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Aragonese language

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Aragonese language

Pronunciation IPA: 
Native to Spain
Region Aragon; center and north of the province of Huesca and north of province of Zaragoza
Native speakers
54,000, including speakers not living in the native area (2011)[1]
20,000 use it as L2 (1993 Counsel of the Aragonese Language);[2] 500 older adult monolinguals (1993)[2]
Early forms
  • Aragonese
Latin (Aragonese alphabet)
Official status
Regulated by Academia d'a Luenga Aragonesa
Language codes
ISO 639-1 an
ISO 639-2 arg
ISO 639-3 arg
Glottolog arag1245[3]
Linguasphere 51-AAA-d
Map of Aragon with the Aragonese dialects of Northern Aragon in gray, blue, and light orange

Aragonese (; aragonés in Aragonese) is a Romance language spoken by between 10,000 and 30,000 people throughout the valleys of the Pyrenees in Aragon, Spain, mainly in the comarcas of Somontano de Barbastro, Jacetania, Alto Gállego, Sobrarbe, and Ribagorza. It is the only modern language that developed from medieval Navarro-Aragonese.

While informally known as fabla ("talk" or "speech"), Aragonese is also commonly referred to by the names of its numerous local dialects, such as cheso (from Valle de Hecho) or patués (from the valley of Benasque).


  • History 1
    • Modern Aragonese 1.1
  • Geographic distribution 2
  • Phonology 3
    • Phonological characteristics 3.1
    • Vowels 3.2
    • Consonants 3.3
  • Orthography 4
  • Grammar 5
  • Dialects 6
  • Literature 7
    • Medieval Ages 7.1
    • Early modern period literature 7.2
    • Contemporary literature 7.3
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


Aragonese originated in the High Middle Ages, as one of many Latin dialects developed in areas around the Ebro and further north in certain spots of the Aragon River, as well as urban centers and monasteries. It expanded to 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 farther south in the Reconquista, thereby spreading the Aragonese language.

The dynastic union of the Catalan Counties and the Kingdom of Aragon, which formed the Aragonese Crown in the twelfth century, did not result in a merger of the languages of the two territories; Catalan continued to be spoken in the east and Navarro-Aragonese in the west, although with blurred boundaries because of dialectal continuity. The Aragonese Reconquista to the south ended in the kingdom of Murcia, which was ceded by James I of Aragon to the Kingdom of Castile as a dowry for an Aragonese princess.

The outstanding proponent of the Aragonese language was undoubtedly Johan Ferrandez d'Heredia, founder of the lineage and Grand Master of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem based in Rhodes. He wrote an extensive catalog of works in Aragonese and also several works translated from Greek into Aragonese, the first in medieval Europe.

The spread of Castilian (the language often simply known as "Spanish"), the Castilian origin of the Trastámara dynasty, and a strong similarity between Castilian and Aragonese 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 fifteenth century: Ferdinand I of Aragon, also known as Ferdinand of Antequera.

The mutual union of the crowns of Aragon and Castile and the progressive suspension of all capacity of self-rule from the sixteenth century meant that Aragonese, while still widely spoken, was limited to a rural and colloquial use, as the nobility chose Castillian as their symbol of power.

During the rule of Francisco Franco in the twentieth century and the spreading of compulsory schooling, Aragonese was regarded as a mere dialect of Spanish and was therefore frowned upon (for example, pupils were punished in schools for using it).

The constitutional democracy voted by the people in 1978 heralded the debut of literary works and studies conducted in and about the Aragonese language.

Modern Aragonese

Today, Aragonese is still spoken natively within a core area; the Aragonese mountain ranges of the Pyrenees, in the comarcas of Somontano, Jacetania, Sobrarbe, and Ribagorza.

The major cities and towns wherein Aragonese speakers can still be found are as follows: Huesca, Graus, Monzón, Barbastro, Bielsa, Chistén, Fonz, Echo, Estadilla, Benasque, Campo, Sabiñánigo, Jaca, Plan, Ansó, Ayerbe, Broto, and El Grado.

Aragonese is also learned as a second language by other inhabitants of the country in such areas as Huesca, Zaragoza, Ejea de los Caballeros, and Teruel. According to recent polls, though, they only make up around 10,000 active speakers and about 30,000 passive speakers.

