The effect of prestige in language maintenance: The case of Catalan in Valencia

  • Raquel Casesnoves Ferrer

Abstract

The fact of speaking a language instead of another at a specific moment in a person’s life depends on many and diverse factors such as immigration, the language acquired and spoken at home, and what the dominant and official language is. In addition, in situations where it is possible to choose, speaking one language instead of another is not a neutral choice, in that the values associated with languages have a lot to do with that choice. In the Valencian Community, in Spain, two languages officially coexist: Castilian, the official language within the whole Spanish State, and Catalan, the historical language of the territory, which is undergoing a process of revitalization since the beginnings of the 1980s. At that time,Catalan was perceived as a second-rate language, associated with peasantry, with the rural context and uncultured people from the lower social classes. The technique employed to reveal these values or stereotypes, namely the matched-guise technique (Ros 1984),was used again during the 90s (Blas Arroyo 1995, Gómez Molina1998) for evaluating the effects of the revitalization program. The results of this work showed that Catalan was gaining more and more prestige, i.e., it was increasingly associated with modern people, city life, learning and social progress. An underlying, though never proved, assumption was that the remarkable improvement in the image of Catalan would be reflected in its use, which would also be more frequent and more widespread. At the beginning ofthe new millennium the matched-guise technique was applied again,with one new twist: to assess the real extent of prestige associated with speaking Catalan (Casesnoves and Sankoff 2003). Ten years later that study was replicated in order to observe the evolution of linguistic attitudes as well as the progress of the linguistic revitalization process. In this presentation, we compare the two data sets to evaluate the effects of linguistic attitudes on the use of Catalan.Has Catalan gained prestige throughout the years? If so, does it have an influence on language use or, on the contrary, are there any other factors such as identity that play a more important role in influencing the choice of speaking Catalan?

Published
2019-06-17
Section
Articles