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Case Studies
Semente, Santiago de Compostela
Photo by Marcos López Pena

Galician is spoken in Galicia, an autonomous community in northwestern Spain. Like other Romance languages, it developed out of the dialects of vernacular Latin and stems from the same linguistic branch as Portuguese. While the majority of Galicians understand and speak the language, it is considered vulnerable because of a break in its intergenerational transmission. This has been in part been because of low levels of social prestige associated with the language and its speakers. Nevertheless, revitalization initiatives are in place to address this and to promote the use of the language, especially in urban contexts where it has been historically less visible.

About the Project

The project builds a case study around language revitalization initiatives in the autonomous community of Galicia. It examines the dynamics of grassroots revitalization efforts, focusing specifically on Semente, a revitalization project initiated in 2011 by a group of urban-based Galician speakers and language activists. The purpose of Semente is to provide immersion schooling in Galician for children of pre-school and school age.

In this project, we focus on the role of teachers, parents, children, language activists, and other speakers in such revitalization efforts and their attempts to implement language policy on the ground. The project looks at the role played by different social actors and the effect of their attempts to create new communities of practice and a new generation of Galician speakers in urban spaces. Through an ethnographic study of Semente as a social movement, we will examine the circulation of ideology, as a means of illustrating a way of thinking about planning language ideology in small groups involved in language revitalization.

Principal Researchers

Marcos López Pena has been involved in Galician language revitalization since 2007, participating in cultural associations that promote Galician culture and identity. He is the administration and management officer at Semente in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, and he is a member of Semente’s National Coordination Group.

Bernadette O’Rourke is professor of sociolinguistics at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Since 1998, she has been working closely with the Galician community. She has been chair of a European COST Action on New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe. In addition to Galician, she also works collaboratively with colleagues on Irish and Gaelic language studies.


Alejandro Dayán-Fernández is currently a doctoral researcher in sociolinguistics at the University of Glasgow after several years working in Linguistic Project Management for international organisations. His PhD research explores the sociolinguistic, cultural, and identity dynamics of peripheral minoritized communities with a history of economic out-migration that settle in hegemonic urban spaces. He has chosen the Galician diaspora in the UK as a case study. His interdisciplinary background combines political science, translation studies, intercultural communication, and sociolinguistics.

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