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Language attitudes and language choice in the formal communications of social movements in Catalonia


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This study looks into the language choices of social movements in the Barcelona metropolitan area, and the language attitudes behind them, taking into account that these grassroots movements sit between the public and private domains and the implications this may have in situations of diglossia. The methodology used were semi-structured interviews to a total of 12 activists, representing 9 cells of PAH (Mortgage Victims’ Forum), 15M and Marees Ciutadanes (Citizens’ Tides). The reported language choices were then compared to the actual practices in social networks and websites. The findings show that Catalan is overrepresented in formal outward communications if compared to its presence in in-group communication. The reasons for this are mostly related to the status of Catalan as the language of official institutions, and to cultural and historical reasons.
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Mireia M. Bou *
This study looks into the language choices of social movements in the Barcelona metropolitan area, and the language
attitudes behind them, taking into account that these grassroots movements sit between the public and private domains
and the implications this may have in situations of diglossia. The methodology used were semi-structured interviews to
a total of 12 activists, representing 9 cells of PAH (Mortgage Victims’ Forum), 15M and Marees Ciutadanes (Citizens’
Tides). The reported language choices were then compared to the actual practices in social networks and websites.
The ndings show that Catalan is overrepresented in formal outward communications if compared to its presence in
in-group communication. The reasons for this are mostly related to the status of Catalan as the language of ofcial
institutions, and to cultural and historical reasons.
Keywords: language choice; language attitudes; Catalan; social movements; diglossia.
Aquest estudi examina les opcions lingüístiques dels moviments socials en l’àrea metropolitana de Barcelona, i les
actituds lingüístiques que hi són subjacents, tenint en compte el fet que aquests moviments populars se situen entre els
dominis públic i privat i les implicacions que això pot tenir en situacions de diglòssia. La metodologia emprada van
ser unes entrevistes semiestructurades a un total de 12 activistes que representen 9 cèl·lules de les PAH (Plataforma
d’Afectats per la Hipoteca), el 15M i les Marees Ciutadanes. A continuació, es van comparar les tries lingüístiques
declarades dels activistes amb les pràctiques reals a les xarxes socials i a les pàgines web. Els resultats mostren que
el català està sobrerepresentat en les comunicacions formals externes si es compara amb la seva presència en les
comunicacions intragrupals. Els motius estan relacionats, principalment, amb l’estatus del català com a llengua de les
institucions ocials i amb motius culturals i històrics.
Paraules clau: tria lingüística; actituds lingüístiques; català; moviments socials; diglòssia.
* Mireia M. Bou, translator, linguist, and higher education ofcial,
Article received: 21.06.2016. Review: 12.09.2016. Final version accepted: 09.10.2016.
Recommended citation: Bou, Mireia M. «Language Attitudes and Language Choice in the Formal Communications of New Social
Movements in Catalonia», Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 66, 2016, p. 38-61. DOI: 10.2436/rld.
Mireia M. Bou
Language Attitudes and Language Choice in the Formal Communications of New Social Movements in Catalonia
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 66, 2016 39
1 Introduction
2 Language attitudes and behaviours
3 The sociolinguistics of Catalan
4 New social movements
5 Methodology
6 Results and ndings
6.1 Language choice
Language of in-group communication
Communication strategy and languages
6.2 Reasons for using a language
Individual choice
Thinking of the audience
Catalan by default
Catalan as the institutional language and the effects of language policy
Language is culture
7 Discussion and nal remarks
8 References
Mireia M. Bou
Language Attitudes and Language Choice in the Formal Communications of New Social Movements in Catalonia
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 66, 2016 40
1 Introduction
The language policy implemented in Catalonia since the 1980s has had an impact on the use of Catalan,
both in quantitative and qualitative terms (Miley 2008, Pujolar 2010, Boix-Fuster & Strubell 2011). This is
particularly noticeable in the public sphere, in domains such as government bodies or education, whereas
private use of the language (interpersonal communications) is obviously less affected by regulatory changes.
These dynamics can be understood from the theoretical framework provided by diglossia, where formal and
informal uses are traditionally distinguished – a distinction that can often also be applied as one of public
versus private uses. In other settings, norms of language use are shaped by speakers’ attitudes, and in turn
give hints to the vitality of the language.
The recently arisen social movements provide an interesting study eld, in that they sit between the public and
private domains, since they are but an aggregation of individualities, without the institutionalised character
of political parties. This piece of research seeks to establish whether the language choice strategies used in
new social movements resemble those of the public sphere or those of the private domain, and to delve into
the motivations of speakers that may inuence language choice.
2 Language attitudes and behaviours
The concept of diglossia has had a far-reaching inuence in sociolinguistics literature, particularly when the
idea of public and private domains enters the equation of language choice, as is the case here. The term was
initially used by Ferguson (1959) to describe a situation where two varieties of one language are used within
a speech community. What denes diglossic situations is the functional specialisation of the varieties, which
are employed in a distinctively distributed manner whereby one, the low or L variety, is used in the private
sphere, with the high or H variety being the language of formal and public interactions. From this ensues that
only one variety is appropriate in any given situation (Romaine 1995), depending on the functional domain.
As noted by Hudson (2002), diglossia must be differentiated from societal bilingualism, since these
two phenomena have distinct features in terms of the potential relationship between the nature of the
complementary functional distribution of linguistic varieties as well as in the way language shift potentially
operates in each case. In diglossic situations, «linguistic realization as opposed to language acquisition (...)
is a function solely of social context, and not of social identity of the speaker» (ibid: 3). In such scenarios,
the «attitudes, behaviours and values associated to each language are culturally legitimised» (Sanz 1991: 49,
my translation), placing language prestige at the core of typically diglossic situations (Miller & Miller 1996),
since that is what separates the high and low varieties.
Yet, diglossia may not sufce to understand bilingual scenarios. In settings where the distribution of codes by
domains is not as rigid as that of the canonical diglossia posited by Ferguson, language attitudes have proven
very helpful to explain language behaviour and therefore the specic conguration of language norms.
Language attitudes have been extensively studied, in what Cargile and Giles interpreted as recognition that
«language is a powerful social force that does more than convey intended referential information» (1997:
195). They have also been frequently studied as an indicator of the vitality of a language and therefore in
processes of language shift or language substitution.
Hymes (1971) placed language attitudes at the core of communicative competence and posited that such
attitudes inuence people’s reactions to other language users. This in turn involves that our language choices
will also be inuenced by the anticipation of this type of reaction (Garret 2010). Language attitudes, thus,
both shape and are shaped by language choice, and in this sense are closely related to norms of language use,
which prescribe what choices are appropriate in a given situation as a function of factors such as formality,
participants or domain.
Norms of language use, being norms, are socially imposed rather than bargained and agreed upon on a per-
conversation basis, as Vila i Moreno (2005) noted, and these norms in fact «translate the power balances
existing in the community into linguistic practice» (ibid: 85). Looking into the motivations behind language
behaviours, Cargile et al. ruled out intrinsic linguistic or aesthetic reasons and pointed out that those
Mireia M. Bou
Language Attitudes and Language Choice in the Formal Communications of New Social Movements in Catalonia
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 66, 2016 41
behaviours reect «the levels of status, prestige, or appropriateness that they are conventionally associated
with in particular speech communities» (1994: 227).
Similarly, Woolard and Gahng (1990) stressed that language choice depends on social signicance rather
than institutional policy, in other words, language choice is a result of speakers’ attitudes towards languages.
However, if we bring in the idea of domains that stems out of the diglossia framework, it may be worth
drawing a distinction between institutionalised and interpersonal relationships. Corbeil (1980) hypothesised
that in institutionalised communications (those that exist because of and in relation to the institutions or
organizations –ofcial and non–ofcial– of which society is made up) speakers do not act as individuals
but rather on behalf of institutions, which would inuence their patterns of language use. Interpersonal
or individualised communications (everyday, private informal language actions), on the other hand,
are dependent on personal features such as the link between speakers. Corbeil suggested that modifying
institutional patterns of language (for example through language policy) would eventually result in changed
interpersonal patterns too. This vision acknowledges the fact that language use is indeed inuenced by a
number of factors, including speakers’ attitudes and institutional context.
Moreover, if one of the codes is a minority language, the concept of ethnolinguistic vitality may also be
useful to understand those underlying attitudes. Ethnolinguistic vitality, dened as what «makes a group
likely to behave as a distinctive and active collective entity in intergroup situations» (Giles et al. 1977: 308),
depends on demographic factors, institutional support and status. This concept aims at linking the social
psychological processes of group behaviour to sociocultural settings (Hamers & Blanc 2000) and shows
a strong relationship with the frequency of language use not only in status-oriented domains but across
all domains, public and private (Landry and Allard 1994). In this sense, the higher the degree of a group’s
ethnolinguistic vitality, the more likely it is that its language and culture will be preserved.
