Fala language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Native toSpain
RegionNW Extremadura
Native speakers
(11,000 cited 1994)[1]
Early forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3fax
Fala language is located in Spain
Fala language
Area of the Fala language.

Fala ("Speech", also called Xalimego[2]) is a Western Romance language commonly classified in the Galician-Portuguese 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 Trevellu). These are within the valley of Jálama, in the comarca of Sierra de Gata.

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).[3]



In the Middle Ages, mixed varieties of Portuguese and Leonese could be found along the border between Leon and Portugal, represented in texts such as the Foro de Castelo Rodrigo (13th century). Although there is no documentation on the colonization and repopulation of this area in the 13th century, there are several hypotheses of Galician citizens moving to protect the frontier against Muslims as a punishment imposed by the Leonese king, or the delivery of the territories to various military orders by Kings Alfonso IX and Fernando II.

In general, philologists in favor of the Galician theory support 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. However, the valley is contiguous to the Portuguese border, making it a good candidate to be classified into the lands exchanged by Castille and Portugal, by the Treaty of Alcanices. Previously, during the reconquista, the border had a snaky shape. The treaty was done to make it straighter, which broadly was achieved by delivering the Ribacoa to Portugal (Guarda, the ancient border post, is now 40 Km westwards of the new one), and receiving the lands east of the Erges-Tagus-Sever rivers,[citation needed] 180 Km of frontier delimitated by water-courses. The agreement among monarchs didn't force the populations to a re-settlement, so a few have changed of country, not by their own will, but due to the change of borders.

Toponymal Evolution[edit]

A sample of the main toponymal forms used in the Fala de Xálima, shows the following feature:

  • Valverde is a common place-denomination across Iberia and Italy, found with some extra charateres in France. However the gentilic form Valverdeiro, looks like of Portuguese formation, of the kind "Brasileiro", a professional designation adopted later-time to designate also the people from Brasil. The entire name "Valverde del Fresno" matches the translation of "Valverde do Freixo". Valverdi as a pronunciation is framed by the Tagus accent (influenced by the mozarabic dialect, where "di" is preferred over "de" in the end of the words.
  • Eljas is broadly an evolution of the river's designation "rio Erges", the switch of the R by the L, is a common feature in the clashes between Portuguese language and Spanish language, where the next G was transformed in I, which is acceptable in Spain to avoid the difficulty of to pronounce the J sound. Then Elies, better understood as Elias would be the vocalisation, and because the Portuguese language transforms widely the LI sound in the LH, Elhas is the final configuration, where Ellas is the Spanish version of it. Lagarteiro as the gentilic of Ellas, may be grounded from an expression as "dizendo cobras e lagartos", literally "saying snakes and lizards", but enclosing the meaning of "uttering threats and lies". Then, Lagarteiro is an untrue something, which doesn't mean that everyone inthere was of that kind, but a few could for example to transport a set of boxes across the frontier, creating some utility for both sides, and to do that probably they had an explanation more legal and easier of to understand, for the sake of the children and the good souls.
  • San Martín de Trevellu, besides the name of the saint which is similar everywhere, the "San" becomes as "Sa" because the nasal mark N is discharged in Spanish, the question is to understand the Trevellu. It looks like a Portuguese language evolution of the word "Trifolio", a simple clover. Trifolio is a word of culture, not possible of find across the fields in popular terms, thus it may have been originated by a Leonese monastery, or their clergy organisation. Ones it starts being used in the valley the Trifolio was articulated as "Trevo Lio", then it was translated mantaining the termination required aside as a suffix. Finally reaching the "Treve Lho", with the typical tranformation of Li in Lh, to be graphed today in a more Spanish way as Trevellu, the way it sounds. The gentilic Manhegu, looks to be another version of that of the Lagarteiro, "a manha" is broadly "the slyness", then a few may have helped the neighbours with the boxes. In Portuguese language the suffix Eco/Oco is a diminutive form of Pre-Roman origin, alongside the general one "inho/a", and the Roman way Eta/Ita. This termination is concisely of use in Beira's region, moreover its mountains. A common understanding of Manhegu in current Portuguese would be that of "Manhosinho". Some ruse and astuteness were required, in the Beira speech Manhoco is a traditional form, Manheco a diferenciation and Manhego its evolution.
  • U Soitu, also known as El Soto in Spanish, would present the rule name of "Souto" in a Portuguese stand point. However, Soito matches the Beira pronunciation, in what it is equal to that of Galicia. "OU" versus "OI" presents a struggle of diphtongs inside the language in general. The impact of the foundation of the Kingdom of Galicia was epicentric in the Douro Valley and have introduced the preference by the "OU", carryed by the incomers. Northwards and southwards "OI" have continued as a preferred diphtong.
  • Xálima, is in general an evolution of the Arabic word Salama (having it the meaning of security). Salama mountains, the mountains of the security to separate the Douro valley a place of warfare, from the Tagus valley a secure place, a stand point in the Al-Andaluz. In its evolution Salama is going to be influenced by the Beira pronunciation, then S as Sh, Ch or X, gives rise to the Chalama easier of to understand in two words Chan Lama (chan with the N being a nasal mark, is "flat" in meaning, and Lama is the word for mud). This changed the accentuation of the word from the midlle syllable to the first one. After, because Lama doesn´t agree very much with the terrain's reality, Lima as "the rasp" may have been picked down to shape a better understanding. Then Chan Lima, latter time converted in the expression "Pico da Xálima", a termination nearby Cádima, Cértima or Fátima, and many common words. This toponymal clearly indicates a Beira region way of evolution. Xalimego as a gentilic matches the Mondego river similar designation, and by that at a general glance, a Fala de Xálima is a quaint evolution of what was the Beira dialect, a way of speak Portuguese.


