The Portuguese Studies page is permanently being developed.
(Adapted from http://www.arthistoryclub.com/art_history/Portuguese_language)
Portuguese (Português) is a Romance language predominantly spoken in Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, and East Timor. Many linguists consider that Galician (galego), the native language of Galicia, is actually a variety of Portuguese that has been strongly influenced by Spanish. With more than 200 million native speakers, Portuguese is one of the few languages spoken in such widely-distributed parts of the world, and is the fifth or sixth most-spoken first language in the world. Since Brazil, with 184 million inhabitants (about 51% of South America‘s population), Portuguese is the most widely spoken language in South America and it is also one of the key languages in Africa.
The language was spread worldwide in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as Portugal created the first and the longest lived modern-world colonial and commercial empire (1415–1975), spanning from Brazil in the Americas to Macau in China. As a result, Portuguese is now the official language of several independent countries and is widely spoken or studied as a second language in many others. There are still various Portuguese Creole languages all over the world. It is an important minority language in Andorra, Luxembourg, Namibia, and Paraguay. Large Portuguese-speaking immigrant communities exist in many cities around the world, including Paris in France and Boston, New Bedford, Cape Cod, and Newark in the United States.
Portuguese is nicknamed A língua de Camões (“The language of Camões”, after Luís de Camões, the author of The Lusiad); A última flor do Lácio (“The last flower of Latium“) or The sweet language (by Cervantes). Portuguese language speakers are known as Lusitanic or Lusophones (after the Roman name for the province of Lusitania).
2 Classification and related languages
3 Geographic distribution
7 Writing system
7.1 Written varieties and Spelling Reform
Portuguese developed in the Western Iberian Peninsula from the spoken Latin language brought there by Roman soldiers and colonists starting in the 3rd century BC. The language began to differentiate itself from other Romance languages after the fall of the Roman Empire and the barbarian invasions in the 5th century. It started to be used in written documents around the 9th century, and by the 15th century it had become a mature language with a rich literature.
Arriving on the Iberian Peninsula in 218 BC, the Romans brought with them the Roman people’s language, Vulgar Latin, from which all Romance languages (also known as “New Latin Languages”) descend. Already in the 2nd century BC southern Lusitania was Romanized. Strabo, a 1st-century Greek geographer, comments in one book of his Geographia: “they have adopted the Roman customs, and they no longer remember their own language.” The language was spread by arriving Roman soldiers, settlers and merchants, who built Roman cities mostly near previous civilizations’ settlements.
Between 409 A.D. and 711, as the Roman Empire was collapsing, the Iberian Peninsula was invaded by peoples of Germanic origin, known by the Romans as Barbarians. The Barbarians (mainly Suevi and Visigoths) largely absorbed the Roman culture and language of the peninsula; however, since the Roman schools and administration were closed, Europe entered the Dark Ages and communities became isolated, the popular Latin language was left free to evolve on its own and the uniformity of the Peninsula was soon disrupted, leading to the formation of the “Lusitanian Romance”. From 711, with the Moorish invasion of the Peninsula, Arabic was adopted as the administrative language in the conquered regions. However, the population continued to speak their Romance dialects so that when the Moors were overthrown, the influence that they had exerted on the language was small. Its main effect was in the lexicon.
The earliest surviving records of a distinctively Portuguese language are administrative documents from the ninth century, still interspersed with many phrases in Latin. Today this phase is known as “Proto-Portuguese” (spoken in the period between the 9th to the 12th century).
Portugal became an independent country in 1143, with King Alfonso Henriques. In the first period of “Old Portuguese” – Portuguese-Galician Period (from 12th to the 14th century), the language came gradually into general use in the following centuries, after gaining popularity in the Christian Iberian Peninsula as a language for poetry. In 1290, king Denis created the first Portuguese University in Lisbon (the Estudo Geral) and decreed that Portuguese, then simply called the “Vulgar language” should be known as the “Portuguese language” and should be officially used.
In the second period of Old Portuguese, between the 14th and the 16th centuries, with the Portuguese discoveries, the Portuguese language spread to many regions of Asia, Africa and The Americas. Today most of the Portuguese speakers live in Brazil, in South America. By the 16th century it had become a lingua franca in Asia and Africa, used not only for colonial administration and trade but also for communication between local officials and Europeans of all nationalities. The spread of the language was helped by mixed marriages between Portuguese and local people (also very common in other areas of the world) and its association with the Catholic missionary efforts, which led to its being called Cristão (“Christian“) in many places in Asia. The language continued to be popular there until the 19th century.
Some Portuguese-speaking Christian communities in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia preserved their language even after they were isolated from Portugal. The language has largely changed in these communities and has evolved through the centuries into several Portuguese creoles, some still exist today, after hundreds of years in isolation. Also, a considerable number of words of Portuguese origin are found in Tetum. Portuguese words entered the lexicons of many other languages, such as Japanese, Indonesian, Malay, or Swahili.
The end of “Old Portuguese” was marked by the publication of the Cancioneiro Geral de Garcia de Resende, in 1516. The period of “Modern Portuguese” (from the 16th century to the present) saw an increase in the number of words of Classical Latin origin and erudite words of Greek origin borrowed into Portuguese during the Renaissance, which augmented the complexity of the language.
