Friday, July 19, 2013

Fiestas, Females, Fiddling judges, Basquean Brits and Top Gear's Spanish sojourn.

Pontevedra's summer response to La Crisis has been the traditional one of inventing a new fiesta, to go along with the dozens we already have. As of Saturday, it will the tradition to have a summer entroido, which is something normally associated with the first week of Lent. This week - and into next - we have the annual Jazz and Blues Festival, taking up more nights than ever and occupying not just one but two plazas. That said, there are no recognisable names so maybe this is where economies were made. As in Ortiguira last week, the festival is billed as 'international' but this is a bit of a misnomer as absolutely nothing is in any international language. Everything - brochures, announcements, videos and adverts - is in Gallego. In Ortigueira, between acts, there was even a saccharine film of some length featuring a dozen kids who were destined to achieve great things because they were Galician. And the Galician flag was prominent on stage during at least one performance. Part of me finds this regional emphasis quite touching but another part finds it parochial and keeps imagining it happening in, say, Cheshire or Yorkshire. Which I find that quite amusing. Maybe Wales would be a better comparison. Though the Galician 'nationalists' would surely say Scotland, as there's talk of independence there.

It being summer, all the 'academies' which teach English are closed for 3 months. So, suddenly several of my neighbours want me to give their kids English conversation classes. Strangely, all of these are female, aged between 17 and 23. It's tough being the token male but it's a mantle I've agreed to assume, more or less willingly.

Well, the main scandal of this month - who can say for August? - just gets bigger and bigger. The latest person said to be on the list of black money recipients is the President of the Constitutional Court, no less. Of course, he's denied receiving brown envelopes but has admitted to the criminal offence of being a member of the PP party despite the judicial requirement for impartiality. No wonder the Spanish rate the judiciary almost as low as other institutions. My guess is he won't resign. Though he may apologise. Insincerely.

The Anglo-Spanish Connection. Well, the Basque connection, at least: Everyone has heard of Celts, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings. And most of us are familiar with the idea that the English are descended from Anglo-Saxons, who invaded eastern England after the Romans left, while most of the people in the rest of the British Isles derive from indigenous Celtic ancestors with a sprinkling of Viking blood around the fringes. Yet there is no agreement among historians or archaeologists on the meaning of the words “Celtic” or “Anglo-Saxon.” What is more, new evidence from genetic analysis indicates that the Anglo-Saxons and Celts, to the extent that they can be defined genetically, were both small immigrant minorities. Neither group had much more impact on the British Isles gene pool than the Vikings, the Normans or, indeed, immigrants of the past 50 years. The genetic evidence shows that three quarters of our ancestors came to this corner of Europe as hunter-gatherers, between 15,000 and 7,500 years ago, after the melting of the ice caps but before the land broke away from the mainland and divided into islands. Our subsequent separation from Europe has preserved a genetic time capsule of southwestern Europe during the ice age, which we share most closely with the former ice-age refuge in the Basque country. The first settlers were unlikely to have spoken a Celtic language but possibly a tongue related to the unique Basque language. Another wave of immigration arrived during the Neolithic period, when farming developed about 6,500 years ago. But the English still derive most of their current gene pool from the same early Basque source as the Irish, Welsh and Scots. So, bear in mind that, if you're English and going to visit the Guggenheim in Bilbao, you're going home.

Finally . . . If you missed Sunday's Top Gear and the protagonists' race around Spain's abundant empty spaces, you can catch it here. You need to go through the segments to see it all. Enjoy.

18 comments:

James Atkinson said...

The first reference to Angles and Saxons and Jutes can be found in the Venerable Bedes Anglo Saxon Chronicles. Professor Sykes who established the Oxford Ancestors DNA Testing company claims the Danish male Y Chromosone and the Anglo/Saxon, are the same the tribes having originated from the same area as the Danes. The Angles of course arrived in England about 400 years earlier. There is also a reference to some children captured by the romans as being not Angles but Angels, which I am sure you are aware of. Strangely though, the Swedes and Norwegians share another Y marker, Sykes calls Sigurd for ease of reference. So the vikings were perhaps a mixture, like us all. For centuries Malmo in the deep south of Sweden was part of Denmark, I wonder which marker they carry?