In 2009, the Languages Act of Aragon gave recognition of "native language, original and historic" of Aragon. There are now a number of linguistic rights, such as the use of Aragonese in the public administrations of Aragon.[4]

Geographic distribution

  • Western dialect: Ansó, Echo, Chasa, Berdún, Chaca towns
  • Central dialect: Panticosa, Biescas, Torla, Broto, Bielsa, Yebra, L'Ainsa
  • Eastern dialect: Benás, Plan, Bisagorri, Campo, Perarruga, Graus, Estadilla
  • Southern dialect: Agüero, Ayerbe, Rasal, Bolea, Lierta, Uesca, Almudébar, Nozito, Labata, Alguezra, Angüés, Pertusa, Balbastro, Nabal[2]


Phonological characteristics

The Aragonese language expanded into new territories of the Kingdom of Aragon, from the 12th century until the 16th century.

Aragonese has many historical traits that join it to Catalan rather than Spanish. Some of these are conservative features that are also shared with Astur-Leonese and Portuguese, where Spanish innovated in ways that did not spread to nearby languages.

Traits shared with Catalan
  • Romance initial F- is preserved, e.g. FILIUM > fillo ("son", Sp. hijo, Cat. fill, Pt. filho).
  • Romance yod (GE-, GI-, I-) consistently became medieval [dʒ], as in medieval Catalan and Portuguese. This becomes modern ch [tʃ], as a result of the devoicing of sibilants (see below). In Spanish, the medieval result was either [dʒ] (modern [x]), [ʝ] or nothing, depending on the context. E.g. IUVENEM > choven ("young man", Sp. joven /ˈxoβen/, Cat. jove /ˈʒoβǝ/), GELARE > chelar ("to freeze", Sp. helar /eˈlaɾ/, Cat. gelar /ʒǝˈla/).
  • Romance groups -LT-, -CT- result in [jt], e.g. FACTUM > feito ("done", Sp. hecho, Cat. fet, Gal./Port. feito), MULTUM > muito ("many"/"much", Sp. mucho, Cat. molt, Gal. moito, Port. muito).
  • Romance groups -X-, -PS-, SCj- result in voiceless palatal fricative ix [ʃ], e.g. COXU > coixo ("crippled", Sp. cojo, Cat. coix).
  • Romance groups -Lj-, -C'L-, -T'L- result in palatal lateral ll [ʎ], e.g. MULIERE > muller ("woman", Sp. mujer, Cat. muller), ACUT'LA > agulla ("needle", Sp. aguja, Cat. agulla).
Traits shared partly with Catalan, partly with Spanish
  • Open O, E from Romance result systematically in diphthongs [we], [je], e.g. VET'LA > viella ("old woman", Sp. vieja, Cat. vella). This includes before a yod, e.g. octō > ueito ("eight", Sp. ocho, Cat. vuit). Spanish diphthongizes except before yod, whereas Catalan only diphthongizes before yod.
  • Loss of final unstressed -E but not -O, e.g. GRANDE > gran ("big"), FACTUM > feito ("done"). Catalan loses both -O and -E; Spanish preserves -O and sometimes -E.
Traits shared with Spanish but not Catalan
  • Former voiced sibilants become voiceless ([z] > [s], [dʒ] > [tʃ]).
Conservative traits not found in either Spanish or Catalan
  • Latin -B- is maintained in past imperfect endings of verbs of the second and third conjugations: teneba, teniba ("he had", Sp. tenía, Cat. tenia), dormiba ("he was sleeping", Sp. dormía, Cat. dormia).
  • High Aragonese dialects (alto aragonés), along with some dialects of Gascon, have preserved the voicelessness of many intervocalic stop consonants, e.g. CLETAM > cleta ("sheep hurdle", Cat. cleda, Fr. claie), CUCULLIATAM > cocullata ("crested lark", Sp. cogujada, Cat. cogullada).
  • A few Aragonese dialects maintain Latin -ll- as geminate /ll/.


