Galician language

Not to be confused with Galatian language or Gallaecian language.
"Galego" redirects here. For the creation myth from Bugis, Indonesia, see Sureq Galigo. For the type of primate, see Galago.
Pronunciation [ɡaˈleɣo̝]
Region Galicia and adjacent areas in Asturias and Castile and León
Native speakers
2.4 million (2012)[1]
58% of the population of Galicia are L1 speakers (2007)[2]
Early forms
Galician alphabet (Latin script)
Galician Braille
Official status
Official language in

Galicia (Spain)

Official regional language. Decades of development as language of literature, including poetry and essays for all levels of education. Growing sense of ethnic identity.[3]
Regulated by Royal Galician Academy
Language codes
ISO 639-1 gl
ISO 639-2 glg
ISO 639-3 glg
Glottolog gali1258[4]
Linguasphere 51-AAA-ab

Distribution of the various dialects of Galician in Spain and the extreme north of Portugal.

Galician (/ɡəˈlɪʃən/ or /ɡəˈlɪsi.ən/; galego [ɡaˈleɣʊ]) is an Indo-European language of the Western Ibero-Romance branch. It is spoken by some 2.4 million people, mainly in Galicia, an autonomous community located in northwestern Spain, where it is official along with Spanish. The language is also spoken in some border zones of the neighbouring Spanish regions of Asturias and Castile and León, as well as by Galician migrant communities in the rest of Spain, in Latin America, the United States, Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe.

Modern Galician is part of the West Iberian languages group, a family of Romance languages that includes the Portuguese language, which developed locally from Vulgar Latin and evolved into what modern scholars have called Galician-Portuguese. Dialectal divergences are observable between the northern and southern forms of Galician-Portuguese in 13th-century texts but the two dialects were similar enough to maintain a high level of cultural unity until the middle of the 14th century, producing the medieval Galician-Portuguese lyric. The divergence has continued to this day, producing the modern languages of Galician and Portuguese.[5]

The lexicon of Galician is predominantly of Latin extraction, although it also contains a moderate number of words of Germanic and Celtic origin, among other substrates and adstrates, having also received, mainly via Spanish, a number of nouns from the Arabic of Al Andalus.

The language is officially regulated in Galicia by the Royal Galician Academy. However, independent organisations, such as the Galician Association of Language and the Galician Academy of the Portuguese Language, include Galician as part of the Portuguese language, as the Galician-Portuguese variant.

Classification and relation with Portuguese

Map showing the historical retreat and expansion of Galician (Galician and Portuguese) within the context of its linguistic neighbours between the year 1000 and 2000

Modern Galician and its sibling, Portuguese, originated from a common medieval ancestor designated variously by modern linguists as Galician-Portuguese (Mediaeval Galician, Medieval Portuguese, Old Galician or Old Portuguese). This common ancestral stage developed in the territories of the old Kingdom of Galicia, which covered the territories of modern-day Galicia and northern Portugal. In the 13th century it became a written and cultivated language.[6] In the past Galician and Portuguese formed a dialect continuum. For many scholars this continuum still exists today at the level of rural dialects.[7][8][9] Others point out that modern Galician and Portuguese have diverged to such an extent during the past seven centuries that they now constitute two closely related but separate languages.[10]

Historically, the Galician-Portuguese language originated from Vulgar Latin as a Western Romance language in the lands now in Galicia, Asturias and northern half of Portugal, which belonged to the mediaeval Kingdom of Galicia, itself comprising approximately the former Roman territory of Gallaecia as modified during the two centuries of the Suevic Kingdom of Galicia. The standards of the language began to diverge in the 14th century, as Portuguese became the official language of the independent kingdom of Portugal and its chancellery, whilst Galician was the language of the scriptoria of the lawyers, noblemen and churchmen of the Kingdom of Galicia, then integrated in the crown of Castile and open to influence from Castilian language, culture, and politics. During the 16th century the Galician language stopped being used in legal documentation, becoming de facto an oral language, with just some use in lyric, theatre and private letters.

The linguistic status of Galician with respect to Portuguese is controversial, and the issue sometimes carries political overtones. There are linguists who deal with modern Galician and modern Portuguese as norms or varieties of the same language.[11] Some authors, such as Lindley Cintra, consider that they are still co-dialects of a common language, in spite of superficial differences in phonology and vocabulary, while others, such as Pilar Vázquez Cuesta, argue that they have become separate languages due to major differences in phonetics and vocabulary usage, and, to a lesser extent, morphology and syntax.[7][12] Fernández Rei in 1990 stated that the Galician language is, with respect to Portuguese, an ausbau language, a language through elaboration, and not an abstand language, a language through detachment.[13]

With respect to the external and internal perception of this relation, for instance in past editions of the Encyclopædia Britannica, Galician was defined as a Portuguese dialect spoken in northwestern Spain. However, most Galician speakers do not regard Galician as a variety of Portuguese, but as a different language, as modern Galician evolved without interruption and in situ from Mediaeval Galician.

