Catalan (in its own language: català) is a Romance language spoken in eastern Spain (Catalonia, the Valencian Country, the Balearic Islands, the extreme east of Aragon), in Andorra, in the Pyrénées-Orientales department of France, and in the city of Alghero (Sardinia, Italy). The territory of this language is called the Catalan Countries (Països Catalans).
It is the only official language of Andorra. It is official beside Spanish in the Spanish autonomous regions of Catalonia, Valencia—where Catalan is usually called Valencian (valencià)—and the Balearic Islands. It is a protected language in Alghero (Italy). It has no official recognition in France.
In his attempt to unify Spain, Francisco Franco prohibited the use of Catalan in public, and tried to suppress Catalan culture. However, there was strong reaction in the form of an underground movement to teach the language and culture to younger generations. With Franco's death, the suppression ended.
The vitality of Catalan is quite strong in Andorra and Spain, especially in the autonomous region of Catalonia, thanks to the local language policy, but Spanish remains in all cases the dominant language of those areas. Catalan is also dominated by Italian in Alghero. It has become very weak in the face of French domination in France.
The arts, especially literature and music, have continued with uninterrupted creativity in Catalan since the Middle Ages.
The main Catalan dialects are classified into a western group (Valencian, Northwestern) and an eastern group (Central, Rossellonès, Balearic, Alguerès).
Occitan is extremely similar to Catalan.