Anonymous said...

Is Galician not an international language? So how can I then manage here in the UK to speak it on a regular basis with people from different countries and continents (Portugal, Brazil, Angola … )? It is true that whenever a Spanish speaking person pops up we have to invariably switch to English, but otherwise we speak in our own vernaculars without more trouble than a Scottish / English or American person find in their own speaches …

Have you already read “Trainspotting” by Irvine Welsh, Colin? Has its “parochialism” prevented it form bein read all across the English speaking world?

Perry said...

Colin,

Here are the results of my DNA analysis. I have 2.4% Neanderthal DNA & my youngest son Elliott has 3.0%. He is also 14.5% South Asian and probably, so are his elder brothers Ashley & Spenser, because their mother has a Burmese ancestor; a sea captain who took a Burmese bride Elliott has around 47% of my DNA .

My father's Haplogroup, R1b1b2 is the most common haplogroup in western Europe, where its branches are clustered in various national populations. R1b1b2a1a2b is characteristic of the Basque, while R1b1b2a1a2f2 reaches its peak in Ireland and R1b1b2a1a1 is most commonly found on the fringes of the North Sea. That means some of his ancestors originated from the Northern Spain refuge and they walked north to the British Isles. Sea levels were 300 feet lower than now, because of all the water locked up in ice worldwide.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_Glacial_Maximum_refugia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Cantabrian_region

My mother's Haplogroup J originated about 45,000 years ago on the Arabian Peninsula not long after modern humans expanded out of Africa and onto the Eurasian continent. About 7,000 years ago the expansion of farming carried daughter lineages of J, including J1, into Europe. Today the haplogroup extends as far west as Britain and as far east as Central Asia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_J_%28mtDNA%29

My sons' mother's maternal DNA is U2e & indicates that the line of descent originated with a Danish woman who arrived & settled in the North East around Durham at the time of the Danelaw.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Danish

As their mother had only sons that maternal blood line ends with her.

All the best,

Perry

Colin said...

@Anon.

I take your points but I guess there are many ways of defining international but one way would be asking how many people in the world have heard of it. I would guess that that 99% of the world's population have never heard of Galego. I'm not saying it isn't a great language, just that it isn't one used internationally, in trade for example.

Another measure is how many non-Galicians in other countries (not to mention Spain!) speak it. Not a lot, I suspect. I think I know all of them in the UK and the number is not high.

I guess you can chat in the countries you mention because Galego is a (close) sister language of that spoken in these countries. Though friends tell me it's much closer to the northern Portuguese dialect than that of Lisboa which became the national norm. Which also explains why it's closer to Brazilian (and Angolan?) than to modern (Lisboa) Portuguese.

As for "Trainspotting", No, I've never read the book nor seen the film so don't know how much Scottish/Glasgow dialect there is in them. I do know that consideration was given to dubbing/English subtitles in the USA, which says everything.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/trainspotting-made-easy--for-americans-1349197.html

James Atkinson said...

I have seen trainspotting and found it fairly easy to understand. I Have though failed to communicate with an inner city Glaswegian many years ago,despite trying for some time hours. In fact I could hardly understand a word he was saying. The dialect in the film was probably watered down for a wider british audience. "Still Game" is a wonderful Scottish comedy series which I would recommend to anyone, but again the dialect has clearly been adjusted for a wider audience.(I am from the southeast of England) I have not read the book and so can't comment on any dialect it might contain.

Anonymous said...

Colin, the fact is that by speaking Galician I can communicate very effectively with some 200 million of Portuguese speakers from different countries and continents. In fact, it is much easier for a Brazilian to communicate with me than for an American to communicate with a Glaswegian, if we take the comment left by James Atkinson as veritable.

Moreover, it is easier for an Angolan to understand my Galician speech than that of a person from the Azores islands, who is supposed to speak Portuguese …

This disproves your view of Galician as a parochial language.