The three-fold concept described above (with cognitive, affective and behavioural dimensions) measures
objective ethnolinguistic vitality. However, most studies have approached this concept by measuring
subjective ethnolinguistic vitality – that is, taking people’s perceptions and representations of vitality as
mediators of linguistic behaviour. Perceived ethnolinguistic vitality is often credited as a better predictor
of language behaviour (Bourhis, Giles & Rosenthal 1981, Hamers & Blanc 2000) and therefore providing
insights into people’s attitudes to language (Garrett 2010).
It should be noted that diglossia and ethnolinguistic vitality are not mutually exclusive as conceptual tools
to analyse multilingual situations. Bourhis (1979) proposed a link between the two, suggesting that the
language choice strategies of speakers in a diglossic situation are related to the vitality of their language
group as well as the formality of the communicative situation. On a similar note, Cargiles et al. stated that
«ethnolinguistic vitality reects the range and importance of functions served by a given language variety
and the social pressures toward shifts in language use» (1994: 226).
In multilingual settings, a group’s ethnolinguistic vitality is particularly relevant in processes of language
maintenance or substitution (Landry & Allard 1994). Along these lines, Bastardas-Boada (2007) pointed out
the strong relationship between ethnolinguistic vitality, bilingualism and language substitution processes
when noting that, despite the link between bilingualism and language substitution, those groups that have
a positive self-image use their language in many or all interpersonal functions, and need not be heading
towards language substitution.
3 The sociolinguistics of Catalan
The sociolinguistic map of Catalonia owes much to the country’s recent history, and in particular to the
different waves of immigration it received in the early- and mid- twentieth century and again in the early
twenty-rst century (Centre d’Estudis Demogràcs 2007).
The rst two of these were made up mostly of workers from other Spanish regions, effectively changing a
quasi-monolingual Catalan-speaking region into a de facto bilingual society. The effect of the earlier waves
was particularly intensied in the city of Barcelona and its surrounding area, which is the focus of the
Mireia M. Bou
Language Attitudes and Language Choice in the Formal Communications of New Social Movements in Catalonia
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 66, 2016 42
present study. In 1975, the time of Spain’s democratic transition, over 40% of the population in that area
had been born outside Catalonia (ibid) and «Castilian-speaking immigrants from the rest of Spain had come
to constitute clear majorities in most of the municipalities in the industrial belt surrounding Barcelona, and
signicant minorities throughout most of Catalonia» (Miley 2008: 2).
It must be borne in mind that these demographic changes took place against the backdrop of Franco’s regime,
which aimed for the substitution of all languages other than Spanish (Webber & Strubell i Trueta 1991;
Casesnoves Ferrer et al. 2006). However, unlike what happened in other Catalan-speaking regions such
as Valencia and the Balearics, the intergenerational transmission of the language was not interrupted in
Catalonia, and neither did the language carry the low prestige that led many speakers in those other territories
to abandon the language (Casesnoves Ferrer et al. 2006).
Following the onset of democracy and the devolution of powers, the Catalan parliament passed the Law of
Linguistic Normalisation in 1983, with a cross-cutting approach that targeted the areas of public administration,
media, education, commerce and industry, cultural, and social sectors (Miller & Miller 1996). Arguably, the
areas where it has been most noticeable and successful are public administration, education, and the media
(Sinner & Wieland 2008).
Regarding the media, Catalan has «growing presence in the daily press (…), up to 50 per cent of normalisation
on the radio; [and the public TVC Group enjoys] great prestige and a share close to a quarter of television
viewers» (Gifreu 2011: 196). The use of Catalan in public administration is substantially normalised in
the lower levels of administration (those whose scope stays within Catalonia: municipalities, comarques,
provinces and the Generalitat), if not in bodies dependent from the central government (Pedreño & Genovès
2008). Similarly, the educational model arising from Catalonia’s language policy has led to a substantial
increase in competence in the language (Vila i Moreno 2005, Pujolar 2010).
Although the most recent wave of immigration spread more equally throughout Catalonia, in 2014 people
born outside Catalonia made up 38% of the population in the Barcelona metropolitan area1 (Idescat 2015).
However, as a result chiey of the language policy in education (both schools and adult education), knowledge
of the language is not exclusive to those born in the country.
According to the latest Survey on Language Uses of the Population (Estadística d’usos lingüístics de la
població, EULP), although less than a third of the population declare Catalan as their rst language, over
95% claim they can understand it and over 80% say they can speak it (see tables 1 and 2). If the data is broken
down by geographical area, the results for the metropolitan area of Barcelona show lower rates for Catalan
and higher rates for Spanish in all categories.
Table 1. Knowledge of Catalan among the population.
Catalonia Barcelona metropolitan area
Catalan Spanish Catalan Spanish
Can understand 94.3% 99.8% 93.7% 99.8%
Can speak 80.4% 99.7% 77.6% 99.8%
Can read 82.4% 97.4% 80.6% 98.1%
Can write 60.4% 95.9% 57.1% 96.8%
Source: EULP 2013
1 As per the Regional Plan of Catalonia (Pla territorial general de Catalunya), the Barcelona metropolitan area is made up of the
comarques of Baix Llobregat, Barcelonès, Maresme, Vallès Oriental and Vallès Occidental.
Mireia M. Bou
Language Attitudes and Language Choice in the Formal Communications of New Social Movements in Catalonia
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 66, 2016 43
Table 2. First language, language of identication and habitual language.
Catalonia Barcelona metropolitan area
Cat Spa Both Other Cat Spa Both Other
First language 31.0% 2.4% 55.1% 11.5% 23.3% 2.5% 64.3% 7.4%
Language of identication 36.4% 7.0% 47.6% 9.0% 28.7% 7.7% 56.1% 6.6%
Habitual language 36.3% 6.8% 50.6% 6.3% 27.8% 7.2% 60.0% 4.9%
Source: EULP 2013
The gures in Table 2 are particularly relevant bearing in mind that there is a strong link between the rst
language and the language of interpersonal use (Vila i Moreno & Sorolla i Vidal 2003). In any case, the
majority of the population in Catalonia, but also in the Barcelona metropolitan area, knows and normally
uses both languages, and arguably «the society is far from being polarised on this issue» (Vila i Moreno
2005: 53).
Catalan has received much attention from the sociolinguistics literature. This is partly due to the peculiar
nature of bilingualism in the country, what Miley (2008) labels ethno-linguistic heterogeneity – the fact
that not just Catalonia is bilingual, but also its residents are bilingual themselves. Indeed, fewer than 5% of
Barcelona’s inhabitants describe themselves as monolingual (Vila i Moreno 2005) and, more importantly,
«both speakers of Spanish and Catalan feel legitimized as native languages» (Boix-Fuster & Paradís 2015).
This reality, which was not the case a few decades earlier, may explain some disparities in the literature
regarding the ethnical value of Catalan. Woolard and Gahng, for example, argued that «the identity-marking
value of the Catalan language restricted it to use only between native speakers», making it an «ingroup,
ethnic language» (1990: 315). In a more recent work, Pujolar and Gonzàlez, on the other hand, referred to the
de-ethnicisation of Catalan, and suggested that Catalan is becoming «increasingly ‘anonymous’ or ethnically
unmarked» (2013: 140).
With regard to language use in the public domain, both Spanish and Catalan are employed in government
institutions, as pointed earlier, and the use of Catalan in education is widespread, even though «social
bilingualism is still clearly asymmetrical in favor of Spanish» (Boix Fuster & Sanz 2008: 89). On a similar
note, Vila i Moreno (2005) recognised the impact of the extensive learning of Catalan upon language
ideologies and use, but cautioned that it has not seeped through to the domain of interpersonal use.
This is in accordance with Miley’s (2008) analysis of a 2001 CIS survey whereby the use of the two languages
across domains showed systematic differences – whereas Spanish is spoken in more households, Catalan is
more extensively used in relations with the public administration. Bilingual linguistic habits, on the other
hand, «appear to occur most often among friends» (ibid: 12). This author concluded that Catalan society is
diglossic, albeit with «shifting patterns of diglossia» that have formed as a consequence of the «Generalitat’s
efforts to ‘normalize’ the Catalan language» (ibid: 9). Similarly, Miller & Miller defended that although the
rigid distribution of typical diglossic situations is not present in Catalonia, «undoubtedly diglossic functions
and diglossic attitudes still remain in certain contexts» (1996: 118).
However, Sanz argued that, while diglossia was a characteristic of Barcelona society in the 1960s, today «the
linguistic situation in Barcelona cannot be considered as diglossic» (1991: 55) given that language switch
goes both ways: Catalan speakers may switch to Spanish in a given conversation, and vice versa. Along the
same lines, Vallverdú (1983) cited the lack of a clear-cut distribution to argue that the linguistic behaviour
of Catalans cannot be considered diglossia. In fact, it could be argued that «in current Catalonia there is not
an evident mainstream group (…), the dichotomy between majority and minority may prove to be very often
ambiguous, or even contradictory» (Boix-Fuster & Paradís, 2015).