Mutual intelligibility (estimated at 85% by Robert A. Hall, Jr., 1989) is very high between Galicians and Portuguese.[1]

On the 20th of October 2016, the city of Santiago de Compostela, the capital of Galicia, approved by unanimity a proposal to become an observer member of the Union of Portuguese-Speaking Capitals (UCCLA).[14]

On the 1st of November 2016, the Council of Galician Culture (Consello da Cultura Galega) was admitted as a consultative observer of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP).[15]

Opposing views

Vindel's parchment, containing music and lyrics of several 13th-century cantigas by Martin Codax

The official position of the Galician Language Institute is that Galician and Portuguese should be considered independent languages. The standard orthography is noticeably different from that of Portuguese, partly because of divergent phonological features, and partly due to the use of Spanish (Castilian) orthographic conventions, which ignore many proper Galician features, like open and close vowels, which do not exist in Spanish.

The official institution regulating the Galician language, backed by the Galician government and universities, the Royal Galician Academy, claims that modern Galician must be considered an independent Romance language belonging to the group of Ibero-Romance languages and having strong ties with Portuguese and its northern dialects.

However, the Associaçom Galega da Língua (Galician Association of the Language) and Academia Galega da Língua Portuguesa (Galician Academy of the Portuguese Language), belonging to the Reintegrationist movement, support the idea that differences between Galician and Portuguese speech are not enough to justify considering them as separate languages: Galician is simply one variety of Galician-Portuguese, along with Brazilian Portuguese; African Portuguese; the Galician-Portuguese still spoken in Spanish Extremadura, Fala; and other dialects.

Political implications

Due to the history of both languages and of both territories, the relationship involving Galician and Portuguese can be compared with that between Macedonian and Bulgarian, Aromanian with Romanian, Occitan and Catalan.

These contrasting attitudes have distinct political implications. Considering Galician as an independent language reduces contact with Portuguese culture, leaving Galician as a minor language with less capacity to counterbalance the influence of Spanish, the only official language between the 18th century and 1975. On the other hand, viewing Galician as a part of the Lusophony, whilst not denying its own characteristics (cf. Swiss German), shifts cultural influence from the Spanish domain to the Portuguese. Although it is difficult to clarify the political positions of those who favour one view or the other, the vindication of Galician as an independent language is generally associated with more conservative political thought linked to certain Spanish political and administrative structures. Some scholar authors describe the situation as properly a continuum, from the Galician variants of Portuguese in one extreme to the Spanish language in the other (which would represent the complete linguistic shift from Galician to Spanish); reintegrationist points of view are closer to the Portuguese extreme, and so-called isolationist ones would be closer to the Spanish one.[16]

Galician is spoken by some three million people, including most of the population of Galicia and the numerous Galician communities established elsewhere, in Spain (Madrid, Barcelona, Biscay), in other European cities (Andorra la Vella, Geneva, London, Paris), and in the Americas (New York, New Jersey, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Havana, Caracas, Mexico City, São Paulo, Managua, Guadalajara, Veracruz City, Panama City).

Galician is today official, together with the Spanish (Castilian) language, in the autonomous community of Galicia, where it is recognized as the autochthonous language (lingua propia), being the first language of the local administrations and governments. It is taught bilingually, alongside Castilian, in both primary and secondary education. It is also used at the three universities established in Galicia, having also the consideration of official language of the three institutions. Galician has also legal recognition in the Bierzo region in León, and in four municipalities in Zamora. The other languages with official status elsewhere in Spain are Castilian (also called Spanish), Catalan (or Valencian), Basque and Aranese. Galician has also been accepted orally as Portuguese in the European Parliament, having been used by some Galician representatives, among others: José Posada, Camilo Nogueira and Xosé Manuel Beiras.

Controversy exists regarding the inclusion of Eonavian (spoken in the western end of Asturias, bordering Galicia) into the Galician language, as it has some traits in common with Western Asturian or bable occidental (spoken in the middle west of Asturias). There are those defending these linguistic varieties as dialects of transition to the Astur-Leonese group on the one hand, and those defending it as clearly Galician varieties on the other. The recent edition of the cartularies of Oscos in Eonavia and cartularies of Obona, Cornellana, Corias and Belmonte in middle west of Asturias have shown a huge difference in the medieval speech between both banks of the Navia river.[17][18][19] An examination of the old documents of the Eonavian monastery of Oscos, written from the late 12th to early 14th century to 16th century, shows a clear identification of this language with the Galician-Portuguese linguistic group; whilst contemporary parchments elsewhere in Asturias are written in Castilian (i.e. Spanish).[20] The two most important traits of those commonly used to tell apart Galician-Portuguese and Asturian-Leonese varieties are the preservation of the mid-open vowels /ɛ/ and /ɔ/, which became diphthongs in Asturian-Leonese, and the loss of intervocalic /n/, preserved in the latter language.[21]


One of the oldest legal charters written in Galician, the constitutional charter of the Bo Burgo (Good Burg) of Castro Caldelas, 1228
Excerpt of medieval Galician poetry (with English translation)

Porque no mundo mengou a verdade,
punhei um dia de a ir buscar;
e, u por ela fui nom preguntar,
disserom todos: «Alhur la buscade,
ca de tal guisa se foi a perder,
que nom podemos en novas haver
nem já nom anda na irmaindade.»

