Galician language

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Galician (Galego)
Spoken in: Spain
Region: Northwestern Spain. Also spoken in Portugal.
Total speakers: 3 to 4 million (1/2 million by emigrants in South America and Europe)
Ranking: Not in top 100
Genetic classification: Indo-European
Official status
Official language of: Spain
Regulated by: Real Academia Galega
Language codes
ISO 639-1gl
ISO 639-2glg
See also: LanguageList of languages

Galician (Galego) is a language variety of the Western Ibero-Romance branch, spoken in Galicia (in the Galician language, Galicia, that is recommended, or Galiza), an autonomous community with the constitutional status of "historic nationality" and located in northwestern Spain, and in areas in the neighbouring autonomous communities of Asturias and Castilla-León.



Historically, the Portuguese language originated in Galicia (the Roman Gallaecia) and branched out in the 14th century after the Reconquista brought it southwards. Many linguists see Modern Galician as a dialect of Portuguese. For instance, the Encyclopædia Britannica pronounces it a Portuguese dialect spoken in northwestern Spain, once often incorrectly considered a dialect of Spanish. However, neither the Galician Government nor the vast majority of the Galician people regard their language as a variety of Portuguese. After centuries of separation between the two languages, mutual comprehension can sometimes be difficult, although it is usually quite fluent.

To sum up, the relationship between the Galician-Portuguese sub-group can be compared with the relationships between Moldovan language and Romanian language.

The Instituto da Lingua Galega claims that Galego is an independent Romance language that belongs to the group of Ibero-Romantic Languages. On other hand, to the minority and unofficial Associaçom Galega da Língua, galego has never ceased to be a part of the Portuguese language, just like the Brazilian version, the African varieties, and other dialects. However, in some aspects the Portuguese dialects are more conservative than the Galician ones, which for the most part lost of the voiced fricatives /z/.

In any case, the discussions on the Galician language tend to mirror the never-ending debate in Galician society between reasserting its own identity ("isolationism") or assimilating to a bigger cultural block.

Geographic distribution

Galician is spoken by more than 3 million people: it is spoken by most of the people in Galicia as well as among the many Galician immigrants in the rest of Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Biscay), Iberoamerica (Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Havana ) and Europe (Andorra, Geneva, London).

Due to its historical situation as a non-official language, for some authors the situation of language domination in Galicia could be called "diglossia", with Galician in the lower part of the continuum and Spanish language at the top, while for others the conditions for diglossia established by Ferguson are not met.

Official status

The Spanish state recognized Galician as one of Spain's four "official languages" (lenguas españolas), the others being Castilian (also called Spanish), Catalan-Valencian, and Basque. Though this is viewed by most as a positive step toward language maintenance, officialness does not guarantee language transmission among the youngest generations.


Galician has multiple dialects, yet mutual comprehension is total.



Missing image
The vowel phonemes of Galician

Phoneme (IPA)GraphemeExample


Phoneme (IPA)GraphemeExample
/b/b and vbanco, ventá
/θ/z+a,o,u and c+e,icero, zume
/g/ or /ħ/g+a,o,u and gu+e,igalego, guerra
/k/c+a,o,u and qu+e,iconta, quente
/ʝ/ or /ʎ/llbotella
/r/r and rrrecto, ferro


More information needed.


More information needed!

Writing system

Galician orthography, introduced in 1982 (and made law in 1983) by the Real Academia Galega (based on a report by the "Instituto da Lingua Galega"). It remains a source of contention, however, as some citizens would rather have the institutions recognize Galician as a Portuguese variety and therefore opt for the use of the Portuguese writing system, perhaps with some adaptations. A revised edition was published in 2003, with some minor changes towards Portuguese.

