The Aragonese Dialect (Aragonés)


Basic History

The Northern area of Aragón was largely dominated by pre-Roman division such as the Basques, the ‘cerretanos’ and other tribes although further to the South there was less linguistic diversity and more interaction between valleys and villages etc. In 1076, it annexed Navarra. In 1118 the Pyreneen Reino was invaded by the Francos who brought with them their own dialect and were clearly to have a considerable impact on the habla of the region. However in 1137, marriage Aragón united with Castile, and it went on to incorporate (12th-15th centuries) areas like Valencia and Majorca as well as several French fiefdoms, thus introducing a wide variety of linguistic influences. At that time Latin was the only ‘official’, written language and the people spoke a wide variety of local dialects called ‘Latin vulgar’.


It is not until the 12th Century that any texts are written entirely in romance and between then and the 13th Century, Menéndez Pidal and Lapesa maintain that there was a "propensión espontánea del dialecto". This was strengthened by Catalán and other outside influences.


It left several distinct dialectical traits:


eg. ‘caballeru’ not ‘caballero’


eg. ‘arrigo’ (río)


eg. ‘spuanna’ pronounced ‘sponda’



In the 11th and 12th Centuries these were constantly shifting trends, especially in the case of the apocope of the final vowel. In around 1436, records began to kept of tolls paid to the kingdom which provide considerable linguistic information.


Can identify several features of language at that time:



After this stage ‘castellanización’ of the region was rapid although influences from Catalan and France were still present.

Specific linguistic differences between Standard Spanish and the Aragonese dialect

  1. Phonological
  1. Loss of "esdrújulo" (dactylic) accents; the word is not accented on the antepenultimate syllable, as in Spanish. Eg:
  2. -cáñamo ("hemp") in Spanish becomes cañámo

    -hígado ("liver") becomes higádo.

  3. The sound "s" is used in place of the sound "j" in Spanish. Eg:
  4. -tejedor becomes tisidor

    -madeja becomes madesa

    "S" can also replace the "g" sound:

    -gente becomes sen.

    The "j" or "g" sounds can also be commonly replaced by the sound "ch":



    (See Alvar pg. 278 and Zamora Vicente, pg. 223).

  5. The dipthong of UO is scarce, but both books cite:
  6. -ardilla-esquirguollo


    Alvar also states that UA is very scarce:



    The dipthong IA is heard where one would normally hear an "e":



    However, the dipthong IE is still frequently seen, mainly in the suffix –iello/a:



    There is, according to Alvar, survival of the dipthongation of the short vowel "o" into "ue":



    There is also dipthongation of "e" in its own into "ie", examples seen in the verb forms:

    -tiengo, retienga, devienga etc (see Zamora Vicente, pg. 218).

  7. The apocope (shortening or removal) of the final vowels "e" is frequent; Zamora Vicente states that "e" is in fact lost in nearly all of the living dialect: noche-nuey (pg.219).
  8. There are discrepancies in the removal of the final vowel "o": "La o se comporta en Aragonés de modo mal definido. Entre el catalán que la elimina, y el castellano que la conserva, el aragonés parece la zona de tránsito natural" (Zamora Vicente, pg.219-20).
  9. Examples of the removal of "o" after the consonant "l":



    Examples of the removal of "o" after the consonant "n":



  10. In terms of consonants at the beginning of a word, "f" is conserved, and Alvar describes it as "…rasgo distintivo del dialecto" (pg.278). Examples: ferrar, filo, foyo. According to him, "rasgos esporádicos de su conservación se puedan encontrar en muchísimas partes" (pg. 279).
  11. The conservation of pl, cl and fl is also very common:
  12. -plover



    In Ribagorza, pl, cl and fl can become pll, cll and fll; for example the verb "plloure" seen in the east of Huesca.

  13. The maintaining of intervocal voiceless plosive consonants ("las consonantes oclusivas sordas intervocálicas") is described by Zamora Vicente as "Quizá el rasgo más destacado y expresivo de las hablas aragonesa pirenaicas" (pg.227). Examples:
  14. -grietas-crepazas (p)



    Indeed, "p" appears to replace the Castilian "b"- cabeza-capeza, "t" replaces "d"- ayudar-ayutar, and "c" replaces "g"-murciélago-murciacálo.

  15. The evolution of ll to rd is, according to Alvar, directly linked to the evolution of rr to rd. Rr changing to rd is described by Zamora Vicente as being "típicamente pirenaico", and was probably influenced by the Iberian change of the Basque "ezquerra" into "izquierda".
  1. Ll can replace "j". Examples:



Ll can also replace "ch": -cuchara-cullar.

