Astur-Leonese languages

Spain (in the autonomous communities of Asturias, northwestern Castile and León and Cantabria) and small border areas in northeastern Portugal.
Linguistic classification:


Glottolog: astu1244  (Asturo-Leonese)[1]
extr1243  (Extremaduran)[2]


Astur-Leonese area

Astur-Leonese is a group of mutually intelligible Romance dialects of the West Iberian branch, including:

In addition:

Leonese (in the sense of the whole linguistic group) was once regarded as an informal dialect (basilect) of Spanish, but in 1906, Ramón Menéndez Pidal showed it was the result of Latin evolution in the Kingdom of León.[6][7][8] As is noted by the Spanish scholar Inés Fernández Ordoñez, Menéndez Pidal always maintained the idea that the Spanish language (or the common Spanish language, "la lengua común española", as he sometimes called it) evolved from a Castilian base which would have absorbed, or merged with, Leonese and Aragonese.[9] In that sense, in his works, "Historia de la Lengua Española" (History of the Spanish language) and especially "El español en sus primeros tiempos" (Spanish in its early times), this author explains the stages of this process, taking into account the influence caused in the first steps of the Spanish language, both by the Leonese dialect and the Aragonese dialect, and finally and in last place by Castilian, which, nowadays, due to the political integration process produced during the last eight centuries, has absorbed almost completely to the other two dialects.[10]

Leonese is officially recognised by the Autonomous Community of Castile and León (2006). In Asturias it is protected under the Autonomous Statute legislation and is an optional language at schools, where it is widely studied.[11]

In Portugal, the related Mirandese language is recognized by the Assembly of the Republic as a co-official language along with Portuguese for local matters, and it is taught in public schools in the areas where Mirandese is natively spoken. Initially thought to be a basilect of Portuguese, José Leite de Vasconcelos studied Mirandese and concluded it was a separate language from Portuguese.


The language developed from Vulgar Latin with contributions 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.


Main article: Asturian language

Much effort has been made since 1974 to protect and promote Asturian.[12] In 1981 Asturian, or Bable, as the language is officially named,[13] was recognized as an area in need of special protection by the local government. In 1994 there were 100,000 first language speakers and 450,000 second language speakers able to speak or understand Asturian.[14] However, the outlook for Asturian remains critical, with a large decline in the number of speakers in the last 100 years. At the end of the 20th century, the Academia de la Llingua Asturiana underwent initiatives designed to provide the language with most of the tools needed to survive in the modern era: a grammar, a dictionary and periodicals. A new generation of Asturian writers has championed the language. These developments have given Asturian greater hope of survival.


Main article: Leonese language

Leonese was probably spoken in a much larger area in the Middle Ages, roughly corresponding to the old Kingdom of León. As the Castilian language became the main language in Spain, the linguistic features of the Leonese language retreated progressively westwards.

In the late 1990s several associations unofficially promoted Leonese language courses. In 2001 the Universidad de León (University of León) created a course for Leonese teachers, and local and provincial governments developed Leonese language courses for adults. Nowadays Leonese can be studied in the largest towns of León, Zamora and Salamanca provinces.

Leonese's desperate reality as a minority language has driven it to an apparent dead end, and it is considered a Seriously Endangered Language by UNESCO. There are some efforts at language revival aimed at the urban population (the Leonese Council has made campaign to encourage young people to learn Leonese). Some experts think Leonese will be dead in two generations.

In spite of all these difficulties, the number of young people learning and using Leonese (mainly as a written language) has increased substantially in recent years. The Leonese City Council promotes Leonese language courses for adults. Leonese is taught in sixteen schools in Leon.

Leonese language has special status in the Statute of Autonomy of Castile and León.[15]


Main article: Mirandese language

In the 19th century, José Leite de Vasconcelos described Mirandese as "the language of the farms, work, home, and love between the Mirandese," noting that it was a completely separate language from Portuguese. Since 1986/1987 the language has been taught to students between the ages of 10 and 11, and Mirandese is now recovering. Today Mirandese has fewer than 5,000 speakers (but the figure go up to 15,000 if one includes second language speakers).

Portugal took a further step in protecting Mirandese when the Portuguese Republic officially recognised the language in 1999. It is administrated by the Anstituto de la Lhéngua Mirandesa.


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Asturo-Leonese". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Extremaduran". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. "El dialecto leonés y el Atlas lingüístico de Castilla y León" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2013-05-04.
  4. Maia, Clarinda de Azevedo (1996-10-01). "Mirandés". In Alvar, Manuel. Manual de dialectología hispánica. El Español de España [Spanish Dialectology Manual. Spanish from Spain] (in Spanish). Barcelona: Editorial Ariel, S.A. En la provincia de Tras-os-Montes . . . aparte del habla trasmontana (con sus diferentes variantes) existen algunos dialectos estructuralmente próximos a los dialectos leoneses . . . La zona oriental de esta provincia portuguesa, que linda con tierras leonesas de Zamora, aparte de algunas modalidades regionales marcadamente individualizadas presenta algunos dialectos caracterizados, en diferente grado, por soluciones de tipo leonés. Estos dialectos parecen constituir dos núcleos distintos, no solo de acuerdo con su posición geográfica, sino, sobre todo, en virtud de los diferentes grados de predominio del leonesismo que presentan: por un lado, el grupo formado por los dialectos del rincón nordeste de la provincia, especialmente el de Rio de Onor y Guadramil, a los que se asocian, ya muy diluidos, los dialectos de otras dos poblaciones de la raya: Petisqueira y Deilão; por otro, en la zona oriental, hablado en la Terra de Miranda, el mirandés, el mas marcadamente leonés de todos los dialectos de factura leonesa hablados en territorio portugués, en el que conviene enmarcar como dialecto suyo, el sendinés, hablado en la población de Sendim . . .
  5. Menéndez Pidal, R (2006) [1906]. El dialecto Leonés. León: El Buho Viajero. ISBN 84-933781-6-X.
  6. Menéndez Pidal 1906:128–141
  7. UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger. Archived August 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. Ethnologue report for Spain Archived August 30, 2006, at the Wayback Machine..
  9. Fernández Ordóñez, Menéndez Pidal and the beginnings of Ibero-Romance Dialectology: a critical survey one century later Ramón Menéndez Pidal after Forty Years: A Reassessment / coord. por Juan Carlos Conde, 2010, págs. 113-145 11-41
  10.  SpainMenéndez Pidal, Ramón, Manual de gramática histórica española, Madrid, Espasa-Calpe, 1940, p. 27
  11. Euromosaic report, Lexikon der romanitischen Linguistik 6.I:652-708
  12. Bauske 1995
  13. Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. Llera Ramo 1994
  15. "Art. 5/2. Statute of Autonomy of Castile and León". February 10, 2010. Archived from the original on March 23, 2010. Retrieved February 10, 2010.

Educación y Cultura del Principado de Asturias ISBN 84-7847-297-5.

External links

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