Situation of Catalan in northern Catalonia


July 5, 2022

The situation of Catalan in northern Catalonia is an effect of events in the territory, which is part of historical Catalonia. It is made up of the counties of Rosselló, Conflent, Capcir, Mitja Cerdanya and Vallespir, and with the Fenolhedes (Fenolledès; of Occitan language) they form the department of the Eastern Pyrenees. It currently has 457,793 inhabitants and an area of ​​4,116 km².


From 1262 to 1349, it was part of the Kingdom of Mallorca of which Perpignan was the capital. In 1659, to end the conflict of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), the Treaty of the Pyrenees was signed, without consulting or notifying the Catalan Parliament, which divided Catalonia: the northern counties (Rosselló, Conflent, Vallespir, Capcir and half Cerdanya) become under French rule. Louis XIV does not respect the terms of the Treaty, and dissolves the Catalan institutions (Corts, Generalitat,…). In 1700 he published an edict forbidding the use of the Catalan language in the entire public sphere, particularly in writing, under penalty of nullity. In the same document he mentions that "the use of Catalan is repugnant and contrary to the honor of the French nation." From this edict until now, French is the only official language in the French state (Art. 2 of the French constitution: “the language of the Republic is French”). Therefore, languages ​​described as "regional", such as Catalan, do not enjoy much institutional support, officiality or administrative use. The French state, which is quite centralized, is based on monolingualism and cultural uniformity. Compulsory and free school in French, established by Jules Ferry at the end of the nineteenth century, reinforced a vision of Catalan as a language of "second quality", without social prestige and that could even harm the social rise of Catalan is therefore seen as a "peasant" language and relegated to private use. However, until the last century, Catalan was still the dominant language in the territory. The world wars, however, reinforced the feeling of national unity in France, which led to an increase in the situation of diglossia and to provoke a feeling of self-rejection towards Catalan. Parents suddenly stopped transmitting their mother tongue to their children (especially since the post-war generation), thus cutting off almost ten centuries of uninterrupted linguistic transmission. In recent years, we have witnessed an awareness on the part of this generation that has not had Catalan as their mother tongue and wants to recover it, also going on to value the knowledge of Catalan as an advantage for children. This explains the strong demand in immersive schools.

The role of Catalan in the territory

The laws

The Deixonne Act of 1951 is the first French law to authorize the teaching of regional languages. It was integrated into various parts of the "Codes of Education". Haby Act of 1975, promotes the teaching of regional languages, and makes it possible throughout schooling. Bas-Lauriol Act of 1975, makes the use of the French language mandatory in public signage and advertising, and prohibits the use of foreign words or expressions (repealed in 1994). Tubon Act of 1994, intended to protect the French linguistic heritage (trying to privilege French over English). Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights, signed in 1996 in Barcelona with the aim of promoting linguistic rights, especially by protecting endangered languages. It defines the concept of a territory's own language. On December 10, 2007, the General Council of the Pyrenees Orientales also tried to promote Catalan, creating the Charter in favor of Catalan, and declared the Catalan language official in the department of the Pyrenees Orientales (symbolically). Constitutional review of July 2008, “the language