Catalans (Països Catalans) - Orientation

Identification. Catalans can be defined by participation in the historical polity of Catalonia, which occupies the northwest Mediterranean coast and eastern Pyrenees. Some areas of the formerly independent political unit now form separate regions in contemporary Spain and France: Valencia, the Balearics, and Roselló (Pyrenees Orientales). Andorra constitutes an independent state. Together these are known as the "Països Catalans" (Catalan countries). The traditional primary language of the polity is Catalan, a Romance language, although most inhabitants are bilingual (in Spanish or French). In the contemporary Països Catalans—after two centuries of industrial development and immigration—language, residence, cultural traits (food, arts, etc.), heritage, and political affiliation are complex and ambivalent markers of ethnic, class, and national membership.

Location. Catalonia is located between 40° and 42° N and 0° and 3° E. Roselló lies at about 42° N and between 1° and 4° E. Valencia falls between 38° and 40° N and 2° W and 1° E. The Balearic Islands lie between 38° and 40° N and between 1 ° and 4° E. The total land surface is 69,032 square kilometers; in Spain, the Països Catalans occupy 13 percent of the land surface while in France, Roselló occupies less than 1 percent of the land surface. The countryside is predominantly mountainous, dropping from the Pyrenees (above 3,000 meters) and the Iberian system to the Mediterranean coast. The most important rivers, the Ebre (Ebro) and Xúquer (Júcar), originate outside the Països Catalans, while the rest of the hydrographic network consists of small, intermittent rivers that flood periodically. The climate is Mediterranean, characterized by a season in which heat and dryness coincide from June to September, with strong rains in September/October and April/May. The eastern and southern regions are extremely arid (less than 30 centimeters precipitation per year).

Demography. Regional populations of the Països Catalans are: Catalonia, 6,079,903 (1987); Valencia, 2,918,714 (1987); Balearics, 671,233 (1987); Roselló, 349,100 (1986); and Andorra, 49,976 (1986). Catalans constitute 28 percent of the population of Spain; Catalans in France, by contrast, represent less than 1 percent of the national population. Population density averages 176 persons per square kilometer, and the population is stable. Approximately 9,000,000 speak Catalan; almost all are bilingual. Immigrants account for the majority of Spanish or French monolinguals.

linguistic Affiliation. Catalan is a Romance language derived from Latin and written with the Roman alphabet. It has 7 vowels and 27 consonants. Dialects are associated with the historical divisions previously cited, including Valencian, Mallorquí, Menorquí, and Eivissenc.

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