Galician (Gallego) in Spain
Institut de Sociolingüística Catalana
Version française
Galician (Gallego) in Spain
  1. Introduction
  2. The language in the country
    1. General information on the language community
    2. Geographical and language background
    3. General history and history of the language
    4. Legal status and official policies
  3. The use of the language in various fields
    1. Education
    2. Judicial Authorities
    3. Public Authorities and services
    4. Mass media and Information technology
    5. The Arts
    6. The business world
    7. Family and social use of the language
    8. Transnational exchanges
  4. Conclusion

1. Introduction

There is no dat for this topic.

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2. The language in the country

2.1. General information on the language community

There is no dat for this topic.

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2.2. Geographical and language background

Galicia is in the far north-west of the Iberian peninsula. Since 1981 it has possessed the status of an autonomous community within Spain. Consisting of four provinces (La Coruña, Lugo, Orense and Pontevedra), it has a surface area of 29,574 km. The capital is Santiago de Compostela. In 1991, Galicia had a population of 2,720,445. The population density (92 inhabitants per km) is decidedly higher than the national average.

Another Galician-speaking area, the Franxa Exterior, is divided between the peripheral regions of Asturias and Castile-León. The population of the Franxa Exterior is about 70,000. In addition, many people of Galician origin, around 550,000 of whom are Galician speakers, live in other parts of Spain, in other European countries and in Latin America.

According to the 1991 census, over 91% of the inhabitants of Galicia are able to speak Galician. Around half of the population of the Franxa Exterior probably speak Galician. Some inhabitants of the Asturian part of the Franxa Exterior speak Asturian, also known as Bable. Knowledge of Castilian is virtually universal in both Galicia and the Franxa Exterior.

Emigration from Galicia has been going on for centuries, and between 1951 and 1975 the region registered net emigration equivalent to 17_5% of the 1950 population. The first emigrants headed for South America, then, from 1960 onwards, Galicians also began to emigrate to various European countries. The exodus was caused by a superfluity of farm labourers and the region's low level of industrialization. Immigrants, who accounted for only 6_7% of the population in 1986, are primarily Castilian-speaking civil servants and skilled workers.

Until the 1980s, Galicia experienced significant internal migrations, the effect of which was to increase the population of the more developed coastal provinces of Pontevedra and La Coruña at the expense of the rural hinterland. In 1991, 27_4% of Galicians lived in cities with over 100,000 inhabitants, while 36_5% lived in towns with populations of between 10,000 and 100,000. The region also has a vast number of small villages and hamlets.

In the Galician economy, agriculture and services are the dominant sectors. In 1990, 29% of the active population worked in agriculture or fishing, 15% in manufacturing industry, 9% in the construction industry and 41% in the service sector. Despite the increasing modernization of recent decades, farms have reduced in size and many farmers have other sources of income. Industrial activity has increased somewhat, especially in the industries related to fisheries, shipping and agriculture. Per capita income is far below the Spanish average, although the gap has been narrowing for some years.

According to the 1991 census, 2,421,102 persons above the age of three could speak Galician (91% of the total), while 1,322,937 people could read it (50%) and 923,441 were able to write it (35% of the total, and 73% of young people aged 11 to 14). With regard to use of the language, 1,459,028 (55% of the total) always communicated in Galician, 885,497 (33%) sometimes used it and 142,166 (6%) never used it.

Empirical research currently being analysed reveals that between 1,350,000 and 1,629,000 people (50 to 60% of the population) are native speakers of Galician. Among the urban population, the middle class and young people, this percentage is far lower. The discrepancy between knowledge and use is particularly striking among young people, scarcely half of those who have learned Galician at school claiming to use it habitually. The spoken language is linked to rural areas, older age groups and lower socioeconomic categories. Knowledge of written Galician, on the other hand, is more widespread among young people and those in the higher socioeconomic categories. In the towns the use of Galician has apparently been in constant decline for several years. Moreover, Galician speakers have a fairly low opinion of their own competence in Galician; according to a recent survey, only 11% considered that they spoke the language "well" or "very well".

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2.3. General history and history of the language

Galicia was an independent kingdom in the tenth and eleventh centuries and became an important place of pilgrimage (Santiago de Compostela), especially from the eleventh century. Until the mid-14th century, Galician was the language of the whole of society and of the administrative and judicial systems. Since it had no native nobility or bourgeoisie, Galicia fell under permanent Castilian domination in the 13th century. Politically marginalized within Spain, it was impoverished by the archaic social and economic structures (the last feudal privileges were not abolished until 1973). Industrial development came late and was of limited scope, and since the 17th century the demographic weight of Galicia within Spain has been steadily diminishing.

