LINGUIST List 6.1465

Fri Oct 20 1995

Disc: Language/Dialect

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  1. Celso Alvarez-Caccamo, Re: 6.1454, Disc: Language/Dialect
  2. pablo GAMALLO OTERO, Language/Dialect

Message 1: Re: 6.1454, Disc: Language/Dialect

Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 03:14:29 Re: 6.1454, Disc: Language/Dialect
From: Celso Alvarez-Caccamo <>
Subject: Re: 6.1454, Disc: Language/Dialect

I would like to comment on some remarks about Galizan and Portuguese made
by Jose Ignacio Hualde and Kathleen March.

I agree with many of the general statements made by Hualde regarding the
relationship between neighboring linguistic varieties. These arguments
(about Italian/dialects, Flemish/Netherlander, etc.) are probably known to
most linguists who are interested in the issue. All I would urge linguists
to do is simply to be consistent in applying their criteria to define what
a language is. If Galizan is a separate language, then probably we should
speak of "the Andalusian language" as well, and so on. If Brazilian,
Portugal Portuguese, Mocambican, etc. didn't exist, there would be no
doubt that Galizan would be an independent language of the Romance family.
The same argument can be applied to the relationship between Italian and
the Italian dialects, and so on. But Hualde contradicts himself when,
after defending the relativity of defining linguistic boundaries, states

> Now, what about Galician? Galician and Portuguese were the same
> language initially; but for centuries they have been evolving in
> separate directions.

In other words, this (relative) "separate development" of Galizan from
other Portuguese varieties seems sufficient to imply that Galizan
and other Portuguese varieties no longer can be grouped under the
same label -- whatever it is. Should the relative separate development
of Andalusian suffice to call it a different language? It seems easier
to judge when the separate development affects a language other than one's
own. What about two different standards for Catalan and Valencian (a
dream of the Valencianists), or Northern (French) and Southern (Spanish)
Basque dialects?

I am a native speaker of Spanish myself (even though I learned Galizan at
a young age and now I use Galizan Portuguese habitually more than I do
Spanish), and I can tell you that often I can't understand Andalusian on
TV! I probably have fewer problems with Barcelona Catalan. On the other
hand, it is no urban myth that many Portuguese speakers have a hard time
understanding speakers from Lisbon!

I would like to distinguish three dimensions of the Galizan problem:

1) "Strictly linguistic" dimension. How can a given linguistic variety be
grammatically described in the simplest, most economical terms? Can the
grammar of Galizan varieties be explained in terms of simple subrules
within the grammar of what we could call "Portuguese"? I believe so. For
instance, there are phenomena which are *very specific* to the Western
Ibero-Romance Block that do not appear in neighboring Spanish: clitic
position patterns, conjugated infinitive, noun phrase structure with
possessives ("a minha casa"), etc.

As for phonological processes, the Galizan vowel and consonant systems can
be explained as a simplification of the (the?) Portuguese system: absence
of voiced sibilants, of /v/, and general absence of nasal vowels *with
phonemic status*. However, I can't think of any phonological process
which is typical of just one of the Portuguese varieties: purely nasal
vowels are also found in native Galizan dialects, monophthongization of
/~a~w/ -> /~oN/ or /~o/ is NOT exclusive to Galizan, etc. The affricate
/tS/ and /b : v/ reduction are common in Northern Portuguese (that is,
within the area that I would genuinely call Galizan, beyond Galiza's
administrative boundaries), etc. That is, phenomena that are taken as
"typically Galizan" appear elsewhere within the Portuguese domain (but
not, for example, in Spanish), while phenomena that are argued to be
"typically Portuguese" are not only found, but even frequent, in Galiza.
>From the isolationist viewpoint (those who defend the independence of
Galizan), "sesseio" (the reduction of /s : TH/) is viewed as "dialectal",
when what is really unusual within the Romance domain is the presence of
(dialectal) /TH/.

Furthermore, one aspect that is often overlooked when establishing
language boundaries is the existence or not of bi-univocal correspondences
between forms in two varieties. For instance, Port. diphthongs /~a~i/
systematically correspond to Gal. /En/ (phonetically [En] ~ [EN] ~ [E~]).
Gal. /oN/ /aN/ /ao/ merge in Port. /a~w~/, etc. Establishing these
correspondences is a matter of exposure to the other variety -- a matter
of minutes, hours, or even a few days. I think that, after this process,
a speaker with the right disposition (that is, with an open language
attitude) soon concludes that he or she and the interlocutor are indeed
speaking "the same thing". We all have probably had this experience some
time (American English/Irish English, Castilian Spanish/Andalusian
Spanish, etc.).

In fact, the existence of a single Galizan-Portuguese language is
acknowledged even by some proponents of the separateness of Galizan. One
of the leading Galizan dialectologists, Francisco Fernandez Rei, a member
of the Galician Language Institute (Instituto da Lingua Galega) from the
University of Santiago de Compostela, states explicitly the question:

	"Dans une perspective strictement linguistique, nous pouvons
	admettre que le galicien et le portugais parle's aujourd'hui
	constituent pratiquement une seule et me^me langue
	_abstand_. . . . Pourtant, du point de vue sociolinguistique
	et standardalogique nous sommes, sans aucun doute, en
	pre'sence de deux langues _ausbau_" (p. 111, in "La place de
	la langue galicienne dans les classifications traditionnelles
	de la Romania et dans les classifications standardalogiques
	re'centes", _Plurilinguismes_ 6 (1993), 89-120).

