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Local denominations for the language in the Middle Ages

"Historia del pueblo valenciano" (History of the Valencian people). Fascicle 18. València. Levante-EMV. 1988. Pp. 343-344.

Sant Vicent Ferrer
Vincent Ferrer

"In an age when the great "national" states of Europe had not yet been formed and when political boundaries were frequently changed, some languages internally received different local denominations, based on the name of a certain city or political community. For their users, this was a way to highlight their telluric links, usually in front of other members of their own linguistic community that had a different political affiliation. However, when a language met its neighboring ones, its local denominations disappeared and only the unitary one was used. Dante, for example, often made references to his "Florentine language" or his native "Tuscan", while still considering himself a speaker of the "Italian language". Among the Valencians of our Golden Age there was a very similar situation. Proud of their status as citizens of an expanding country in the face of a decadent Catalonia, our ancestors preferred to name their mother tongue as "Valencian". The first writer to do so was Antoni Canals in 1395. The publication of the complete repertoire of Antoni Canals' lexicon, recently released by Emili Casanova (1988), shows that from the more than 6000 inventoried words, only 7 can be classified as Valencianisms. With the exception of some fashionable foreign words and some more or less local Arabisms, the strict Valencianisms of the well-known Valencian book "Tirant lo Blanc", published in 1490, are not much more numerous than those of Canals and, nevertheless, Joanot Martorell - the writer of "Tirant lo Blanc" - manifests in the dedication of his book that he was translating it into a "llengua vulgar valenciana, per ço que la nació d'on io só natural se'n puixa alegrar" [vulgar Valencian language, so that the nation from which I come from can rejoice]. Thus, with this new denomination, it was only a matter of time that some Valencians would proclaim specific origins. Among our 14th century texts, the diatopic nuances, if they exist, must be sought, rather than in some often debatable dialectalisms, in the preference for certain words or formal variants of the common language. However, these nuances are never as accused as those that exist, for example, between the Castillian and Andalusian varieties of Spanish. In addition to emphasizing the differential factors within the Crown of Aragon, the name "Valencian" - in both idiomatic and administrative sense - had the virtue of diluting or integrating the differences of the motley Christian population. In contrast, in international contexts, this insistence became less compelling. When the process of canonization of Vincent Ferrer (1445-1455) began, Rome required several witnesses to confirm one of the miracles that were attributed to the saint - the one that without ceasing to preach in his mother tongue, he was understood by all kinds of nations. The Archbishop of Toulouse echoed the onomastic duplicity of our language by stating that Vincent Ferrer preached "in sua vulgari idiomate Catalonie seu Valentino" [in his vulgar Catalan or Valencian language]. On the other hand, a Valencian herald just declared that Vincent Ferrer "predicabat post latinum in lingua cathalana" [preached after Latin in the Catalan language]".

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