Asturian or Astur-Leonese (Asturianu in Asturian) is a Romance language spoken in some parts of the provinces of Asturias and León in Spain, and in the area of Miranda de Douro in Portugal (where it is officially recognized as 'Mirandese'). In Asturias it is protected under the Autonomous Status legislation, and it is an optional language at schools. There was a diglossia conflict between Asturian and Spanish, which resulted in some scholars considering it a dialect of Spanish. However, nowadays it is considered a separate language.
The language took form in the territory in which it is spoken now, from the implantation of Latin by the Romans with contributiona from the pre-Roman languages which were spoken in the territory of the Astures , an ancient tribe of the Iberian peninsula. Castilian Spanish came to the area later, in the 14th century, when the central administration sent emissaries and functionaries to occupy political and ecclesiastical offices.
Much effort has been made since 1980 to protect and promote Asturian. However, establishing the language as an official tongue has still not happened in most areas. The situation of Asturian in other parts of Spain is critical, with a large decline in the number of speakers in the last 100 years. Portugal has taken a further step in protecting this language by recognizing it.
The denial of the recognition of Asturian as an official language has driven Asturian to an apparent dead end. Speakers are prevented from using it in its daily life, because neither the Administration nor private institutions will accept documents written in Asturian and usually will not pay attention to people trying to deal with them in Asturian. Some reports claim that Asturian language will be extinguished in two generations.
In spite of all the difficulties that the government (both the Asturian government and the Spanish government) have caused the language, the number of young people learning and using it (mainly as a written language) has substantially increased in the last years, mainly among intellectual groups and politically-active Asturians and Leonese people proud of their regional identity.
This, along with much work by the Academia de la Llingua Asturiana who, in the tail end of the 20th century, made efforts to provide the language with most of the tools needed by a language to ensure its theoretical survival (a grammar, a dictionary, and periodicals, for example), and the new generation of Asturian (both in Asturias and in León) writers, allows a more optimistic future for the Asturian language.
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01