Category Archives: Galician

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.

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

Western Europe: What Native Languages Are Spoken in Spain?

Montleek:  Robert, is it possible that in Western Europe, the regional lects have been preserved better, while in eastern Europe are preserved worse? There was communism/socialism in Eastern Europe, therefore more tendency not to continue speaking with regional lect. Robert, is it possible that in western Europe, the regional lects have been preserved better, while in eastern Europe are preserved worse? There was communism/socialism in eastern Europe, therefore more tendency not to continue speaking with regional lect .

In Spain, there is are several major languages such as Asturian-Leonese, Extremaduran-Cantabrian, Eonavian/Berciano, Basque, Catalan, Aragonese, Benasquesque, Galician and some odd forms of Portuguese. Murcian, Andalucian, Churro and Manchengo are very marginal cases, but are probably better seen as divergent dialects of Castillian.

With Catalan and Asturian-Leonese, you are absolutely in a situation of a different lect in every town or even village.

Eonavian is absolutely a separate language though it is not recognized. Berciano is the southern part of the Eonavian language.

There is definitely more than one language in Galician.

Cantabrian is actually a language and not a Spanish dialect. In fact, it is a part of the recognized language called Extremaduran.

There may be 3-4 languages inside Basque; surely there are at least two.

Benasquesque is actually a separate language between Catalan and Aragonese.

Occitan is only spoken as Aranese, but is probably a separate language.

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Answers to the Languages of Spain Post

Map of the languages of Spain.

Map of the languages of Spain.

There are nine languages in the map above.

You folks were not able to answer all nine of them correctly, so I will give you the answers.

Pink – Catalan

Light green – Aranese or Occitan (no one got this one)

Purple – Aragonese (no one got this one)

Aquamarine – Basque

Red – Castillian

Green – Asturian-Leonese

Yellow – Galician

Dark green – Extremaduran (no one got this one)

Brown – Fala (no one got this one)

Aranese is the Aranese dialect of Occitan which is either a separate language or a dialect of Occitan depending on how you look at it. Fala is actually a dialect of Galician but it is considered a language for sociopolitical reasons. There is another part of the dark green Extremaduran language which is typically not recognized. This is Cantabrian, spoken to the east of the green Asturian-Leonese area and to the west of the aquamarine  Basque area.

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One Day Languages and Two Day Languages

A colleague writes:
Mutual intelligibility is difficult to measure since speakers of two different tongues could meet each other and hardly understand each other at first but after a week of close contact, they can understand each other quite well.
As far as intelligibility goes, it is usually measured blind with only one group at a time. It is uncertain where to split dialect and language, but Ethnologue (SIL) seems to generally split at 90%. Above 90% = dialect. Below 90% = dialect.

With two separate but closely related languages such as Turkish and Azeri, after 3-4 weeks of close contact, they can communicate quite nicely. I would put 3-4 weeks at the barrier of dialect and language.

At the other end, in Africa, speakers of various lects talk of one day languages and two day languages, referring to how long it takes speakers of Lect A to understand speakers of Lect B. These 1 day languages and 2 day languages are best seen as dialects of a single tongue.

Closer to home. it takes one day of close contact for other Spanish speakers who land in San Salvador by plane to completely understand Salvadoran Spanish. It takes Argentines three days to understand Chilean Spanish. So we can call Salvadoran Spanish and Chilean Spanish dialects of the Spanish language. Salvadoran Spanish could be called a 1 day language and Chilean Spanish could be called a 3 day language.

However, with Canarian Spanish and Dominican Spanish of the Dominican Republic, it takes other Spanish speakers about three weeks to catch onto it. So Canarian Spanish and Dominican Spanish are like Azeri and Turkish. I honestly think that Canarian Spanish and Dominican Spanish are separate languages on MI grounds, but it would cause a political firestorm if you tried to split them so no one will.

In Spain, there are various lects such as Asturian, Galician and Andalucian. A Spanish speaker may take two months or so of close contact to learn to understand Asturian and Galician well, and indeed, both are listed as separate languages.

Some Spanish speakers report that Andalucian sounds absolutely insane when they first listen to it and they can hardly understand one word, however, after 2-3 hours of steady close listening, they can understand it quite well. We may call Andalucian a 3 hour language and clearly Andalucian is a dialect of Spanish called Andalucian Spanish.

Once it starts to take as long as 3-4 weeks of close contact for speakers of Lect A to understand Lect B, I think we are looking at two separate languages. Anything less than that, starts to seem a lot more iffy.

