The 20th century

The consolidation of Galician as a learned language did not take place until the 20th century. In fact, by the end of the century, it was confirmed the status of official language, together with Castilian, and it was established its spelling and morphological conventions and its use at school.


  • Asistentes á IV Asemblea das Irmandades da Fala (Monforte de Lemos, 1922)

    Asistentes á IV Asemblea das Irmandades da Fala (Monforte de Lemos, 1922)


The literary recovery of Galicia was increasing and achieved a high degree of development before the Civil War. Galician literature has had to overcome gender restrictions and topics.

The intellectuals of the beginning of the 20th century wrote essays and non-literary texts as well as political oratory, articles and scientific books in Galician. It was made a special effort to create a standard and, in 1905, it was created the Royal Galician Academy with the help of some Galician people in emigration. All these actions contributed to make Galician a suitable language in an industrialized and urban 21th century. There were various important groups and organizations that helped in the development of this task: Xeración Nós (Generation Ourselves), Irmandades da Fala (Brotherhood of the Language) and Seminario de Estudos Galegos (Seminary of Galician Studies).

While the cultural elite made an effort at the service of Galician, there was a loss of speakers due to the lack of some basic literacy and the lack of presence of the language in administration and church. The positive action of that intellectual minority above mentioned was not enough to counteract the negative effects deriving from the subordinate position of the language.

During that period, the nationalist movement achieved a considerable development. One of its demands was the return of the language rights, demand which found its legal framework in the 1963 Galician Statute of Autonomy. In its article 40 it states that: “The official languages in the Galician State are Spanish and Galician”. The approval of the first Galician Statute of Autonomy implied de first official recognition of Galician language in all its history. But the Spanish Civil War defeated this conquest.

From the Civil War to Democracy

Among the many negative consequences of the Civil War there are some that affect the recovery of the language:

  1. It prevented the Galician Statute of Autonomy’s entry into force and the equal official status of both languages.
  2. It truncated the work of those men who fought for the recovery of the language, either being physically eliminated, or obliterated by the exile or the silence.

Franco’s regime meant the suppression of liberties and the introduction of a new order that exalted the Spanish political unity and suppressed any manifestation of difference, with the exception of that which was clearly a folkloristic tradition.

Totalitarian governments never enact laws forbidding the use of languages. It is enough for them to censor them and, as a consequence, they will be used only in private spheres. The official propaganda is responsible for creating the sense of guilt among the speakers. This was confirmed in Galicia and it is the cause of a long period without publications in Galician.

Apart from the deterioration produced by the repression and the propaganda, there were certain changes that had a negative impact on the social situation of Galician during the Franco period:

  • It was made obligatory a basic level of schooling.
  • It was popularized radio and, later, television.

This media, where Galician was not spoken, was of great importance to the progressive castilianization of the whole society.

On the other hand, in this age, it is produced an urban growth. Many people from the country arrive to the cities and they stop speaking Galician and adopt Spanish.

In the 1950s, especially after Spain joined the UNESCO, the repressive measures against Galician were attenuated. This fact allowed some Galician intellectuals to tell young people about their old ideas on Galicia, mainly about Galician. In this period, it is important to note the work of Editorial Galaxia.

Beginning in the 1960s, it appeared the first generation of Galician people who did not live the Civil War. It began to emerge cultural associations whose main aim was to defend Galician people. At the same time, political parties began to organize illegally. They denounced repression against the language and defended the official recognition of Galician.

Around the year 1970, as a consequence of these previous stages, the studies about Galicia were promoted in the University of Santiago.

With regard to the linguistic investigation, it had a huge importance the establishment of a Chair of Galician Language at the Department of Romance studies and the creation of the Galician Language Institute.

Galician language in a Democracy

With the arrival of democracy, Galician was recognized as the native language of Galicia and it was declared its official status together with Spanish as well as the obligation to promote it by public administrations.

The new legal situation required a codification of the language on spelling and morphological aspects in order to achieve its normalization. Even though, throughout the Galician linguistic history, there were various proposals of linguistic rules, the most complete and coherent approach was the one proposed by the Galician Language Institute and the Royal Galician Academy in the 1982 Normas ortográficas e morfolóxicas do idioma galego. They are considered official by the Law of Linguistic Normalization

All these changes made possible the arrival and, in many cases, the settlement of Galician in new formal contexts as higher education, administration, politics, mass media etc. Nevertheless, at the present time, there are also difficulties, mainly, in business environments and other settings where it is growing the presence of Spanish as main vehicular language.