A new awareness in the 19th century resulted in the cultural rexurdimiento (rectification) and in galleguismo (political regionalism). However, the Real Academia da Lingua Galega, founded in 1904, did not manage to complete its work on the standardization of the language, but that did nothing to hinder the emergence of a significant body of literature. The system of political autonomy approved in the 1930s, which provided, among other things, for the incorporation of the Franxa Exterior, was never put into effect because of the Civil War. Like the other non-Castilian languages, Galician was subjected to rigorous repression under the Franco regime. The process of industrialization begun in the 1950s, as well as the expansion of the education system and of the Castilian-language media, facilitated the generalized penetration of Castilian, which had hitherto been slow to filter into the largely rural society of Galicia.

The autonomous government (Xunta Galega) which was constituted in 1981, adopted a number of measures designed to promote the knowledge and use of Galician, although the effectiveness of the measures is often questioned.

Galician comes from the same branch of the family of Romance languages as Portuguese. During the golden age of troubadour poetry in the 13th and 14th centuries, differences between the two languages were scarcely perceptible. Thereafter, Galician was to become the means of communication of a rural society while Portuguese was standardized on the basis of the Lisbon dialect and became the language of the royal court, and the divergences between the two were to grow ever more marked.

Modern Galician does not have dialects in the true sense but rather linguistic blocs: the eastern bloc, which includes the Franxa Exterior, and the central and western blocs. The spoken language, peppered with numerous castilianisms, shows the effects of belated and often contested standardization. The Standardization Act of 1983 finally came down in favour of the standards formulated jointly by the Real Academia Galega (RAG) and the Instituto da Lengua Galega (ILG), but the polemics between the "Lusistas" and the Galleguistas go on. In the Franxa Exterior some groups deny that the language spoken there is actually Galician.

The main recent events have been the publication of linguistic standards in 1982, the adoption of the Linguistic Standardization Act and the creation of Radio Televisión Galega (both 1983), the introduction of Galician into the education system in 1983-84 and the creation of the Directorate-General for Linguistic Policy in 1990. Numerous private organizations are also dedicated to the defence of Galician in various domains, such as the Asociación de Funcionarios para la Normalización Lingüística de Galicia (AFNLG), the Mesa para a Normalización Lingüística de Galicia (MNLG), the Asociación Sócio- Pedagóxica Galega (AS-PG), the Nova Escola Galega (NEG), the Asociación de Profesores de Lingua e Literatura (APLL), Editorial Galaxia, which has devoted itself exclusively to the publication of works in Galician since the fifties), the Asociación de Escritores en Lingua Galega (AELG), the Patronato Rosalia Castro, the Unión dos Traballadores do Ensino de Galicia (UTEG), the Confederación Xeral de Traballadores Galegos - Intersindical Nacional and the Associaçom Galega da Lingua, which is dedicated to the dissemination of Portuguese culture and the application of the Portuguese linguistic standards.

The promotion of Galician in the Franxa Exterior has been the subject of several gatherings, including two congresses (in 1989 and 1990) which called for support from the Galician Government as provided for in the Galician Linguistic Standardization Act (access to the Galician education system, means of receiving the radio and television programmes of the Galician broadcasting authority, etc.) and demanding that Madrid and the Governments of Asturias and Castile-León respect Galician language and culture and that Galician be introduced into the schools of the Franxa.

Conflicts have arisen in Galicia in recent years over the use (and non-use) of Galician in different situations - in schools, for place names, in regional and local administration, in the judicial system, etc. The Constitutional Court, consulted by the national Government, has rejected certain legislative provisions designed to promote Galician. An Asociación Gallega para la Libertad de Idioma (AGLI) is opposed to the standardization of Galician, which it sees as a threat to the status of Castilian. This discord is also fuelled by the clash between those who defend the linguistic standards adopted by the regional Government and the "Lusistas", who believe that these standards are undermining the unity of the Galician and Portuguese languages.

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2.4. Legal status and official policies

The Galician Autonomy Statute of 1981 declares Galician to be "Galicia's own language" and confers on it the status of an official language alongside Castilian, the official language of the Spanish State. The Statute grants all citizens the right to know and use Galician. The Galician Government must guarantee its use in all areas of activity and promote knowledge of it. The Statute also defines the powers of the Autonomous Community in the realm of education.

