Alex De Lusignan Fan Moniz


Galician, one of Spain’s minority languages has existed for as long as Spanish, at least. Galician-Portuguese was a completely formed language with broadly homogenous written and spoken norms until two slightly different branches gradually emerged: Galician and Portuguese, starting in the thirteenth century. While Portuguese evolved and became one of today’s languages spoken across the world, Galician was confined and relegated to a regional vernacular, spoken in the province of Galicia and fringes of Asturias, in the Northwesternmost corner of Spain, bordering with Portugal. From the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries, Galician ceased to exist in the written form and when it reappeared, it had adopted the Spanish norms. It was only in the 1980’s modern Spain and its accession to the EEC (now EU), that Galician finally (re)gained the status of official minority language in coexistence with the national language, Spanish or Castilian. Yet, whilst enjoying the official status protection from the Spanish State and fostered by the Council of Europe in terms of corpus and policy planning, education, usage in the press, media all aimed at revitalisation, Galician has not only been losing status and being eroded in an ever shifting diglossia relationship with Spanish, but also lost L1 speakers in the past forty years, and younger generations are more and more likely to either speak Galician as L2 or worse, chose not to speak it at all. This situation presents a contradiction and is the cause of conflict between different factions of Galician speakers, the Galegofalantes. Why and how can it be that a language which was repressed for over four hundred years, starts declining precisely after it was given official support? What factors played or are still at play in the steady decline and erosion of Galician? A study into historical, social, economic, cultural, regional, and international factors, events and particularly politically motivated Language Planning Policies can partly explain the precariousness of the Galician language. The last forty years and particularly the new Millenium and the Internet, brought in fast-paced global changes with significant technological advances often requiring adaptation, and sometimes disintegration of traditional socio-cultural communities. The timing was unfavourable towards Galician, aided by consistent nationalist glottopolitics, the planned syntactic corpus fostered by the successive regional governments and most local authorities, led to further deterioration and stagnation of Galician whilst galvanising further lexical and semantic influx of Spanish into the Galician language. Access to education, libraries, study materials, publications, research tools on the Internet is often available in Spanish only. Higher education and academia are dominated by Spanish, as are public services, institutions, the judicial system, mass-media and communication at all levels in everyday life. Some Galicians are happy with the pro-Spanish language norm also known as Isolationism, seemingly oblivious of the language-shift and replacement even in remote, rural societies. Others demand a Galician spelling much closer to Portuguese, her natural sibling and see the official re-unification, or Reintegrationism, with the Lusophone world as the only way to save Galician from an impending death. With deep-rooted divisions and conflicts, a compromise between Isolationists and Reintegrationists seems unlikely, except if there is markedly political change and with that a reversed language shift will take place.

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minoritized languages, European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, Portuguese dialects, language planning and policy, diglossia, glottopolitics, linguistic corpora, Galician, language death

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