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Intelligibility Figures for Romance Languages

Here is some new work I did on mutual intelligibility in the Romance family. If you speak any of these languages, feel free to chime in. The one figure I am worried about is 0% of Italian understanding of Romanian. One informant said that, but I have a feeling it is higher than that.

Intelligibility Figures for Romance Languages

Intelligibility for Spanish speakers, oral: 80% of Asturian, Aragonese and and Extremaduran, 78% of Galician, 62% of Catalan, 50% of Portuguese, 25% of Italian, 6% of Romanian, 1% of French, and 0% of Sicilian.

Spanish has 95% written intelligibility of Ladino, 93% of Galician, 87% of Catalan, 78% of Portuguese, 50% of Italian and Romanian, and 16% of French.

Catalan has 94% oral intelligibility of Valencian, 63% intelligibility of Belearic, 27% of Italian, 5% of French.

Catalan has 27% written intelligibility of Italian.

Asturian has 82% oral intelligibility of Mirandese and 71% of Portuguese.

Mirandese has 82% oral intelligibility of Asturian and 71% of Portuguese.

Portuguese has 95% oral intelligibility of Almedilha dialect, 86% of Galician, 71% of Mirandese and Asturian, 58% of Spanish, 40% of Hermisende dialect, 55% of Catalan, 25% of Leonese and Italian, 17% of French, and 5% of Romanian.

Portuguese has 90% written intelligibility of Italian.

Galician has 58% intelligibility of Catalan, and 0% of Extremaduran and Andalucian Spanish.

French has 30% oral intelligibility of Catalan, 27% of Portuguese, 16% of Italian, 13% of Spanish, 7% intelligibility of Romanian, and 0% of Sicilian.

French has 90% written intelligibility of Catalan and 70% of Portuguese.

Romanian has 70% oral intelligibility of Istroromanian, 40% of Italian, 25% of Spanish, and 15% of French and Portuguese.

Romanian has 60% written intelligibility of French, 45% of Galician and Piedmontese and 33% of Italian.

Italian has 40% oral intelligibility of Catalan, 16% of Portuguese, 11% of French, and 0% of Romanian, Arpitan and Sicilian.

Italian has 75% written intelligibility of French and Spanish, 25% of Portuguese, and 20% of Catalan.

Piedmontese has 0% intelligibility of Arpitan.

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What Romance Languages Do You Know?

If you are interested, tell us in the comments what Romance languages you have knowledge of. As you can see, I am into Romance languages.

Spanish: I had four years in school and then another 1 1/2 years at university, so I can speak it fairly well. I often use it with Spanish speakers around town. However, I am not fluent like a native speaker by any means. I can also read it fairly well to the point where I can actually do research in it. But I certainly do not know every word, and it is not like doing research in English. I can write Spanish fairly well. When I meet South Americans on the Net, they ask me if I was born in Latin America. However, some of them catch on that I am not a native speaker. I can understand it pretty well when spoken but I have a lot of problems with radio, TV and any video or audio in Spanish. I can understand it better if I read it.

I was talking to this Guatemalan woman, and after a while, she said, “You know…You don’t really speak Spanish, do you? But boy do you try!”

This is the only Romance language I can write.

Portuguese: Well I studied it a bit because I was dating a Brazilian woman. I started to learn the language within 24 hours after meeting her. I spoke to her in English and Spanish and she spoke to me in Portuguese, English and Spanish. She spoke some English and Spanish. This arrangement actually worked out pretty well!

I used to get emails a lot from another Brazilian woman I know. I tried to read them, but it was pretty slow going. I still study Portuguese and I try to read it sometimes. I even try to do research in Portuguese, but research in Portuguese is so much harder than doing it in Spanish. To tell the truth, reading Portuguese is a pain. I do know some words of Portuguese but not a lot. I can’t really speak it at all at the moment. When it is spoken, I can understand some of it, but that is mostly due to Spanish resemblance. All in all, I consider Portuguese to be a pain in the ass.

Galician: Cannot speak it but can understand it pretty well when spoken in the standard dialect. I understand it a lot better than I understand Portuguese because it sounds a lot more like Spanish. I have quite a hard time reading Galician. It really isn’t fun at all. Galician is a pain to read. I know a few words, hardly any really.

Asturian/Leonese: Cannot speak it. Cannot understand a word of it when spoken. I have tried to read it and even do research in it, but that is just awful. One of the worst languages in Iberia to read. I do know a few words here and there.

