chapter  5
Negotiating the Standard in Contemporary Galicia
ByBernadette O’Rourke
Pages 17

While traditional communities of minority languages speakers are being eroded as a result of urbanisation and economic modernisation, ‘new speakers’ are emerging in the context of community efforts and more supportive language policies. These ‘new speakers’ are often the product of revitalisation agendas in which language politics have tended to be oriented towards normalisation, expanding literacy and standardisation, as well as an underlying concern with boundary drawing and purifying (Urla 1995). This chapter looks at the social consequences of language standardisation in the case of Galician, a language which has benefitted from major policy changes coinciding with Spain’s transition to democracy in the 1970s. The development of galego normativo (Standard Galician) was driven by its newly ascribed role since 1981 as a national and co-official language (with Spanish) in Galicia. However, despite 30 years of institutional standardisation, more than half of all Galicians still see the Standard variety as artificial, including a younger generation with the highest levels of exposure through the education system (Observatorio da Cultura Galega 2011). The chapter will examine the way in which new speakers of Galician reproduce some of these ideologies but on the other hand resist them.

As Milroy (2001) highlights, an important effect of standardisation has been the development of a consciousness among speakers of a so-called ‘correct’, or canonical form of language. As such, the Standard variety represents a powerful filter for social mobility and positions ‘new speakers’ as legitimate speakers of the ‘langue autorisée’ (Bourdieu 1991). In Galicia, this presents a challenge to the authority of traditional native speakers, whose language variety is doubly stigmatised, firstly, by its historically subordinate position in socioeconomic and political terms alongside the dominant contact language and, secondly, by its contemporary status alongside the newly formed Standard.

However, ‘new speakers’ search for authenticity, and the desire ‘to be from somewhere’ often overrides the value of linguistic correctness and the value of anonymity associated with the Standard (Woolard 2008). ‘New speaker’ varieties (which are essentially equated to the Standard variety) in Galicia often seem inauthentic and artificial because they are seen to be geographically and linguistically removed from the ‘traditional’ dialectal varieties. At the same time, Galician new speakers’ perceived inability to emulate traditional forms can prompt them to construct more hybridised and anti-normative language practices. In doing so, there is an attempt to shed themselves of '‘book-like’ formulations often associated with the Standard.