Vowel phonemes
Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a


Consonant phonemes
Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɲ
Plosive voiceless p t t͡ʃ k
voiced b d g
Fricative f θ s ʃ
Approximant central j w
lateral l ʎ
Flap ɾ
Trill r


In 2010, the Academia de l'Aragonés, formed in 2006, established a single orthographic standard in order to modernize medieval orthography and to make it more etymological. This new orthography is used by the Aragonese WorldHeritage.[5]

Previously, Aragonese had two orthographic standards:

  • The grafía de Uesca codified in 1987 by the Consello d'a Fabla Aragonesa (CFA) at a convention in Huesca is used by a majority of Aragonese writers. It uses a more uniform system when assigning letters to phonemes with less regard to etymology. For example, words traditionally written with v and b are uniformly written with b in the Uesca system. Likewise, ch, j, and g before e and i are all written ch. In addition, it uses letters more strongly associated with Spanish, such as ñ.[6]
  • The grafía SLA devised in 2004 by the Sociedat de Lingüistica Aragonesa (SLA) is used by a minority of Aragonese writers. It uses more etymological forms that are closer to Catalan, Occitan, and medieval Aragonese sources. In the SLA system, v and b as well as ch, j, and g before e and i are all distinct. Also, the digraph ny is used instead of ñ.

In the sixteenth century, Aragonese Moriscoes wrote some Romance texts in Arabic writing, probably because of their inability to write in Arabic; the language in these texts shows a mixture of Aragonese and Castilian traits, and they can be considered among the last written examples of the Aragonese formerly spoken in Central and Southern Aragon.[7]

Comparison between the three Aragonese orthographies[8]
Sounds and Features Academia de l'Aragonés Grafía de Uesca (1987) Grafía SLA
/a/ a a a
/b/ b, v according to Latin etymology
Ex: bien, servicio, val, activo, cantaba, debant
Ex: bien, serbizio, bal, autibo, cantaba, debán
b, v according to Romance etymology, as in Catalan and Occitan
Ex: bien, servício, val, activo, cantava, devant
  • c
  • qu before e, i
  • c
  • qu before e, i
  • c
  • qu before e, i
/kw/ If there is an etymological q, as in Catalan and a bit in Occitan:
  • qu before a, o
  • before e, i
    Ex: quan, qüestión
cu as in Spanish
Ex: cuan, cuestión
If there is an etymological q, as in Catalan and a bit in Occitan:
  • qu before a, o
  • before e, i
    Ex: quan, qüestion
/tʃ/ ch
Ex: chaminera, minchar, chusticia, cheografía
Ex: chaminera, minchar, chustizia, cheografía
  • ch
  • j (g before e, i) according to etymology, as in Catalan and Occitan
    Ex: chaminera, minjar, justícia, geografia
/d/ d d d
/e/ e e e
/f/ f f f
  • g
  • gu before e, i
  • g
  • gu before e, i
  • g
  • gu before e, i
  • gu before a, o
  • before e, i
  • gu before a, o
  • before e, i
  • gu before a, o
  • before e, i
Etymological h
(rendered silent after Latin)
Written according to etymology
Ex: historia, hibierno
Not written
Ex: istoria, ibierno
Written as in Medieval Aragonese and in Catalan
Ex: história, hivierno
/i/ i i i
/l/ l l l
/ʎ/ ll ll ll
/m/ m m m
/n/ n n n
/ɲ/ ny as in Medieval Aragonese and Catalan
Ex: anyada
ñ as in Spanish
Ex: añada
ny as in Medieval Aragonese and Catalan
Ex: anyada
/o/ o o o
/p/ p p p
/ɾ/ r r r
  • rr
  • r- (word-initially)
  • rr
  • r- (word-initially)
  • rr
  • r- (word-initially)
/s/ s (also between two vowels, never *ss) s (also between two vowels, never *ss) s (also between two vowels, never *ss)
/t/ t t t
Etymological final -t
(silent in Modern Aragonese)
Written as in Medieval Aragonese, Catalan and Occitan
Ex: sociedat, debant, chent
Not written
Ex: soziedá, debán, chen
Written as in Medieval Aragonese, Catalan and Occitan
Ex: sociedat, devant, gent
/u, w/ u u u
/jʃ/ (Eastern dialects)
/ʃ/ (Western dialects)
ix as unifying grapheme for all dialects
Ex: baixo
Ex: baxo
  • ix (Eastern dialects)
  • x (Western dialects)
    Ex: baixo (Eastern) = baxo (Western)
  • y initial and between vowels
  • i in other cases
  • y initial and between vowels
  • i in other cases
  • y initial and between vowels
  • i in other cases
  • z before a, o, u
  • c before e, i (in non-international words and in certain words of Greek or Arabic origin)
  • z in final position (but tz as a grapheme reflecting the t+s that became ts in Benasquese in various plurals and verb forms