Mirandese: Cannot speak it. Haven’t listened to it in a while. Surprisingly, I find this language fairly easy to read. It looks a lot like Spanish. It is much easier to read than Portuguese or Galician. Don’t really know any words though.

Aragonese: Can understand some of it when spoken. It is very hard to read and I cannot speak it. Do not know any words.

Extremaduran: Reading this language is a complete pain, more or less like reading Asturian-Leonese if not worse. Do not know any words.

Fala: I have heard Fala spoken on videos and I can understand some of it, but honestly, this language is quite a mess, and Galician is a lot easier to understand. I don’t know any words. I have never seen it written down, and I am not even sure if it is a written language.

Catalan: I cannot understand a word of it when spoken, and I cannot speak it. Reading Catalan is quite difficult and very slow-going. It is not pleasant at all. This language is very different from the rest of the Iberian languages. I do not think I know any Catalan words.

Occitan: Cannot speak it. Can understand Aranese fairly well when spoken. I have tried to read Occitan many times but it is a complete nightmare to read. I do not know one word of Occitan.

French: I did take a semester of French at university. I also had a French girlfriend for a while. Not that it did me any good. I cannot understand one word of spoken French. I have tried to speak it a bit, but French speakers kept laughing at me (including the girlfriend) so that inhibited me. I have tried to write French to French speakers on the Net but I can hardly write it at all. French is very hard to read, much worse than Spanish. I have even tried to do research in French, but it was extremely slow-going. French is very different from Iberian languages. I continue to study French off and on. I do know quite a few French words.

Arpitan: Never seen it written, cannot speak it. When listening to it, I can only get occasional words. Very hard to understand. I do not know any words.

Italian: I have studied Italian somewhat but it is very different from Spanish or French and many words do not have obvious connections to Spanish or French. I can read a bit of Italian, but it is very slow-going. I do know some words. I cannot speak Italian at all, and I have never even tried to write it. Italian varies when listening to it on video. With some slow TV-type announcers, I can get some of it. With regular speech, I often will not get one word in a 5 minute broadcast. Italian is extremely hard to understand.

Romansch: I can hardly understand this at all when spoken on TV broadcasts. Interviews with native speakers are easier to understand if they speak slowly. Intelligibility is about like Italian. I do not know any words.

Romanian: Simply awful. I have listened to 8 minute broadcasts of this language and I could not understand one word. Romanian is very hard to read. It is much worse than Italian when it comes to not having obvious connections to other Romance languages I know. This is one of the worst ones of all in terms of reading. I do not know any words. Cannot speak it.

I do not think I have ever heard any of these languages spoken or even seen them written down: Arumanian, Barranquian, Cajun French, Campidanese, Corsican, Emilian, Romagnol, Friulian, Gallurese, Istriot, Istro-Rumanian, Italkian, Ladin, Ladino, Ligurian, Logudorian, Lombard, Megleno-Rumanian, Neapolitan, Picard, Piedmontese,  Sardinian, Sassarese, Sicilian, Venetian, or Walloon.

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Check Out Furniello Berciano

This is an extremely interesting lect being spoken here. It looks more like Furniello spoken in the Fornela Valley region around where Asturias, Leon and Galicia all come together. The language itself looks something like Berciano, Western Asturian or Eastern Galician.

Here are some of my notes on this language:

Forniellu is spoken in the Fornela Valley in and around the towns of Guimara, Peranzanes, and Transcastro. It is a mixture of Leonese, Asturian, Galician and Castillian. It is probably not intelligible with Galician. It is difficult to place this lect. Formally it is considered to be transitional between Leonese and Galician, but it is more likely to be Leonese transitional to Galician. This is sometimes said to be part of Berciano. Best characterized as Leonese. Intelligibility with Fabieru Berciano speakers from nearby Fabero nine miles to the south is excellent.

The people in this area say that they speak Galician, but the truth is they are really speaking Leonese or Berciano. When Berciano speakers go to Galicia, they are not understood, so Berciano is not a type of Galician.

I was utterly lost with this old lady’s story. I could hear a few words now and then, but it wasn’t enough to figure out what she was talking about. After seven minutes, I did not have the slightest idea of what she was talking about. You are listening to it and thinking, “You know, this really does sound like Spanish…” but then you still can’t seem to make out of a word of it. To my untrained ear, it also seems to sound like some sort of a Portuguese-Spanish mix.