This is not, however, what publicly transpires. The official definition
is similar to the one hinted at by Hualde. It is pervasive in school
textbooks, which flatly state that "Galician and Portuguese were the same
language, but not any more", instead of explaining the different views on
the issue. It is interesting that just a few years ago officially
approved textbooks mentioned or even emphasized the Gal-Port. linguistic
and cultural unity (Luzia Domi'nguez Seco. 1992. Na construc,a~o do galego
como "li'ngua legi'tima". _Aga'lia_ 20, 144-167).

This dominant position can also be summarized in the information given in
the World Wide Web "home page" of the Galician Language Institute, which
has carried the dialectological research underlying the construction of
the 'Galician Ausbau': 'Galician' is an independent language of the
Romance family which "shares with Portuguese the morphology and part (sic)
of the vocabulary". This succint public statement contradicts not only
facts about the overwhelming similarities between Galizan and other
Portuguese varieties, but also facts about the relationships between any
two given Romance languages! If, as Hualde states, even Spanish and
Portuguese could be considered the same language (an argument I will not
contest, provided that we apply it consistently across the planet's
languages), that is, if Sp. and Port. share much more than just some
morphology, how could possible Gal. and Port. share just "morphology and
part of the vocabulary"?

What is the problem, then? How is a part of the same Abstand language
being currently *constructed* as a separate Ausbau? Why? What for? Where
is language planning in Galiza heading?

2) Sociolinguistic dimension. I disagree with Hualde that linguists
should consider a language to be just what "most speakers" think the
language is:

> If most Galician speakers shared Alvarez-Caccamo's point of
> view, we linguists would have to take Galician as a dialect of
> Portuguese. If, on the other hand, most of them think that Galician is
> a separate language, we must also accept this. I have no idea how many
> Galician-speakers are in each camp.

By the same token, twenty years ago, under Franco, Galizan was indeed (and
should be for linguists) a real dialect of Spanish: that was the common
view, that's how speakers *felt* Galizan was. But languages can't change
that fast.

For the sake of clarity, I would like to distinguish here between a
'language' and a 'social language', and between a 'dialect' and a 'social
dialect'. Nowadays a widespread view is that Galizan is a 'social
language', that is, that is is not merely an underprivileged, corrupt
social dialect of Spanish. Galizan, therefore, deserves to have a place
in public, educational, cultural, religious, and official life. But it
doesn't automatically follow from this that Galizan *should* have an
independent standard. On the contrary, the current approach to
standardization removes Galizan speakers and readers from Galiza's natural
cultural world, written in a so-far appropriate script called 'portugue^s
padra~o'. With the recent reemergence of national consciousness in the
peripheral countries of the Spanish state, the solution taken by the
Spanish elites seems to have been something that can be easily summarized
with the Spanish expression "cafe' para todos" -- the same for everybody.
Catalans, do you want a language? Here is your independent language.
Basques, do you want a language? Here is your 'euskara batua'. Galizans,
do you want your own language? Well, here it is. The three communities
share something important: their respective cultural and linguistic
domains go beyond the boundaries of the Kingdom of Spain. The fundamental
difference is that, while in the case of the Basque Country and Catalonia
the linguistic and cultural centers have always been *inside* the Spanish
state, Galiza is actually a sort of unwanted excrecency of the Portuguese
linguistic domain within Spanish territory. Furthermore, Galiza is not
Catalunya, or the Basque Country -- it is a small country, still scarcely
industrialized, whose traditional economy is being slowly but surely
dismantled by the European Community's and Spain's economic policies. The
majority of the Galizan elites probably consider it a success that Galizan
is written in a script different from Portuguese. What they don't want to
face is that this script is basically Spanish. One of the negative
consequences (with serious implications for or, rather, against language
prestige) is that, while high-school students must read and get familiar
with a large number of local writers (some of them of undeniable quality)
in their 'Galician Literature' courses, they have no institutionally
supported opportunity to read even a bit of, say, Camo~es, Gil Vicente,
Ec,a de Queiroz, Pessoa, Jorge Amado, Saramago... I don't believe that
the construction of 'Galician' as a Language and the absolute official
disregard for the Portuguese cultural world is coincidental.

