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Spring 2003

Studies relating to the sociolinguistic situation of the Galician language (1990-2002), by Anxo M. Lorenzo Suárez

In this article we look at a selection of the most relevant studies on the sociolinguistic situation of the Galician language [the language of Galicia, northwest Spain] carried out and / or published between 1990 and 2003, and sponsored by Galician public institutions: the Xunta de Galicia, the local administrations, universities, and other institutions, such as the Consello da Cultura Galega. We will focus on studies in seven different areas: general studies, language policy, administration, non-university education, university education, the media, and other ambits or domains (companies, advertising and the church).


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1. Introduction

2. General studies

3. Language policy

4. Administration

5. Non-university education

6. University education

7. The media

8. Other domains: companies, advertising and the church

9. Endnote

10. Bibliography

1. Introduction

The object of this article is to present the most relevant studies, reports and research on the sociolinguistic fortunes of the Galician language (Galego) carried out –and/or published– in the period between 1990 and 2003. We will focus exclusively on sociolinguistic materials sponsored by or published by such Galician public institutions as the Xunta de Galicia, local administrations, the universities, and the Consello da Cultura Galega.

We will divide this essay into seven sections: general studies, language policy, administration, non-university education, university education, the media, and other domains (companies, advertising and the church).

2. General studies

Up until the present, the most relevant general study to have come out relating to the overall state of the Galician, language, on the macro-social level, is the Mapa Sociolingüístico de Galicia (MSG). We will not linger over its characteristics or its contents since these have already been evaluated and commented upon (Noves SL. Winter 2002)

Nor will we look at the general research which included the sociolinguistic situation of Galician as one more object or case study within a wider or more general framework (for instance, the Euromosaic study –cf. Nelde, Williams & Strubell (1996)– or the work carried out by the Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas –cf. CIS (1994) and (1999).

In 1992, the Instituto Galego de Estatística (the Galician Institute of Statistics) published the results of the linguistic questions on knowledge and use of the Galician language which had been included in the 1991 census on population and housing (cf. Instituto Galego de Estatística, 1992). The data was presented in four volumes –one for each province of Galicia– and in these, information was gathered on knowledge and use of the Galician language by age, education in progress, past education, activity, occupation, etc. Included, too, were tables featuring cross-tabulation of knowledge and use of Galician. All this information is available by province and local administration.

Although the scores given are raw –percentages are not given– and are presented without any type of description or interpretation, such overall figures would seem to coincide very well with the results and trends shown by the Mapa Sociolingüístico de Galicia.

The usefulness of this work is quite clear: here we have relevant sociolinguistic information for each local authority, cross-tabulated with the main independent variables. There are, however, certain aspects which admittedly limit its usefulness: there are only a few sociolinguistic indicators included in the original questionnaire, percentages are not given, few independent variables are considered, and no interpretation is provided of the partial and overall figures.

As regards its diffusion and exploitation, we need to recognise that there was little of either and only in certain very specific cases did it serve as a source of information for subsequent tasks, for example on language planning. It would seem that the near overlap in time between the publication of this study and the beginning of the publication of the MSG volumes meant that the results of the IGE-1992 were not sufficiently regarded.

3. Language Policy

In the field of language policy in Galicia we have the report El proceso de normalización del idioma gallego (1980-2000) (the process of standardisation of the Galician language, 1980-2000), promoted and coordinated by the Sección de Lingua del Consello da Cultura Galega. (1) The aims and objectives of this report are threefold: a) obtain more in-depth information on public use of the Galician language; b) present an evaluation of the impact of linguistic initiatives by the regional autonomous administration; and c) put forward recommendations for the improvement of language policy in Galicia. The study will be published initially in four volumes, and we shall be commenting on the first two –one which has already come out, and the other which is in press. The two remaining volumes, planned to come out in 2003, are: public administrations, and the planning stage of the corpus.

The first volume (cf. Cidadanía-Rede de Aplicacións Sociais, 2003) concentrates on analysis of language policy in Galicia since 1980. Its main aim is to focus on compilation and analysis of the standardisation process, of initiatives by the Galician parliament and speeches and ideologies relating to language politics, as well as a detailed review of the budgets allocated to the Galician language during that period.

The methodology employed here is usual documentary approach, applying qualitative techniques. Specifically, an application of the Delphi technique was carried out with a group of key witnesses.

The second volume (cf. Bouzada, Fernández Paz & Lorenzo, 2003) takes infant and primary education as its universe. (2) The aims and objectives of the work were as follows: a) to obtain a rigorous diagnosis on the current state of Galician in the schools and in education transmission; b) obtain a diagnosis and analysis of the most relevant sociolinguistic trends which contextualised linguistic practice in the schools during the period 1980-2000; y c) analyse the ideologies and opinions of the sectors making up the school community vis-à-vis language standardisation process.