Ex: zona, Provenza, fetz, centro, servicio, realizar, verdatz

Ex: zona, Probenza, fez, zentro, serbizio, realizar, berdaz
  • z before e a, o, u, in initial position
  • ç before a, o, u, in inner position
  • z in final position
  • c before e, i
  • z in international formations (learned Greek words and loans that have z in their etyma)
    Ex: zona, Provença, fez, centro, servício, realizar, verdaz
Learned Greco-Roman words Assimilatory tendencies not written
Ex: dialecto, extension y lexico
Assimilatory tendencies written
Ex: dialeuto, estensión pero lecsico
Not all assimilatory tendencies written
Ex: dialecto, extension y lexico
Accent mark for stress
(accented vowel in bold)
Spanish model, but with the possibility for oxytones to not be accented
  • historia, gracia, servicio
  • mitolochía, cheografía, María, río
  • atención
  • choven, cantaban
Spanish model
  • istoria, grazia, serbizio
  • mitolochía, cheografía, María, río
  • atenzión
  • choben, cantaban
Portuguese, Catalan and Occitan model
  • história, grácia, servício
  • mitologia, geografia, Maria, rio
  • atencion
  • joven, cantavan


Aragonese grammar is similar to the grammar of other Iberian Romance languages, such as Spanish and Catalan.


Definite article

The definite article in Aragonese has undergone certain changes that have become characteristics of dialectal differentiation. The definite articles in Old Aragonese were similar to their present-day Castilian equivalents. The most widespread articles in Aragonese are similar to those found in Galician and Portuguese, as they lack the initial l:

Masculine Feminine
Singular o a
Plural os as

The second article, auxiliary, after a vowel, is used with an r, whose pronunciation is the soft r.

Masculine Feminine
Singular ro ra
Plural ros ras



Examining the Aragonese lexicon shows the origin of Aragonese words from different languages that have influenced it.

The influence of other Romance languages on Aragonese is evident, especially from neighboring languages. Catalan and Occitan influenced Medieval Aragonese, and the Catalan influence continued, under the Crown of Aragon, in the territory where the languages are in contact (Ribagorça), a fact that explains the main characteristics of Eastern Aragonese. Since the 15th century, the Romance language which has influenced Aragonese the most is Spanish, having been adopted in almost all of Aragon as the first language and reducing Aragonese to the northern region around the Pyrenees.

Another Romance language with certain influence is French, the only official language in the neighboring country. Italian loans have come in through other languages such as Catalan, while words from Portuguese have come in through Spanish.

Germanic words came through the conquest of the region by Germanic peoples in the 5th century AD.

Aragonese also has loans from Arabic and Mozarabic due to the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in the 8th century, and in turn, Arabic brought words from other languages, such as Persian and Sanskrit.

English, with its international importance, has introduced a lot of new words into the language.


Words that derive from the second declension or assimilated to the second declension are usually masculine:

  • FILIU(M) > fillo (son).
  • SCIURU + OLU(M) > esquiruelo (squirrel).

Words derived from the first declension are usually feminine:

  • FILIA(M) > filla (daughter).

There are neutral plurals assimilated to the first declension that become feminine-gender singular:

  • FOLIA(M) > fuella (leaf).

Words that end in -or are feminine:

  • a honor, a calor, a color, and (in Medieval Aragonese) la amor.

The names of fruit trees usually end in -era, a suffix derived from Latin -ARIA and they are usually feminine:

The genders of river names vary according to the river:

  • Many of them that end in -a are feminine: a Cinca/a Cinga, a Cinqueta, a Garona, L'Arba, a Noguera, a Isuela, La Uecha, La Uerva, etc. The last one was called in the 16th century río de la Uerba.
  • Many that come from the second and the third declension are masculine: L'Ebro, O Galligo, O Flumen, L'Alcanadre.


Aragonese preserves the system of clitic pronouns derived from the Latin forms inde and ibi, as en'/ne and bi/i/ie.

This feature is shared with other Romance languages (cf., Catalan en and hi, Occitan ne and i, French en and y, and Italian ne and ci), thus making Aragonese different from other Ibero-Romance languages, which lack such clitics (e.g., Spanish, Asturian, and Portuguese).