Currently there are two different writing systems, with only one being official. The official orthography is approved by RAG (Real Academia Galega), and it is used by the official institutions, in education, and by most writers. The other version, which is oriented toward Portuguese, is called reintegrationism (reintegracionismo), and uses a written system known as maximal orthographic system (normativa de máximos ortográficos), and is promoted by AGAL (Associaçom Galega da Língua). A more radical point of view to reintegrationism is lusism (lusismo), which proposes fully to insert the Galician language into Portuguese using the same writing system and being part of the common Portuguese language community (lusofonía). Until 2003 there was one third writing system of commitment between the official system and reintegracionism, but their supporters now accept the official norm.

In both 1986 and 1990 there were meetings between all of the Portuguese-speaking countries in order to establish a spelling reform (there are some minor spelling differences between Portugal and Brazil, just as between British and American English). Galicia was invited to take part in the meetings, but the Galician government (that claims that Galician is not Portuguese) ignored the invitation. However, an unofficial commission formed by Galician linguists was sent and took part in both meetings. [1] (


From the ninth century, the language spoken in the NW of the Iberian Peninsula was so different from Latin that Latin and Galician could be already considered two separate languages. Nevertheless, written texts in Galician have only been found dating from the end of the 12th century, because Latin continued to be the cultured language not only in Gallaecia but throughout medieval Europe.

The oldest known document is the poem Ora faz ost'o Senhor de Navarra by Joam Soares de Paiva, written around 1200. The first non-literary documents in Galician date from the early thirteenth century, the Noticia de Torto (1211) and the Testamento of Afonso II of Portugal (1214), both samples of medieval notarial prose.

From the eighth century Galicia was a political unit with the kingdoms of Asturias and Leon, but was able to reach a degree of autonomy becoming an independent kingdom at certain times in the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries. Galician was the only language in oral use and Latin was used to a decreasing degree in written language. This oral unilingualism was able to exert such pressure in the thirteenth century that it led to a situation of dual official status for Galician and Latin in notarial documents, edicts, lawsuits, etc; Latin, however, continued to be the universal vehicle for culture.

In the Middle Ages, Galaico-português (or Portuguese-Galician) was a language of culture, poetry and religion throughout not only Galicia and Portugal but also Castile (where Castilian was used mainly for prose).

After the separation of Portuguese and Galician, Galician was considered provincial and was not widely used for literary or academic purposes until its renaissance in the mid 1800s.

During the rule of General Francisco Franco (himself a Galician) in Spain, the formal or written use of any language but Spanish was officially repressed (although Galician continued to be widely spoken in rural areas). This also included other languages like Basque or Catalan.

With the advent of democracy, Galician has been brought into the institutions, and it is now co-official with Spanish. Galician is taught in schools and there is a public Galician-language television. However, for the most part there has been no serious attempt on the part of the Spanish and Galician institutions to reverse language assimilation and loss.


  • Good day: Bo día (ILG-RAG) | Bom dia (AGAL/Portuguese)
  • What's your name?: Como se chama? (ILG-RAG) | Como é que se chama? (AGAL/Portuguese)
  • Excuse me: Desculpe (ILG-RAG) | Desculpe (AGAL/Portuguese)
  • Thank you: Grazas(ILG-RAG) | Obrigado (AGAL/Portuguese)
  • You're welcome: Benvida/o (ILG-RAG) | Bem-vinda/o (AGAL/Portuguese)
  • Goodbye: Adeus (ILG-RAG) | Adeus (AGAL/Portuguese)
  • Yes: Si (ILG-RAG) | Sim (AGAL/Portuguese)
  • No: Non (ILG-RAG) | Nom (AGAL) Não (Portuguese)

See Also

External links


ast:Gallegu ca:Gallec de:Galicische Sprache es:Idioma gallego eo:Galega lingvo fr:Galicien gl:Galego ia:Galego li:Galicisch nl:Galicisch no:Galisisk språk nn:Galisisk ja:ガリシア語 pl:Język galisyjski pt:Galego fi:Galego sv:Galiciska zh:加里西亞語


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