If you can speak Spanish or Portuguese, see how much Furniellu you can understand.

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Is Romance Mutual Intelligibility Overrated?

Paul S. writes:

I can speak Spanish decently, though I read it better, and that wasn’t a tough read. That being said, I can read Portuguese pretty well too and can’t understand it spoken much at all.

Well try doing research in Portuguese then. I can speak a bit of Portuguese, and I have been trying to read it for some time now. Lately I am doing a lot of research, and much of it is in Spanish. I use translators a lot, but even then I have to go back to the original Spanish. I can do research ok in Spanish, but it is not real easy.

I also run across a lot of Portuguese, Galician and Asturian. Research is quite hard in all of these. I am having an extremely hard time reading Portuguese, and previously I thought I could read it fairly well. Also I have a friend in Brazil, and she used to send me mails all the time in Portuguese, and honestly, I was pretty lost reading that stuff. I think Spanish-Portuguese written intelligibility is overrated.

I cannot understand much spoken Portuguese either. I watched a clip on Youtube the other day about some city council meeting in a town on the Spanish-Portuguese border, and I could not understand a word they said.

I have a feeling that the oral intelligibility of Romance is also overrated. You hear a lot of anecdotes. Eonavians said that Western Asturians could not understand one word of Eonavian, which is a Western Asturian-Eastern Galician transitional dialect!

Castillian speakers who went to Valencia to live said that after seven years, they still could not understand one word of Valencian and Catalan spoken at normal speed. However, they could understand TV announcers in those lects very well because the announcers used Castillian intonation as opposed to Catalan/Valencian intonation.

Some people from the north of Spain say that they cannot understand a single word of the hard Andalucian spoken on the streets of the big cities.

Commenter James Schipper lived in Brazil for years and is fluid in Portuguese. However, he only understood 40% of the strange lect spoken in Hermisende, Zamora, in Spain. Linguists say that this is a Galician dialect with heavy Portuguese influence and significant Leonese influences. On some linguistic maps, it is colored as a Portuguese dialect.

He was also able to understand only 25% of Alistano Leonese.

And we haven’t even left the Iberian Peninsula yet!

A while back, in a large city in northern Italy, an old woman had become lost. They took her into the police station and she was chattering away for a few hours. They kept asking her questions but she did not understand them as she didn’t speak Standard Italian. People had all sorts of theories on where she was from. Some thought Greece, and there were many other guesses. Finally a worker came in who was familiar with the strange Western Lombard dialect from the high northern Italian mountains that she spoke. The old lady and the cops all spoke a Northern Italian dialect, and none of them could understand the old lady.

On the border of France and Italy in and around the city of Menton near Nice, a lect called Mentonasque is spoken. It is close to the old language of Nizzard spoken in Nice. This is an Occitan-Ligurian transitional dialect, a halfway between Maritime Provencal Occitan spoken in France and Ligurian spoken in Italy. Nevertheless, Mentonasque speakers say that they cannot understand a word of the Ligurian spoken in Italy. And linguists now see Mentonasque as a Ligurian dialect!

One would think that if these languages were that close, one could learn one or another of them pretty easily. To some extent this is true, but not to the extent of dialects of a single tongue or very closely related languages where you can adjust fairly easy over a period of 1 hour-3 weeks.

For instance, in Asturias, there are many Castillian speakers who have been living there for some time who simply state that they cannot understand Asturian. If they were really so close, one would think they would have picked it up easily over the years.

Down in the Bierzo zone transitional between the Leonese and Galician languages, there are Castillian speakers who have been living there for years who cannot understand Leonese, Galician or Berciano. With languages like that being spoken around them all the time, one would think they would have picked up them easily over the years.

The truth is that these languages are not as close as they seem, and much has to do with intonation as the example of the Castillian speaker living in Valencia indicates. In addition, one way to tell that you are dealing with a separate language and not a dialect of a single tongue is that the other language doesn’t necessarily get easier to understand the more you hear it. The factor of motivation cannot be ruled out. The Castillian speakers above who cannot understand Galician, Leonese, Berciano, Asturian, Valencian, Catalan or Andalucian have obviously never taken the time to try to learn the language. They simply cannot be bothered. If people do not want to try to learn a language, even a very closely related one spoken around them all the time, they simply will not learn it.

It is said that after 2-3 months of close contact, a Castillian speaker can pick up Aragonese, Catalan, Asturian, Leonese or Galician. But that is if one is sufficiently motivated. The powerful variable of motivation in language learning cannot be underestimated.