Norms of language use in Catalonia «have traditionally prescribed different language choice patterns as a
function of both speaker and addressee’s rst language» (Vila i Moreno 1996: 85), as opposed to the patterns
based on degree of formality that are typical of diglossic communities. Therefore, although Catalan and
Spanish do not show a complementary distribution in terms of functions, different settings arguably trigger
Mireia M. Bou
Language Attitudes and Language Choice in the Formal Communications of New Social Movements in Catalonia
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 66, 2016 44
different linguistic behaviours. In private settings (that is, in conversations with friends and family), each
language group uses only its mother tongue (Sanz 1991). In public ones, language attitudes seem to be
having more of an impact.
Arguably, one of the reasons why it is not easy to label the Catalan sociolinguistic situation as one of diglossia
is related to the prestige of the language. Whereas in a diglossic situation the high variety is normally also the
most prestigious one, the reverse is true in Catalonia (Miller & Miller 1996).
In this sense, the link between language use and social class structure in Catalonia has also been worthy of
academic attention. Language ideology tends to identify Catalan with the middle class, while the working
class is related to Spanish (Boix-Fuster & Sanz 2008, Frekko 2009) thus inuencing the prestige associated
with each language. The unity that was created amongst opposition groups under Franco’s dictatorship has
also been suggested as a factor in the building of the prestige of Catalan, as these groups developed a «form
of civic nationalism (…) which adopted the Catalan ag as a common, democratic symbol» (Vila i Moreno
2005: 53).
Woolard (1989) found that participants in her study assigned greater status value to Catalan, something that
had been maintained or even become more accentuated over the twenty years that passed until a further
study (Woolard 2009). Guiu’s (2013) study of the perceived prestige of Catalan and Spanish in different
towns of Catalonia found that even in towns whose population was mostly Spanish-speaking, over 80% of
the sample chose Catalan as the most prestigious language. In a piece of work that bears similarities with the
context of the present study, Frekko argued that the use of Catalan in a protest campaign carried out in the
Raval neighbourhood was part of a strategy on the part of the neighbours aimed at depicting themselves as
«respectable people who deserved to participate in a Barcelonan public» (2009: 228).
The solid prestige of Catalan, therefore, seems to be clearly established in the literature, and it has been cited
as the key factor to explain its maintenance (Sanz 1991). However, it is also worth noting that in terms of «the
evolution of linguistic identities and linguistic practices (…) the Castilian-speaking portion of Catalonia’s
general population constitutes a relatively consolidated community, in the sense that (…) it is not showing
any signs of linguistic substitution» (Miley 2008: 12). In terms of subjective ethnolinguistic vitality, Catalan
seems to be in a better position (Viladot & Esteban 2011, Boix-Fuster and Paradís 2015).
4 New social movements
The austerity policies implemented in Spain as a reaction to the deep nancial crisis of the late 2000s gave
rise to grassroots movements that protested against cuts in social expenditure, corruption, and perceived
lack of democracy, among other grudges. A number of these got together in a Forum of Groups For Citizen
Mobilisation (later rebranded as Democracia Real Ya) and called for a demonstration on March 15, 2011 in
most Spanish cities. Following the most massive of these rallies, that in Madrid, some demonstrators decided
to turn it into a sustained protest and camped in the city’s Plaza del Sol. This was soon replicated in other
cities and squares, such as Plaça de Catalunya in Barcelona, thus giving origin to the 15M movement (after
its birth date), also referred to as the Indignados movement or Spanish Revolution.
The 15M was the cornerstone of a wider context of rallies and protest groups that have appeared in Spain
over the last few years, some before March 15, 2011, others later. The anti-eviction group PAH (Plataforma
de Afectados por la Hipoteca, Mortgage Victims’ Forum), for example, had been created in early 2009.
Another massive rally held on February 23, 2013 in most Spanish cities visualised the sectoral protests
Mareas Ciudadanas (Citizens’ Tides) that focused on specic areas (public education, health, corruption,
That 15th of March displayed to the world what had been brewing in Spain. From that day onwards, protests
and rallies would take the streets week in, week out. This was a new development in Spain’s politics, and
so was the way the protestors were organised and communicated – some of the key features of these new
social movements are their decentralised structure and the heavy use of information and communication
technologies both for internal communication and for outward dissemination (Peña-López, Congosto &
Mireia M. Bou
Language Attitudes and Language Choice in the Formal Communications of New Social Movements in Catalonia
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 66, 2016 45
Aragón 2014, Martín Rojo 2014). In fact, the latter was a salient characteristic of 15M, which considered
communication «a key element in its emergence and conformation» (Martín Rojo 2014: 585).
These movements were initially not linked to political parties, and very often opposed institutionalised
political ideology. Although this has changed with the creation of parties and alliances such as Podemos or
Guanyem Barcelona, which are to a large extent the institutionalisation of those early, informal movements,
it continues to be the case that the social movements themselves are grassroots in nature, and at in their
structure. They often have an extreme open-door policy, with meetings held in squares that anyone is welcome
to join. In-group communication is commonly done via distribution lists, and working documents are created
using collaborative tools such as Google Docs or TitanPad. These features facilitate the entry of activists into
the movements, and also set them apart from institutionalised groups such as political parties.
5 Methodology
This study was conducted in the spring of 2015, and was geographically constricted to the Barcelona
metropolitan area. This is relevant considering the different make up of this area in sociolinguistic terms
when compared to the rest of Catalonia.
The participants were or had been involved in social movements in different boroughs of the city of Barcelona
or in other neighbouring towns, namely Esplugues de Llobregat and El Prat de Llobregat. The movements
represented in the sample are: Plataforma d’Afectats per la Hipoteca (PAH, Mortgage Victims’ Forum), the
15M movement, and the different Marees Ciutadanes (Citizens’ Tides) and related movements protesting
against cuts in specic public policy areas such as education (Marea groga), health services (Marea blanca),
or public transport (Stop Pujades).
In order to select the movements to be analysed, and since no census of participants is available, the degree
of visibility in the media was used as an indicator of their size and impact. An analysis of the general press
over the years 2013 and 2014 was conducted, and the most frequently cited movements were selected as long
as the following requirements were met: that the movement was not a political party, and that it did not seek
the independence of Catalonia.
In order to understand the restriction on political parties, it must be borne in mind that the public discourse
in Catalonia is overwhelmingly done in Catalan (Frekko 2009), to the extent that a recently founded party,
Ciutadans, stirred up the political arena when it began using both Catalan and Spanish in speeches at the
Catalan Parliament. Although this had some impact on the language practices in this chamber, only 8% of
deputies used Spanish in their addresses (“Once diputados catalanes”). It could therefore be argued that
specic norms of language use exist among political parties.
The restriction regarding pro-independence movements was put in place considering the close link they have
with language and identity. Regardless of whether or not the recent rise in independence support is a local
version of the anti-austerity discontent, it can be argued that pro-independence movements use language not
just as a means of communication but also as an end in itself, as a policy object, and thus these movements
ought to be studied separately.
Applying the rst restriction, Podemos was ruled out of the sample, for example. Because of the second
restriction, movements such as the Assemblea Nacional Catalana (ANC, Catalan National Assembly) or
Procés Constituent (Constituent Process) were not taken into account, even if they were among the most
frequently cited in the general press.
The participants of the study were contacted both through personal connections and by cold calling (via
email). Whenever the habitual language of the contact person was known beforehand, the researcher used
that one when approaching them for the rst time. Participants were initially informed of the general topic
of the research («languages and social movements»). The researcher made sure to use the plural languages
every time, to indicate that the two languages that make up the bilingual reality of Catalonia would be
Mireia M. Bou
Language Attitudes and Language Choice in the Formal Communications of New Social Movements in Catalonia
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 66, 2016 46
considered equally for the purposes of the study.2 A total of six interviews were conducted for this study (see
Table 3).
Table 3. Sample
Interviewee* Age
group L1 Interview
type Movement Geographical scope of the branch
they belong to
Eduard 30-39 Catalan Individual
15M Barcelona (Sarrià-Sant Gervasi)
Stop Pujades
Barcelona Metropolitan Area
José 50-59 Spanish Individual PAH Esplugues de Llobregat
Sara 40-49 Spanish Individual Marea groga
El Prat de Llobregat
15M Barcelona (Sants)
15M Barcelona (Les Corts)
Neus 30-39 Catalan Individual 15M Barcelona
Spanish Group Marea blanca (Health) El Prat de Llobregat
Marea blanca (Health) Catalonia
* All names of the interviewees used here are pseudonyms.
Although respondents were initially approached on an individual basis, whenever they suggested that other
activists joined, the researcher agreed. For this reason, four of the interviews were done on a one-to-one basis,
while two were group interviews. This was motivated by the ‘cueing phenomenon’ identied by Morgan and
Krueger (1993), whereby participants in a group interview help each other divulge information. As a result,
the total number of participants in the study is 12 people.
As is often the case with activists, many of the respondents were involved in more than one movement,
and during the interview were asked to draw on their experiences in general rather than constraining their
responses to the one movement. In this manner, the information gathered refers to a total of 9 organisations.