On the methodological level the research was organised in two parts. In the first place there was a macro social investigation, using quantitative indicators, based on a significant sample of schools, stratified by type of scholastic centre (private/public) and by province (a total of 201 schools in the four provinces of Galicia). To this end three questionnaires were designed: one for the head teachers and holders posts of responsibility in the schools (with 41 questions); another specifically for the language standardisation team in each school (with 53 questions); and an observational evaluation sheet (with 48 items). Additionally, case studies were carried out, based on qualitative indicators, based on a scheme classifying the schools according to their greater or lesser degree of galicianisation and type of area (urban/non urban) and type of scholastic centre (public/private).

The first volume was published in March 2003 and the second is due to come out in April 2003. Thus, full the impact of these publications still remains to be seen. But at all events, what we have here is the first systematic evaluation of the contemporary process of standardisation of the Galician language, and so the social repercussions of the findings are likely to be considerable.

4. Administration

Studies and reports on the present status of the Galician language in the different public administrations (local government institutions) in Galicia are relatively few in number. We shall start by commenting on several reports published by the Consello da Cultura Galega and go on to take a look at the studies carried out by the local government administrations.

In an investigation into the future of the Galician language published by the Consello da Cultura Galega Bouzada & Lorenzo (1997) devote a section to looking at the management of the Galician language from and within the Galician regional government institutions. The general aim of this investigation was to present an assessment, based on empirical findings on the sociolinguistic situation in Galicia, of the limits to and the potential of the Galician normalisation process in the local contexts and the world of work (the part dealing with the workplace will be commented upon below in section 8).

Flexible and varied research methodology was used in this investigation. A representative sample of the social actors involved was selected and a wide-ranging and diversified interview script was devised, with open and closed questions, relating to the state of the language and trends in the promotion and evolution of patterns of language use.

With respect to the contents, the first stage of the research involved looking at the state of the question of normalisation in the local government area from different angles and different levels: the autonomous regional administration, the civil society and local entities, devoting considerable space to a description of the current situation and the debate on the management of normalisation in local entities (evaluation of the current situation and future prospects for normalisation techniques and municipal and local language services).

Secondly, there was a section devoted to the airing of opinions, attitudes and experiences relating to the extension of the Galician language to local (public) ambits in Galicia derived from the interpretations and arguments of the different entities involved (public administrations, politicians, social actors, opinion leaders, linguistic normalisation technicians, etc.), with the aim of obtaining an x-ray picture of the limitations and challenges which all who are working for the promotion of the language in local and community contexts find themselves faced with.

Thirdly, there was analysis of a particular case study: the experience of the process of normalisation at the local government offices of the town of Moaña (Pontevedra province). Lastly, in the final section of the report, there was an explanatory scheme mapping the strong points and weak points of the normalisation process at local and community levels.

Continuing specifically with the local level, while no exhaustive sociolinguistic description was offered of local government offices in Galicia (see, however, in section 2. General studies, the reference to information provided by the Instituto Galego de Estatística, 1992), a number of studies were carried out which we should comment upon. Of especial importance here are those which looked at the city of Santiago de Compostela and the city of Vigo.

In the case of the city of Santiago de Compostela (Coruña province), the research on the fortunes of the Galician language there (cf. Cidadanía–Rede de Aplicacións Sociais, 2001) was designed with a view to identifying the most relevant factors influencing the social uses of Galician, with a practical objective: establish the aims and strategic approaches of a plan of action for normalisation at the city of Santiago local government offices. Thus, this study sets out to document the sociolinguistic state of affairs in order to implement language planning suited to this initial language situation.

The work was given a two-part structure. Firstly, use was made of the specific MSG data for the city Santiago (sample of 1,153 questionnaires). Complementing this, different maps were devised based on the different relevant sociolinguistic variables, making it possible to observe and make comparisons regarding the most relevant sociolinguistic features of the urban and suburban fabric of the city.

Secondly, with a view to undertaking a participant type of study, a qualitative analysis was designed in which social actors and agents were involved; together with the members of the research team, a qualitative evaluation by sectors was built up using the DAFO technique complemented by in-depth interviews of qualified representatives of different sectors and social settings at municipal level (politicians, media, the world of work, education, and so forth).

The result of this research was a report giving the sociolinguistic profile of the municipality, a general as well as a specific DAFO analysis for seven social domains (firms, relations at the workplace, non-university education, university education, information technology, the media and the church), an evaluation of the work of Santiago's municipal language service, and a set of recommendations made by the team writing the report on the specific design of the municipal plan for linguistic normalisation, which was finally approved by the Santiago de Compostela city council in 2002.

In the case of the city of Vigo (Pontefract province), in 1997 and again in 2002 two research projects were carried out on the sociolinguistic situation of Galician in the city (cf. Vagabonded et al., 1998; 2003, in press). Both studies were based on a quantitative investigation by means of a questionnaire which was administered to a stratified sample of the population of Vigo. The 1997 qustionnaire contained 35 questions on the usual aspects: first language, linguistic competence, habitual language, frequency of use of Galician and patterns of language use, as well as attitudes and opinions. The 2002 questionnaire consisted of 37 questions, and in it, in addition to the items already included in the 1997 study, there were questions focusing on evaluation of the activities of the municipal language service.

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