The Galician Linguistic Standardization Act of 1983 declares Galician to be the official language of the regional administration and its associated bodies. It grants citizens the right of recourse to the law to safeguard their linguistic rights. Other provisions refer to the status of Galician in education, to the promotion of Galician culture, to the media, to the use of Galician in dealings between the regional administration and the public, to its use in the judicial system and within local authorities and with regard to place names. The Real Academia Galega is named as the body responsible for setting linguistic standards. The Act provides for participation by the Galician Government in the process of linguistic standardization in the Franxa Exterior and requires it to offer cultural and linguistic services to Galician emigrants.

These two basic instruments have been applied by the Galician Government through a series of decrees and other secondary provisions. A law enacted in 1988 governs the use of Galician in municipal administrations.

Galician has no official status within the central administration. The Autonomy Statutes of Asturias and Castile-León, the communities in whose territory the Franxa Exterior lies, make no reference at all to the Galician language.

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3. The use of the language in various fields

3.1. Education

Under the Autonomy Statute, the promotion and teaching of Galician falls within the exclusive competence of the Xunta, which also has "full powers" to regulate and administer the education system. The Linguistic Standardization Act establishes the official status of Galician at all levels of education, recognizes the right of children to receive their initial education in their own mother tongue and requires the regional Government to promote the use of Galician in that domain. Galician became a compulsory part of all non-university education, and by the time they finish school pupils must have achieved equal competence in Galician and Castilian. University teaching staff and students are entitled to use the official language of their choice. The teaching of Galician became a compulsory element of adult education and teacher training. Measures are laid down to promote knowledge of Galician among the teaching profession. Various secondary provisions regulate the number of hours for which Galician is to be taught, the use of Galician as the language of instruction in certain subjects (Galician language, literature and history, social science, etc.), the place of Galician in educational administration and in the initial and in-service training of teachers, etc.

In preschool education, although the use of Galician as the language of communication is compulsory for native speakers, only about 20% of children in nursery schools actually receive most of their instruction in Galician while 44% are taught partly in Galician.

In primary school and during the first stage of secondary education (from the age of 6 to 14), between 64% and 89% of pupils are taught at least partly in Galician, according to official statistics from 1992. Galician is a compulsory subject in almost all schools. At the final stage of secondary education and in vocational training, a minority of pupils are taught mostly in Galician, while a larger minority are sometimes taught in Galician. Almost all of them learn Galician for three to four hours a week.

In higher education Galician is an official language, alongside Castilian, in the region's three universities, and candidates for the entrance examination are tested in Galician if they have been learning the language during the last four years at secondary school. Two universities offer degree courses in Galician, and these courses are conducted entirely in Galician. The introduction of Galician into university administration has made more progress than its use as a teaching medium, which varies very widely between departments and faculties. Around 10% of subjects are taught in Galician and 18_5% of students are taught at least partly in Galician, according to data for 1990-91. The lack of familiarity with written Galician among teaching staff and students is a major obstacle, but attitudes to Galician are generally favourable.

With regard to adult education, although the Linguistic Standardization Act lays down that classes in Galician are compulsory at this level, very little attention seems to be paid to this type of education.

As far as teacher training is concerned, Galician courses are compulsory for all students of colleges of education, who are also able to take a special diploma in Galician. Thanks to in-service training programmes organized by the regional Government and the universities, 23% of active teachers have attended initiation courses in Galician and 64% possess a more advanced diploma, according to statistics dating from 1989. Mastery of Galician is considerably greater among young teachers than among older ones.

In the schools of the Franxa Exterior, Galician is neither taught nor used as the classroom language. Teachers are not very familiar with written Galician.

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3.2. Judicial authorities

The Galician Autonomy Statute, the Linguistic Standardization Act and the other legal provisions enacted by the central and regional governments contain measures designed to promote the use of Galician within the judicial system: the appointment of officials with knowledge of Galician, the validity of documents and procedures, whether they are in Castilian or Galician, the right of citizens to use Galician in their dealings with the judicial authorities and to address the court in Galician, on condition that neither party objects (translation only being required if the implications of the case transcend the borders of Galicia), courses in Galician for judges, magistrates, public prosecutors and other officials, etc.

The creation of the Supreme Court of Galicia was also regarded as an important measure of decentralization.

For all that, it seems that the formal use of Galician in the judicial system remains fairly rare and that very few cases are heard in that language (except perhaps by the Supreme Court of Galicia). On the other hand, the oral use of Galician is apparently quite widespread, even among civil servants and other professional people, the linguistic proximity of Galician and Castilian making it easy to slip spontaneously into Galician without the need for any formal procedure.

