Part 3 of the 1978 Spanish Constitution, it states (my translation):
- Castilian is the official language of the State. All Spaniards have the obligation to know it and the right to use it.
- The other Spanish languages shall also be official in their respective autonomous communities, according to their statutes.
- The richness of Spain’s diverse linguistic modalities represents our national heritage and shall be the object of special respect and protection.
Article 3 corrects 53 years of Castilian darkness and re-establishes the truth, although the Academy continues to cover it up.
- In 1992, Venezuelan singer songwriter Ilan Chester published his album Un mundo mejor or “A better world” which contains the song El castellano y el tambor… or “Castilian and a drum”… The full sentence within the song translates to “Castilian and a drum is the best combination for the sound you seek”.
- In 2001, former President of México Vicente Fox said this famous phrase in Valladolid, Spain: “With Castilian, we can cross 20 borders without losing the message.” (my translation).
- In 2008, the Venezuelan phone company CANTV launched its linguistic campaign: Dilo en castellano, dilo con orgullo or “Say it in Castilian, say it proudly” to encourage the use of legitimate terms in the language of the country. Fortunately, CANTV used the proper name for the Castilian language.
- In 2013, computer programer Javier Llorente from Madrid, Spain published his free dictionary app for Android (illustrated above), which — like other similar apps — accessed the Spanish Royal Academy’s online dictionary database in real time, while giving proper credit. As you will see in the screen shot above, Javier Llorente took the positive initiative to correct the name of the Dictionary that the Royal Spanish Academy still hasn’t corrected after its treason of 1925.
The Royal Academy’s sins
By not correcting the name on the Dictionary after the decree from Article 3 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978, the Royal Academy is guilty not only of coverup, but is also unconstitutional for the past 39 years, as of the publication time of this article in 2017. Evidently, the current directors of the Royal Spanish Academy are not personally guilty for the treason of 1925, but they are guilty of covering it up and directly disobeying the constitutional decree of 1978. The current directors were the ones who later coerced Llorente and other developers of similar apps to remove his free dictionary app from the Google Play store. Fortunately, the wonderful app still works on my current Google Android Pixel XL phone.
Taking into account what is stated in the third part of Article 3 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 (quoted above), by not respecting and protecting Spain’s diverse linguistic diversity, the Royal Spanish Academy has virtually been throwing dirt on Spain’s national heritage. I am not a Catalonian. I am not a Spaniard, and I am not even Hispanic, but if I were Catalonian, I would feel marginalized by the Academy’s disdain and continual participation in the coverup of its original sin in 1925, and by the fact that it continues to ignore Article 3 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978. Of course, this is not the only factor for many Catalonian’s desire to separate from Spain, but it is one that you probably haven’t read or heard about from the general media. Words matter. The use of legitimate names matter. Covering up history (especially bad history) tends to make it repeat itself. Come on, directors of the Academy: Si el Vaticano puede reconocer y corregir sus errores del pasado, ustedes también pueden hacerlo en la RAE. (It the Vatican can recognize and correct its past mistakes, so can you in the Academy.)