"Fabra was also a man of great learning, ahead of his time, in matters
of linguistic interference, this being understood [
] as the process
of influence exerted by a socio-politically dominant language over a socio-politically
(Xavier Lamuela i Josep Murgades (1984): La teoria de la llengua literària segons Fabra, [The Theory of Literary Language according to Fabra], Quaderns Crema.).
Fabra published no books theorising on any of the fields in which he was working. Nonetheless he did leave several more or less lengthy texts setting out his general reflections on these tasks, which give us an insight into his main ideas. Most of these texts were collected together in the book El català literari [Literary Catalan] (1932), followed by another selection in 1980, Pompeu Fabra. La llengua catalana i la seva normalització [Pompeu Fabra. The Catalan Language and its Standardisation], collected and edited by Francesc Vallverdú.
The largest group of such texts is made up of articles he wrote, such as "Sobre la reforma lingüística y ortográfica" ["On linguistic and orthographic reform"] (La Vanguardia, 22 March 1892), "L'ensenyança de la llengua francesa a l'Institut de Barcelona" ["The teaching of French at the Institute in Barcelona"] (L'Avenç, 1893, under the pseudonym Esteve Arnau), "Sobre diferents problemes pendents en l'actual català literari" ["On different problems pending in current literary Catalan"] (IEC's Annual Report, 1907), "La tasca dels escriptors valencians i balears" ["The task of Valencian and Balearic writers"] (Nostra Parla, 1918) and some "Converses filològiques" ["Philological conversations"] (842 newspaper articles published between 1919 and 1928).
In second place, in terms of quantity, are his speeches and lectures. Among the former, the speech he made as chairman of the Ateneu Barcelonès, "L'obra de depuració" ["The work of purging"] (1924), and the one he made as president of Barcelona's Floral Games in 1934. Among the latter, the lecture "El català a l'escola primària" ["Catalan in the primary school"] (1933) and the one he gave at the 1935 summer school of the Escola Normal de la Generalitat de Catalunya. Finally, the "Conversa amb Pompeu Fabra" ["Conversation with Pompeu Fabra"] published by Tomàs Garcés (Revista de Catalunya, May 1926).
The following selection of writings illustrates Fabra's main ideas about the language and how it could be "purged".
"In fact, if every writer were to write in his own Catalan -[
in that of the more educated people [as used in their milieu]-, the differences
appearing in the literary language would perhaps not be, nowadays, as big
as many might think, and one is inclined to think that in times favourable
to Catalan nationality, these differences would gradually become attenuated
and that, little by little, a kind of mutual pervasion would take place between
the literary language and the language spoken in the capital - not the current
Barcelonese, but an entirely different Barcelonese, free of Castilianisms,
influenced by all the other Catalan variants, enriched and refined: the future
vernacular of the future capital of Catalonia!"
("Sobre diferents problemes pendents en l'actual català literari", 1907.). ["On different problems pending in current literary Catalan", 1907.].
"FOR THE PURITY OF THE LANGUAGE. CASTILIANISMS
The job of purging literary Catalan is, above all, one of de-Castilianisation.
[...] The Castilianisms in modern Catalan are so incalculably numerous that one can hardly even get a superficial glimpse of the language. [...]
In these daily notes we shall try and give an idea of how numerous Castilianisms are in our present-day language and thereby demonstrate the need for having such abundant recourse to archaism, assuming that we will not be satisfied with a shallow purging of the language, consisting merely of excising the most obvious Castilianisms." ("Conversa filològica" ["Philological conversation"] of 18 November 1919.).
] despite the strong influence of Castilian on modern Catalan,
the latter is still essentially a different language from Castilian. No one
of any learning could ever consider it a variant of Castilian, from which
it differs profoundly in countless phonetic and morphological traits, as well
as in syntax and vocabulary. [...] even should ["the very real deformation
that our language has suffered under the influence of Castilian "] persist,
Catalan would be far from being, in respect of Castilian, what Andalusian
or even 'bable'[Asturian dialect] is. It is not just another Spanish
dialect [...] but a language quite distinct from Castilian.
[...] if we grouped together these ["neo-Latin languages"] taking into account their similarities and differences, Catalan would not be included in the same group as Castilian, from which, because of certain very considerable phonetic and morphological traits, it differs more than any other Romance language."
("Conversa filològica" ["Philological conversation"] of 25 May 1920.)
"One person is satisfied with having a provincial tongue, a language
that, with Catalan words and forms would amount to much the same thing as
a dialectal variant of Spanish; another aspires to Catalonia having its own
truly national language, the modern language that would have evolved from
our glorious mediaeval tongue without the disturbing influence of Spanish."
("Conversa filològica" ["Philological conversation"] of 1 April 1923.)
"It is necessary to point out the optional, rather than compulsory,
nature in which a large number of innovations involving grammar are presented.
[...] in the majority of cases, substituting a customary construction by an
archaic construction is not a question of imposition but rather of giving
back to the language a construction that had been lost, or a grammatical word
that has fallen into disuse, so that, alongside the existing usage, it serves
to expand the means of expression of the language [...]"
