Northern Catalonia | language and culture

Language and Culture

Extent of traditionally Catalan speaking municipalities in Pyrénées-Orientales

Prominence of Catalan heritage


Catalan is spoken in all regions of Northern Catalonia except for Fenolleda which speaks the Occitan language.[2]

In Perpignan, where a quarter of the population live, 44% have knowledge of the Catalan language.[2]


The Catalan folk dance Sardana is a dance in the region. Northern Catalans support the Catalans Dragons rugby league team.[2]


French is the only official language in France as a whole and in these municipalities. Catalan, in its Northern Catalan variety, is recognized as a regional language only by the region of Languedoc-Roussillon; it then benefits from cultural support in education and in public medias, with some more regional power since the laws of regionalisation of France during the 1980s. It is estimated to be spoken by a 33% of the population,[5] but understood by 49%.

On December 10, 2007, the General Council of the Pyrénées-Orientales proclaimed Catalan as one of the languages of the department, alongside French and Occitan (in Fenouillèdes),[6] The 'Charter in Support of Catalan' was adopted which called for the inclusion of the Catalan language on signs and its use in material produced by the administrative department.[7]


In 1700, the government of Louis XIV prohibited the use of the Catalan language in official documents,[8] although the government only irregularly enforced the edict throughout the eighteenth century.[9]

In Perpignan Catalan was also prohibited from being used by priests during mass.[10]

From 1700 all public acts had to be written in French, from 1738 this was extended to include registers of births, marriages and deaths.[10]

In the 1950s, after centuries of being forbidden in education, the Catalan language was permitted to be studied for one hour per week in secondary school. In the 1970s, the Arrels Association and la Bressola network of private schools started to offer complete bilingual French/Catalan classes from nursery up to secondary education.[11]

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