Because in the world the truth has faded,
I decided to go a-searching for it
and wherever I went asking for it
everybody said: 'Search elsewhere
because truth is lost in such a way
such as we can have no news of it
nor is it around here anymore.'

Airas Nunes (B 871, V 455. 13th century)

Further information: Galician-Portuguese
Mediaeval Galician inscription in a 14th-century house, in Noia: "ESTAS CASAS MANDOU FAZER VASCO DA COSTA, ERA DE MCCCLXXVII" These houses were ordered by Vasco da Costa, era 1377 (1339 AD)

Latinate Galician charters from the 8th century onward show that the local written Latin was heavily influenced by local spoken Romance, yet is not until the 12th century that we find evidences for the identification of the local language as a language different from Latin itself.[22] During this same 12th century we can find full Galician sentences being inadvertently used inside Latin texts, whilst its first reckoned use as a literary language dates to the last years of this same century.[23][24]

The linguistic stage from the 13th to the 15th centuries is usually known as Galician-Portuguese (or Old Portuguese, or Old Galician) as an acknowledgement of the cultural and linguistic unity of Galicia and Portugal during the Middle Ages, as both linguistic varieties differed only in dialectal minor phenomenons, and were considered by the contemporary as just one language.

This language flourished during the 13th and 14th centuries as a language of culture, developing a rich lyric tradition of which some 2000 compositions (cantigas, meaning 'songs') have been preserved—a few hundreds even with their musical score—in a series of collections, and belonging to four main genres: love songs, where a man sings for his ladylove; cantiga de amigo, where a woman sings for her boyfriend; crude, taunting, and sexual songs of scorn; and religious songs.[25]

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-Portuguese date from the early 13th century, the Noticia de Torto (1211) and the Testamento of Afonso II of Portugal (1214), both samples of medieval notarial prose.

Its most notable patrons—themselves reputed authors—were king Dom Dinis in Portugal, and king Alfonso X the Learned in Galicia, Castile and León, who was a great promoter of both Galician and Castilian Spanish languages. Not just the kings encouraged literary creation in Galician-Portuguese, but also the noble houses of Galicia and Portugal, as being an author or bringing reputed troubadours into one's home became a way of promoting social prestige; as a result many noblemen, businessmen and clergymen of the 13th and 14th centuries became notable authors, such as Paio Gomes Charinho, lord of Rianxo, and the aforementioned kings.

Aside from the lyric genres, Galicia developed also a minor tradition on literary prose, most notably in translation of European popular series, as those dealing with king Arthur written by Chretien de Troyes, or those based on the war of Troy, usually paid and commissioned by noblemen who desired to read those romances in their own language. Other genres include history books (either translation of Spanish ones, or original creations like the Chronicle of St. Mary of Iria, by Rui Vasques), religious books, legal studies, and a treaty on horse breeding.[26] Prose literary creation in Galician had stopped by the 16th century, when printing press became popular; the first complete translation of the Bible was not printed until the 20th century.

As for other written uses of Galician, legal charters (last wills, hirings, sales, constitutional charters, city council book of acts, guild constitutions, books of possessions, and any type of public or private contracts and inventories) written in Galicia are to be found from 1230 to 1530—the earliest one probably a document from the monastery of Melón, dated in 1231[27]—being Galician by far the most used language during the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries, in substitution of Latin.

Diglossia and influence of the Castilian language

"Santa Maria, strela do dia"
A 13th-century Galician-Portuguese Cantiga

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Galician-Portuguese lost its political unity when the County of Portugal obtained its independence from the Kingdom of Leon, a transition initiated in 1139 and completed in 1179, establishing the Kingdom of Portugal. Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Galicia was united with the Kingdom of León, and later with the Kingdom of Castile, under kings of the House of Burgundy. The Galician and Portuguese standards of the language diverged over time, following independent evolutionary paths. Portuguese was the official language of the Portuguese chancellery, while Galician was the usual language not only of troubadours and peasants, but also of local noblemen and clergy, and of their officials, so forging and maintaining two slightly different standards.