  1. Morphological
  1. Regarding the gender of words, Alvar states (pg.284) that a word kept the same gender that it was given in Latin, giving the examples la fin, la val, la salz.
  2. Adjectives in the feminine are generally distinguished with an "a" (even if the adjective is actually invariable). Examples:
  3. -libre-libra


  4. Masculine adjectives can be distinguished with an "o":
  5. -triste-tristo


  6. In the pluralization of nouns we see a characteristic influenced, according to Zamora Vicente, by the repopulation of the Valle del Ebro by the French and then later by the Catalan dynasty (pg.248). This is the removal of the final vowel so that the word ends in a consonant (as in Catalan)- with an "s" added on the end to make the word plural; thus ending the word on two consonants:
  7. -aulagas-allagons



    When a word ends in "t" and would be "ts" in the plural, the dialect changes this to a "z" instead:



  8. The possessives used in medieval times were lur and lor, the former being more frequent as it was in force in Castilian.
  9. The ancient language seen in texts of the 1300’s used the demonstrative ço. These same texts also show the forms eiso, exe, eixa, eixo which have, according to Zamora Vicente, been turned into the "present" forms ise, isa, iso, isos, isas; used in the region from Ansó to Benabarre.
  10. The variants esa, eso are used further in the south. In Benasque in the North, there is also astó, asó and alló, and in Bielsa there is ise, ises, isa, isas.

  11. The articles lo and o occupy coinciding areas and are in conflict with the Castilian el. Lo appears in el Aragón Subordan, Tena, Buesa and Campo de Jaca; o appears in Ansó, Jaca, Guara and Somontano. Between the river Esera and the River Noguera Pallaress there is a region that uses the article el, and Alvar points out the existence of lu, le, el and er in the area closest to France. There also exists the forms ro, ra, ros, ras, and the form es, in the area of the Ribagorza, Campo and Bielsa.
  12. In terms of verbs, there appears to be many differences in the forms of the perfect tense. The -ar conjugation had in the past a "vulgar" perfect whose paradigm was pagué,-es,-ó,-emos,-estes,-oron; this appeared to evolve into the present form compré,-és,-ó,-emos,-éis,-ón. The -er and -ir conjugations follow the form vendié,-iés,-ié,-iemos,-iez,-ieron. As regards the imperfect tense, the most important point is the use of the letter "b"; cantaba, teneba, partiba.
  1. Lexical
  1. The vocabulary presents, in the northerly regions of Aragón, a survival of the Basque forms, such as:


-rastra, trineo-esturraz.

The Aragonese Language

It is principally an oral language and is largely confined to the high valleys of the Pyrenees, as shown in the map below. The only towns to have over 1,000 speakers are Sabiñánigo and Graus.


There are 11,000 active speakers – of whom 500 are elderly monolinguals

20,000 people use it as a second language

(Based on 1989 survey ‘El aragonés hoy’)


It is protected indirectly in the Estatuto de Autonomía de Aragón, artículo 7:


"las diversas modalidades lingüísticas de Aragón gozarán de protección

como elementos integrantes de su patrimonio cultural e histórico".


This refers not only to the Aragonés of the high Pyreness but also to the Catalán of the Franja (the border area between Cataluña and Aragón) which is spoken by around 40,000 people.


Attempts were made in the 1960s to revitalise the language and normalise its written use but they were met with scant support or interest. However in 1976 the ‘Consell da Fabla Aragonesa’ was established (in Huesca) which has managed to make some progress in improving awareness and has organised courses for ‘alphabetización’. The normalised written standard is only slowly being accepted.


There are 5 magazines and 6 local organisations which operate in and around Huesca but there is little presence elsewhere and only a small amount of information available on the internet. Road signs are in Aragonés in the high Pyrenees around Huesca. However Aragonés has not been adopted as a cause by any political party.


There are four variants of Aragonés spoken in Aragón, as well as Catalán and Castilian. The map below shows the six main zones. The Eastern and Central varieties form the basis for the written standard that has been developed.


Below is a guide to some of the differences between the varieties of the language:

Zone 1 = Western Aragonés the articles used are ‘o’ and ‘a’ / ‘lo’ and ‘la’

the participles are ‘–au’ and ‘–iu’

Zone 2 = Central Aragonés the articles used are ‘o’ and ‘a’ / ‘lo’ and ‘la’

the l is pronounced with an ‘/r/ simple’ – for example:

'lo' pronounced 'ro' and 'la' as 'ra'

the participles are ‘-ato’ and ‘-ito’

Zone 3 = Eastern Aragonés the articles are ‘el’, ‘la’, ‘es’ and ‘las’

the participles are ‘-au’ and ‘-iu’

the final ‘r’ is lost in pronunciation – for example:

'fe' instead of 'fer'

the initial ‘l’ is palatized - ‘pl’, ‘fl’ and ‘cl’ for example:

‘plorar’ is pronounced ‘pljorá’ (NB: loss of final ‘r’)

Zone 4 = Meridian Aragonés the articles are ‘o’ and ‘a’

the participles are ‘-au’ and ‘-iu’

the most castilianised version of all the variants

Zone 5 = Catalán speaking Franja Zone 6 = Castilian speaking area