Extremaduran language

Extremaduran language

region=autonomous community of Extremadura
speakers=200,000 (500,000 total)
fam7=West Iberian

Extremaduran ("estremeñu") is a Romance language, spoken by several thousands of people in Spain, most of them in the autonomous community of Extremadura. [ [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=ext Ethnologue] ] [ [http://www.proel.org/lenguas/extremeno.htm Proel] ]


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 and 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 southern Salamanca, the "palra d'El Rebollal", which has almost disappeared.


Western Extremadura was reconquered by the Kingdom of León, whose language, Old Leonese, was used by the new Christian inhabitants, who arrived around the 12th century to the actual territory where Extremaduran is still spoken.

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

Probably the cultural upheaval of Spanish-speaking Salamanca's University was the cause of the quick Castilianisation of the eastern parts of this province, so dividing the Astur-Leonese domain between Asturian and Leonese in the north, 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 a few people 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 which appeared in Luis Chamizo's poems) into a language, which makes even harder to defend the "real" language, and makes it easier for the administration to reject co-officiality and normalisation of Extremaduran. It is in serious danger of extinction:, with only the oldest people speaking its remnants at present, while most of the Extremaduran population ignores the actual delimitation (or even the existence) of the language, as almost all the written media and all the audiovisual media in Spanish.

Organizations and media

There exists a regional organization in Extremadura, APLEx [ [http://www.aplexextremadura.com/englishindex.htm Aplex] ] , which tries to defend the Extremaduran language (and also the Spanish dialects of Extremadura), one journal (Belsana) and one cultural newspaper, Iventia [ [http://www.iventia.com Inventia] ] , written in the new unified Extremaduran and the old sub-dialect "palra d'El Rebollal".


ee also

* Fala language
* Ramón Menéndez Pidal
* Leonese language
* Astur-Leonese

External links

* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=ext Ethnologue report for Extremaduran]
* [http://www.proel.org/lenguas.html Languages of Spain and map] — in Spanish
* [http://dialectologia.paseovirtual.net Virtual Library Extremaduran Language]
* [http://www.aplexextremadura.com/englishindex.htm APLEx Extremadura Cultural Society]
* [http://www.iventia.com/ Iventia.com] — A cultural news site in Extremaduran
* [http://www.geolectos.com Linguistic cartography] of Extremadura, which offers 418 linguistic and ethnographic maps on rural lexicon.

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