Aragonese (Aragonés) is a Romance language now spoken by some 10,000 people over the valleys of Aragon River, Sobrarbe and Ribagorza in the province of Huesca, Aragon, Spain.
Aragonese originated around the 8th century as one of many Latin dialects developed in the Pyrenees on top of a strong Basque-like substratum. The original kingdom of Aragon (formed by the counties of Aragon, Sobrarbe and Ribagorza) was progressively expanded from the mountain ranges towards the South, pushing the Moors further South in the Reconquista and spreading the Aragonese language.
The union of the Aragonese Kingdom with Catalan Counties under the same king meant that these territories were linguistically heterogeneous, with Catalan spoken in the eastern region, and Aragonese in the west. Moreover, Catalan was the language that expanded into the new territories conquered to the Moors: the Balearic Islands and the new kingdom of Valencia. The Aragonese reconquista to the south ended in the kingdom of Murcia, that was ceded by James I of Aragon to the Kingdom of Castile as a dowry for an Aragonese princess.
The spread of Castilian, now known as Spanish, as the common language in the peninsula, together with the protective effect from it that Aragonese played for the Catalan language, meant that further recession was to follow. One of the key moments in the history of Aragonese was when a king of Castilian origin was appointed in the 15th century: Ferdinand I of Aragon, (a.k.a- Ferdinand of Antequera).
The annexation of Aragon by Castile and the progressive suspension of all capacity of self-rule from the 16th century meant that Aragonese, while still widely spoken, was limited to a rural and colloquial use, as the nobility chose Spanish as their symbol of power. The suppression of Aragonese reached its most dramatic point during the rule of the Francisco Franco in the 20th century. Pupils were beaten in schools for using it, and legislation forbade the teaching of any language that was not Spanish.
The constitutional democracy voted by the people in 1978 meant an increase in the literary works and studies conducted in and about the Aragonese language. However, it may be too late for this language.
Nowadays, Aragonese is still spoken natively within its core area, the Aragonese mountain ranges of the Pyrenees, in the comarcas of Somontano, Sobrarbe, and Ribagorza. These are the major cities and towns were Aragonese speakers can still be found: Huesca, Graus, Monzón, Barbastro, Fonz, Echo, Estadilla, Benasque, Sabiñanigo, Jaca, Plan, Ansó, Ayerbe, Broto, El Grado.
Aragonese is also learnt as a second language by other inhabitants of the country in areas like Uesca, Zaragoza, Exea, and Teruel. According to recent polls, altogether they only make up around 30,000 speakers, making this language one of the closest to extinction in Europe.
Some historical traits of Aragonese language:
- Open O,E from Romance result systematically into diphthongs [we],[je], e.g. VET'LA > viella (old woman, Spa. vieja, Cat. vella)
- Loss of final unstressed -E, e.g. GRANDE > gran (big)
- Unlike Spanish Romance initial F- is preserved, e.g. FILIU > fillo (son, Spa. hijo, Cat. fill)
- Romance yod (GE-,GI-,I-) results in voiceless palatal affricate ch [tS], e.g. IUVEN > choben (young man), GELARE > chelá (to freeze, Spa. helar, Cat. gelar)
- Like in Occitan Romance groups -ULT-, -CT- result in [jt], e.g. FACTU > feito (done, Spa. hecho, Cat. fet)
- Romance groups -X-, -PS-, SCj- result into voiceless palatal fricative ix [S], e.g. COXU > coixo (crippled, Spa. cojo, Cat. coix)
- Unlike Spanish Romance groups -Lj-, -C'L-, -T'L- result into palatal lateral ll [L], e.g. MULIERE > mullé (woman, Spa. mujer, Cat. muller)), ACUT'LA > agulla (needdle, Spa. aguja, Cat. agulla)
- Unlike Spanish, Latin -B- is maintained in past imperfect endings of verbs of the 2nd and 3rd conjugations: teniba (he had, Spa. tenía, Cat. tenia))