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3.3. Public authorities and services

The Madrid authorities regard Galician as a cultural treasure, but the regional delegations to the national Government, like their subordinate bodies, seem to make very limited use of Galician in their dealings with the public, the existence of bilingual forms sometimes being the only acknowledgement of the existence of another language besides Castilian. Despite the legislative provisions on the matter, few measures are apparently taken to ensure that civil servants posted to Galicia are familiar with the Galician language.

As far as the regional Government is concerned, debates in the Galician Parliament are mainly conducted in Galician, and members of the Government use Galician at numerous public events. Knowledge of Galician is claimed to be a criterion for employment in the regional administration, and measures have apparently been taken to ensure that civil servants receive language training.

As for the local authorities, most of the municipalities seem to make quite frequent use of Galician, both in Council meetings and in contacts with the public. It should be emphasized, however, that this varies according to the party in power.

The use of Castilian for written notices, on its own or along with Galician, seems to predominate in most of the public services, except in the case of hospital signs, which are mainly in Galician; police stations, on the other hand, are signposted exclusively in Castilian.

The Linguistic Standardization Act grants the Xunta the right to lay down place names, with the exception of street names, which are a matter for the municipalities, and lays down that the only official name of a place is its Galician name. Galician surnames and forenames are also authorized under Spanish law.

Most road signs and public notices are currently either in Galician or in both languages. The same does not apply to shop signs, which are almost all in Castilian. Popular demand was an important factor in the restoration of traditional Galician place names.

The Linguistic Standardization Act entrusts the Real Academia Galega with the task of setting linguistic standards for the Galician language, updating linguistic rules and advising on correct usage. Numerous linguistic and terminological research studies are also undertaken at the Institut da Lingua Galega and in the Galician departments of the universities.

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3.4. Mass media and information technology

The daily press in Galicia is basically in Castilian, the Galician columns in the main dailies amounting, with few exceptions, to around 5% of the total copy. Moreover, the use of Galician is restricted to certain types of article - reviews of regional culture, articles expressing opinions, radio and television programmes, death notices, etc. Under an agreement signed in 1991, the Galician Government offers grants to newspapers and Galician press agencies with a view to raising the profile of Galician, but the results have not been spectacular. Since January 1994 a new daily paper entirely in Galician, O Correo Galego, with a circulation of 5,000 to 10,000 copies, has been appearing in newsagents' kiosks, and the creation of one or two more newspapers in Galician has been announced.

There are several weekly, monthly and quarterly magazines and journals published entirely in Galician and devoted to various topics, including culture, economics, religious life and the environment. Only one of these, the weekly news magazine A Nosa Terra, founded in 1977, has a circulation of more than 1,000 copies. Other magazines appearing at various intervals are partly written in Galician.

As for radio, only one station, Radio Galega, which is operated by the Galician broadcasting authority, broadcasts 24 hours a day in Galician to around 152,000 listeners. Two stations operated by the central broadcasting authority (Radio Nacional de España), as well as three commercial stations, broadcast programmes in Galician for a few hours per week. Around ten local radio stations broadcast entirely in Galician; others have some Galician programmes in their schedules.

Televisión Galega (TVG) transmits programmes almost entirely in Galician for about 100 hours per week and is said to have captured around 24% of the market. The programmes transmitted by one of the two channels of Televisión Española include several hours per week in Galician. The other Spanish channel only transmits in Galician in exceptional circumstances. The Galician language is totally absent from two of the three commercial channels, while the other only transmits occasional special reports in Galician. Some local television stations also offer programmes in Galician.

In the world of computers there is very little software in Galician (accounting and library- management programs), but the word-processing package WordPerfect does offer a spellcheck option in Galician (financed by the regional Government).

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3.5. The Arts

Books published in Galician, the number of which increased from 354 in 1987 to 760 in 1992, comprise mainly school textbooks, children's books, poetry, stories and novels. The number of translations of foreign works is on the increase. The publishing sector is heavily dependent on the school system, since adult readers are not very familiar with Galician in its written form. The Xunta subsidizes the publication of books and of educational aids and materials in Galician.

Galician music is demonstrating a fair degree of vitality. Dozens of singers and groups sing in Galician, mainly performing traditional music but also pop and rock numbers. Numerous recordings have been made.

Several professional and amateur drama companies stage most of their theatre productions in Galician. The professionals can obtain subsidies from the Xunta, and most of them have links with the Centro Dramático Galego, an official body established in 1984. Since 1984, the cooperative Escola Dramática Galega has played an important coordinating and animating role.

