Galician-Portuguese ( galego-portugués or galaico-portugués, galego-português or galaico-português), also known as Old Portuguese or as Medieval Galician when referring to the history of each modern language, was a West Iberian Romance language spoken in the Middle Ages, in the northwest area of the Iberian Peninsula. Alternatively, it can be considered a historical period of the Galician and Portuguese languages.

Galician-Portuguese was first spoken in the area bounded in the north and west by the Atlantic Ocean and by the Douro River in the south, comprising Galicia and northern Portugal, but it was later extended south of the Douro by the Reconquista.

It is the common ancestor of modern Portuguese, Galician, Eonavian and Fala varieties, all of which maintain a very high level of mutual intelligibility. The term "Galician-Portuguese" also designates the subdivision of the modern West Iberian group of Romance languages.


Origins and history

Galician-Portuguese developed in the region of the former Roman province of Gallaecia, from the Vulgar Latin (common Latin) that had been introduced by Roman soldiers, colonists and magistrates during the time of the Roman Empire. Although the process may have been slower than in other regions, the centuries of contact with Vulgar Latin, after a period of bilingualism, completely extinguished the native languages, leading to the evolution of a new variety of Latin with a few Gallaecian features.

Gallaecian and Lusitanian influences were absorbed into the local Vulgar Latin dialect, which can be detected in some Galician-Portuguese words as well as in placenames of Celtic and Iberian origin. In general, the more cultivated variety of Latin spoken by the Hispano-Roman elites in Roman Hispania had a peculiar regional accent, referred to as Hispano ore and agrestius pronuntians. The more cultivated variety of Latin coexisted with the popular variety. It is assumed that the Pre-Roman languages spoken by the native people, each used in a different region of Roman Hispania, contributed to the development of several different dialects of Vulgar Latin and that these diverged increasingly over time, eventually evolving into the early Romance Languages of Iberia.

It is believed that by 600, Vulgar Latin was no longer spoken in the Iberian Peninsula. An early form of Galician-Portuguese was already spoken in the Kingdom of the Suebi and by the year 800 Galician-Portuguese had already become the vernacular of northwestern Iberia. The first known phonetic changes in Vulgar Latin, which began the evolution to Galician-Portuguese, took place during the rule of the Germanic groups, the Suebi (411–585) and Visigoths (585–711). And the Galician-Portuguese "inflected infinitive" (or "personal infinitive") and the nasal vowels may have evolved under the influence of local Celtic languages (as in Old French). The nasal vowels would thus be a phonologic characteristic of the Vulgar Latin spoken in Roman Gallaecia, but they are not attested in writing until after the 6th and 7th centuries.

The oldest known document to contain Galician-Portuguese words found in northern Portugal is called the Doação à Igreja de Sozello and dated to 870 but otherwise composed in Late/Medieval Latin. Another document, from 882, also containing some Galician-Portuguese words is the Carta de dotação e fundação da Igreja de S. Miguel de Lardosa. In fact, many Latin documents written in Portuguese territory contain Romance forms. The Notícia de fiadores, written in 1175, is thought by some to be the oldest known document written in Galician-Portuguese. The Pacto dos irmãos Pais, discovered in 1999 (and possibly dating from before 1173), has been said to be even older, but despite the enthusiasm of some scholars, it has been shown that the documents are not really written in Galician-Portuguese but are in fact a mixture of Late Latin and Galician-Portuguese phonology, morphology and syntax. The Noticia de Torto, of uncertain date (c. 1214?), and the Testamento de D. Afonso II (27 June 1214) are most certainly Galician-Portuguese. The earliest poetic texts (but not the manuscripts in which they are found) date from c. 1195 to c. 1225. Thus, by the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th there are documents in prose and verse written in the local Romance vernacular.

