Fala ("Speech", also called Xalimego) is a Romance language commonly classified in the Portuguese-Galician subgroup, with some traits from Leonese, spoken in Spain by about 10,500 people, of whom 5,500 live in a valley of the northwestern part of Extremadura near the border with Portugal. The speakers of Fala live in the towns of Valverde del Fresno (Valverdi du Fresnu), Eljas (As Ellas) and San Martín de Trevejo (Sa Martín de Trebellu).
|(11,000 cited 1994)|
Other names sometimes used for the language are Fala de Jálama or Fala de Xálima, but neither of them is used by the speakers themselves, who call their linguistic varieties lagarteiru (in Eljas), manhegu / mañegu (in San Martín de Trevejo) and valverdeiru (in Valverde del Fresno).
Even though it has no official status, and has little presence in schools and church, use of the language is vigorous, and the literacy rate in Fala is nearly 100%[clarification needed]. As a linguistic community, speakers have a strong, independent identity; they have rejected implementing a standard orthography similar to or based on the Galician one. A translation of the New Testament has been published in Fala (2015).
In the Middle Ages we can find mixed varieties of Portuguese and Leonese throughout the border between Leon and Portugal, represented in texts as in the Foro de Castelo Rodrigo (13th century); and although there is no documentation about the colonization and repopulation in this place in the 13th century, there are several hypothesis of Galician citizens moved to protect the frontiers against Muslims as a punishment imposed by the Leonese king, or the delivery of the territories to various military orders by Alfonso IX and Fernando II.
Generally speaking, philologists in favor of the Galician theory are based in the hypothesis that the valley is an isolated region and, therefore, the Galician colonists maintain their way of speaking in a "pure" form because of the lack of external influences. This thesis is refuted if we contrast it with other historic data:
- It is considered that before the Galician-Leonese resettlement, this place was already occupied by Portuguese and even after the colonization there was contact with the neighboring country.
- From the 12th until the 16th century, both Portugal and León and Castile wanted the territory because of its importance as a border. It changed from one country to another so the population swore allegiance to one king or another.
- On the other hand, it is contradictory that the orders that these place was given, being enemies, resettled the region with people of the same origin.
On August 3, 1992, the association Fala i Cultura was founded, among its goals being the compilation of a common grammar (based on the Galician one) and the commemoration of u día da nosa fala (the day of our language) celebrated once a year from 1992 in Eljas, 1993 in Valverde and 1994 in San Martín.
It was not until 1998 that the first literary work in Fala was published: Seis sainetes valverdeiros, written by Isabel López Lajas and published in 1998 by Edicións Positivas (Santiago de Compostela). It was on this date that the Gabinete de Iniciativas Transfronterizas (Office of Cross-Border Initiatives) started to take interest in Fala and to promote its study, publishing in 1999 scientific works and celebrating in May a "Congress on A Fala".
On June 14, 2000, Fala was recognized by the Ministry of Culture of the Junta de Extremadura as Bien de Interés Cultural. Nowadays, although the inhabitants of Jalama Valley can speak Spanish, most of them are bilingual because at home and in other activities outside school, they continue using the local language.
- 4 of the 29 respondents from San Martín use Spanish when speaking with their family (13.8%)
- In Eljas the figure drops to only 3 out of 54 respondents (5.6%)
- In Valverde, 25 of 125 respondents use Spanish in this context (20%).
In September/December 1993 a survey was published in issue No. 30 of Alcántara Magazine by José Luis Martín Galindo, which showed the following percentages of self-identification in San Martín de Trevejo:
- Belief that Fala is a dialect of Spanish: 13%
- Belief that Fala is a dialect of Portuguese: 20%
- Belief that Fala is an autonomous language: 67%
The survey involved only twenty people (over 960 neighbours) and that there was no alternative to answer that the respondent believed that Fala is a dialect of Galician. It is argued that the absence of this option was logical since theories about the possible relation of Fala with Galician were hardly known.
In 1994, a new study showed that 80% of respondents learned to speak Spanish in school, the percentage of speech used in the family environment being as follows:
- 100% of the parents of Eljas claim to speak the Fala when talking with their children
- 85% of the parents of San Martín claim to speak the Fala when talking with their children
- 73% of the parents of Valverde claim to speak the Fala when talking with their children
|Stops||p b||t d||k g|
|Fricatives||(β)||f v||(ð)||s z||ʃ ʒ||(ɣ)|
|dicere||dir||decir||izil||decir||dizer||to say/to tell|
- Fala at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Fala". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- "Promotora Española de Lingüística". www.proel.org. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
- Gargallo Gil, José Enrique (1999). Las hablas de San Martín de Trevejo, Eljas y Valverde del Fresno. Trilogía de los tres lugares. Editora Regional de Extremadura. ISBN 978-8-476-71494-2.
- Galindo, José. "Apuntes socio-históricos y lingüísticos sobre a Fala do Val de Xalima". Alcántara: revista del Seminario de Estudios Cacereños. 30: 123–148. ISSN 0210-9859.
- Gargallo Gil, José Enrique (2000), ¿Se habla gallego en Extremadura? Y otras cuestiones, no menos delicadas, sobre romances, gentes y tierras peninsulares de frontera (con sus nombres) (in Spanish), Mérida, pp. 53–73