Galician (also Galego or Gallego) is a language variety of the Western Ibero-Romance branch, spoken in Galicia (in the Galician language, Galicia or Galiza), an autonomous community in northwestern Spain. Historically, the Portuguese language originated in Galicia (the Roman Gallaecia) and branched out in the 14th century after the Reconquista brought it southwards. Modern Galician is seen by many (mainly in Portugal) as a dialect of Portuguese. The Encylopedia Britannica says it is a Portuguese dialect spoken in northwestern Spain, often incorrectly considered a dialect of Spanish. For the Instituto da Lingua Galega, Galego is a Romance Language which belongs to the group of Ibero-Romantic Languages. However, in some aspects the Portuguese dialects are more conservative than the Galician ones, which for the most part lost the voiced fricatives /z/, /v/, etc.
It is understood by most of the people in Galicia and among the many Galician immigrants in the rest of Spain (Madrid, Biscay), Iberoamerica (Buenos Aires) and Europe. For some authors, the situation of language domination in Galicia could be called "diglossia", with Galician in the lower part of the continuum and Spanish language on the top, while for others the conditions for diglossia established by Ferguson are not met.
In the Middle Ages, Galego-português (Galician-Portuguese) was a language of culture, poetry and religion throughout not only Galiza and Portugal but also Castile (where Castilian was used mainly for prose). After the separation of Portuguese and Galician, Galician was considered provincial and was not widely used for literary or academic purposes until the mid 1800s, and during the Franco regime in Spain it was heavily repressed. With the advent of democracy, Galician has been brought into the institutions, and it is now co-official with Spanish. A heavily Castilianized version of Galician is taught in schools. However, for the most part there has been no serious attempt on the part of the Spanish and Galician institutions to reverse language assimilation and loss.
Its orthography, introduced in 1982 (and made law in 1983) by the Real Academia Galega (based on a report by the "Instituto da Lingua Galega") is strongly based on Castilian. It remains a source of contention, however, as many citizens would rather have the institutions recognize Galician as a Portuguese variety and therefore opt for the use of the Portuguese writing system, perhaps with some adaptations.
The Spanish state recognized Galician as one of Spain's four "official languages" (lenguas españolas) (the others being Castilian - also called Spanish - Catalan and Basque). Though this is viewed by most as a positive step toward language maintenance, officialness does not guarantee language transmission among the youngest generations. Language and cultural activism has to struggle not only against growing assimilation to Spanish but also against cultural globalization.
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2 Sources on Galician in the Internet
3 Wikipedia in Galician