In Galicia the oldest document showing traces of the underlying Romance language is a royal charter by king Silo of Asturias, dated in 775: it uses substrate words as arrogio and lagena, now arroio ("stream") and laxe ("stone"), and presents also the elision of unstressed vowels and the lenition of plosive consonants; actually, many Galician Latin charters written during the Middle Ages show interferences of the local Galician-Portuguese contemporary language. As for the oldest document written in Galician-Portuguese in Galicia, it is probably a document from the monastery of Melón dated in 1231, since the 1228-dated Charter of the Boo Burgo of Castro Caldelas is probably a slightly latter translation of a Latin original.


Galician-Portuguese had a special cultural role in the literature of the Christian kingdoms of Crown of Castile (Kingdoms of Castile, Leon and Galicia, part of the medieval NW Iberian Peninsula) comparable to the Catalan language of the Crown of Aragon (Principality of Catalonia and Kingdoms of Aragon, Valencia and Majorca, NE medieval Iberian Peninsula), or that of Occitan in France and Italy during the same historical period. The main extant sources of Galician-Portuguese lyric poetry are these:
  • The four extant manuscripts of the Cantigas de Santa Maria (written by, and/or under the patronage of, Alfonso X the Wise, king of Castile, Leon and Galicia from 1252–1284)
  • Cancioneiro da Ajuda
  • Cancioneiro da Vaticana
  • Cancioneiro Colocci-Brancuti, also known as Cancioneiro da Biblioteca Nacional (Lisbon)
  • Cancioneiro dun Grande de Espanha
  • Pergaminho Vindel
  • Pergaminho Sharrer
  • Os 5 lais de Bretanha
  • Tenzón entre Afonso Sánchez e Vasco Martíns de Resende

    The language was used for literary purposes from the final years of the 12th century to roughly the middle of the 14th century in what are now Spain and Portugal and was, almost without exception, the only language used for the composition of lyric poetry. Over 160 poets are recorded, among them Bernal de Bonaval, Pero da Ponte, Johan Garcia de Guilhade, Johan Airas de Santiago, and Pedr' Amigo de Sevilha. The main secular poetic genres were the cantigas d'amor (male-voiced love lyric), the cantigas d'amigo (female-voiced love lyric) and the cantigas d'escarnho e de mal dizer (including a variety of genres from personal invective to social satire, poetic parody and literary debate).

    All told, nearly 1,700 poems survive in these three genres, and there is a corpus of over 400 cantigas de Santa Maria (narrative poems about miracles and hymns in honor of the Holy Virgin). The Castilian king Alfonso X composed his cantigas de Santa Maria and his cantigas de escárnio e maldizer in Galician-Portuguese, even though he used Castilian for prose.

    King Dinis of Portugal, who also contributed (with 137 extant texts, more than any other author) to the secular poetic genres, made the language official in Portugal in 1290. Until then, Latin had been the official (written) language for royal documents; the spoken language did not have a name and was simply known as lingua vulgar ("ordinary language", that is Vulgar Latin) until it was named "Portuguese" in King Dinis' reign. "Galician-Portuguese" and português arcaico ("Old Portuguese") are modern terms for the common ancestor of modern Portuguese and modern Galician. Compared to the differences in Ancient Greek dialects, the alleged differences between 13th-century Portuguese and Galician are trivial.


    As a result of political division, Galician-Portuguese lost its unity when the County of Portugal separated from Kingdom of Leon to establish the Kingdom of Portugal. The Galician and Portuguese versions of the language then diverged over time as they followed independent evolutionary paths.

    As Portugal's territory was extended southward during the Reconquista, the increasingly-distinctive Portuguese language was adopted by the people in those regions, supplanting the earlier Arabic and other Romance/Latin languages that were spoken in these conquered areas during the Moorish era. Meanwhile, Galician was influenced by the neighbouring Leonese language, especially during the time of kingdoms of Leon and Leon-Castile, and in the 19th and 20th centuries, it has been influenced by Castilian. Two cities at the time of separation, Braga and Porto, were within the County of Portugal and have remained within Portugal. Further north, the cities of Lugo, A Coruña and the great medieval centre of Santiago de Compostela remained within Galicia.