The method used were semi-structured interviews, which were held at a place suggested by the interviewee
(two took place in cafés, the other four were conducted in meeting rooms of the community centres where
the respondent’s movement normally met). This method was selected as it allows for exibility within the
framework of the relevant topics, and is an adequate tool to delve into the reasons behind behaviours. All
the interviews were recorded using a mobile phone after rst obtaining the interviewees’ permission. The
recordings were then transcribed, and their contents analysed using the software package NVivo (NVivo for
Mac version).
Additionally, an analysis of the groups’ online communication tools was conducted in order to conrm the
reported language use. This analysis covered all Facebook and Twitter communications during 2015, as
well as the groups’ websites. In the analysis of social networks, only posts or tweets where text had been
included were considered – that is, content that had been reposted, shared o retweeted by the studied group
without adding anything to the original publication were dismissed, as were those that consisted exclusively
of images, even if those included text.
2 Interestingly enough, many interviewees would then rephrase it as «language and social movements», as if implying that only
Catalan (and not Spanish) was the object of the study.
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6 Results and ndings
The rst part of this section covers the ndings regarding language choice, whereas the second part focusses
on the reasons behind it.
6.1 Language choice
With regards to the languages used for outward, formal communication, 7 out of the 9 movements for which
information was gathered reported to do it either totally or mostly in Catalan (see Table 4). The subsequent
analysis of online communication was consistent with this, since it conrmed that actual language behaviour
largely coincided with reported language choice. The measure for this dimension was made up of 5 equally-
weighed elements, namely the language or languages of (1) the Twitter account information, (2) tweets, (3)
the Facebook account information, (4) Facebook posts, and (5) the group’s website. The result was expressed
as a percentage and categorised as Catalan or Spanish when one of the languages reached 90%, as mostly
Catalan or mostly Spanish if the most present language represented between 65% and 89%, and as both in
the remaining instances.
For the purposes of this research, it is important to compare language behaviour in outward, formal
communication with interpersonal language use (the In-group column in Table 4). In this sense, it is clear
that Catalan gains ground as the level of formality increases. Only two movements claimed to use only Catalan
as their usual in-group language, while another group (admittedly the most extreme example) said that its
internal communication was in Spanish but its outward written messages were always in Catalan. The
analysis of online communication for the latter group, however, showed that it was actually a mix of both
Table 4. Language of in-group, reported formal communication, and actual formal communication
Movement In-group Reported formal Actual formal
15M Sarrià-Sant Gervasi Catalan Catalan Catalan (100%)
Marea blanca Catalonia Catalan Catalan Catalan (92%)
Marea groga El Prat de Llobregat Both Catalan Catalan (100%)
15M Sants Both Catalan Mostly Catalan (83%)
Stop Pujades Metropolitan Area Both Catalan Catalan (100%)
15M Barcelona Both Mostly Catalan Mostly Catalan (74%)
15M Les Corts Both Both Mostly Catalan (81%)
Marea blanca El Prat de Llobregat Mostly Spanish Both Mostly Spanish (81%)
PAH Esplugues de Llobregat Spanish Catalan Both (Cat 60%, Spa 40%)
Language of in-group communication
As a general trend, there is a mismatch in language behaviour between internal and outward communication
in that the latter tends to lean more towards Catalan, compared to the former. In fact, in-group communication
is very likely to include both languages. In general, respondents strongly emphasised the non-problematic
nature of bilingualism in their groups3.
3 Although the questions were worded in a way that considered any language option as legitimate and that openly acknowledged
societal bilingualism, most participants were adamant to make it clear that language is not a problem. Arguably, this is a preventive
defence mechanism that many Catalans have developed to counter a certain niche political discourse according to which there is a
discrimination against the Spanish language in Catalonia.
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«Allà [Stop Pujades] estàs a Nou Barris, doncs allà ve… ve qui vol i es fa servir català i castellà
indistintament, i ningú diu res.» (Eduard)
«There [Stop Pujades] you are in [the borough of] Nou Barris, so there... anybody who wants to
come can come, and Catalan and Spanish are used interchangeably, and nobody says anything.»
Laura: Jo sóc catalanoparlant a casa i em surt […] més normal fer-ho en català, i a una altra
persona li sortiria més en castellà... [...]
Daniel: No trobem, no ho trobem problema això.
Miquel: Jo et puc contestar en castellà tranquil·lament, eh? Sí, en català o en castellà, escrivint
inclús, eh? No és una cosa que no... que sigui un problema.
Laura: I speak Catalan at home and to me it comes more naturally to do it in Catalan, and to
someone else it will come more naturally in Spanish.
Daniel: We don’t nd, we don’t nd that a problem.
Miquel: I can easily reply to you in Spanish, huh? Yes, in Catalan or in Spanish, even in writing,
huh? It’s not something ... that poses a problem.
«… no hubo ningún tipo de problema, la gente se expresaba en su idioma y... y... y totalmente
respeto.» (Roberto)
«… there was no problem of any kind, people spoke in their language and... and… and fully
«Sortien a parlar uns i parlaven en català, l’altre parlava en castellà, ns i tot un dia va sortir un
parlant en anglès. No hi havia massa problema, a la plaça.» (Neus)
«Some would come up and speak in Catalan, someone else would speak in Spanish, one day
someone spoke in English even. There wasn’t much of a problem, in the square.»
«Cadascú parla amb la llengua que es troba més a gust. És que no hi ha... amb això no hi ha…»
«Everyone speaks in the language they feel most comfortable in. There isn’t... with this there
is no…»
Remarkably, the «it’s not a problem» discourse seemed to come up in the conversation when Spanish came
into the picture. Only José, who belongs to the organisation with the most extreme distribution of language
use, hinted at the not-a-problem discourse talking about Catalan: «[la comunicación interna es en castellano]
pero a la hora de comunicar pues tratamos de comunicar en catalán, sin… sin ningún problema» («[in-
group communication is in Spanish] but when we communicate, well, we try to communicate in Catalan,
without… without any kind of problem»).
Communication strategy and languages
From a sociolinguistic perspective, it also interesting to note that none of the groups had considered the
language issue (in the sense of code) as part of their communication strategy. In fact, some of the groups did
not even have one such strategy, as Eduard stated very clearly: «No, no, no hi ha una estratègia comunicativa,
en general jo no l’he viscut» («No, no, there isn’t a communication strategy, in general I have not seen one»).
Neus did report having some protocols or style guides, which included things such as how a social media
account ought to be used.
Very often, the groups have guidelines on what type of language to favour (inclusive, gender-neutral
language) or avoid, although again, given the nature of these movements, the specics are not set in stone
but rather are exible and often revisited. And sometimes they are more presupposed than anything, as Toni
admitted: «Diguem que tot això ve una mica heretat […], això ja estava assumit allà al nucli central [Plaça
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de Catalunya]» («Let’s say that all this is sort of inherited […], this had been taken on at the central core
[Plaça de Catalunya]»).
Even if some guidelines are in place, however, they very rarely include the issue of which languages to use
when. All interviewees were enquired about this, but only one of the groups reported having such guidelines,
although these seemed to be merely suggestions, from the way Neus explained them:
«… depèn una mica: si és una campanya [local] es procura tuitejar en tots els idiomes, o
sigui, possibles, no? […] Si és una campanya estatal, es procura fer tuits propis una mica
[…] en català, i... i pots retuitejar com si diguéssim en altres idi... en castellà, o en anglès;
[…] a internacional sí que ho tenim clar, el protocol és... de... les coses d’aquí cap enfora, en
anglès, vull dir, perquè la idea de la comissió d’internacional era comunicar les coses que estan
passant aquí cap enfora.» (Neus)
«… it depends a little: if it’s a [local] campaign, you try to tweet in all possible languages, right?
If it’s a state-wide campaign, you sort of try to do your own tweets in Catalan, and... and you
can retweet as it were in other lang... in Spanish or English; in International we are clear, the
protocol is... things from here outwards, in English, I mean, because the idea of the international
commission was to communicate outward the things that are happening here.»
None of the other groups had any agreed guidelines on the issue of language choice. In fact, most said that
this issue had never been discussed in any of their meetings, like Sara, who simply said «No ens ho hem
qüestionat mai, no ho sé!» («We’ve never thought about it, I don’t know!»). Even Neus herself hinted in
another moment of the interview that language choice may come down to a default issue: «Hi ha hagut molts
[…] moments que un diu, ‘hòstia, ens posicionem a favor o és en contra?’ Bueno pues si no es a favor és en
contra, mira, què vols que et digui?» («There have been many times when you say, ‘damn, do we position
ourselves for or against?’ Well, if not for, then against, look, what can I say?»).
