LINGUIST List 6.983

Tue Jul 18 1995

Disc: Linguistic separatism

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. Celso Alvarez Caccamo, On language and separatism

Message 1: On language and separatism

Date: Thu, 13 Jul 1995 01:49:14 On language and separatism
From: Celso Alvarez Caccamo <>
Subject: On language and separatism

On LINGUIST Vol-6-955, Jelly Julia ( says:

"Basque and Catalan separatism is NOT based on language. Why do we never hear
"anything about Galician separatism on the Iberian Peninsula? Galician is a
"language very different from Spanish (and not so different from Portuguese).
"The name of the region is Galicia and is part of Spain. Galician is a language
"much older than Spanish itself: it was used for poetry and by the kings in
"ancient times. Still, we do not hear a lot about Galician separatism. Neither
"do we hear anything about Leonese separatism, Aragonese separatism, Andalusian
"separatism, simply because it does not exist. Separatism on the peninsula has
"NOTHING to do with language. It has everything to do with historic rights of
"old kingdoms.

Galician separatism exists. It just simply doesn't reach the news
because Galician separatists (a minority) haven't killed people,
even though they've tried to on a couple of occasions. On the
contrary, Galician separatists (and federalists) have been killed by
the Spanish army and police (during Franco's uprising and regime).
There are Galician separatists in the jails of the Spanish Kingdom.
The spiral of stret and institutional violence is benefitial to the
western democratic states.

Separatism in the Iberian Peninsula, as elsewhere, has to do with the
way peoples view (or are led to view) their own identity in opposition
to other identities. Language is most often, if not always, an issue.
As for Galiza, to the extent that the Spanish state is able to keep the
lid on the language issue by taming the language of Galiza (Portuguese)
and turning it into a domestic "Galician", no problem -- Galiza won't
reach the news. Galiza, as many other minorized cultures of the world,
is caught between two states: Spain and Portugal. What the Kingdom of
Spain and, particularly, its representatives in Galiza (the majority of
the local political and intellectual elites) can't cope with is the fact
that another state's language, Portuguese, is spoken (and written as such,
by a small fraction of the elites) within Spanish territory. Legislative,
administrative, and judicial measures have been taken to silence
some intellectuals, writers, and teachers who support, with
rational arguments, the view that "Galician" is just a set of regional
and social varieties of Portuguese, and therefore it should be written
with the Portuguese orthography. These acts of actual repression,
discrimination and censorship by the mechanisms of the Spanish state
don't reach the news either. The situation of the "language
question" in Galiza nowadays is the furthest one could imagine
from a civilized, technical and political debate on how to
articulate and reconcile Galician identity/ies with Galiza's language.
It is discouraging and worrisome to see how the term "reintegrationist",
which refers to those who seek the effective recognition of Galician
as a part of its natural linguistic domain, Portuguese, is being
thrown around as an insult in public and academic discourse.

I should clarify that the separatist/reintegrationist lines intersect
each other. That is, there are Galician separatists or nationalists
who are reintegrationists and use the Portuguese orthography, and then
there are other separatists and nationalists who are very happy with
the institutionally-supported view of Galician as a "separate language"
to be written, however, with a Spanish-based orthography.

In the meantime, Galician Portuguese is being learned less and less as
a first language. But that's not the real issue.

Celso Alvarez-Caccamo
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