    Galician was the main written language in Galicia till the 16th century, but later it was displaced by Castilian Spanish, which was the official language of the Crown of Castille. Galician slowly became mainly an oral language, preserved by the majority rural or "uneducated" population living in the villages and towns, and Castilian was taught as the "correct" language to the bilingual educated elite in the cities. During most of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, its written use was largely reduced to popular literature and theatre and private letters. From the 18th century onward grew the interest for the language by the studies of illustrated writers such as Martin Sarmiento, who studied the evolution of Galician from Latin and prepared the foundations for the first dictionary of Galician, José Cornide, and father Sobreira. In the 19th century a true literature in Galician emerged during the Rexurdimento, followed by the apparition of journals and, in the 20th century, scientific publications. Because until comparatively recently, most Galicians lived in many small towns and villages in a relatively remote and mountainous land, the language changed very slowly and was only very slightly influenced from outside the region. That situation made Galician remain the vernacular of Galicia until the late 19th and early 20th centuries and its most spoken language till the early 21st century. Modern Galician was only officially recognized by the Second Spanish Republic in the 1930s as a co-official language with Castilian within Galicia. The recognition was revoked by the regime of Francisco Franco but was restored after his death.

    The linguistic classification of Galician and Portuguese is still discussed today. There are those among Galician independence groups who demand their reunification as well as Portuguese and Galician philologists who argue that both are dialects of a common language rather than two separate ones.

    The Fala language, spoken in a small region of the Spanish autonomous community of Extremadura, underwent a similar development as Galician.

    Today Galician is the regional language of Galicia (sharing co-officiality with Spanish), and it is spoken by the majority of its population, but with a large decline of use and efficient knowledge among the younger generations, and the phonetics and lexicon of many occasional users is heavily influenced by Spanish. Portuguese continues to grow and, today, is the sixth most spoken language in the world.


    : eventually shifted to in central and southern Portugal (and thus in Brazil) and merged with in northern Portugal and Galicia. : and probably occurred in complementary distribution. : The written tilde (ã ĩ õ ũ in the medieval sources) can be analyzed as a nasal consonant phoneme (usually , sometimes depending on position) following the marked vowel, with any nasalization of the vowel being a phonetic secondary effect.

    and were apico-alveolar, and and were lamino-alveolar. Later, all the affricate sibilants became fricatives, with the apico-alveolar and lamino-alveolar sibilants remaining distinct for a time but eventually merging in most dialects. See History of Portuguese for more information.

    Sample text

    Here is a SAMPLE OF Galician-Portuguese lyric:

    Oral traditions

    There has been a sharing of folklore in the Galician-Portuguese region going back to prehistoric times. As the Galician-Portuguese language spread south with the Reconquista, supplanting Mozarabic, this ancient sharing of folklore intensified. In 2005 the governments of Portugal and Spain jointly proposed that Galician-Portuguese oral traditions be made part of the Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The work of documenting and transmitting that common culture involves several universities and other organizations.

    Galician-Portuguese folklore is rich in oral traditions. These include the cantigas ao desafio or regueifas, duels of improvised songs, many legends, stories, poems, romances, folk songs, sayings and riddles, and ways of speech that still retain a lexical, phonetic, morphological and syntactic similarity.

    Also part of the common heritage of oral traditions are the markets and festivals of patron saints and processions, religious celebrations such as the magosto, entroido or Corpus Christi, with ancient dances and tradition – like the one where Coca the dragon fights with Saint George; and also traditional clothing and adornments, crafts and skills, work-tools, carved vegetable lanterns, superstitions, traditional knowledge about plants and animals. All these are part of a common heritage considered in danger of extinction as the traditional way of living is replaced by modern life, and the jargon of fisherman, the names of tools in traditional crafts, and the oral traditions which form part of celebrations are slowly forgotten.

    A Galician-Portuguese "baixo-limiao" lect is spoken in several villages. In Galicia it is spoken in Entrimo and Lobios and in northern Portugal in Terras de Bouro (lands of the Buri) and Castro Laboreiro including the mountain town (county seat) of Soajo and surrounding villages.