Catalan (/ˈkætəlæn/; autonym: català [kətəˈɫa] or [kataˈɫa]) is a Romance language named for its origins in the region of Catalonia, in what is nowadays northeastern Spain and adjoining parts of France. It is the national and only official language of Andorra, and a co-official language of the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and the Valencian Community (where it is also known as Valencian). It also has semi-official status in the city of Alghero on the Italian island of Sardinia. It is also spoken with no official recognition in parts of the Spanish autonomous communities of Aragon (La Franja) and Murcia (Carche), and in the historic French region of Roussillon/Northern Catalonia, roughly equivalent to the department of Pyrénées-Orientales.
Catalan evolved from common Latin around the eastern Pyrenees in the 9th century. During the Low Middle Ages it saw a golden age as the literary and dominant language of the Crown of Aragon, and was widely used all over the Mediterranean. The union of Aragon with the other territories of Spain in 1479 marked the start of the decline of the language. In 1659 Spain ceded Northern Catalonia to France, and Catalan was banned in both states in the early 18th century. 19th-century Spain saw a Catalan literary revival, which culminated in the language being officially recognized during the Second Spanish Republic in 1931. However, the Francoist dictatorship (1939-1975) banned the language again.
Since the Spanish transition to democracy (1975–1982), Catalan has been recognized as an official language, language of education, and language of mass media, all of which have contributed to its increased prestige. There is no parallel in Europe of such a large, bilingual, non-state speech community.
Compared to other Romance languages, Catalan dialects feature relative uniformity, and are mutually intelligible. They are divided into two blocks, Eastern and Western, differing mostly in pronunciation. The terms "Catalan" and "Valencian" (respectively used in Catalonia and the Valencian Community) are two names for the same language. Standard Catalan, a variety accepted by virtually all speakers, is regulated by the Institute of Catalan Studies (IEC).
Catalan shares many traits with its neighboring Romance languages. However, despite being mostly situated in the Iberian Peninsula, Catalan shows greater differences with Ibero-Romance (Spanish, Portuguese) in terms of vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar than it does with Gallo-Romance (French, Italian, Occitan, etc.) These similarities are most notable with Occitan. (from Wikipedia)