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Research in a Foreign Language

Lately I have been doing a lot of research on Iberian Romance languages. I tend to dive into one subject and then I often just tunnel away at it like a tunnel rat until it feels like I am one of the world’s leading experts on the subject. Then at some point, when I have completely tunneled out the subject as far deep as I want to tunnel, I move over to something else and I am might start tunneling away at that one too.

Research is a blast to me. I could research all day and all night to my heart’s content. I usually take notes while I am doing it, and I am typically formulating hypotheses, testing them out, seeing the results, drawing conclusions, and then changing my conclusions around. What is great is that when you do research all of these new questions keep popping up. Questions that don’t have very obvious answers. Some of the questions are suggested by others, and others I dredge up myself just by looking at the data. For a given subject, at times there are  number of competing theories that try to explain the data. I like to work through the theories and try to figure out which one fits the data best.

Plus I get to get away from the frequently ugly world of other humans and politics and just wallow away in something fun. People can be a pain sometimes and politics often just makes me depressed and angry. Like real depressed and real angry. But the stuff I research about is often outside of politics. Or if there is politics involved, I could care less about those particular issues because they are not important to me.

So for Iberian Romance, unfortunately, there is but a limited amount of data in English. Much of the data is in, you guessed it, Spanish! Quite a bit is also in Portuguese. Some of it is Galician. And unfortunately some of it is in Asturian or Extremaduran. You can use translators to translate some of these languages, but the translators do not work real well. A lot of times when the translation looks a bit funny, you go back to the original language and then compare that L2 with the English translation. For Spanish, Galician and even Portuguese, I can often figure out what they are really trying to say by looking at the original text and the English translation.

Some of the data is in online books, and those are written in Spanish only. Not only that, but there is no way to translate it from the books. So you just have to work your way through the Spanish and try to glean what you can get out of it. It is not as hard as it seems.

I was amazed at how well I can read Portuguese, but I must say, reading Portuguese is dramatically more difficult than reading Spanish.

Galician is sort of in between. It is like Portuguese with a lot of Spanish mixed in, so it seems easier to read than Portuguese.

Asturian and the few texts in Extremaduran are total disasters. I really do not have the foggiest clue what they are saying. The written standard for both languages is very odd and even if you can understand Spanish, Galician and Portuguese fairly well, good look with Asturian!

Anyway, if any of you had to do research in a foreign language, could you do it? Have you ever done research or in depth type reading in any language (L2) other than your native language (L1)? If so, tell us what your native language is and what languages you are capable of doing research or in depth reading in.

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La Almedilha Portuguese

Portuguese is spoken in several places in Spain. One of those places is the town of Al Almedilha in Salamanca Province, where it is spoken right on the border with Portugal. This area was part of Portugal until the 1100’s when the kingdom of Leon conquered it for Spain. Nobody is very sure about what this language is. Linguists are uncertain whether this lect is Galician, Portuguese or Extremaduran.

Intelligibility with Portuguese is not known, but speakers got subtitles in a Galician documentary. It is strikingly similar to the Fala Galician spoken in the nearby Xalima Valley. But Fala is intelligible with Galician, so then why the subtitles for Galicians listening to La Almedilha? The implications are that this lect is not fully intelligible with Galician. Galician speakers say this lect is not Galician. Portuguese speakers who hear this say it sounds like the Portuguese spoken in far northeastern Portugal.

However, older reports from 1962 said that this was a Senabrese Leonese dialect with some Portuguese influences. In that case, it would be similar to Mirandese, Rio de Onorese and Guadramiles, and it may be more similar to . Mirandese than anything else. It would be interesting to see how intelligible this lect is to Mirandese speakers.

Actually what this looks like more than anything else is the remains of the old Galician-Portuguese language that is still spoken in the Baxia Limao and Tras os Montes region of far northeastern Portugal. This language is also called either Old Portuguese, Old Galician or Medieval Galician. It was spoken and written in Portugal and Galicia from 800-1516. This also sounds a lot like Brazilian Portuguese. Galician also sounds like Brazilian Portuguese. This is because Brazil was colonized by Portuguese from the northern part of Portugal, so they continue to speak with a Northern Portuguese/Galician accent.

If you speak Portuguese, could you listen to this woman’s speech and tell me whether you can understand it or not?

I understood some of it, but then I do not really understand Portuguese anyway.

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