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Language policies of Francoist Spain

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Title: Language policies of Francoist Spain  
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Subject: Sociolinguistics, Jakin (magazine), Language policy, Basque Country (autonomous community), Linguistic discrimination
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Language policies of Francoist Spain

"If you are Spanish, speak in Spanish", Catalonia, 1940s. The portrait is dictator Francisco Franco.

Language politics in Francoist Spain centered on attempts in Spain under Franco to increase the dominance of the Spanish language (Castilian) over the other languages of Spain. The regime of Francisco Franco had Spanish nationalism as one of its bases. [1]

Under his dictatorship, the Spanish language (known in some parts of Spain as castellano, i.e., Castilian) was declared Spain's only official language. The public use of other languages was either banned, frowned upon or despised depending on the particular circumstances and timing, while the use of non Castilian names for newborns was forbidden in 1938, except for foreigners.[2] The situation evolved from the harshest years of the immediate afterwar (especially the 1940s, also the 1950s) to the relative tolerance of the last years (late 1960s and early 1970s); Franco died in 1975, and his successor Juan Carlos of Spain began the Spanish transition to democracy.

Previous situation

For the first time in the history of Spain, the Second Republic recognised Galician, Basque, and Catalan as official languages when it granted autonomy for some regions with a local language.

The Spanish language

As part of the nationalistic efforts:

  • Spanish films were produced only in Spanish. Foreign films were required to be dubbed.
  • Saint George) were forbidden and even forcibly replaced in official records. Only Christian names in Spanish were allowed in official documents.

In the first decade of Franco's rule, languages other than Castilian were "confined to private spaces". [1]

In the regime's most radical discourse, languages other than Spanish were often considered "dialects" in the sense of speeches that were not developed enough to be "real languages". Basque was different enough that it could not be taken as a debased form of Spanish but was despised as a rural language of limited currency, unfit for modern discourse. [3] This never happened at the academic level, though.

All these policies became less strict and more permissive as time passed.


The Press Law of Manuel Fraga Iribarne replaced the pre-publication censorship with after-the-fact punishments.

Situation by areas




Balearic Islands

Basque Country




Spanish Guinea


CA Osasuna was allowed to maintain its Basque name, unlike other football teams with non-Spanish names.

Spanish North Africa

Valencian Community


See also

External links

  • Cronologia de la repressió de la llengua i la cultura catalanes ("Chronology of the repression of Catalan language and culture", in Catalan with Spanish quotations).
  • Ministerio de la Gobernación (Gazeta of 17 May 1940) (CCITT T.& G4 Facsimile TIFF). Order of 16 May 1940 forbidding the use of generic foreign terms in lettering, samples, advertisements, etc.


  1. ^ a b Sebastian Balfour, "Spain from 1931 to the Present", in Spain: a History, edited by Raymond Carr. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 0198206194. (p. 266).
  2. ^ Mariño Paz, Ramón (1998). Historia da lingua galega (2. ed.). Santiago de Compostela: Sotelo Blanco. p. 353.  
  3. ^ Colin Baker, Sylvia Prys Jones, Encyclopedia of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education, (1998), Multilingual Matters (pp. 285-6).
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