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Did you know this about... Galician?

01 The Galician language –called galego– belongs to the Romance language group and it is the result of the evolution of Latin introduced by the Romans on the north west of the Iberian Peninsula in the 1st century B. C. From 9th century the language spoken on this area was so different from Latin that we can consider the existence of a new language: Galician. In any case, we must properly speak about Galician-Portuguese language, because until the 15th century both languages –Galician and Portuguese– constituted a common trunk.

02The oldest literary document we know at present is the satirical song “Ora faz ost’o senhor de Navarra”, written at the end of 1100 by Joam Soares de Pavia. One of the first non-literary document in Galician language were Noticia de Torto (1211). Middle Age was a great period in terms of literature. In fact the Galician language became the language of lyrical poetry in almost the entire Peninsula.

03At the end of this medieval period Galician and its literature went into a decadence period and was absent from written uses during a long period of three centuries –16th, 17th and 18th– called Séculos Escuros (Dark Centuries).

04 “Rexurdimento” (resurgence) is the name of Galician culture regeneration movement which took place along 19th century. Cantares Gallegos, by Rosalia de Castro, was the first work totally written in Galician language, published in 1863. The first grammars and dictionaries of Galician, essential for standardizing the language, appeared also in the 19th century.

05Consolidation of the Galician in public sphere did not take place until the early 20th century thanks to the remarkable work done by cultural and political groups interested in a recovery of Galician as literary, cultural, social and historical language. Franco's military dictatorship (1936-1975) puts a brake on that consolidation.

06The promulgation of the Statute of Autonomy of Galicia in 1981 and the adoption of the Linguistic Normalization Law instituted Galician as the own language of Galicia which “everybody has the right to know and use” and at the same time gave the regional public powers the responsibility to widespread and promote Galician in every field of the society, in particular in the administration, education and media fields.

07Nowadays Galician language geographical limits are delimited by the community of Galicia and the most western areas of the border regions of Asturias, León and Zamora. There are three dialectal subgroups of Galician (western, central and eastern subgroups).

08There are between 60 and 100 words referring to different types of rain: Babuña, babuxa, barbaña, barbuza, barrallo, barrufa, barruñeira, barruzo, borralla, breca, chuvia, choiva, chuvisca, chuviscada, chuviñada, froallo, lapiñeira, marmaña, orballo, parruma, parrumada, patiñeira, patumeira, poalla, poallada, poalleira, poallo, zarzallo, arroiada, ballón, basto, bátega, bategada, cebra, cebrina, chaparrada, chuvascada, chuvasco, chuvieira, cifra, ciobra, dioivo, treixada, xistra, zarracina, treboada, torboada, torbón, trebón, auganeve, cebrina, cebrisca, escarabana, nevada, nevarada, nevareira, nevarío, nevisca, nevarisca, pedrazo, salabreada, sarabiada, torba…

09Galicia has around 2.8 million of inhabitants, of which more than 2 million consider Galician their usual language. This high level of speakers puts Galician in an exceptional situation in comparison with other minority languages and shows its validity in every kind of communicative situations.

10The sensitizing activity of Galician use in every level of public life is directed through the Xunta de Galicia. Its main purpose is to promote the use de Galician in society by means of different spreading actions, providing the means to achieve a change into Galician (e.g. in education), fighting against the traditional prejudices and promoting positive attitudes. By law, the Royal Academy of Galician Language (Real Academia Galega), officially established on 30 September 1906, was given jurisdiction over the linguistic rules applicable to Galician in 1983.The most recent version of the orthographic and morphological rules of Galician dates back to December 2003. The rules in question unify the criteria that had been in place since 1982, when the previous version of the rules in question was approved.

What does Galician sound like? Listen Galician Public TV (Televisión de Galicia) or Galician Public Radio (Radio Galega).


We are most grateful to the members of the Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity for their support in providing the information on the Galician language for this page.

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