A sign in Spanish and Fala in San Martín de Trevejo

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.[citation needed]

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".[citation needed]

On June 14, 2000, Fala was recognized by the Ministry of Culture of the Junta de Extremadura as Bien de Interés Cultural.[4] 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.

Sociolinguistic surveys[edit]

In 1992,[5] a survey conducted by José Enrique Gargallo Gil (a professor at the University of Barcelona) collected the following data regarding the use of Spanish in family conversation:

  • 4 of the 29 respondents from San Martín used Spanish when speaking with their family (13.8%)
  • In Eljas the figure dropped to only 3 out of 54 respondents (5.6%)
  • In Valverde, 25 of 125 respondents used 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 opinion of the people in San Martín de Trevejo as to the nature of Fala in the following percentages:

  • Believe that Fala is a dialect of Spanish: 13%
  • Believe that Fala is a dialect of Portuguese: 20%
  • Believe that Fala is an autonomous language: 67%

The survey involved only twenty people (over 960 neighbours) and there was no alternative answer for those respondents who 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 parents who claim to use Fala when speaking with their children was as follows:

  • 100% in Eljas
  • 85% in San Martin
  • 73% in Valverde.


Consonant phonemes
  Bilabials Labiodentals Dentals Alveolars Postalveolars Palatals Velars
Nasals m n ɲ ŋ
Stops p b t d k g
Affricates t͡ʃ
Fricatives (β) f v (ð) s z ʃ ʒ (ɣ)
Trills r
Flaps ɾ
Approximants j w
Laterals l ʎ
Vowel phonemes
Anterior Posterior
Closed i u
Close-mid e o
Open a


One proposed alphabet has 23 letters: [6]

Upper case letters
Lower case letters
a b c d e f g h i j l m n o p q r s t u v x z

Comparative vocabulary[edit]

Some Fala vocabulary are shown in the table below.[7]

Latin Galician Fala Extremaduran Portuguese Spanish English
hodie hoxe hoxii hoy hoje hoy today
locus lugar lugal lugar lugar place
dicere dicir izil decir dizer decir to say/to tell
oculus ollo ollu oju olho ojo eye
aqua auga agua áugua água agua water
creāre crear crial crial criar crear to create

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fala at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ "Promotora Española de Lingüística". www.proel.org. Retrieved 11 April 2018.
  3. ^ newspaper La Vanguardia (8-6-2019): La fala, una lengua viva del norte de Extremadura (in Spanish)
  4. ^ "Decreto 45/2001, de 20 de marzo, por el que se declara bien de interés cultural la "A Fala"" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2021-10-06 – via boe.es.
  5. ^ Gargallo Gil, José Enrique (1999). Las hablas de San Martín de Trevejo, Eljas y Valverde del Fresno. Trilogía de los tres lugares (in Spanish). Mérida: Editora Regional de Extremadura. ISBN 978-8-476-71494-2.
  6. ^ "Fala". omniglot.com.
  7. ^ Galindo, José (1993). "Apuntes socio-históricos y lingüísticos sobre a Fala do Val de Xalima". Alcántara: Revista del Seminario de Estudios Cacereños (in Spanish). 30: 123–148.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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 Salvador Plans, Antonio; García Oliva, M.ª Dolores; Carrasco González, Juan M. (eds.). Actas del I Congreso sobre A Fala (in Spanish). Mérida: Editora Regional de Extremadura / Gabinete de Iniciativas Transfronterizas. pp. 53–73. ISBN 84-7671-570-6.
  • Valeš, Miroslav (2016). "A Fala: dimensión sociolingüística en las traducciones a una lengua minorizada" [A Fala: Sociolinguistic Dimension in Translations Into a Minority Language]. Mutatis Mutandis: Revista Latinoamericana de Traducción (in Spanish). 9 (2): 348–362.

External links[edit]