Galician, Portuguese, and the Possibility of a Third Language Between Them

Dwan Garcez: Portuguese and Galician are the same language.

This person is Portuguese, and what they are saying is Portuguese nationalism or Portuguese linguistic nationalism. Portuguese and Galician were one language until 1550 when they split. But that time period of 450 years is about the same as between Ukrainian and Russian and Belorussian and Russian. Russian, Belorussian and Ukrainian are regarded as separate languages. And that is about the same time split as between English and Scots as Scots split off from English right around that time. Scots is regarded as a separate language from English. English has only 42% intelligibility of Scots.

Boy, I do not agree with that for one second. If you want to be sure you are not understood when you go to Lisbon, speak Galician!

If you leave Galicia, you will only be understood for six miles inside the country. After that, forget it. People who live on the border in Galicia say that they can understand their friends across the border in Portugal fairly well but not completely, and they usually both speak in Spanish to avoid communication problems.

Furthermore, Ethnologue has decided that Galician and Portuguese are different languages.

Portuguese people cannot understand well the Galician/Portuguese mix spoken right around the border with Galicia. Some Portuguese can hardly understand Tras Os Montes Portuguese at all. In fact, the Alto-Minho and Tras Os Montes dialects of Portuguese are not well understood in Portugal or in most of Galicia. This is really Galician but it is not well understood to the north in Vigo and Santiago de Compostela. Residents of the Minho, though they really are Galicians, say they do not speak Galician. Their lect is even further from Portuguese. You could make a case that Alto-Minho/Tras Os Montes is a separate language, but it would be a hard sell.

Already at least one Galician dialect has been split off into a separate language. Fala is recognized as a separate language and there are good grounds for making that case.


Filed under Dialectology, Europe, Galician, Indo-European, Indo-Hittite, Italic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Language Families, Linguistics, Portugal, Portuguese, Regional, Romance, Sociolinguistics, Spain

7 responses to “Galician, Portuguese, and the Possibility of a Third Language Between Them

  1. Robert, just curious, how many languages do you speak ? English is my first language, but since my wife of 29 years is German I’m pretty fluent in German as well. I know advanced beginner level Hebrew, some basic sentences in Spanish to order food, and a few words in Mandarin to say hi, bye and whatever at our local Chinese restaurant. With youtube consuming so much of my free time I haven’t really made any new progress in about 3 years though…. I have a love / hate relationship with the internet 🙂

  2. You’d be surprised the amount of Arabic that has crept into Spanish Latin.

  3. Jason Y

    This situation exists cause people around the world are mostly hicks who never leave their village (comment Trash ???) So whether it was flyover country or some African village, it was the same. That’s why people living just 50 miles apart developed totally separate languages – but such isn’t now in the modern age.

    Note, even now, accents, like the southern accent are becoming less so with more communication, but it’s sort of a shame.

    • Yee

      “That’s why people living just 50 miles apart developed totally separate languages – ”

      True. I once told Robert so, but he didn’t seem to believe me.

      It’s still so in China. Everyone speaks 2 languages. Villagers in my province speak 3, as Cantonese has long been the official language in the province, people don’t want to give it up.

      Malaysian-Chinese are much more impressive. They speak 1 Chinese dialect, Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay, English, 5 in total.

  4. JASON Y

    The South of Spain contains considerable Arabic phrases. I have never visited the North of Spain.

    I cannot comment on the rest. Pure city boy from Detroit. I do remember that Appalachians from the South retained their accents long after arriving from the South, but so did Germans.

    • Jason Y

      Accents seem tough to get rid of. Notice how British or Australians etc.. sound British – even after being in the US for nearly all thier life.

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