Interestingly, when asked if the issue of what language should be used had come up at all, many respondents
mostly referred to the issue of Catalan independence. That is, rather than quoting examples of discussions
around language, the question made them think of occasions when a pro-independence group was adamant
that their perspective be included in the group’s political stance. When asked about whether a debate or any
sort of informal conversation around language had taken place, Daniel answered in the following way:
Daniel: Si algú ha intentat fer el debat, s’ha deixat de banda. Perquè no és... no és una qüestió
de... de desunir, per exemple; tenim altres... altres objectius més... més vitals a nivell
Investigadora: Perquè quina… quina confrontació podria…
Daniel: No, de denir-se, per exemple va haver-hi un moment algú que plantejava que...
que l’assemblea es denís, no? Per exemple, el 15 M s’ha declarat a favor de
l’autodeterminació simplement...
Daniel: If anyone tried to start the debate, we sidelined it. Because it’s not… it’s not about
separating, for example, we have other… other goals that are more… more pressing at
the social level.
Researcher: Because what… what sort of confrontation could there…?
Daniel: No, to dene ourselves, for example there was a time ... when someone suggested the
assembly dened its position, no? For example, 15M simply declared itself in favour
of self-determination...
Other participants reported anecdotes related to groups or individuals who mixed the two issues (languages
and the group’s position regarding independence), but none recalled a specic debate on language choice
from the point of view of the group’s communication strategy.
Remarkably, during the interviews most respondents repeated that the issue of language was not important:
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«Lo important per nosaltres no és això, lo important és arribar, comunicar que tenim un
problema a nivell d’educació, que s’estan fent unes retallades brutals.» (Sara)
«This is not what’s important for us, what’s important is to reach, to communicate that we have
a problem in terms of education, that massive cuts are being made.»
«Aquí no es un problema de lengua, es un problema de actividad y de… y de lucha, ¿no?» (José)
«This is not an issue of language, it is a matter of activity and ... and struggle, right?»
«No és una cosa que ens preocupi massa.» (Daniel)
«It’s not something we worry much about.»
When asked whether they thought the language used could affect the way the message was received by
an individual, the replies went in many different directions. José, for example, who has been involved in
grassroots movements since the seventies, simply said: «En todos los años que llevo nadie me ha venido a
decir: ‘hostia, ¿qué pone ahí?’» («In all my years no one has ever come to me saying, ‘damn, what does that
Neus had a clear idea that it is important to consider your audience («Quin és el target, quin és... o sigui
una mica pensar en retòrica, no?, en retòrica bàsica: a qui em dirigeixo»; «What is the target, or what is ...
I mean, thinking of rhetoric a little, right?, basic rhetoric: whom am I addressing»), which tallies with the
fact that hers was the only group to have some guidelines on which language to use. In fact, the description
in their Twitter account states that they tweet in «Catalan, Spanish and English». Yet at another point in the
interview she reected that although the movement happened to choose the right language to communicate
considering the target audience (Catalan for a middle-class target), this was probably not a conscious choice.
Roberto and Pedro, who belonged to the group with the smallest presence of Catalan in the sample (see Table
4), were also the only other ones to say that you had to consider your target and ensure «que nadie se sienta,
digamos, desplazado por el tema del idioma» («so that no one feels, say, alienated by the language issue»), in
Roberto’s words. Alba also reected that it was probably easier for the message to reach the target audience
if it was in their language. Hers was, however, a thought that arose from the interview, as she admitted:
«Jo crec que el missatge si que arriba més, […] al nal el llenguatge és una estructura
cerebral, i arriba més […] en funció de la […] llengua principal. […] però és curiós que de
cara a l’exterior –jo no ho havia... no ho havia pensat mai, però és veritat– de cara a l’exterior
s’elegeixi el català.» (Alba)
«I do believe the message is better received, at the end of the day language is a brain structure,
and it’s better received based on the main language. But it is interesting that outwards –I hadn’t
... I’d never thought about it, but it’s true– outwards we choose Catalan.»
6.2 Reasons for using a language
Since none of the groups reported having discussed the reasons for their language behaviour in formal,
outward communication, participants were asked to give their opinion as to why they had naturally ended up
doing it in a particular manner. Table 5 details the different reasons that were alluded to, and the number of
participants who mentioned each of them.
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Table 5. Reasons for use of each language in formal communication and people citing them
Reasons for using Catalan
Language of Catalonia 6
Language of government 6
All can understand 5
Down to the individual 5
Historical reasons 4
Language policy 4
Needs to be defended 4
Coherence 2
Formality 2
Respect 2
Social class 2
Out of common
sense 1
Reasons for using Spanish
Down to the individual 4
Age 2
Foreigners 1
State-wide 1
The fact that 7 out of the 9 organisations claim to use Catalan or mostly Catalan for their outward
communications (see Table 4) explains that this language gathered a larger number of reasons. Interestingly,
out of the four reasons for the use of Spanish detailed in Table 5, three are related to lack of prociency,
which in effect is lack of choice.
The factor Age was mentioned by Roberto, whose organisation is based in a town with a very high percentage
of Spanish speakers. As a result of the language-in-education policy, younger age groups are generally
procient in both languages, whereas people over 50 years of age from a Spanish-speaking background may
not have learnt Catalan. This effect will be more noticeable in areas such as the city of El Prat de Llobregat,
where immigration has traditionally had a strong impact.4 According to Roberto, «la juventud no se mueve»
(«young people don’t get involved»).
4 Fabà and Torrijos (2014) identied that Spanish is more widely present in older age groups. According to Idescat’s
2001 Census, knowledge of Catalan among the age groups over 50 in El Prat de Llobregat is on average 18% lower than
in Catalonia as a whole, whereas it is comparable or even slightly higher for the population between 20 and 50 years of
age. Source:
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The factor Foreigners comes from Neus’s intervention, who spoke about a particular social media account
which was mostly managed by people from other places («hi ha un chileno, un no sé què, un no sé quantos...
Llavors clar, tothom tuiteja en castellà»; «there’s a Chilean, a this, a that… So of course, everyone tweets
in Spanish»). Although it was not made clear, lack of prociency may arguably constitute a key factor in the
linguistic behaviour of this group. With regard to the State-wide reason, it was also Neus who mentioned
another social media account aimed at an audience across Spain, rather than a local target, something that
effectively leaves it out of the scope of this study.
With regards to the factors cited as determining the choice of Catalan, they have been grouped into ve
categories in order to structure the discussion (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Reasons for using Catalan, by categories, and percentage of participants citing them.
Individual choice
It is worth noting that the factor we have labelled Down to the individual shows up for both languages,
something that reinforces Vila i Moreno’s (1996) view on norms of language use in Catalonia (see above).
This category groups all interventions where a respondent stated that the reason for using a specic language
was because whoever was typing up the posts or tweets would simply do it in the language of their choice.
In the group interview with the 15M assembly of Sants and Les Corts, we were lucky enough to have the main
community manager for each area taking part5. Marta, who usually manages the social media accounts of
15M Les Corts, stated that she felt more comfortable writing in Spanish, as it is her mother tongue, but made
an effort to also use Catalan because she knows that this is the language of a lot of people in her barria Les
5 Sants and Les Corts are two neighbouring barris or boroughs of the city of Barcelona, each of which had a 15M cell at the start of
the movement. When momentum began to wear down, the two cells decided to merge, although they maintain distinct online proles.
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Corts hi ha molta gent... hi ha un sentiment molt independentista. Llavors clar, no sé, em sap greu […] no
escriure en català»; «in Les Corts there’s a lot of people… there’s a strong pro-independence feeling. So of
course, I don’t know, I feel bad to not write in Catalan»). In fact, in 2015 their tweets were evenly distributed
between the two languages, whereas 62% of their Facebook posts were in Catalan. Toni, the community
manager for 15M Sants, is also Spanish L1, but said he wrote all posts in Catalan. Daniel concurred: «ell
[Toni] de cara enfora en català, ara, de cara a nosaltres...» («him [Toni], in Catalan outwards, but towards
us…»), and conrmed once more the disparity in language behaviour in these two domains.
Yet, as Figure 1 shows, individual choice only accounts for just over 12% of the reasons given by the
respondents for using Catalan.
Thinking of the audience
The factors Respect and Social class have been included in a category called Audience, since both take into
account the target audience of the message and adjust language behaviour in accordance. Marta’s statement
in the previous subsection, for example, also touches on this. No such reasons, however, have been used to
include more Spanish in the communications of these movements, despite the fact that this is the majority
language in the Barcelona metropolitan area (rst language of 64% of the population here, habitual language
of 60% and, more importantly, language of identication of 56%, see above).
Catalan by default
Many of the answers on Catalan being used as the language of outward communications did not delve deep
into the motivations, as if no specic reason was required. These responses have been included under the
label Default, as they congure a scenario where Catalan is perceived as the default language for these types
of communications and therefore its use does not require much argumentation. As Neus said, it may just be
common sense:
«Aquí estàs parlant més aviat […] de les coses que estan passant per aquí al voltant [...]
O sigui no té massa sentit parlar en... en castellà, no? Quan hi ha campanyes de retallades
estatals i tota la pesca, llavors sí que pots fotre algun tuit en castellà, evidentment, no hi ha
massa problema. O sigui, en general és sentit comú.» (Neus)
«Here you’re talking rather about the things that happen around here. So it doesn’t make much
sense to speak in... in Spanish, right? When there are state-wide campaigns on cuts and all that
jazz, then we can tweet something in Spanish, of course, there isn’t much of a problem. I mean,
in general it’s common sense.»
