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Galician Language Primer

History and development
Galician is a Romance language that grew out of "Vulgar Latin". It initially developed in the late first millennium amongst the Romanised Celts in modern-day Galicia (Spain) and northern Portugal. Galician and Portuguese are considered to have been a single language (Galician-Portuguese) until the middle ages but diverged somewhat over the subsequent centuries largely as a result of the political separation. Following the separation, Galician lost much of its literary and academic allure and was somewhat marginalized. Indeed, as with many other minority languages in Spain, it was also heavily repressed and was excluded not only from official use but specifically from the field of education. Although it experienced a renaissance in the 19th century it was only with the coming of democracy after Franco's death in 1975 that the language once again flourished, aided somewhat by active promotion by the local regional government and the Real Academia Galega (Official Galician Language Institute).

Related languages
Galician is most closely related to the other variants of Galician-Portuguese, namely Portuguese, spoken by around 220 million people worldwide, and Fala, which is spoken by around 10,000 people in pockets of Extremadura (Spain) near the Portuguese border. In terms of vocabulary and grammar, Galician and Portuguese are still much closer than Spanish with mutual intelligibility very high. Indeed, such are the similarities, that not everybody agrees that Galician should be classed as a separate language and there is a minority movement in Galicia, known as Reintegracionismo, that is looking to have Galician recognised as a variant of Portuguese.

The argument is that differences between Galician and Portuguese are no more marked than those between other recognised variants of Portuguese (such as Brazilian Portuguese or African Portuguese). The closeness is demonstrated by the fact that the European Parliament accepts Galician as Portuguese for interpretation purposes. Furthermore, there is little doubt that a person from Northern Portugal would find it easier to understand a Galician speaker than they would some of the Portuguese dialects spoken around the world.

Galician is also close to other Iberian languages, and lexical similarity between it and Spanish is extremely high. Outside the Iberian peninsula, Galician also has significant lexical similarities with Italian, French and Romanian.

Status today
Galicia is recognised as one of the four official languages in Spain with joint official status in Galicia where it is widely used in political and cultural life. Galician is taught in schools and is spoken by over 2.5 million people in Galicia, with a further half a million strong immigrant community spread across South America and Europe. The publicly funded Galician-speaking television station, TVG, has also given impetus to the language.



 
 
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