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  • The Making of Catalan Linguistic Identity in Medieval and Early Modern Times by Vicente Lledó-Guillem
  • Courtney Joseph Wells
Lledó-Guillem, Vicente. The Making of Catalan Linguistic Identity in Medieval and Early Modern Times. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. viii + 250 pp. ISBN 978–3–319–72079–1. 93,59 €

With the title of his 1978 article “Occitan et catalan: Nécessité d’une étude réciproque,” Catalan philologist Germà Colón sounded a clarion call to Catalanists and Occitanists alike: the two languages, while distinct, should be studied side by side.1 In The Making of Catalan Linguistic Identity, an original study on the forging of Catalan linguistic identity in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, Lledó-Guillem takes up this call in earnest, and in doing so he has produced a compact, dense, and fascinating work that will introduce many Occitanists to an unfamiliar corpus of texts and scholarship. The focus of this study includes (but is not limited to) the Catalan Cròniques of Bernat Desclot and Ramon Muntaner, the Castilian translation of the Valencian poet Ausiàs March by Portuguese author Jorge de Montemayor, and a sonnet written by Valencian author Jaume Ort in valencià apitxat. The majority of these texts have been closely studied by historians, specialists of Catalan and Castilian literature, linguists, and sociolinguists, but less so, considering their Iberian context, by Occitanists. To build the methodological framework of his analysis, Lledó-Guillem turns to the work of Susan Gal, Judith Irvine, and Kathryn Woolard in linguistic anthropology, and of Josep Maria Nadal in the history of language; the glottopolitical studies of José del Valle; and the post-philological work of Michelle Warren and David Rojinsky. In so doing, he is able to create an analysis that will be relevant to anthropologists, linguists, literary scholars, historians, and political scientists alike—in addition, of course, to scholars of Catalan and Occitan literature. [End Page 118]

Lledó-Guillem brings to bear an imposing amount of philological, historical, and sociolinguistic scholarship to interrogate the impermeability of the borders that separate Catalan from other Romance varieties it has been in contact with—such as Aragonese, Castilian, Occitan, and Valencian, to name only a few—and to lay bare the processes by which these languages were differentiated from one another and standardized in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period. Indeed, for readers who have ever wondered how exactly to classify each of these Romance varieties (Why call it Occitan and not Provençal or Limousin? Is Valencian a form of Catalan, or vice versa, or is each its own distinct language? What is the relationship between Occitan and Catalan?), Lledó-Guillem argues that the process of standardization of these languages is one that is politically determined and naturalized over time rather than the result of innate and immutable factors. For example, following the work of sociophilologist Roger Wright, Lledó-Guillem identifies 1213 as the year that “the separation of Catalan and Occitan was [traditionally] established” (3). This, of course, because it was the date of the Battle of Muret, when Pere el Catòlic was killed and the Crown of Aragon’s political ambitions in the Midi effectively came to an end. Before this, as Wright has said, “the Catalans [were] happy to write in a Romance based on Provençal features in the twelfth century”; after this date Catalans “developed their own independent written form” (Wright 43). In other words, although Catalan and Occitan are distinct languages— and “most comparative linguists presently agree upon the separation”—Lledó-Guillem nevertheless examines the extent to which “ideological stances taken” come into play (3). Over the course of the book’s six chapters, he analyzes how various authors’ ideological positions were used to perform a number of political and linguistic functions, including (and this list is far from exhaustive) to distinguish Catalan from French (chapter 2) and Occitan (chapters 2 and 3); to unify Occitan and Catalan, but distance the two from Aragonese (chapter 4); to distance Catalan, Valencian, and Portuguese from Castilian (chapter 5); [End Page 119] and to create a connection between Valencian and Castilian (chapter 6). As this list suggests, the choice...


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