L’Alguer and Alguerese Catalan

Where is l’Alguer?

L’Alguer (“Alghero” in Italian, “S’Alighèra” in Sardinian) is a town located in northwest Sardinia, in the province of Sassari. It stands out from the other communities of this Italian island by virtue of the fact that its more than 43,000 inhabitants (2008) have traditionally spoken Catalan.

Why is Catalan spoken in l'Alguer?

L’Alguer first entered the orbit of Catalan-Aragonese interests in the middle of the fourteenth century. At the time, the regions of Catalonia and Aragon were jointly ruled by the Crown of Aragon, which had undertaken a great expansion of its power eastward across the Mediterranean, particularly under King Pere III “the Ceremonious”. Keenly aware of the strategic advantage to be gained by possession of the l’Alguer’s fortified port, Pere III attempted in 1353 to wrest the territory from the control of Arborea, one of the four courts of law which had had dominion over their respective regions of Sardinia since 1000.  Though the town fell, the Catalan-Aragonese forces were shortly thereafter ousted when Alguer’s inhabitants, to cries of "Arborea! Arborea! Death to the Catalans!” rose up and expelled them. In the summer of the following year, 1354, after a year of frenzied and costly preparations, there was a second attempt to conquer the city, this time defeated by the relentless Sardinian summer, malaria and sporadic attacks by Prince Mariano IV of Arborea. Finally, in 1355 a treaty was signed in San Luri whereby the partition of the island was established and Mariano renounced his claim to l’Alguer.

What is the language situation in l'Alguer?

Thereafter, the population of the town was swelled by the arrival of Catalan-speaking colonists, with the result that until recently the dominant language of the town was Alguerese, a variety of Catalan. However, since the end of World War II, the immigration of Sardinian-speakers from other parts of the island and the omnipresence of Italian in the education system and media have meant that increasingly Alguerese families are not transmitting Catalan to their children. According to a linguistic survey carried out in 2004, the language use habits of the population in that year were as follows:
  First language Language used for daily interactions
Italiàan 59,2 % 83,0 %
Alguerese 22,4 % 13,9 %
Sardinian 12,3 % 2,8 %

Is Algherese taught in l'Alguer?

In an attempt to slow or reverse this trend, in 1997 the Regional Council of Sardinia recognized Alguerese Catalan as a separate language as part of a campaign intended to promote and stimulate the culture and language varieties of the island, and this was seconded in 1999 by an Italian state law for the protection of linguistic minorities. In addition, various organizations such as Òmnium Cultural, el Centre de Recursos Pedagògics Maria Montessori, l’Obra Cultural de l’Alguer, l’Associació per a la Salvaguarda del Patrimoni Històric i Lingüístic, l’Ateneu Alguerès, l’Escola de Alguerés Pasqual Scanu i el Centre de Recerca i Documentació Eduard Toda promote Catalan language and culture in the town. Thanks to these efforts, l’Alguer’s citizens can now use Alguerese Catalan within the city administration. In 1999, an agreement signed between the Municipality of l’Alguer, Òmnium Cultural de l’Alguer and Enllaç Germanor amb l’Alguer gave rise to the Joan Palomba Project, thanks to which Alguerese Catalan is now being taught regularly in 30 secondary schools and 58 primary schools in l’Alguer. In the school year 2008/09, the Project provided 84 Catalan classes each week, with a total of more than 1,600 students between 3 and 13. More recently, a school opened in 2004 where classes are taught exclusively in Alguerese Catalan, Italian or English. The Alguerese Catalan teachers are trained at the Maria Montessori Center for Educational Resources, an extension of the Chair in Catalan at the University of Sassari. The Center also organizes an annual summer school for teachers, maintains the Arboix group (which prepares school materials in Alguerese Catalan), and publishes the monthly children's magazine called "Mataresies", which is written entirely in Catalan and distributed freely in schools.

Does media exist in Algherese?

Regarding the media, a Catalan TV channel began broadcasting in 2004, which offers 60% of its programming in Catalan and which collaborates with the Catalonia-based Corporació Catalana de Radiotelevisió—a milestone which had seemed unthinkable only a few years previously. L’Alguer also receives the Italian channels (Rai1, Rai2, Rai3, Tele5...) and the international channel in Catalan broadcast by the Barcelona-based TV3.

L’Alguer, a bimonthly magazine written mainly in Catalan, has been in existence for the last 20 years. A more recent publication, L’Isolano, is published in Alguerese and Italian. Currently there is also a digital edition of the Diari de l’Alguer, which can be accessed at http://alguer.cat/. This daily newspaper in Catalan provides information on politics, business, sports, tourism, culture and society, the environment, entertainment and health.