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Spain: Ethnicity and Language
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Ethnicity and Language

ETHNICITY AND LANGUAGE


One of the clearest indicators of Spain's cultural diversity is language. Ethnic group boundaries do not coincide with administrative jurisdictions, so exact figures are impossible to confirm, but observers generally agreed that about one Spanish citizen in four spoke a mother tongue other than Castilian in the late 1980s. Nevertheless, Castilian Spanish was the dominant language throughout the country. Even in the homelands of the other Iberian languages, the native tongue was used primarily for informal communication, and Castilian continued to dominate in most formal settings.

Spain has, besides its Castilian ethnic core, three major peripheral ethnic groups with some claim to an historical existence preceding that of the Spanish state itself. In descending order of size, they are the Catalans, the Galicians, and the Basques. In descending order of the intensity of the pressure they brought to bear on Spanish society and politics in the late 1980s, the Basques came first, followed by the less intransigent and less violent Catalans, and, at a great distance, by the much more conservative and less volatile Galicians. In addition, heavily populated Andalusia had become the center of fragmenting regionalism in the south; and the Gypsies, although few in number, continuing to be a troublesome and depressed cultural minority.

Data as of December 1988




Last Updated: December 1988


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Spain was first published in 1988. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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