During the reign of Alfonso X, Castilian Spanish became the official language of the chancellery of the Kingdom of Castile. However, in Galicia and neighboring regions of Asturias and León in 1200–1500, the local languages remained the usual written languages in any type of document, either legal or narrative, public or private. Castilian was progressively introduced through Royal decrees and the edicts of foreign churchmen and officials. This led, from the late 15th century on, to the end of legal documents in Galician; the last ones were issued around 1530.[28] Also, from 1480 on, notaries of the Crown of Castile were required to obtain their licenses in Toledo, where they had to prove their mastery of Spanish.[28]

14th-century inscription, in Galician language: 'ESTA : IMAGEE : HE : AQVI : POSTA : POR: ALMA : D(E) : I(O)HA(N) : TVORUM' 'This image is here in exposition for the soul of Joham Tuorum'.

In spite of Galician being the most spoken language, during the 17th century the elites of the Kingdom began speaking Castilian, most notably in towns and cities. The linguistic situation in Galicia became one of diglossia, with Galician as the low variety and Spanish as the high one.[29] In reaction to the relegation of the autochthonous language, a series of literary and historical works (always written in Spanish) appeared in the 17th century through 19th century, meant to vindicate the history, language, people, and culture of Galicia.[30] The period from the 16th century to early 19th century, when Galician had little literary—and no legal—use, is considered the dark age of Galician language. The Galician spoken and written then is usually referred to as Middle Galician.

Middle Galician

Martín Sarmiento

Middle Galician is known mostly through popular literature (songs, carols, proverbs, theatrical scripts, personal letters), but also through the frequent apparition of Galician interferences and personal and place names in local works and documents otherwise written in Spanish. Other important sources are a number of sonnets and other lyric poetry, as well as other literate productions, including the forgery of allegedly mediaeval scriptures or chronicles under diverse pretensions—usually to show the ancient nobility of the forger's family—being these writings elaborated in an archaic looking Galician which nevertheless couldn't conceal the state of the language during this period.

Middle Galician is characterized by a series of phonetic processes which led to a further separation from Portuguese, and to the apparition of some of the more notorious dialectal features, among other phenomenons: emergence of the gheada or pronunciation of /ɡ/ as a pharyngeal fricative; denasalization of nasal vowels in most of Galicia, becoming oral vowels in the east, or a group formed by an oral vowels plus a nasal in the west; reduction of the sibilant system, with the confluence (except in the Baixa Limia region) of voiced and voiceless fricatives, followed by a process of de-affrication which led to different results in the west and in the east.[31]

The most important author during this period of the language was the enlightened scholar Martín Sarmiento, unconditional defender and the first researcher of Galician language (history, evolution, lexicon, etymology, onomastics). His Elementos etimológicos segun el método de Euclides (1766), written in Spanish but dealing with Galician, was in fact one of the first comprehensive studies on sound change and evolution of any European language.[32]

Rexurdimento (Renaissance)

The 19th-century author, Eduardo Pondal

During the 19th century a thriving literature developed, in what was called the Rexurdimento (Resurgence), of the Galician language.[33] It was headed by three main authors: Rosalia de Castro, an intimist poet; Eduardo Pondal, of nationalist ideology, who championed a Celtic revival; and Manuel Curros Enríquez, a liberal and anticlerical author whose ideas and proclamations were scandalous for part of the 19th-century society.

An important landmark was the establishment of the Seminario de Estudos Galegos in 1923, devoted to research and study of Galician culture. It was created by a group of students: Fermín Bouza Brey, Xosé Filgueira Valverde, Lois Tobío Fernández, with the collaboration of Ricardo Carvalho Calero, Antón Fraguas and Xaquín Lorenzo Fernández.

Following the victory of General Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War, the written or public use of the Galician language was outlawed.[34]

Speakers of Galician as first language in 2001, Galician Institute of Statistics
Galician linguistic areas
Galician-speaking areas outside Galicia (yellow)

Publishing of Galician-language material revived on a small scale in the 1950s.[35]

Galician language today

With the advent of democracy, Galician has been brought into the country's institutions, and it is now co-official with Spanish in Galicia.[35] Galician is taught in schools, and there is a public Galician-language television channel, Televisión de Galicia.

Today, the most common language for everyday use in the largest cities of Galicia is Spanish rather than Galician, as a result of this long process of language shift. Galician is still the main language in the rural areas, though.

The Royal Galician Academy and other Galician institutions celebrate each 17 May as Galician Literature Day (Día das Letras Galegas), dedicated each year to a deceased Galician-language writer chosen by the academy.

Use of Galician language

Use of Galician splits by age, with over half of those over 45 indicating that Galician is their primarily language, with lower numbers for the younger population. Those under 45 were more likely than those over 45 to answer that they never use Galician.

