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Endangered languages: Bable, the Asturian language
This is a serie of articles where I will write about the endangered languages of the world in order to make them known and make people aware of the importance of preserving these languages and their cultural heritage.
In this article I am going to write about the Bable, a Romance Language spoken in some regions of northwest of Spain.
Bable, also known as Asturianu, is the name that refers to the Romance language spoken in the Principality of Asturias and its variants spoken in the provinces of Leon and Zamora, in Spain and in Miranda do Douro, where is called Mirandés, in Portugal. The language evolved from pre-Roman languages spoken by the Astures, the ancient inhabitants of the Asturian region, and the Latin introduced by the Romans.
Despite it is not an official language, it is protected under the autonomous statute legislation, has its own institution, the "Academia de la Lingua Asturiana", a dictionary, which is based in the central variant, and is taught as an optional language at schools. In 1994, there were 100.000 native speakers, but despite the efforts undertaken by the institutions to preserve and promote the language, it has been declining due to the actions of the political organizations and their reticence for granting the Bable an official recognition; and the lack of presence of the language in the local media, which cause that Bable is increasingly relegated to rural communities.
The Asturian language descended from Latin in the early Middle Ages. The passage from Latin to Asturian was slow and progressive, and for a long period both co-existed in a diglossic relationship, firstly in the Asturian kingdom, and subsequently in the Asturian-Leonese kingdom. The oldest surviving document written in Bable is the "Nodicia de Kesos" dating from the year 959, and the oldest official document preserved written in Asturian is the "Fueru d'Avilés" from 1085. The language was used in the official documents until the 14th century, when it began to be replaced by Castillian as a result of the arrival of officials and governors sent there by the Castillian administration to occupy places of political and ecclesiastic power.
In the 17th century, literary tradition in Bable reappears with Antón de Marirreguera, the first modern author whose works are known. Such tradition has remained to the present day and amongst whose works we can find the poem "El Caballu" by Francisco Bernaldo de Quiros, and the works by intellectuals such as Gonzalez Posada and Gaspar Melchor de Xovellanos who paved the way so that later generations could reflect upon the old problem of the Asturian national language.
Since the 14th century, Spanish was the dominant language used for official issues and taught in schools, which led the Bable to become in a powerless language. Over time, Asturian had became a minority language and considered by the Spanish government as a second class language. After the Spanish Civil War, is written a folkloric, sentimental and festive poetry, and some authors such as Llorienzu Novo Mier, Xosefa Canellada or X. Manuel d'Andrés, began to work in the cultural and artistic recovery of Asturias.
In 1974, a new generation of writers appeared with the foundation of the "Conceyu Bable" (Bable Council), the first association in defending the language normalization. The political conditions in the 70's facilitated the linguistic claim to defend the Asturian, and although the official recognition of the language did not succeeded, they achieved the normalization and regularization of the Bable, and the foundation of the Academy of the Asturian Language and the dictionary of the language.
In 1984, the Asturian entered in schools as an optional language, and in 1998, the "Llei d’usu y promoción del bable/asturianu" (Law of use and promotion of Bable/Asturian) was approved by the Asturian government, which where legally listed the steps to follow to normalize the language, establishing a sort of semi-officiality, and which so far remain unfulfilled.
There are four main varieties of the Asturian language, which are classified by a geographical criteria.
- Central Asturian: Is the variant spoken in the centre of Asturias, between the Nalón and Sella rivers, and is in which the standard variant is based. Its main characteristics are the preservation of the initial "f" from Latin, and the changes from -as and -an to -es and -en in the feminine plural and the verbal endings, i.e. moza/ moces, elli baxa/ ellos baxen.
- Eastern Asturian: Variant spoken in the east of the Sella river. Its differences compared to the standard variant are the lost of the initial "f" from Latin, and the feminine plural -as.
- Western Asturian: Spoken between the Nalón and Navia rivers and is the variant more extended outside Asturias (León, Zamora and Miranda). It is characterized, in comparison with the standard variant, for its conservation both in vowels and consonants.
- Mirandese: Is the spoken variant in Miranda do Douro and Vimioso, in the district of Bragança. Such variant was influenced during centuries by the Portuguese language, so its differences regarding with the variants spoken in Asturias are significant. Its main characteristics are the palatalization of the / l-/, /-ll-/, /-nn-/ and /-mn-/; the diphthongization of /e/ in tonic position, and some times of /o/ in the same position. On 29 January 1999, with the law 7/99, the Mirandese variant was recognized as an official language in Miranda do Douro by the Portuguese Parliament.
Texts and videos in Bable
Recommended Books about Bable
© 2012 Katia De Juan