Another oft-cited reason is the fact that Catalan is the language of Catalonia, something that was typically
uttered in a matter-of-factly fashion:
«Das prioridad al catalán, estamos aquí, en Cataluña, por lo tanto yo creo que… que eso se
debe aceptar(Pedro)
«… you give priority to Catalan, we are here, in Catalonia, therefore I think that… that people
have to accept this.»
«Simplement tens una identitat respecte a l’espai on estàs, llavors, el català … sembla més
natural de fer-ho.» (Neus)
«You simply have an identity with respect to the place where you are, then, Catalan… it seems
more natural to do it.»
«Assumim que això és la llengua de Catalunya i, claro, nosotros somos de aquí, estamos
centrados aquí en Barcelona, pues… es el idioma del país.» (Toni)
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«We accept that this is the language of Catalonia and, of course, we’re from here, we are focused
here in Barcelona, so... it’s the language of the country
It could certainly be argued that Spanish is also a language of Catalonia, particularly bearing in mind the
linguistic make-up of the region where the researched groups operate, yet this argument was not mentioned by
any participant. Once again, the default value of Catalan seems to be taken for granted by most respondents.
The nal group of reasons within this category, labelled All can understand, is probably the one that more
strongly suggests the idea that Catalan is default: if everyone can understand my message in the default
language, there is no need to switch to another one or send it in more than one language. The most interesting
example in this sense was one provided by José, who said that the in-group language for his cell was Spanish
yet tweets or protest signs would normally be in Catalan, even if he acknowledged that the latter language
might pose comprehension problems in longer texts:
«Cuando son noticias de: ‘vamos al banco tal [a hacer una protesta]’ se entiende perfectamente,
o sea que no es… No es decir un texto grande que a lo mejor habría gente que tendría dicultades,
¿no?» (José)
«When it’s news like: ‘We’re going to such and such bank [to do a protest]’ it can perfectly be
understood, so it’s not ... It’s not as if it it’s a long text that maybe there would be people who
would have trouble [understanding], right?»
Eduard also acknowledged that some people might not be procient in Catalan, but assumed that this is not
a big deal, and appears to deal with it rather nonchalantly:
«I llavors quan vas repartint i veus algú que no hi entén, dic: ‘és en català, eh?, però així
practiques!’» (Eduard)
«And then when you’re handing out [yers] and you see someone who doesn’t understand, I say
‘it’s in Catalan, huh?, but this way you can practice!’»
Clearly, the bottom line seems to be that there needs to be a reason to use Spanish, whereas none is required
for Catalan. This perception of Catalan occupying the default position among the languages of Catalonia
deserved further exploration.
Catalan as the institutional language and the effects of language policy
When asked to reect on what the reasons for this might be, most participants provided arguments that touch
on the effects of language policy and the level of formality. These have been grouped under the category
Institutional and account for almost a third of the answers, as Figure 1 shows. According to six respondents,
one reason is the fact that Catalan is the language of government and the public administration in Catalonia
(one of the main intervention areas of language policy, as explained earlier). Roberto, for example, was very
clear about this point: «Lo ocial, aquí, es el catalán. […], ya es una forma, no sé, se ve… lo ocial se ve
más en catalán» («The ofcial thing here is Catalan, it’s already a way, I don’t know, you see… you see the
ofcial things more in Catalan»). Sara too acknowledged this fact: «a nivell d’institucions sí que és veritat
que com t’ho fan en català, suposo que ja fas una mica de dir, pam!, ho haig de fer en català» («in terms of
institutions, it’s true that since they do it in Catalan, you sort of say, alright, I must do it in Catalan»).
Alba reected on this during the interview, and realised that their group is applying the modus operandi of
ofcial institutions:
«Com a organització s’adopta... e... lo institucional, no?, que és l’expressió en català, i després
en castellà, no? A lo millor la barreta, i després en castellano... la traducción, para que llegue
a más gente. […] Realment no ho havia pensat mai a la vida, ns aquest moment.» (Alba)
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«As an organisation, we adopt the... uh... the institutional way, no?, which is expression in
Catalan, and then in Spanish, right? Maybe the slash and then in Spanish... the translation so it
can reach more people. The truth is I’d never thought about this in my life, until this moment.»
Some respondents referred to the effects of language policy in a wider sense, not restricted to the use of
Catalan in ofcial institutions. Specically, schools and the media were considered to have had a substantial
impact on current language behaviour:
«Jo crec que té més inuència això, que hi hagin ràdios i televisions en català, perquè clar tu
veus a casa... arribes a casa, poses la tele, vull veure la meva pel·lícula favorita i tal i, escolta,
és en català, i li dóna més formalitat que no diguem-ne que sigui una... una llengua per la
burocràcia, no?» (Toni)
«I think this has more of an inuence, the fact that there are radios and televisions in Catalan,
because I mean at home you see... you get home, turn on the telly, I want to watch my favourite
movie and stuff, and look, it’s in Catalan, and this gives more formality to it than the fact that
it’s, so to speak, a... a language for bureaucracy, right?»
Laura: [si no fos per l’escola, el panorama] lingüístic seria tan diferent, perquè pensa que tota
la immigració a Catalunya, els lls d’aquesta immigració parlen el català, [...] jo sóc
mig mig, no?, però, bueno, som lls de... de la immersió lingüística aquesta educativa,
Toni: Jo diria més que del Club Súper 3.6
Laura: [if it weren’t for school] the language [situation] would be so different, because you have
to bear in mind that all the immigration in Catalonia, the children of this immigration
speak Catalan, I’m half and half, right?, but, I mean, we’re the children of... of this
education language immersion, you know?
Toni: I’d say of Club Súper 3, rather.
«Durant tots els 80 i tot això es va generar una identitat en aquest... en aquest país, es va
treballar per generar una identitat, recuperar una identitat, no?, d’alguna forma. Jo puc estar
més o menys d’acord amb el... amb els mètodes que es van fer servir, no?, però el cas és que
es va fer, vull dir, aleshores, que som fruit d’allò, sembla estrany no fer-ho [comunicar en
català].» (Neus)
«In the 80s and stuff a certain identity was created in this ... in this country, they worked to
create an identity, to recover an identity, right?, somehow. I can be more or less in agreement
with the methods that were used, right?, but the thing is that it happened, I mean, then, that we
are the result of that, it seems weird not to do it [communicate in Catalan].»
For most participants, it is clear that these elements have positioned Catalan as the language of formal
«Quan estàs en una AMPA […] estàs en el teu àmbit, és com més... més íntim, no? Però clar,
quan vam crear la comissió, és que dius a veure, aquí representem a pares, a mares, a alumnes,
a professors, [...] i estem defensant també lo que és l’escola pública, l’educació pública. I
llavors... el nivell, el puges.» (Sara)
«When you are in an AMPA7 you are in your realm, it’s like more... more personal, right? But
obviously, when we set up the commission, you say, well, we’re here representing fathers,
mothers, students, teachers, and we are also defending state schools as such, public education.
So then you raise your standards.»
6 Club Súper 3 is a television block programme that includes cartoons and other children’s shows. Produced and broadcast by
Catalonia’s public television, this Catalan-language show has been highly successful since it was launched in 1991.
7 AMPA stands for Associació de Mares i Pares d’Alumnes (School Parents’ Association).
Mireia M. Bou
Language Attitudes and Language Choice in the Formal Communications of New Social Movements in Catalonia
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 66, 2016 56
One of the interviewees, Roberto, was asked what language he used with most of his friends. He said it
depends on the person, but with most of them he speaks in Spanish, and in any case when the whole group
of friends is together, they all use Spanish. He was then asked what would happen if he were to get together
with his group of friends and stage a protest, what language would they use in that scenario? His answer was:
«El cartel será en catalán y la protesta y reivindicación en castellano» («The sign will be in Catalan, and
the protest and demand in Spanish») – that is, the written message in Catalan, the spoken word in Spanish.
Toni also used the idea of formality to justify the fact that all written communications were in Catalan even if
their in-group communication was normally bilingual. In his opinion, it is advisable to strive for coherence:
«un canal ocial […], una mica més per estètica, si més no que no sigui tan caòtic, no?» («an ofcial
channel, a bit more for aesthetics, at least so it’s not as chaotic, right?»). Remarkably, coherence in Toni’s
view entails using only Catalan in the «ofcial channel».
One interesting side to this is the fact that the movements studied in this research are dened by their anti-
establishment nature. They were asked whether adopting the institutional approach to language, even if not
as a conscious decision, could somehow compromise their rebellious are. All answers in this respect were
very straightforward – the establishment is one thing, the people another, and the language belongs to the
«El 15M el que ha pretès és comunicar-se amb la gent, no ser contestatari amb la gent.» (Neus)
«What 15M has aimed for is to communicate with people, not to be rebellious against people.»