3) Socio-political dimension. Finally, a brief note on what happens here
and where this is heading. I fully agree with Kathleen March's
well-informed assessment of the situation, as it comes from a person who
has been seriously involved with the Galizan cultural and linguistic world
(I appreciate, Kathleen, your first message where you also recognize the
need for a debate here in Galiza). Linguistically speaking, the result
may be the full dialectalization of 'Galician' again -- through spelling,
rejection of native pronunciation, which approaches Gal. to Spanish. But
the process goes beyond the fate of Galizan. In the meantime, in the
context of what no doubt is an unresolved academic and social issue,
strong mechanisms of ideological and *material* control are subjecting
pro-reintegrationist intellectuals, educators, writers, students,
linguists, and members of grass-root organizations. What most
reintegrationists want is simply that using a Portuguese-based script
(either 'portugues padrao' or a slightly adapted form) and talking about
'the Galizan-Portuguese' or simply 'the Portuguese language' is not a
motive for ridicule, insult, or sheer (yes) repression: disciplinary
sanctions for educators, unfair distribution of public funds for research
or publication grants, etc. Reintegrationists also want to be called to
the forums where language is discussed and socially planned. What would
happen if, say, tomorrow Northern Ireland English started to be written as
a different language? Should users of the standard English script be
sanctioned and disciplined for identifying with the larger "imagined
community" (as Benedict Anderson puts it, _Imagined Communities: The
Origin and Spread of Nationalism_) of the English- speaking world?

The irony of the situation can be summarized in the following anecdote: In
a radio spot for language promotion in the public radio, a woman from
Flanders says approximately in Galizan: "My name is So-and-So. I am from
Flanders, in Belgium. I came to Galicia to study such-and-such. I
believe the language of each people should always be defended. That's
why, while in Galicia, I defend its language, Galician; and when I am in
Flanders I defend my language, Netherlander".

Celso Alvarez-Caccamo
Departamento de Linguistica Geral e Teoria da Literatura
Universidade da Corunha, Galiza - Spain
Tel: 34-81-100457, ext. 1758
FAX: 34-81-102459
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Message 2: Language/Dialect

Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 16:34:18 Language/Dialect
From: pablo GAMALLO OTERO <>
Subject: Language/Dialect

I liked very much the message by J.I Hualde concerning the galician
situation. I agree with his point of view about separating linguistic
issues from a social-political perspective.

 From a linguistic point of view, nobody can impose absolute
arguments in order to consider Galician as either an independent language
or a portuguese dialect.
 Nevertheless, from a social point of view, Galician-speakers may
choice between at least three different solutions :

(1) Galician as an independent language
(2) Galician as a portuguese dialect
(3) Galician as a spanish dialect

I think that the arguments Galician-speakers would take into account in
order to make a choice, should turn not towards a conservative past, but
towards a large and open future, towards a modern society where people will
have the means to assimilate and integrate several cultures and then
several languages.
As a Galician-speaker (who lives in France since four years), I rejet the
solution (3), because it follows that Galicia early will become a community
with only one culture, carried by a monolingual society, and then
completely separate from portugese nation.
The solution (1) (which some Galician-speakers have chosed at the present
time) confronts us with a problem : within this situation, we
Galician-speakers have to seek, in the pass and in the present tracks of
the past, the justifications which allow us to differenciate galician
culture, on the one hand, from portugese culture and, on the other hand,
from spanish culture. To do it, we must bring out and accentuate ours
differences with respect to portugese and spanish people. So we have to
build up a galician grammar and childs must learn it at the school. It
follows that Galicia must grow a private culture, which politicians and
linguistics should to define by means of necessary and sufficient
conditions. In this manner, nobody is interested in politics, cultural
life nor linguistic problems of Portugal. Rather Galicians are hurrying to
create a private cosmos where legitimate theirs private ambitions.

I think that galician nation can not be defined by necessary and sufficient
conditions. "Galician" must be conceived as a dynamic notion which
oscillate between portuguese and spanish cultures; a notion which can be
defined precisely with respect to this fluctuation.

On the one hand, we are an element of the spanish State and then we take
part of the spanish culture.
On the other hand, we have the means -a language and an history in common-
which allow us to move near of the portuguese state and culture.

I think that galician grammar must be adapted to the portuguese grammar
(i.e. I see Galician as a portugesse dialect (2) ). In this way, we could
limit the differences with respect to Portugese, and therefore we could
build up sound relations with Portugal at the political, social, economical
and cultural levels.
Consequentely, galician identity would be a dynamic notion situated between
two cultures. From this point of view, it is not necessary to create a
static identity, defined as a hole dug out in the boundary of two well
stablished languages. It is not necessary to conceive Galicia as a trench
within which politicians and linguistics figth against two foreing
communities (Spain and Portugal), in order to appropriate a bit of field,
and create in this manner a new nation.
This is a very conservative point of view.

I prefer see Galicia not as a nation shut in a private field, and opposed
vto foreing fields; but as a bilingual goup of people which can live and
cohabit with both the spanish and the portuguese societies.

I agree with Alvarez-Caccamo and the "Reintegracionistas" about the idea
that Galician can be seen as a portugese dialect. Yet I look at the past
without rancour, I don't want erase 500 years where Galicia lived under the
spanish oppression. Rather galician people should take advantages from
this historical situation.
Galicia must move towards Portugal, not in order to go away from Spain, but
in order to build up a pluralist identity.

======================= Pablo GAMALLO OTERO =============================

"Laboratoire de Recherche sur le Langage"
Universite Blaise Pascal, Clermont II
Departement de Linguistique
63100 Clermont-Ferrand. France
Tel : 73 40 64 44
Fax : 73 40 64 43

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