So perhaps you have missed the point I am making: the only reason to consider Galician as a separate language from Portuguese (or from its different varieties) is a political one … dictated from Madrid and those who support (or accept) its cause of Spanish language dominance.

Colin said...

Not sure I understand . . . Galego is an international language because it is really Portuguese and only Madrid says it isn't?

BTW - I believe I said I found the Galician nationalism both touching and parochial, not the language. But feel free to correct me, if I'm wrong.

There are Chinese dialects which allow interchanges between millions of people but they are not international languages. Numbers aren't the point. It's global usage.

How many international contracts, for example, are written in Galego?

Of course, if YOU think Galego and Portuguese are the same thing, then it will be quite a few. However, those writing them will say they are in Portuguese, not Galego.

Anonymous said...

Colin, there's obviously an active interest in separating Galician from Portuguese, otherwise not only the "Spanicity" of Galicians would be questioned but also the peninsular status quo.

Chinese (Mandarin) is gaining ground as an international language, it's now on the menu of many schools in the UK. Likewise, Portuguese, with its Brazilian powerhouse, which has overtaken the UK economy.

In this context, seeing Galician as a parochial language (as most Galicians see it) is either short sightedness or active / passive Spanish propaganda.

Colin said...

@Anon.

Your attitudes to languages appears to be totally driven by political convictions.

Mandarin has long been an international language. Kids of friends of mine were learning it as school 20 years ago in the UK.

I'd need to see some objective data on the learning of Portuguese to accept it was a language taken up by more than a few native speakers of other languages.

As for the number of speakers of other native languages taking up Galego (as opposed to Portuguese) this must be miniscule. As I've said, this doesn't say anything about the beauty of the language, just its relevance.

If you want to talk to Brazilians or Angolans, your first recourse is the lingua franca of English, then Portuguese. Not Galego. Again, this has nothing to do with the merits of any language; it's just a reflection of global realities - and the size and power of the USA.

I don't see what relevance there is in Brazil's economy overtaking that of the UK. And I believe it's in trouble right now. But, again, so what?

Again, I don't believe I said Galego was parochial; I said i found Galician nationalism impressive but parochial. All the flag flying, naff videos, exclusive use of Galego when 2 languages would make sense, etc.

I've said several times over the years that I've no problem with the promotion of Galego and Galician culture, but alongside the use of Castellano. If this makes me a Spanish nationalist in the eyes of some here in Galicia, then so be it. But I regard this attitude as pretty stupid and counter-productive. Galicia is a part of Spain. And always will be. The rest of Spain (and us guiris) have a right have Spanish used here alongside Galicia. Just as English is in Scotland and Wales.

Talking of Scotland . . . . By the way, Glaswegian is NOT an international language. It can't be understood south of the border. Or even in Edinburgh, I suspect.

Anonymous said...

@ Colin (I don’t know if you’ll get to see this, as several days have passed without me checking on your blog … )


My attitude to language is political driven, so what? Is not politically driven that attitude (like yours) that makes of English an international language with only a few standard variations, despite the numerous linguistic variations?

I talk to Brazilians, Angolans and Mozambiqueans, here in the UK and on a regular basis, in Galician, without having to revert to English. This is a fact (that supports my (political / linguistic) point).


“Galicia is a part of Spain” – I agree.

“And always will be” – Is this a prediction into the future or just a wish?

Colin said...

Starting at the end? Why would I wish Galicia to stay a part of Spain? This is why you are so myopic. I am neither Galician or Spanish. Me da igual if Galicia is part of Spain or not.

I cannot believe you are still pushing your argument based on the fact that you can talk in Galego to Angolans, etc. If we took a tribe from New Guinea and spread them round the world, would this make their language 'international'. Maybe it would to you. Do you think Gaelic is an international language because the few speakers in Scotland can talk to the few speakers in Ireland. Maybe you do.

I'm sorry but I haven't the faintest idea what this
means - "makes of English an international language with only a few standard variations, despite the numerous linguistic variations?"