«Nosotros no vamos contra un partido político, […] protestamos contra lo que consideramos
abusos del poder, […] digamos que el idioma es neutro para estas cosas.» (Toni)
«We do not oppose a political party, we protest against what we consider to be abuse of power,
let’s say that language is neutral for these things.»
«El català i la cultura catalana, […] des de molt abans de que existissin, diguéssim, una
Generalitat, un llenguatge ocial i uns mitjans ocials, havia estat adoptat pel... pel... per la
gent progressista des de la guerra civil, […], des d’abans, era el llenguatge del poble. […]
Després, això s’ha mixticat, s’ha complicat bastant més perquè l’han absorbit... […] Des
d’una visió política d’una opció o altra, han intentat diguéssim apropiar-se’l.» (Miquel)
«Catalan language and culture, since long before there existed, let’s say, a Generalitat, an ofcial
language and ofcial media, they had been adopted by… by progressive people since the civil
war, since before, it was the language of the people. Later on this was falsied, it became rather
complicated because it was taken over. From a certain political perspective or other, they have
tried to let’s say appropriate it.»
Language is culture
The argument pointed out above by Miquel links with the last of the categories identied in this research,
that we have labelled Cultural. This umbrella covers the answers that either stated that Catalan constitutes a
value in itself, and is therefore worth defending, or that alluded to historical reasons.
With regards to the need to defend the Catalan language, it is remarkable that the most crystal clear examples
come from people who have Spanish as their rst language, and sometimes also as their habitual language:
«Directament ho hem fet en català perquè com també lluitem perquè creiem que la llengua és
la que... hem de defensar que és la catalana, no?» (Sara)
«We’ve done it directly in Catalan because, since we also ght because we think that the
language is the one we must defend, and it’s the Catalan language, right?»
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Language Attitudes and Language Choice in the Formal Communications of New Social Movements in Catalonia
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 66, 2016 57
«¡Yo creo que es un derecho! Estamos aquí... Yo nací en [Andalucía], eh? Desde los cuatro años
estoy aquí, por eso. Pero es un derecho, e... el defender la tierra.» (Pedro)
«I think it’s a right! We are here ... I was born in [Andalusia], huh? I’ve been here since I was
four, though. But it is a right, erm... to defend the land.»
Toni: Hay una tradición en lo que es el... las izquierdas de que es un valor más a... a... a
Marta: Sí, sí, yo también pienso lo mismo. Es un valor más a reivindicar, sí.
Toni: There is a tradition in the whole... in the left, that it is one more value to… to.. to vindicate.
Marta: Yes, yes, I agree. It’s one more value to vindicate, yes.
Arguably, this awareness that Catalan must be defended has its roots in the history of the language,
specically in the repression it has endured in different periods and especially (given its proximity in time)
the prosecution under Franco’s dictatorship. As Miquel said, «potser sí que hi continua havent una... des [d]
els grups o moviments que podríem dir progressistes, d’assumir la llengua i la cultura catalanes com un...
com part de la seva pròpia diguéssim... esperit, no?» («maybe there is still a… among what we could call
progressive groups or movements, to adopt the Catalan language and culture as a… as a part of their own
let’s say… spirit, right?»).
7 Discussion and nal remarks
Considering the data on language use in the Barcelona metropolitan area, where Spanish outweighs Catalan,
and bearing in mind the norms of language use in Catalonia referred to earlier, it could be expected for social
movements in this region to communicate outwards either in both languages or chiey in Spanish. Yet the
ndings of the present research indicate that this is not the case.
The rst important nding is that Catalan is overrepresented in the outward communication, both reported
and actual, of new social movements in comparison to its presence in society at large or, indeed, in relation
to its weight in the in-group communication practices of the movements themselves.
This behaviour could be analysed from the perspective of diglossia, in that what happens at the informal level
is different from what occurs in formal domains. However, as has been pointed earlier, Catalonia can hardly
be considered a diglossic society. This can be observed in this study too – the language behaviours in the
two domains (in-group and outwards) can clearly be distinguished, but they are far from monolithic. Rather,
what happens is simply that one of the domains, namely that of outward, formal communications, leans
more towards Catalan than the other one does, but one would be hard pressed to say that there is a language
behaviour that is inappropriate in either domain.
The reasons that lie behind the contrasting behaviours in formal and informal settings are more elusive, not
least because what we see is but the result of a myriad of individual and largely unconscious decisions of
language choice. As many respondents noted, which language is used is not something they care much about.
In fact, the lack of preoccupation for the language of formal communication is, in itself, another important
nding of this study. In a bilingual society such as Catalonia, where most of the population can understand both
languages, it is indeed possible for individuals to not consider this aspect (as opposed to what would happen
in Canada or Belgium, for example). Still, the fact that none of the groups has discussed a communication
strategy is noteworthy. Bearing in mind that in most cases the members of new social movements are young,
educated individuals, lack of awareness on the importance of communicating effectively can be ruled out.
Rather, the absence of debate seems to stem from the underlying language attitudes.
In other words, this lack of debate makes more notable the fact that most of those individual decisions
happen to ow in the same direction. This is a clear indicator that a shared perception or attitude towards
language exists in society. Shared perceptions, as noted by Vila i Moreno (2005), congure linguistic norms.
Mireia M. Bou
Language Attitudes and Language Choice in the Formal Communications of New Social Movements in Catalonia
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 66, 2016 58
In the case at hand, it can be argued that the norm taking shape prescribes that Catalan is not just appropriate
but also natural and sufcient for formal communications in a setting of political activism.
Previous works have concluded that Catalan enjoys a high prestige status, and the language behaviour
identied in this research is clearly in accordance with this and also with previous ndings regarding the
strong ethnolinguistic vitality of Catalan. Moreover, this prestige seems to act in such a way that makes
Catalan the default language, hence requiring no justication as to its use. It seems that, as Pujolar & Gonzàlez
argued, «Catalan is becoming increasingly ‘anonymous’ or ethnically unmarked» (2013: 140). This would
explain the converging behaviours in different groups despite the absolute lack of debate around this issue.
The default value of Catalan stands out as another key nding of this study.
This research has also tapped into the factors that inform attitudes towards Catalan in the context of
grassroots movements. The two main factors identied through the respondents’ contributions are related
to historical reasons and to the effects of the language policy implemented since the advent of democracy
and the devolution of powers. This is consistent with what was reported earlier, that public administration,
the media, and education are the areas where language policy has been the most successful. Not only were
all three factors mentioned by interviewees, but it can hardly be disputed that they have had a fundamental
inuence on the linguistic reality of Catalonia. This conrmation constitutes the last notable contribution of
the present work.
Staying within the scope of the present research, it is clear that the language immersion policy in education
has led to a situation where most citizens can actually choose which language to use. As exemplied by
Roberto and Pedro’s organisation, where most members belong to the older age groups, lack of prociency
inevitably impacts on language behaviour by effectively limiting choice. With regards to the mass media,
they have reinforced prociency by providing a formal model of language (Strubell 2001) and helped
normalise the language. Interestingly enough, two of the participants in the group interview (Laura and Toni)
exchanged their views on which of these two (education and media) were more fundamental to explain the
status of Catalan today.
In short, Spanish-speakers in Catalonia «have gradually become ‘new’ Catalan-speakers, i.e. functionally
bilingual in the sense that they can routinely use both languages in daily life» (Pujolar & Puigdevall 2015).
The fact that Catalan is the language of power (even if only within the borders of Catalonia) cannot be
underestimated. Along with the media, this has helped bring the language to life in the formal domain, and
after all, as Roberto said, ofcial things are done in Catalan.
Cultural and historical reasons made up the second factor that showed up in the ndings. As Mole argued,
«while the constructivist argument that elites construct national identities from above for specic instrumental
purposes is persuasive, it does not explain why these identities would necessarily be accepted, indeed
cherished, by society at large» (2008: 8). Applying this argument to the normalisation of a language, it could
be said that culture (in other words, people) is the necessary glue to hold together any institutional efforts
that may be put in place. Nevertheless, the culture factor is necessary but not sufcient – as explained above,
language choice is not possible without language prociency.
Finally, it’s worth noting the relevance of Corbeil’s (1980) distinction between individualised and
institutionalised communications, which lies in the author’s view that modifying patterns of language use at
the institutional level will eventually transfer to individualised communications. As Pujolar and Puigdevall
posited with regards to new speakers of Catalan, «the institutional pressures that initially created the need
to speak the language eventually led them to use it in informal contexts too, thus gradually blurring the
contrast between Catalan as an institutional language and Spanish as both institutional and informal» (2015:
183). If new social movements can indeed be considered to sit between the formal and informal domains,
and considering the rather sound position of Catalan in Catalonia in terms of its ethnolinguistic vitality, we
might be witnessing the rst stages of this process. This may prove a fruitful and interesting area for further
Mireia M. Bou
Language Attitudes and Language Choice in the Formal Communications of New Social Movements in Catalonia
Revista de Llengua i Dret, Journal of Language and Law, núm. 66, 2016 59
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... The results of the interview also suggest that students continue to use Indonesian in formal communication because it is the state language and is designated as the official language by the constitution. Bou (2016) shows that even in the face of cultural influences and brand globalization, people in the metropolitan metropolis of Barcelona prefer to use Catalan in formal contexts in both the public and private domains. They utilize Catalan in formal communication with the outside world because of Catalan's status as an official institutional language, as well as cultural and historical grounds. ...
