The sociolinguistics, the scientific discipline that studies on the language and his relations with the society, is very complex in the case of the leonese. The presence of the leonese in the daily situations is extremely abundant, but the true conscience of the speakers varies enough.
After more than 130 years than the first work on the leonese saw the light, the answer of the leonese society, but particularly of the scientific community, was and is very poor.
In all century XIX the investigations about leonese language were very few and of partial vision on a part of the leonese area. The little investigations or existing tests at that time conceived the language like something particular, only and exclusive of the region, region or scope of study without relation some with the other places of the dominion, staying as mere dialects of Castilian or the Latin archaisms without evolving in language. The studies of leonese in Miranda, in their great majority made pro Vasconcellos, also treated to the language as something own and were even catalogued of dialect of the Portuguese with characteristics of the Castilian. Such situation developed a concept of dialectic, archaic and marginating over leonese to simple local modisms of people with low culture. It was, in summary, a partial and dialectized vision of the language.
The work of Menéndez Pidal, published in 1906, was necessary, so that the scientific community had a general vision of the leonese as a whole, as thus the own author denounces: “I create, in addition, of scientific utility presenting/displaying forming a set certain dialectales particularitities of all these regions, that until now had been watched like isolated or independent, to make see in which it can be reached today, the relative leonine unit of the modern one, specially of the West, from Miranda to Luarca. The Asturian ones usually watch their bable one like very peculiar thing, almost exclusive of them; on the contrary a zamoran or salmantin will think that the vulgar speech of its earth is Castilian, sometimes badly spoken, without thinking that in her there is rest of dialecto of origin and evolution different from the Castilian, and, finally, the language of Miranda is considered like Portuguese. All this is explained by lack of a picture of set of leonese dialect”. (El Dialecto Leonés - Menéndez Pidal)
With this introduction, Pidal creates and developes the first general vision of the linguistic dominion with philologic criterion, establishing main the phonetic characteristics of our language.
Nevertheless Menéndez Pidal continues considering the leonese like dialect. At the time, a language was so when it had officiality, great literary tradition and a high social prestige. So all the peninsular languages were considered dialectos, aside from Castilian and the Portuguese. This old fashioned vision still follows in enough linguists and investigators, going against which they say thousands of studies. For that reason it is not rare to hear to filólogos say that the leonese is dialect arguing any own principle of other times and not of scientific realities or criteria. In this sense, the official definition of the Spanish scientific community on the leonese language is “a set of dialects that are spoken or spoke in the territory of the Old Kingdom of Leon”. Also the leonese like “the spoken variety of the Castilian in leonese territory” is conceived.
Words with leonese roots that were incorporated to the Castilian lexicon, in addition being made spanish in writting and phonetic results are frequents. Thus terms (between parenthesis the made spanish writting) like abinare (abinar), feixe (feje), abondare (abondar), gabuzu (gabuzo), conceyu (concejo), llomba (lomba / loma), amiruéndanu (meruéndano)… until more than 250 words than are incorporated to the official dictionary of RAE as patrimonial words of the Castilian, peculiarly of massive way from the studies on the leonese language that were appearing in first half of century XX motivated by the “discovery” of Pidal.
Own official dictionary of the Castilian, the DRAE, gathers like “leonese” definition of in his seventh meaning, this: “adj. It is said of the spoken variety of the Castilian in leonese territory.“.
Later governments did not do more than to follow the trajectory of loss of prestige of the leonese, puting in a corner it to the degree of very vulgar speech of the rural world. Nor so at least leonesists movements or parties did nothing on the leonese, in good part by a scientific community that never showed interest beyond the linguistic curiosity. The cases are saved of the mirandesa variant, considered like coofficial in this part of present Portugal. The last reform of the statute of autonomy of the community of Castilla and Leon includes leonese like patrimonial part, fixing the necessity to regularize its use and promotion. Also the actions developed by the political party are significated, such as Union del Pueblo Leonés (UPL), that does a clear bet by the leonese language supporting classes, courses, investigation projects and bilingual public documentation, that approach and renormalizate the situation of our language in the society. Their youthful section, Conceyu Xoven, are those that work more in this work, being pioneering in very many political and reivindicativos aspects in the subject of the leonese language. Today, the leonese language has degree of coofficialty in Portugal (Tierra de Miranda) and of recognition like patrimonial part in the community of Castile and Leon.
The obligatory education system imposed discriminatory criteria against the leonese, even punishing physically the children who said to words or leonese expressions so at least. Some pedagogical information on the leonese territory affirmed almost at the beginning of century XX that the illiteracy degree was very high, of 95% of the population, and that this illiteracy promoted that people “spoke bad” with “incultured” expressions. In order to solve it, the educative system established the rates of alphabetization in Castilian in 98%. With it, the leonese language would be reduced to the own thing of the illiterate ones that before was expressed thus. Studies like the facts by the Spanish scholar Fritz Krüger on the vitality of the leonese language, more concretely in the province of Zamora, contribute so significant data because the leonine one in the city of Zamora practically lexical rest and some grammar construction were exterminated like majority code of communication in the last decade of century XIX “having left solely that remarca the leonine inheritance” (Fritz Krüger, Contribución a la Geografía Léxica del nororeste de la Península, 1957). If the scientific community does not investigate it and it discredits it or it considers as you speak local or dominant part of the official language, and at administrative level as soon as gestures directed to the development and re-prestige become of the leonese, hardly the leonese society can show to interest in its maintenance or learning. Nevertheless it seems that the last developed movements cultural associations and particularly by the leonese nationalism favorable not only in recoverying the language but of its officiality, give results that are translated in the will and desire to learn leonese.