Real use of Galician language (2001)
Total Always Sometimes Never
Total 2,587,407 1,470,836 56.84% 783,780 30.29% 332,791 12.86%
From 5 to 9 years 101,840 38,329 37.63% 48,651 47.77% 14,860 14.50%
From 10 to 14 years 122,747 50,891 41.46% 60,430 49.23% 11,426 9.30%
From 15 to 19 years 156,950 69,760 44.44% 66,343 42.27% 20,847 13.28%
From 20 to 24 years 207,341 95,008 45.82% 77,044 37.15% 35,289 17.01%
From 25 to 29 years 213,402 96,059 45.01% 79,586 37.29% 37,757 17.69%
From 30 to 34 years 201,392 94,785 47.06% 72,506 36.00% 34,101 16.93%
From 35 to 39 years 193,342 96,992 50.16% 65,641 33.95% 30,709 15.88%
From 40 to 44 years 191,180 104,074 54.43% 60,615 31.70% 26,491 13.85%
From 45 to 49 years 174,056 100,166 57.54% 51,965 29.85% 21,925 12.59%
From 50 to 54 years 168,473 102,227 60.67% 46,607 27.66% 19,639 11.65%
From 55 to 59 years 163,029 106,103 65.08% 39,920 24.48% 17,006 10.43%
From 60 to 64 years 135,040 94,459 69.94% 27,844 20.61% 12,737 9.43%
More than 65 years 558,615 421,983 75.54% 86,628 15.50% 50,004 8.95%
Galician language proficiency (evolution)
Date Understand Speak Read Write
1991 Census 96.96% 91.39% 49.30% 34.85%
2001 Census 99.16% 91.04% 68.65% 57.64%

Source: Plano Xeral de Normalización da lingua galega


Some authors are of the opinion that Galician possesses no real dialects.[36] Despite this, Galician local varieties are collected in three main dialectal blocks, each block comprising a series of areas, being local linguistic varieties that are all mutually intelligible. Some of the main features which distinguish the three blocks are:

An exception to this rule is constituted by the hiatus in which the first vowel was a nasalized i or u. In those cases, a nasal, palatal /ɲ/ or velar /ŋ/ was usually inserted: ũa 'a / one (fem.)' > unha (Portuguese uma), -ina > -ĩa > -iña (Portuguese -inha). Nevertheless, in Ancarese and Asturian Galician, this process did not take place: A-G vecía, Ancarese vecĩa vs. standard veciña '(female) neighbor' (Port. vizinha), A-G úa, Ancarese ũa vs. standard unha (Port. uma).

Each dialectal area is then further defined by these and other more restricted traits or isoglosses:

Standard Galician is usually based on Central Galician characteristics, but it also incorporates western and eastern traits and features.


Galician Medieval Galician (13th–15th c.) Portuguese Spanish Latin English
Western Central Eastern
cans [ˈkaŋs][43] cas [ˈkas] cais [ˈkajs] cães/cããs cães perros/canes canes dogs
ladróns [laˈðɾoŋs] ladrós [laˈðɾɔs] ladrois [laˈðɾojs] ladrões ladrões ladrones latrones robbers
irmán [iɾˈmaŋ] irmao [iɾˈmao] irmao [iɾˈmao] irmão irmão hermano germanus brother
luz [ˈlus] luz [ˈluθ]/[ˈlus] luz [ˈluθ] luz/lus luz luz lūce light
cinco [ˈsiŋko] cinco [ˈθiŋko] cinco [ˈθiŋko] cinco cinco cinco quinque five
ollo [ˈoʎo], hora [ˈɔɾa][44] ollo [ˈɔʎo], hora [ˈɔɾa]/[ˈoɾa] ollo [ˈɔʎo], hora [ˈoɾa] ollo, hora olho, hora ojo, hora oculum, horam eye, hour
cantaste(s)[45] cantaches cantaste/cantache cantaste cantaste cantaste cantavisti you sang
animás[46] animás[46] animais[46] animaes animais animales animalia animals


Main article: Galician phonology


Galician allows pronominal clitics to be attached to indicative and subjunctive forms, as does Portuguese, unlike modern Spanish. After many centuries of close contact between the two languages, Galician has also adopted many loan words from Spanish, and some calques of Spanish syntax.

Galician usually makes the difference according to gender and categorizes words as masculine "o rapaz" (the little boy) or feminine "a rapaza" (the little girl). This difference is present in the articles "o / a / os/ as" (the), nouns "o can / a cadela" (the dog / the (female) dog), pronouns "el / ela", (he / she) and adjectives "bonitiño / bonitiña" (pretty, beautiful) There is also a neuter set of demonstrative pronouns "isto, iso, aquilo" (this / that). The most typical ending for masculine words is -o, whereas the most typical ending for feminine is -a "o prato / a tixola" (the plate / the frying pan). The difference in the grammatical gender of a word may correspond to a real gender difference in the physical world "xuicioso / xuiciosa" (sensible); the former adjective will qualify a male, and the latter, a female. However, there is no particular reason for objects to be adscribed to a particular grammatical gender or another, it has to do with the gender having been ascribed by tradition and the use of speakers as in the following examples: "o xis / o samba / a mesa / a caricatura" (chalk / the samba / the table / the caricature).

Galician expresses the difference in number with a form for the singular and another for the plural. The most typical suffix to express a plural number is "s", "cantiga / cantigas".