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The aim of this study is to describe students' attitudes and language choices. Using a qualitative descriptive approach, the study was conducted on students from the University of HKBP Nommensen Medan, Indonesia. The study was conducted from January to February 2020. Questionnaires, interviews, and participatory observations are used to collect data. The data was quantitatively examined using a Likert scale. The results revealed that students have a positive attitude and make good choices of Indonesian. Other languages have not succeeded in replacing Indonesian as a national language and a symbol of national identity. The sense of pride in Indonesian is still high. English language proficiency is perceived as more self-assured, more modern, and reflective of the speaker's intelligence. Students believe that knowing a second language will help them obtain work and build international relationships. Indonesian is still widely used for professional and informal communication. Penelitian ini bertujuan untuk menggambarkan sikap dan pemilihan bahasa para mahasiswa Universitas HKBP Nommensen Medan, Indonesia dengan menggunakan pendekatan deskriptif kuantitatif. Penelitian dilaksanakan pada bulan Januari sampai bulan Februari 2020. Alat pengumpulan data menggunakan angket, wawancara, dan pengamatan partisipatif. Data yang diperoleh dianalisis secara kuantitatif dengan menggunakan skala Likert. Hasil penelitian menunjukkan bahwa sikap dan pemilihan bahasa Indonesia dalam kategori tinggi. Posisi bahasa Indonesia sebagai bahasa nasional dan lambang identitas bangsa belum tergantikan oleh bahasa lain. Rasa kebanggaan terhadap bahasa Indonesia masih tinggi. Adapun penguasaan bahasa Inggris dipandang lebih menunjukkan kepercayaan diri, lebih modern dan menggambarkan inteligensia penuturnya. Mahasiswa berpandangan bahwa kemampuan berbahasa asing akan mempermudah dalam mencari pekerjaan dan menjalin hubungan internasional. Komunikasi formal dan nonformal masih dominan menggunakan bahasa Indonesia.
... Trenchs-Parera and Newman 2009; Pujolar and Gonzàlez 2013;Codó and Patiño-Santos 2014;Pujolar and Puigdevall 2015;Ianos et al. 2017aIanos et al. , 2017b. In this respect, native speakers of Catalan no longer perceived the language as an 'authentic' language (Woolard 2009;Bou 2016). These conceptualisations of language(s) are discussed further in the next section. ...
In a context of increasing linguistic diversity and political uncertainty in Catalonia, this article reports on a research project which set out to explore the attitudes of members of six pro-independence sociopolitical organizations operating in the city of Girona toward Catalan and Spanish. On the basis of six focus groups and ten narrative interviews, this article analyses the respondents’ language attitudes using Ruiz’s framework of language-as-a-problem and language-as-a-resource. Four themes emerge in the informants’ discussion of Catalan and Spanish: ‘Marker of Difference’, ‘(Potential) Social Cohesion’, ‘Imposition’ and ‘Multilingualism as-a-resource’. The comments of the respondents indicate that Catalan and Spanish continue to be mobilized in diverse and varied combinations for a wide range of purposes in Catalonia.
... Trenchs-Parera and Newman 2009; Pujolar and Gonzàlez 2013;Codó and Patiño-Santos 2014;Pujolar and Puigdevall 2015;Ianos et al. 2017aIanos et al. , 2017b. In this respect, native speakers of Catalan no longer perceived the language as an 'authentic' language (Woolard 2009;Bou 2016). These conceptualisations of language(s) are discussed further in the next section. ...
In a context of increasing linguistic and cultural diversity and political uncertainty in Catalonia, this article reports on a research project which set out to explore the attitudes of members of independence organisations operating in the city of Girona toward the Catalan and Spanish languages. This study approaches language attitudes through the theoretical lens of linguistic authority, in particular, the concepts of anonymity and authenticity. The data, gathered from six focus groups, provide an insight on the nature of linguistic authority in contemporary Catalonia. Two themes emerge in the informants’ discussion of Catalan and Spanish: ‘twenty-first Century Catalanisme’ and ‘Embracing Linguistic Diversity’. The comments of the respondents indicate that, against the backdrop of the independence process in the region, bilingualism and multilingualism have become highly valued in the territory. In addition, this study suggests that a fuller understanding of the situation in Catalonia may be facilitated by qualitative approaches, which explore attitudes in-depth.
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The Arab Spring, the Spanish Indignados, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the #YoSoy132 movement, the protests in Istanbul's Taksim Gezi Park, the Brazilian Spring (#jan25, #arabspring, #15M, #ows, #YoSoy132, #occupyGezi, #vemprarua): in the last three years the world has witnessed the emergence of networked citizen politics. These movements are not institutions, but oftentimes mimic their nature. At the same time, they are unlike traditional citizens’ movements, but very much alike in their decentralized structure. Networked citizen politics, characterized by decentralization, swarm-like action and an intensive use of information and communication technologies have been playing an increasing role in worldwide protests and movements, often overtaking and circumventing the actions of governments, parliaments, political parties, labour unions, non-governmental organizations, mass media and all kinds of formal democratic institutions. Taking the case of Spanish Indignados, we analyse the nature of networked citizen politics as an extra-representational kind of political participation – for instance, the pervasiveness of Twitter's use in the 15M movement. We begin by characterizing users, including a description of how movements propagate from one to another. Next we explore the bonds between networked citizen movements and formal democratic institutions and how they relate to each other, especially the movements with political parties and mass media. We also examine how networked citizen politics may use tools similar to those of the so-called Politics 2.0 but with very different purposes and, accordingly, the result is of the two conflicting approaches. Our analysis shows that different movements – that is, 15M and 25S – act as a continuum for networked citizen politics that use the Internet as the support for new institutionalisms, and despite the lack of traditional organizations, people, practices and ideas are shared and used as foundations for further action. Nevertheless, there is almost no inter-institutional dialogue, with exceptions being individuals belonging to minor and left-wing parties.
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Most analyses of the sociolinguistic aspects of immigration focus on contexts where a single language is official and widely used. In bilingual Catalonia, newly arriving immigrants find themselves in a situation where the administration seeks to treat Catalan as a fully functional public language while large sectors of the local population still treat it as a minority language not adequate to be spoken to strangers. Popular language practices and discourses often seem to suggest that Catalan serves to assert identity while Spanish serves for practical communicative purposes, thus contradicting the official narratives over language and integration. Thus, what we find is that immigrants are required to adjust to different, competing, often blatantly contradictory linguistic ideologies and practices. In this article, I will seek to describe these contradictions and historical changes together with their implications for the local political economy of intergroup relations. I begin with a brief theoretical grounding of the concepts uses. To this follows a historical account of educational language policies addressed to immigrants since the mid-1980s. A change in official discourses from language as national symbol to language as a means for social cohesion is documented. Language policies are contrasted with ethnographic data on linguistic practices in everyday life in various settings. To conclude, I reflect on the significance of these phenomena for a general understanding of the role of languages in the construction of social difference in contemporary societies.
To properly place in context the ‘regional’ language policies and practices affecting the current status of Catalan in the media, the arts and the Internet, two axes of coordinates need to be borne in mind: firstly, the ‘vertical’ axis, i.e. their dependence on the general regulatory framework, above all in Spain, in addition to EU directives and, secondly, the ‘horizontal’ axis or, in other words, the central position of Catalonia in Catalan’s cultural and linguistic space, which it shares with other territories that have the Catalan language as their common historical heritage.
Just about everyone seems to have views about language. Language attitudes and language ideologies permeate our daily lives. Our competence, intelligence, friendliness, trustworthiness, social status, group memberships, and so on, are often judged from the way we communicate. Even the speed at which we speak can evoke reactions. And we often try to anticipate such judgements as we communicate. In this lively introduction, Peter Garrett draws upon research carried out over recent decades in order to discuss such attitudes and the implications they have for our use of language, for social advantage or discrimination, and for social identity. Using a range of examples that includes punctuation, words, grammar, pronunciation, accents, dialects and languages, this book explores the intricate and fascinating ways in which language influences our everyday thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
This paper analyzes patterns of linguistic adaptation, cultural assimilation, and hidden contesta- tion in contemporary Catalonia. It makes use of public opinion data available for the general population there, compared and contrasted with the results of primary research from 355 inter- views conducted by this author with a random sample of Catalan politicians and schoolteachers. In the process, it assesses the relative merits of the "competitive assimilation" thesis, the domi- nant framework for understanding the dynamics of language politics in Catalonia. It contends that this thesis is critically flawed, both as description and as explanation.