The Lord’s Prayer in Galician:
Noso Pai que estás no ceo:
santificado sexa o teu nome,
veña a nós o teu reino
e fágase a túa vontade
aquí na terra coma no ceo.
O noso pan de cada día dánolo hoxe;
e perdóano-las nosas ofensas
como tamén perdoamos nós a quen nos ten ofendido;
e non nos deixes caer na tentación,
mais líbranos do mal.
Galician (1200- ) is a language spoken in north-western Spain by about 4 million people. It is taught at schools there (but so is Spanish) and has its own television station. Galician grew out of the everyday Latin spoken in that part of Spain back in Roman times.
Some say Galician is just a sort of Portuguese with Spanish spelling; others say it is a language in its own right.
When you see Galician and Portuguese written out, they look like different languages, but if you wrote Galician according to Portuguese spelling rules they look almost the same. Galician seems like Portuguese with some Spanish words added.
For example, the Portuguese word for “old” is velho while the Galician word is vello. Different, right? But the ll is the Spanish way of writing the lh sound of Portuguese. So if you wrote the Galician word according to Portuguese rules, it would become velho!
In fact, people in northern Portugal have no trouble understanding Galician, though people in the south do.
Galician and Portuguese both came from the same language in the Middle Ages: Galician-Portuguese. It was spoken in what is now north-western Spain and northern Portugal. It had so many good poets in the 1200s and 1300s that even the poets of Madrid wrote in it instead of their own Spanish.
Some who spoke Galician-Portuguese stayed put and fell under Spanish rule. They became the Galicians. Others moved south as land was taken back from the Muslims. They founded the country of Portugal and became the Portuguese.
No one questions the standing of Portuguese as a language. It has had a country of its own for hundreds of years and now many countries speak it. Galician has not had that. It has become an ugly stepchild.
When Isabella and Ferdinand brought all Spain under their rule in 1492, most people stopped writing in Galician. The best and brightest of Galicia now went to study in Toledo and wrote in Spanish. Even today Spanish remains the road to success in Galicia.
There are two schools of thought about the way forward for Galician:
- Isolationists: Galician is fine the way it is and should be seen as a language in its own right, equal to Portuguese and Spanish.
- Reintegrationists: Galician should use Portuguese spelling and take its rightful place as a dialect of Portuguese, on an equal footing with Brazilian or African Portuguese. Forget Spain: Galicians should become part of the wider Portuguese-speaking world.
So the very way you spell Galician tells people which side you are on. It is not an innocent act.