There are two different ways of addressing people: one is the most usual informal pronoun "ti" for the second person singular and "vos" for the second person plural. There are formal ways of addressing directly people "vostede" for the singular and "vostedes" for the plural.

The last review of the official grammar has established that the exclamation and question marks will appear only at the end of the sentence if there is no risk of confusion, thus deprecating the general use of Spanish-like inverted question and exclamation marks.

The verb is inflected. There are regular and irregular verbs in the language. All verbs will appear listed by means of their infinitive form in dictionaries, and there are three typical endings for verbs "-ar / -er / ir".

All words have accent in Galician, considering that the accent is the fact of a particular syllable carrying the most stress in a word. The "tilde (')" is a small line written over some vowels to show in some cases which syllable carries the accent, "paspallás" (quail), "móbil" (mobile) "cárcere" (jail, gaol).

The tilde has some other functions. Sometimes the tilde is written to show that there is not a diphthong among two vowels which happen to be alongside one another within the same word "aínda" (yet). If the tilde happens to be necessary on a capitalized letter, it must be written regardless: "Óscar". Another use is the differentiation of meaning: there are words which can be differentiated by the presence or absence of the tilde: "cómpre" (it is necessary) versus "compre" (buy) as in "Cómpre que compre un reloxio" (It's necessary that I buy a clock).


The current official Galician orthography was introduced in 1982, and made law in 1983, by the Royal Galician Academy (RAG), based on a report by the ILG. It remains a source of contention, however; a minority of citizens would rather have the institutions recognize Galician as a Portuguese variety and therefore still opt for the use of writing systems that range from adapted medieval Galician-Portuguese writing system or European Portuguese one (see reintegrationism).

In July 2003, the Royal Galician Academy modified the language normative to admit some archaic Galician-Portuguese forms conserved in modern Portuguese. The changes have been considered an attempt to build a consensus among major Galician philology trends and represent, in the words of the Galician Language Academy, "the orthography desired by 95% of Galician people." The 2003 reform was made to put an end to the so-called "normative wars" raised by the different points of view of the relationship between the modern Galician and Portuguese languages. The modification has been accepted only by a part of the reintegrationist movement at this point.

The question of the spelling system has very significant political connotations in Galicia. There are minor but significant political parties representing points of view that range from greater self-government for Galicia within the Spanish political setup to total political independence from Spain designed to preserve the Galician culture and language from the risk of being inundated by the Castilian culture and language. Since the modern Galician orthography is somewhat influenced by Castilian spelling conventions, some parties wish to change it.

Since medieval Galician and medieval Portuguese were the same language, modern Portuguese spelling is nearer to medieval Galician than to modern Galician Spanish-style spelling. Language unification would also have the benefit of linking the Galician language to another major language with its own extensive cultural production, which could weaken the links that bind Galicia and Spain and ultimately favor the people's aspiration toward an independent state. However, although all three concepts are frequently associated, there is no direct interrelation between reintegrationism, independentism and defending Galician and Portuguese linguistic unity, and, in fact, reintegrationism is only a small force within the Galician nationalist movement.


English Galician (Official) Galician (Reintegrationist) Portuguese Spanish
Good morning Bo día / Bos días Bom Dia Bom Dia / Bons dias Buenos días
What is your name? Como te chamas? ¿Cómo te llamas?
I love you Quérote / Ámote Amo-te Te quiero / Te amo
Excuse me Desculpe Perdón / Disculpe
Thanks / Thank you Grazas Obrigado Gracias
Welcome Benvido Bem-vido Bem-vindo Bienvenido
Goodbye Adeus Adiós
Yes Si Sim
No Non Nom Não No
Dog Can Cam Cão Perro (rarely, Can)[47]
Grandfather Avó /aˈbo/ Avô[48] /ɐˈvo/ Abuelo
Newspaper Periódico / Xornal Jornal Periódico
Mirror Espello Espelho Espejo
English Galician official Galician reintegrationist Portuguese Spanish Latin
Our Father who art in heaven, Noso Pai que estás no ceo: Nosso Pai que estás no Céu: Pai Nosso que estais no Céu: Padre nuestro que estás en los cielos: Pater noster qui es in caelis:
hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. santificado sexa o teu nome, veña a nós o teu reino e fágase a túa vontade aquí na terra coma no ceo. santificado seja o Teu nome, venha a nós o Teu reino e seja feita a Tua vontade aqui na terra como nos Céus. santificado seja o vosso nome, venha a nós o vosso reino, seja feita a vossa vontade assim na Terra como no Céu. santificado sea tu Nombre, venga a nosotros tu reino y hágase tu voluntad en la tierra como en el cielo. sanctificetur nomen tuum, adveniat regnum tuum, fiat voluntas tua sicut in caelo et in terra.
Give us this day our daily bread, O noso pan de cada día dánolo hoxe; O nosso pam de cada dia dá-no-lo hoje; O pão nosso de cada dia nos dai hoje; Danos hoy nuestro pan de cada día; panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie;
and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, e perdóanos as nosas ofensas como tamén perdoamos nós a quen nos ten ofendido; e perdoa-nos as nossas ofensas como também perdoamos nós a quem nos tem ofendido; Perdoai-nos as nossas ofensas assim como nós perdoamos a quem nos tem ofendido; y perdona nuestras ofensas como también nosotros perdonamos a los que nos ofenden; et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. e non nos deixes caer na tentación, mais líbranos do mal. e nom nos deixes cair na tentaçom, mas livra-nos do mal. e não nos deixeis cair em tentação, mas livrai-nos do mal. no nos dejes caer en tentación, y líbranos del mal. et ne nos inducas in tentationem; sed libera nos a malo.
Amen. Amen. Amen. Amém. Amén. Amen.