("L'obra de depuració del català" ["The work of purging Catalan"], 1924.)
"My evolution has come to a halt and finally become confined to the
present way of addressing the problem of purging the language: it is necessary
to study the living language thoroughly [...]
[...] The grammarian alone and "a priori" can impose nothing. It is impossible to foresee and encompass every case in practice, from an office. Sometimes the solution found for a particular case may prove somewhat forceful. The grammarian, then, should not set himself up haughtily like a god who is not to be questioned, rather the contrary: he should tone down the forcefulness, and eliminate it if necessary. [ ]
I myself would not be able to set down a rule without first subjecting it to that test of efficacy. I always let our writers try it out and, in short, decide whether it is viable. However, not all writers can help me. I see them divided into three groups, of which only the third one is of any use to me: in one group are those writers, leftovers from the nineteenth-century anarchy, who [...] for convenience's sake set themselves up as defenders of their own faults. In another group, perhaps even more pernicious than the first, there are those writers who, faced with a construction or a word that seems to them an improvement in the language, do not stop to think whether or not it is viable [...]. Finally, in a third group [...] there are the intelligent, creative, emendatory writers who never neglect their responsibility.
[...] Testing, consolidated by four or five years of success, ought to become the inflexible rule. We would then be able to say: whoever does not do such-and-such, or does not do it in this particular way, is simply making a grammatical mistake. For me, it would be ideal if, thanks to this mechanism, we could reach the point that England has, without an Academy. At least we would be immune to the follies of just any grammarian."
("Conversa amb Pompeu Fabra", ["Conversation with Pompeu Fabra"] May 1926)
"The work of putting right the written language could not now [...]
be restricted only to the literary language - to the exclusion of technical
jargon, etc.- [...]
If Catalan had not moved from the area assigned to it by Milà i Fontanals [...], it could then have adopted more freely any innovation regardless of any considerations of viability within the common language [...]"
("De la depuració de la llengua literària" ["On the purging of the literary language"], 1927.)
"If we come across a serious defect in modern language, that is when [...] we must have recourse either to an archaism or a dialectalism, or even the coining of a new term [...] because, above all, we have to avoid too great a divorce between the written and the spoken language.
The acceptance of a new term by a large part of the population [...] can even make a perfectly arbitrary innovation successful, whereas an old expression that has fallen into disuse cannot strictly be considered as Catalan again without that acceptance."
("De la depuració de la llengua literària" ["On the purging of the literary language"], 1927.)
"language: Expression of one's thoughts in words; the ensemble of words
and ways of combining them used and understood by a community of people, esp.
when [sic] it has been established and elaborated by longstanding usage."
(Diccionari general de la llengua catalan, [General Dictionary of the Catalan Language], 1932)
"Literary language, differing more or less from the vernacular,
used by a cultured people in writing; language that has a literature"
(Diccionari general de la llengua catalana [General Dictionary of the Catalan Language], 1932)
"In comparing two languages we must especially bear in mind the period
of the texts compared and the dialects to which they belong. Naturally, one
must refer to the present time, and the terms of comparison should not be
borderline dialects but rather those that have crystallised into literary
languages (two writers whose language would be of use for this purpose, are
Mistral and Verdaguer). If we were to compare primitive Catalan texts with
Provençal writings of the same period, we would find similarities that
they hold in common with all the other Romance languages too."
("Desviacions en els conceptes de llengua i Pàtria", ["Deviations in the concepts of language and homeland"], 1934.)
"Language is something that is constantly evolving, that undergoes certain
changes of which we are not aware at the time but which in the long run make
that language different after a number of years. It is our job to avoid that
but if, despite all our efforts, a new form triumphs, it then becomes accepted.
All that grammarians can say is: at the moment this is right and that is wrong.
Which is why someone [Charles Bally] aptly said that the grammar mistakes
of today are the language of tomorrow."
(Miravitlles, Joan (1971). Apunts taquigràfics del Curs superior de català (1934-1935) professat per Pompeu Fabra a la Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.) [Shorthand Notes of the Advanced Level Catalan Course (1934-1935) Given by Pompeu Fabra at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.].
"[The fact of not accepting all the geographical variations] makes this
advice to teachers essential for those cases in which the form set down in
the book is not that which is customary in the dialect of their pupils. Insofar
as the former serves (parts I and II) to illustrate a definition [...], the
teacher must replace it with the form normally used by his pupils in their
speech: [...] Later, however, he must see to it that they are made aware of
the form set down in the book [...], and must explain to them that this is
the form of choice for literary language. He must then teach them which of
the dialectal forms not recorded in the book are tolerated in the literary
language and which ones are totally unacceptable [...] a teacher in Barcelona
must teach his pupils not to write nosatros but nosaltres, not
aquet but aquest, not capiguer but cabre."
(Gramàtica catalana: curs mitjà [Catalan Grammar: Intermediate Level], 1935 ed.)