Eight full-length feature films in Galician have been made in the region since 1987. All of them have been financed by the regional Government, but their distribution on the commercial circuits has been very limited. The Xunta also offers grants for other audiovisual productions (videos, short films, etc.). The only films that are dubbed or subtitled in Galician are those transmitted by TVG.

Other cultural events include cultural tours, theatre festivals for adults and for children, an international romeria, a poetry festival and festivals of Celtic culture.

In addition, the regional Government has taken numerous measures to promote Galician culture: library, publishing and translation grants, aid for audiovisual, theatre and record production, literary prizes, grants to other bodies, including the Real Academia da Lingua Galega, etc.

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3.6. The business world

While knowledge of Galician is theoretically a prerequisite for the appointment of regional civil servants and university staff, in other sectors this criterion is not considered, except perhaps for posts which require frequent contact with the public.

Institutional advertising is mostly done in Galician. The commercials broadcast by the Galacian Government-run media is exclusively in Galician on radio and partly in Galician on television. The advertising broadcast by national State-owned channels and private channels is entirely in Castilian, like all other commercial advertising, with the possible exception of advertisements for local products or merchants and bank advert

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3.7. Family and social use of the language

In rural areas the language is passed on in the traditional manner. However, because of the depopulation of the countryside which has been taking place since the 1950s, the use of Castilian, which had been a characteristic feature of the urban population since last century, has now spread to an increasing percentage of the population. In the towns, Galician is only maintained by a minority of culturally motivated families. Research shows that only 4_5% of today's young town-dwellers claim Galician as their mother tongue, although virtually all of them understand it and over 90% can speak it. The exclusive use of Galician, according to a survey conducted in 1991, had fallen from 84_5% to 34_8% over three generations, giving way in most cases to bilingualism. On the other hand, in some urban families, the children who are learning Galician at school are "giving back" the language to their parents by a sort of inverted oral tradition; this phenomenon, however, is not sufficiently widespread to reverse the general trend. Young couples who are both native speakers will continue to communicate in Galician, and it is estimated that marriages between Galicians account for 70 to 80% of all marriages in Galicia.

In terms of age groups, the 1991 census reveals considerable increases in comprehension and oral competence among all groups with the exception of young children, which reinforces the theory that family life is becoming increasingly castilianized. On the other hand, the gulf between different age groups is widening when it comes to using the language, systematic use of Galician being only half as common among under-18s as among over-65s. The impact of schools, however, is evident, because for the first time, the continuous fall in the use of Galician has begun to reverse for the first time among the present generation of adolescents. The same group also registers the best results for knowledge of written Galician, which is likewise attributable to the education system.

The social implications of using Galician are tinged with a certain ambiguity. For some people it has negative connotations - although this attitude is probably dying out - because the use of Galician is most common, even today, among rural populations, the less-educated and people in less prestigious jobs. By contrast, over the last few years the status of Galician has risen as a result of its introduction into the media, education and administration and because of the emergence of a Galician-speaking intellectual élite; all of these factors have endowed Galician with a positive image.

Galician speakers seem to be fairly optimistic about the future of their language. While they almost unanimously believe that bilingualism will continue to prevail in Galicia, over half of them take the view that the use of Galician will increase. Almost 90% consider Galician o be as useful as Castilian. Attitudes among speakers as well as non-speakers are generally favourable to the use of Galician in numerous areas of social and public life, the best-informed people being the most favourably disposed.

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3.8. Transnational exchanges

No information was collected regarding possible supranational exchanges or on any measures taken by the Spanish Government to promote the Galician language abroad. However, the Galician Government, in accordance with the Linguistic Standardization Act, organizes courses in Galician language and culture in places in Spain and abroad where there are sizeable Galician communities, as well as competitive examinations for the appointment of lecturers in Galician language and literature to foreign universities.

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4. Conclusion

The Galician language cannot easily shake off the effects of its long rural past. As the almost exclusively oral language of a poor and ageing society, it has not taken root among the young people and in urban society, which has increased in relative importance in the wake of the rural exodus of recent decades. The Spanish authorities have confined themselves to tolerating its existence, and the effectiveness of the Galician Government seems more equivocal than the numerous measures taken to promote the language would suggest. In certain domains, such as the judicial system, the fact that the oral use of Galician is quite widely accepted appears to stem more from its linguistic proximity to Castilian than from a genuine equality of status, and its undeniably high profile in schools and in some of the communication media seems insufficient as yet to alter the general trend towards diglossia and passivity. In the Franxa Exterior the total absence of protective measures by central government and by the two regional governments concerned has helped to create an even more precarious situation.

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