See also


  1. 1 2 Galician at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. "Observatorio da Lingua Galega". Observatorio da Lingua Galega. Retrieved 2015-10-17.
  3. "Ethnologue report for language code: glg". Retrieved 2015-10-17.
  4. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Galician". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  5. de Azevedo Maia, Clarinda (1997). História do galego-português: estado linguístico da Galiza e do noroeste de Portugal desde o século XIII ao século XVI (com referência à situação do galego moderno) (Reimpressã da edição do INIC (1986) ed.). Lisboa: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian. pp. 883–891. ISBN 9789723107463.
  6. Fernández Rei 2003, p. 17
  7. 1 2 Lindley Cintra, Luís F. "Nova Proposta de Classificação dos Dialectos Galego-Portugueses" (PDF). (469 KB) Boletim de Filologia, Lisboa, Centro de Estudos Filológicos, 1971. (Portuguese)
  8. Sánchez Rei, Xosé Manuel (2011). Lingua galega e variación dialectal. Noia, Galiza: Edicións Laiovento. pp. 369–371. ISBN 978-84-8487-208-5.
  9. ' Today, from a point of view which is exclusively linguistic, both banks of the Minho river speak the same language, since the Minhoto and Trás-os-Montes dialects are a continuation of the Galician varieties, sharing common traits that differentiate them from the dialect of Central and Southern Portugal; but at the level of the common language, and in a sociolinguistic perspective, in the west of the peninsula there are two modern languages, with differences in pronunciation, morphosyntax and vocabulary', "Na actualidade, desde o ponto de vista estrictamente lingüístico, ás dúas marxes do Miño fálase o mesmo idioma, pois os dialectos miñotos e trasmontanos son unha continuación dos falares galegos, cos que comparten trazos comúns que os diferencian dos do centro e sur de Portugal; pero no plano da lingua común, e desde unha perspectiva sociolingüística, hai no occidente peninsular dúas línguas modernas, con diferencias fonéticas, morfosintácticas e léxicas". Fernández Rei 2003, p. 17
  10. Àlvarez & al. (ed.), Rosario (2002). Dialectoloxía e léxico (PDF). Santiago de Compostela: Instituto da Lingua Galega [u.a.] pp. 41–68, 193–222. ISBN 84-95415-66-6.
  11. Sánchez Rei, Xosé Manuel (2011). Lingua galega e variación dialectal. Noia, Galiza: Edicións Laiovento. p. 24. ISBN 978-84-8487-208-5.
  12. Vázquez Cuesta, Pilar «Non son reintegracionista», interview given to La Voz de Galicia on 22 February 2002 (in Galician).
  13. Fernández Rei 2003, p. 18
  14. Santiago, Concello de. "Santiago entra na Unión das Cidades Capitais de Lingua Portuguesa (UCCLA) - Noticias. Concello de Santiago de Compostela". Retrieved 2016-10-24.
  15. (2016-01-11). "O CCG ingresa como Observador Consultivo na Comunidade dos Países en Lingua Portuguesa". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2016-11-07.
  16. "Trabalhos de sociolinguística galega / Some Works on Galizan Sociolinguistics". 13 December 2004. Retrieved 2012-06-30.
  17. Like a rainbow between two close colours, there is a moment, in the way of the West, when we get to feel us into the Galician area, and another side, to the East, in which we get to feel us into Asturian, but there is also a mixed zone, in which, after all, the distinction depends on our way to appreciate and read will depend on a serial linguistics facts. Some another time, I will deal with this question. It is enough saying today that the oldest statement about Galician extending into Asturias up to the Navia River, (Menéndez Pidal, "El dialecto leonés", § 1, 2, 1906) cannot be more right, in spite of typical linguistic Asturian features crossing to the west over that border. These dialects between the rivers Navia and Eo, mainly Galician, but with clear Asturian features, are what we call "Gallego-Asturiano". Damaso Alonso Obras Completas, Editorial Gredos (1971), tomo I, página 391
  18. Laverde e Ruiz, Gumersindo, "O dialecto asturiano", Review Ibérica of Politic Science, Literature, Arts and Public Instruction, vol. V, 1862.
