Galician

Galician
   Galician, a Romance language closely related to Portuguese, is spoken by approximately 1.5 million inhabitants of northwestern Spain principally in the autonomous community of Galicia, but also in parts of Asturias and Castilla y León. While Galician enjoyed a rich written tradition during the Middle Ages, it was subsequently ousted by Spanish in religious and administrative life and amongst the more affluent classes of society. Spanish thus became the prestige language with the use of Galician increasingly restricted to rural areas and the home, a process which culminated in the nineteenth century when the language, like the region, became associated with backwardness and poverty. Despite a literary revival at the end of the nineteenth century (led by writers such as Rosalía de Castro) which gave rise to the founding of the Academy of the Galician Language in 1906, and a brief period when it almost achieved coofficiality with Spanish under the Second Republic, Galician had to wait for the constitution of 1978 and the Language Planning Law of 1983 to receive official protection and sponsorship.
   Despite the fact that there are two main subvarieties of Galician (the eastern, covering the provinces of Orense and Lugo and the zones of contact with Asturian and Leonese dialects, and the western, covering La Coruña and Pontevedra) differences are not significant enough to prove a barrier to the codification of a Galician standard. Rather, conflict has arisen between two views of the status of Galician: the official position held by the "isolationists" (including the Academy and the Institute of Galician Language of the University of Santiago) who seek to establish "pure" Galician norms; and the "reintegrationists" who see Galician as a subvariety of Portuguese (albeit contaminated through contact with Spanish) and therefore wish to align Galician orthography with that of Portuguese. Thus endings such as -ción, -sion or -xion are rejected by the reintegrationists on the grounds that they are calques of the Spanish -ción; they propose -çom or even the Portuguese -ção. What was initially a linguistic debate has become political as the government, parliament and main political parties have adopted the isolationist position while nationalist and radical sectors have espoused the reintegrationist cause (which does not appear to have found favour with Galician society at large). Although Galician is proportionally much more widely spoken than Basque and Catalan (with 90 percent of the population able to speak it), this may be due to low inward migration. Mainly spoken in rural areas, it is nonetheless increasingly being adopted among professional urban sectors of the population for nationalist reasons. The Galician government is not as active as its Basque or Catalan counterparts in promoting its language although it often takes its lead from them. Galician has gained in prestige in education and public administration, although a diglossic situation remains in which Spanish is still frequently seen as the prestige language to be used in the public arena. Publishing in Galician has increased significantly over recent years, Spanish-language newspapers have sections in Galician and there is a Galicianspeaking television and radio channel.
   Further reading
   - García Mouton, P. (1994) Lenguas y dialectos de España, Madrid: Arco Libros, S.L. (a clear overview of language varieties in Spain).
   - Siguán, M. (1992) España plurilingüe, Madrid: Alianza (a comprehensive study of language planning).
   MIRANDA STEWART

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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