I'll be a lot more convinced of the validity of your argument that Galego is not just a useful language to have in Brazil but also an international language when you provide some evidence that it is used as a medium of business outside Galicia in business, R&D, Law, etc. etc.

I stress once again that this is not a comment on the merits of Galego.

Anonymous said...

So it was just a prediction. Still, what does that “always” mean? The next 100 years… the next 1000 … the next 1 million … ? In any case, quite a far fetch prediction, don’t you reckon, Colin?

So Portuguese is at the same level than a Papuan language? Fact: Portuguese is the 7th most spoken language of the world (English is the third), placed above German, Russian or French. It is widely spoken in a dozen of countries in Europe, America, Africa and Asia. Are Papuan or Gaelic in the same league?

If a Scotsman, or a Geordie, for example, use the same standard of language (English) as a person from Tennessee or from Melbourne, why a Galician and a Brazilian (who understand each other much easier that the Geordie and the Aussie) use a different standard, and even are said to speak a different language? Is it because of any linguistic reason in particular?

About the utility of the language: if I can use the Galician tongue with any Portuguese speaker in the world in informal situations, there is no reason to believe that it cannot be done for more formal purposes. Unless you want take the absence of this as a prove of its impossibility. Which comes to be like saying that it is not possible for men to go to Mars because no man has gone to Mars …

And of course, I don’t pretend to value Galician by its economic value, the same as you, but just illustrating this complementary dimension, which is so neglected.

Colin said...

@Anonymous

had dinner tonight with 6 Gallegos, all of whom speak Galego. None of them agreed with your belief that it is an international language.

But, as one of them rightly said, it all depends on what you mean by 'international'. They felt there were 4 or 5 of international languages, by their definition (and mine).

Your definition is obviously wider and so long as you are happy with it, that's all that matters. It's irrelevant what we think.

Stay happy.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, Galician can be as limiting as you wish, to the point that for many it is not even worth speaking or learning. But if they are happy in their ignorance, then good for them. The problem is though that they will always find someone who, directly or indirectly, on purpose or not, will remind them of their ignorance, and so risk terminate their state of blissful ignorance ...

On a more practical level (and this does make relevant whatever you or I do think), I can’t understand the rationale for creating and fostering a language type of Galician that functions just as a regional language, only for folkloric and ritual purposes, and cut off from its linguistic and cultural area (the Portuguese speaking world). That is, I can’t understand it from a Galician point of view, because from a Spanish one it makes perfect sense …

Colin said...

So, we are all (Gallegos and guiris) victims of the Spanish nationalists who fear that Spain will break up if they allow Galego to be seen as the same thing as Portuguese, Brazilian and Angolan. Worse, Galicia will secede from Spain and become part of the lusosphere.

Well, maybe. But forgive me if I find totally implausible.

You appear to define yourself by your enemies but, as this is harmless and you are happy, so be it.

I'm of for my midday copa.

Colin said...

So, we are all (Gallegos and guiris) victims of the Spanish nationalists who fear that Spain will break up if they allow Galego to be seen as the same thing as Portuguese, Brazilian and Angolan. Worse, Galicia will secede from Spain and become part of the lusosphere.

Well, maybe. But forgive me if I find totally implausible.

You appear to define yourself by your enemies but, as this is harmless and you are happy, so be it.

I'm of for my midday copa.

Colin said...

So, we are all (Gallegos and guiris) victims of the Spanish nationalists who fear that Spain will break up if they allow Galego to be seen as the same thing as Portuguese, Brazilian and Angolan. Worse, Galicia will secede from Spain and become part of the lusosphere.

Well, maybe. But forgive me if I find totally implausible.

You appear to define yourself by your enemies but, as this is harmless and you are happy, so be it.

I'm of for my midday copa.

Anonymous said...

Some are victims, most are instrumental. That's why Galicia is a Spanish region, and not a Portuguese one or a country on its own.

But you don't have to be extremely intelligent to work this out.

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