Thursday, May 22, 2014

English isn’t spoken in the United States

Let’s imagine for a moment that Barack Obama’s government in the United States decides that the language spoken there is “American” and has nothing to do with English. Sure, it is clear that there are differences in pronunciation and vocabulary between the English spoken in the British Isles and in the USA, but nobody, especially not the President of the USA, would ever dare to say that they are not the same language. But this is precisely what is happening now in the Balearic Islands and in Valencia.

In the 13th century, most of the people who repopulated the Balearic Islands and Valencia after the Muslim population was expelled were from Catalonia. These Catalans naturally took their Catalan language and customs with them. But even though historians and linguists of many universities agree on this matter, the Presidents of the Balearic Islands and of Valencia (both of the right-wing Partido Popular) ignore this fact and continue their crusade to divorce their lands from the Catalan language and culture. In Valencia, the “Valencian” language is in official use in order to avoid having to use the word “Catalan” in reference to their language, and each one of the Balearic Islands has started using a different name for this same language.

In order to further estrange the Catalan language from the Balearic Islands, President José Ramón Bauzá has proposed the Balearic media use a different set of articles (e.g. using “es” or “sa” instead of “el” or “la”) that many people incorrectly attribute to be Balearic in origin. They forget or ignore the fact that these articles are not used in certain parts of the Balearic Islands, and that they are also used in some places in the language and in place names in some parts of Catalonia! Interestingly, there are more place names using these “very Balearic” articles in Catalonia than there are in the Balearic Islands. Once again, Bauzá has turned a deaf ear to the recommendations of the University of the Balearic Islands and the Institute of Catalan Studies, which have been the institutions that the Balearic government had relied upon for linguistic matters until now. Instead, the government has decided to adopt a form of “linguistic creationism”, so to speak. Fortunately for the citizens of the Balearic Islands, Bauzá has so far decided to leave other parts of Balearic life alone. So for now Balearic physicians can still give their medical advice to patients without any government interference...

This is just one example of the ways that the Partido Popular government in the Balearic Islands has tried to confuse their constituents and weaken the Catalan language and culture. The disregard and disrespect shown towards the language that is native to the Islands is another area that has been exploited in order to bring things back to the era of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. For example, it is no longer necessary to demonstrate knowledge of the Catalan language in order to become a civil servant of the Balearic government. This obliterates the guarantee that a Balearic citizen can be served in his or her own native language—a language that, according to the Spanish Constitution, should have the same official regard as Spanish.

The situation could go from bad to worse if Catalonia were to achieve independence. A few days ago an analyst summarized the messages that have been oozing from right-wing Spanish nationalist forces: “If Catalonia becomes independent, the current mistreatment of your language won’t be anything compared to what we’ll do to the remaining Valencian and Balearic citizens. We’ll have our revenge.” In Valencia today, all radio and television in Catalan has already been shut down. In the Balearic Islands, a new educational model (the “TIL”) has relegated Catalan to a lower category, shattering a thirty-year tradition of linguistic immersion. Just like that, the only tool available to guarantee the people of the Balearic Islands education in this territory’s own language (incidentally, a guarantee that is provided for by the Spanish Constitution but ignored by the Bauzá government) has disappeared. Bauzá has even banned the flag shared by the Balearic Islands and other territories with a Catalan heritage (the gold and red-striped Senyera) at educational centers, though of course it still flies at the Balearic's historical institutions. It seems that the standard that Bauzá and his cronies fly, then, is a far different one: it is that of ignorance.



Miquel Piris
@MiquelPiris
Journalist

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