En/ne is used for:

  • Partitive objects: No n'he visto como aquello (I haven't seen anything like that, literally Not (of it) I have seen like that).
  • Partitive subjects: En fa tanto de mal (it hurts so much, literally (of it) it causes so much of pain)
  • Ablatives, places from which movements originate: Se'n va ra memoria (memory goes away, literally It (away from here) memory goes)

Bi/i/ie is used for:

  • Locative, place where: N'ibi heba uno (there was one of them), literally (Of them) there was one
  • Allative, movement towards a place: Vés-be ((you) go there (imperative))


Francho Nagore's proposal

There are about 25–30 dialectal variants of Aragonese, the majority of which are in the province of Huesca, where natural isoglosses have developed around valley enclaves. Ribagorçan, is one such variant: a transitional eastern Aragonese dialect between Gascon Occitan, Catalan, and Spanish.

There is a proposal to classify the language varieties into four main dialects:

  • Central
  • Western
  • Eastern
  • Southern

For certain linguists, these groups are complex dialects formed by various varieties. For others, these four groups are Aragonese dialects and Hecho Aragonese and Chistau Valley Aragonese are comarcal varieties.


Medieval Ages

At no point in its history did the Aragonese language acquire the prestige literature developed in other Romance languages from the Iberian Peninsula.

Not until the 12th - 13th centuries did Aragonese begin to be used in written documents. From this period are featured Liber Regum'[10] (a book of general history), Razón feita d'amor,[10] Libre dels tres reys d'orient[10] and Vida de Santa María Egipcíaca.[10][11]

Early modern period literature

Spanish was from 1500 the first language of culture in Aragon: a lot of Aragonese stood out with writings in the Spanish language, to the point that in the 17th century the Argensola brothers went to Castile to teach Spanish.[12]

Aragonese became a familiar and village language and each day acquired popular traces. The 16th was obscure: there is no document in Aragonese, just in Aljamia.[13] In the 17th century appeared certain texts that used the language to characterized popular characters.

In a literary contest held in Huesca in 1650, there were three poems submitted in Aragonese, respectively, by Matías Pradas, Isabel de Rodas and "Fileno, montañés".

The first pastoradas come from the 16th and the 17th century.

Contemporary literature

The 19th and 20th centuries have seen a renaissance of the Aragonese literature; however, due to the lack of a standard language, authors write about local topics, each using his own variety of the language. In 1844, the novel Vida de Pedro Saputo, by Braulio Foz, appeared in Almudévar Aragonese. In the 20th century the costumbrist comedies written by Domingo Miral gained importance, as well as the poetry of Veremundo Méndez Coarasa, both in Hecho Aragonese; in Graus Aragonese, one can highlight Cleto Torrodellas' verses and Tonón de Baldomera's popular writings; in Somontano Aragonese, there are Pedro Arnal Cavero's costumbrist narrations, as well as Juana Coscujuela' novel, A Lueca, historia d'una moceta d'o Semontano.

See also


  1. ^ People that declared that they can speak aragonese in the 2011 Spanish census.
  2. ^ a b c Aragonese at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. ^
  4. ^ Languages Act of Aragon Official Bulletin of Aragon
  5. ^ Propuesta Ortografica de l'Academia de l'Aragonés at the Wayback Machine (archived October 11, 2010)
  6. ^ Normas graficas de l'aragonés at the Wayback Machine (archived September 27, 2007)
  7. ^ Aragonese in Aljamiado literature
  8. ^ Certain orthographic details related with local speeches are not listed.
  9. ^ Francho Nagore "GRAMATICA DE LA LENGUA ARAGONESA". Mira Editores. (1989).
  10. ^ a b c d I Curso sobre lengua y literatura en Aragón: (Edad Media)
  11. ^ La vida de Santa Maria Egipciaca: a fourteenth-century translation into Old Castilian from Latin of a work by Paul the Deacon
  12. ^ Alazet: revista de filología, Número 5
  13. ^ El aragonés de la literatura aljamiado-morisca

Further reading

External links

  • [1], Catalogue of not periodical unitary publications in Aragonese.
  • Academia de l'Aragonés, Cultural association.
  • Consello d'a Fabla Aragonesa, Cultural association and language academy.
  • Ligallo de Fablans de l'Aragonés, Cultural association and language academy.
  • A.C. Nogará, Cultural association and language academy.
  • Sociedat de Lingüistica Aragonesa, Cultural association.
  • Aragonese language
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