Ancestry is not that important to Americans. Sure, many say they are Irish or Italian or German, but, they don’t speak Gaelic, Italian or Kraut. They don’t know the story of their ancestors. Shoot, especially the younger generations don’t know much of the world before their birth – and that’s the truth.
American language and culture are different than the Old World. Though white Americans descend from Europe, we haven’t been the same people for a long time. Living in Barcelona once upon a time made me see just how un-European I am, and how little I want to be.
At the same time, I do know much of my ancestry. My father’s bloodline hales from Iberia. My mother’s hales from Germany and Poland. I’m a mutt, but most Americans are mutts – as are most Europeans if you go back far enough. My point is that knowing the story of your bloodline can be fascinating.
That story led me to Barcelona on my first trip to Europe in the year of our Lord 2000. Thus, below, is a snippet from a book I shortly intend to publish through Kindle Publishing called Once Upon a Time in Europe (though I reserve the right to change the name before publishing)…
Catalan is NOT Spanish
My last name is Torello. Torello is Catalan. Most Americans think a Catalan is something that comes out of a cat’s throat. Many Europeans think similarly. It’s not though. To understand what the word “Catalan” means we must go back in time to the Roman Empire. Well, we don’t have to, but I want to…
In AD 1, when baby Jesus was probably seven, there was this huge empire whose capital was Rome on the Italian Peninsula. The lands under the dominion of Augustus Cesar stretched from Spain to Egypt and beyond. And the empire got even bigger in years after Christ.
Many, but not all, of the people of the Roman Empire spoke Latin. However, the Latin of the people – the “vulgus” – was not perfect like that of many Medieval and Renaissance scholars who polished their words to beauty. The vulgus spoke vulgarly compared to scholars, as is only natural for those who don’t read and write. Thus, there was no great homogenization of speech among the vulgus for adhering strictly to grammatical rules.
Latin was spoken in the western sphere of Rome’s empire (Greek was the language of the east). Those western lands, more or less, include the modern-day countries of Italy, France, Spain, Portugal. Each one speaks a unique language that have linguistic roots in the Latin of Rome. The fall of the Roman Empire made the vulgus isolated from each other, and thus evolved to speak their own way. Maybe American English and British English will become separate languages too.
Now, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese are called Romance languages, and this is so for two possible reasons. One is that the term “romance” implies “Romaness”, and romance sounds better. Another reason is that these languages tend to be spoken with more passion than the monotone Germanic-rooted languages (English, German, Dutch and the Scandinavians), and this passion conduces more romance between a man and a woman, as Peppy Le Pew demonstrates.
Regardless of the reason why these four languages are called romance languages, there’s another lesser known one: Catalan. Catalan is spoken by seven million people strewn throughout the eastern portions of Spain, the Balearic Islands, Andorra, the south of France and even Sardinia. (The green portions in the map above refer to these lands.) Many of those who speak their dialects of Catalan call it Valenciano, Mallorquin, Gatalano, or something else. Regardless of what these dialects are called, it is the same language. And Catalan people wish to be seen as Catalans first and Spaniards…well, not at all.
They speak Catalan. It’s not a dialect of Spanish; it’s its own language. Yes, if one can read Spanish, one can read some Catalan, and understand it, but not all of it. You can understand a lot of Portuguese too if you read Spanish, but not all of it. My point is that Catalan is as separate language from Spanish as Portuguese is from Spanish.
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