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The languages of Spain, 19th century
The languages of Spain, 19th century defends and promotes some closely related idioms - usually called languages in English -, probably all of them forming a single (although complicated) diasystem, called Leonese by Spanish linguist Menéndez Pidal a century ago, and renamed today after the names of the Spanish and Portuguese administrative regions where they are spoken.

Leonese, which could also be named Astur-Cantabrian - as both Iberian indigenous peoples (Astures and Cantabrians) influenced Latin in their territories -, is usually classified into Mirandese (Western Leonese) which has a strong Portuguese influence; Astur-leonese (Western and Central Leonese), of which Asturian is the best known; and Extremaduran or Cantabrian-Extremaduran (Eastern Leonese), which is often classified as a Castilian dialect because of their similarities.



Astur-Leonese (asturianu-llionés) or Astur is a Romance language of the West Iberian group, spoken in the Spanish provinces of Asturias (where it is called Asturian, asturianu, or Bable), León, Zamora and Salamanca (where it is called Leonese, llïonés) and Miranda do Douro, in Portugal (see Mirandese language).

The language was once considered an informal dialect (basilect) of Spanish, but, in 1906, Ramón Menéndez Pidal showed it was the result of Latin evolution in the Kingdom of Leon, and nowadays it is considered a separate language. In Asturias it is protected under the Autonomous Statute legislation, and is an optional language at schools. In Portugal, the related Mirandese language is officially recognized.

Language history

The diasystem in the 19th century
The diasystem in the 19th century
The language developed from Vulgar Latin with contributions from the pre-Roman languages, which were spoken in the territory of the Astures, an ancient tribe of the Iberian peninsula. Castilian Spanish came to the area later, in the 14th century, when the central administration sent emissaries and functionaries to occupy political and ecclesiastical offices.


Much effort has been made since 1974 - Foundation of the Conceyu Bable by three young Asturianist university professors: Xuan Xosé Sánchez Vicente, Xosé Lluis García Arias and Lluis Xabel Álvarez - to protect and promote Asturian. In 1994 there were 100,000 first language speakers, and 450,000 second language speakers able to speak or understand Asturian. However, the situation of Asturian is critical, with a large decline in the number of speakers in the last 100 years.

The situation of Asturian or Leonese as minorized languages has driven Asturian and Leonese to an apparent dead end. For centuries it has been overwhelmingly a rural language. There are some efforts to gain acceptance among the urban population, but so far these have had little affect on daily use. One can spend a month in Oviedo or Gijón and hear Asturian spoken only a handful of times (though it is written far more commonly). Some reports claim that Asturian will be dead in two generations.

In spite of all the difficulties, the number of young people learning and using it (mainly as a written language) has substantially increased in recent years, mainly among intellectual groups and politically active Asturians and Leonese above all among the far left, proud of their regional identity.

At the end of the 20th century, the Academia de la Llingua Asturiana made efforts to provide the language with most of the tools needed by a language to ensure its survival: a grammar, a dictionary, and periodicals. A new generation of Asturian writers both in Asturias and in León have also championed the language. These developments give the Asturian / Leonese language a greater hope of survival. However, the Real Instituto de Estudios Asturianos (R.I.D.E.A.), founded in 1945 under the Franco dictatorship, has consistently portrayed Asturian as a linguistic curiosity. In the I Concurso de Estudios Asturianos [1] in May 2006, any submissions in Asturiano were automatically rejected.

Portugal has taken a further step in protecting Mirandese, which is a dialect of Astur-Leonese, by recognizing it as a language.


Extremaduran (estremeñu), Cantabrian (cántabru or montañés) or Cantabrian-Extremaduran (cántabru-estremeñu) is a Spanish language, spoken by some thousands in Spain, most of them in the autonomous communities of Cantabria and Extremadura and the province of Salamanca.

Extremaduran is usually classified in three branches (Northern or "High" -- artu estremeñu, Central or "Middle" -- meyu estremeñu, and Southern or "Low" -- bahu estremeñu). The northern one is usually considered to be the language proper, and is spoken in the northwest of the autonomous region of Extremadura, and the southwest of Salamanca, a province of the autonomous region of Castile-Leon. The central and southern ones are spoken in Extremadura and in the provinces of Huelva and Seville, in the autonomous region of Andalusia, and are at least since the 18th century Castilian dialects. In the Portuguese town of Barrancos (in the border between Extremadura, Andalusia and Portugal), a dialect of Portuguese heavily influenced by Extremaduran is spoken, known as "Barranquenho", the Barrancainian dialect. The northern extremaduran had also a sub-dialectal region in Salamanca, the "palra d'El Rebollal", which has almost disappeared.


Western Extremadura was reconquered by the Kingdom of Leon, Eastern Leonese being the Latin dialect used by those new Christian inhabitants, who arrived around the 12th century to the actual territory where the Extremaduran is still spoken.

After the union of the kingdoms of Leon and Castile (into the 'Crown of Castile'), the Castilian language (Spanish) slowly substituted Latin as the official language of the institutions, thus relegating the Astur-Leonese to a sign of poverty and ignorance of those who spoke it. Only in Asturias (where the language was born) had the people conscience of speaking a language, different from Castilian; but even there only some authors used it in their writings.

Probably the cultural upheaval of Salamanca's Castilian University was the cause of the quick Castilianisation of this province, so dividing the Astur-Leonese domain between the Asturian in the north (today also called "Astur-Leonese" and bable or bables), and the Extremaduran in the south of the old Leonese kingdom. The expansion of Spanish also came from the south with the economic revival of the Province of Badajoz.

The late 19th century saw the first serious attempt to write in Extremaduran, up to then an oral language, with the famous poet José María Gabriel y Galán. Born in Salamanca, he lived most of his life in the north of Cáceres, Extremadura. He wrote in a local variant of Extremaduran, full with dialectal remains, but always with an eye on Spanish usage, and also writing most of its works in Spanish.

After that, localisms are the pattern in the attempts to defend the Extremaduran language, to the extent that today only some try to revive the language and make northern Extremadura a bilingual region, whereas the government and official institutions think the best solution is for the northwestern Extremadurans to speak a Castilian dialect without any kind of protection. There are also attempts to transform the southern Castilian dialects ("castuo", as some people named it using the famous word appeared in Luis Chamizo's poems) into a language, what makes even harder to defend the real language and makes it easier for the administration to reject co-officiality and normalisation of the Extremaduran. It is seriously endangered of disappearing, with only the oldest people speaking its remains at present, with the most part of the extremaduran population ignoring the actual delimitation (or even the existence) of the language, and with almost all the written media and all the audiovisual media in Spanish.

Organisations and Media

There exists a regional organisation in Extremadura, APLEx [2], which tries to defend the Extremaduran language and also the Spanish dialects of Extremadura.

See also

External links

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This page has been accessed 7,937 times. This page was last modified 19:53, 26 December 2006. Content is available under Asturleones.

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