Balearic Islands

Spanish Islas Baleares

Archipelago (pop., 2001: 841,669), western Mediterranean Sea, constituting an autonomous community and province of Spain. It occupies an area of 1,927 sq mi (4,992 sq km); its capital is Palma. The most important islands are Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza, Formentera, and Cabrera. Long inhabited, the islands were ruled by Carthage in the 6th century BC, by Rome from circa 120 BC, and by the Byzantine Empire from AD 534. Raided by the Arabs, the area was conquered in the 10th century by the Umayyad dynasty at Córdoba. It was reconquered by the Spanish and united with the kingdom of Aragon in 1349. After territorial challenges in the 18th century by the British, the islands came under Spanish rule in 1802. The present-day economy is fueled by tourism.

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Balearic is the name given collectively to the group of Catalan variants spoken in the Balearic Islands, Spain. The collective term was coined by philologists, while the historic names used by the speakers themselves refer to the language as if it was local to each island, and so "Mallorquí" ("Majorcan"), "Eivissenc" ("Ibizan") and "Menorquí" ("Minorcan") may be used as alternative names.

At the last census 746,792 people in the Balearic Islands claimed to be able to speak Catalan, though some of these people may be speakers of mainland variants

Some features of Balearic:

  • Most variants of Balearic preserve a vocalic system of 8 stressed vowels :
    • The Majorcan system has 8 stressed vowels , reduced to 4 in unstressed position (→ [ə]), (→ [o]).
    • The Western Minorcan system has 8 stressed vowels , reduced to 3 in unstressed position (→ [ə]), (→ [u]);
    • The Eastern Minorcan and Ibizan system has only 7 stressed vowels reduced to 3 in unstressed position (→ [ə]) (→ [u]), just as in Central Catalan. There are differences between the dialect spoken in Ibiza Town (eivissenc de vila) and those of the rest of the island (eivissenc pagès) and Formentera (formenterer).
  • Balearic preserves a phonemic distinction between /v/ and /b/, as do Alguerese and most varieties of Valencian.
  • Balearic is the variant of Catalan that has the strongest tendency not to pronounce historical final r in any context.
  • Balearic preserves the salat definite article (derived from Latin ipse/ipsa instead of ille/illa), a feature shared only with Sardinian among extant Romance languages, but which was more common in other Catalan and Gascon areas in ancient times. However, the salat definite article is also preserved along the Costa Brava (Catalonia) and in the Valencian municipalities of Tàrbena and La Vall de Gallinera.

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