  19. Lapesa Melgar, Rafael, El dialecto asturiano occidental en la Edad Media, Universidad de Sevilla, 1998,
  20. Alvárez Castrillón, José A., Los Oscos en los siglos X-XII, prólogo Ignacio de la Peña Solar, Oviedo 2001, p. 144-234.
  21. Fernández Rei 2003, pp. 18–23
  22. As an example, in a passage of the Historia Compostellana it is stated, as a notable event, that bishop Diego Gelmirez spoke publicly in Latin.
  23. Cf. Souto Cabo, José Antonio [ed.] (2008). Documentos galego-portugueses dos séculos XII e XIII. A Coruña: Universidade da Coruña. ISBN 978-84-9749-314-7.
  24. Queixas Zas, Mercedes (2001). Historia xeral da literatura galega. Vigo: A nosa terra. p. 14. ISBN 84-95350-79-3.
  25. Queixas Zas, Mercedes (2001). Historia xeral da literatura galega. Vigo: A nosa terra. pp. 24–61. ISBN 84-95350-79-3.
  26. Boullón Agrelo (ed.), Ana Isabel (2007). Na nosa lyngoage galega : a emerxencia do galego como lingua escrita na Idade Media (PDF). Santiago de Compostela: Consello da Cultura Galega. pp. 447–473. ISBN 978-84-96530-44-7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 May 2008.
  27. Souto Cabo, José Antonio [ed.] (2008). Documentos galego-portugueses dos séculos XII e XIII. A Coruña: Universidade da Coruña. p. 51. ISBN 978-84-9749-314-7.
  28. 1 2 Mariño Paz (1998:188–193)
  29. Although this trend was initially resisted. Cf. Mariño Paz (1998:204)
  30. Mariño Paz (1998:235–265)
  31. Mariño Paz (1998:265–288)
  32. Monteagudo, Henrique (ed.) (2002). Sobre a lingua galega: antoloxía. Martín Sarmiento. (PDF). Vigo: Galaxia. p. 35. ISBN 978-84-8288-528-5.
  33. Gómez Sánchez (2001:93–166)
  34. Minahan, James (2000). One Europe, many nations: a historical dictionary of European national groups. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 279. ISBN 0-313-04866-5. Following Franco's 1939 victory, the Galicians suffered severe punishment – their culture was suppressed, and edicts were issued forbidding the speaking, teaching, or publishing of books or newspapers in the Galician language.
  35. 1 2 Minahan (2000:279–281)
  36. "O material recolleito para o citado ALGa (…) faime comparti-la opinion de García de Diego de que non-se pode falar de dialectos propiamente ditos no galego. Nos mapas deste capítulo pode apreciarse a extensión xeográfica desigual dalgúns fenómenos lingüísticos (…) e tamén como as isoglosas (…) poucas veces coinciden" Fernández Rei 2003, p. 36
  37. Ferreiro 1999:132; Fernández Rei 2003: 58
  38. Fernández Rei 2003, pp. 59–67
  39. Fernández Rei 2003, pp. 64–65
  40. Fernández Rei 2003, pp. 163–189
  41. Fernández Rei 2003, p. 213
  42. Fernández Rei 2003, p. 57
  43. Bold type indicate official standard spelling. On the phonemic representation cf. Freixeiro Mato (2006).
  44. Metaphony produced by final /a/ and by final /o/ (usually produced [ʊ]). All the diverse productions are considered admissible. In the east there's little to none metaphony.
  45. Different evolution of the group /ste/ led to different desinences for the past tense formation along Galician geography.
  46. 1 2 3 Plural form of singular animal, 'animal'.
  47. "Real Academia Española". Retrieved 2012-06-30.
  48. Note that avó /ɐˈvɔ/ in Portuguese means "grandmother".


  • Fernández Rei, Francisco (2003), Dialectoloxía da lingua galega (in Galician) (3 ed.), Vigo: Edicións Xerais de Galicia, ISBN 84-7507-472-3 
  • Ferreiro, Manuel (1999), Gramática histórica galega. I. Fonética e Morfosintaxe (in Galician), Santiago de Compostela: Edicións Laiovento, ISBN 84-89896-43-7 
  • Freixeiro Mato, Xosé Ramón (2006), Gramática da lingua galega (I). Fonética e fonoloxía (in Galician), Vigo: A Nosa Terra, ISBN 978-84-8341-060-8 
  • Gómez Sánchez, Anxo; Queixas Zas, Mercedes (2001), Historia xeral da literatura galega (in Galician), Vigo: Edicións A Nosa Terra, ISBN 84-95350-79-3 
  • Mariño Paz, Ramón (1998), Historia da lingua galega (in Galician) (2 ed.), Santiago de Compostela: Sotelo Blanco, ISBN 84-7824-333-X 
  • Regueira, Xose (1996), "Galician", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 26 (2): 119–122, doi:10.1017/s0025100300006162 

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