Classification and related languages
Indo-European – Italic – Romance – Italo-Western – Western – Gallo-Iberian – Ibero-Romance – West-Iberian – Portuguese-Galician
Portuguese is orthographically similar in many ways to Spanish, but it has a very distinctive phonology. A speaker of one may require some practice to effectively understand a speaker of the other. Compare, for example:
Ela fecha sempre a janela antes de jantar. (Portuguese)
Ella cierra siempre la ventana antes de cenar. (Spanish)
Some less common phrasings and word choices have closer cognates in Spanish:
Ela encerra sempre a janela antes de cear. (less common Portuguese)
(This translates as “She always closes the window before having dinner.”)
In some places, Spanish and Portuguese are spoken almost interchangeably. Portuguese speakers are generally able to read Spanish, and Spanish speakers are generally able to read Portuguese, even if they cannot understand the spoken language.
Portuguese also has significant similarities with Mirandese, Catalan, Italian, French and with other Romance languages. This is especially true of French. Due to historic events, Portuguese has a closer affinity to French than Spanish has, despite the fact that Spain shares a border with France and Portugal does not. This is probably due to the Portuguese-French Atlantic sea trade, or French settling in Portugal during the Middle Ages. There are many examples of Portuguese words being closer to French than their Spanish equivalents, such as Portuguese “bom” (masculine word for good) and “rua” (street), with French “bon” and “rue”, respectively, as opposed to “bueno” and “calle” in Spanish. European Portuguese has even more French influence than Brazilian Portuguese due to the Napoleonic dominion in Lisbon from 1807-1812, and cultural influences after that. Examples include “berma” (roadway shoulder) from French “berme”. In Brazil, the respective word is “acostamento”. Portuguese phonology shares many similarities with the French one, especially European Portuguese. Nevertheless, Portuguese is closer to Spanish than to French.
Speakers of other Romance languages may find a peculiarity in the conjugating of certain apparently infinitive verbs. In particular, when constructing a future tense or conditional tense expression involving an indirect object pronoun, the pronoun is placed between the verb stem and the verb ending. For example, Dupondt said trazer-vos-emos o vosso ceptro. Translating as literally as possible, this is “bring (stem)-to you (formal)-we (future) the your scepter”. In English we would say, “We will bring you your scepter.” The form Nós vos traremos o vosso ceptro. is also correct, used mainly in spoken Portuguese, while the first form is preferred for written Portuguese.
Portuguese is the first language in Angola, Brazil, Portugal and São Tomé and Príncipe, and the most widely used language in Mozambique.
Portuguese is also one of the official languages of East Timor (with Tetum) and Macao S.A.R. of China (with Chinese). It is widely spoken, but not official, in Andorra, Luxembourg, Namibia and Paraguay. Portuguese Creoles are the mother tongue of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau‘s population.
Portuguese is spoken by about 187 million people in South America, 16 million Africans, 12 million Europeans, two million in North America and 0.34 million in Asia. The table “Portuguese language countries and territories” includes countries where the Portuguese language is official and while not official, where it is spoken by more than 1% of the population.
The CPLP or Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries is an international organization consisting of the eight independent countries which have Portuguese as an official language. Portuguese is also an official language of the European Union, Mercosul and the African Union (one of the working languages) and one of the official languages of other organizations. The Portuguese language is gaining popularity in Africa, Asia, and South America as a second language for study.
Portuguese is a very rich language in terms of dialects, each with its particularity. Most of the differentiation between them is the pronunciation of certain vowels. Between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese, there are differences in vocabulary, pronunciation and syntax, especially in popular varieties. The dialect of Piauí, in northeastern Brazil is closest dialect to European Portuguese in Brazil. Other very close dialects are the ones of Belém and Rio de Janeiro. There are several similarities in pronunciation, syntax and simplification in grammar use between vernacular Brazilian Portuguese and vernacular Angolan Portuguese. But there are no differences between standard European and Angolan Portuguese. Coimbra Portuguese is considered the most standardized Portuguese dialect.
Some apparent differences between the two varieties in lexicon are not really differences. In Brazil, the common term for carpet is tapete, while in Portugal it is alcatifa. However, many dialectal zones in Portugal use tapete and other areas in Brazil use alcatifa. This applies in several such apparent differences, except in the new terms, such as ônibus in Brazil, which is autocarro in Portugal. A conversation between an Angolan, a Brazilian and a Portuguese from very rural areas flows very easily. The most exotic Portuguese dialect is vernacular São Tomean Portuguese, because of the interaction with local Portuguese Creoles, but even with this one there are no difficulties when talking to a person from another country.
Examples of words that are different in Portuguese dialects from three different continents Angola (Africa), Portugal (Europe) and Brazil (South America).
Portugal: bairro de lata or ilha
Angola: bazar, ir embora
Brazil: ir embora, (or vazar as a slang – Portuguese “to leak”);
Portugal: ir embora, (or bazar as a slang – from Kimbundu kubaza – to break, leave with rush);
Major Portuguese dialects:
Caipira — Countryside of São Paulo – Piraquara — caipira from Vale do Paraíba (São Paulo (state) / Minas Gerais)
Cearense — Ceará
Baiano — Region of Bahia
Fluminense — States of Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo (the city of Rio de Janeiro has a particular way of speaking)
Gaúcho — Rio Grande do Sul
Mineiro — Minas Gerais
Nordestino — northeastern states of Brazil (the interior area and Recife have particular ways of speaking)
Nortista — Amazon Basin states
Paulistano — city of São Paulo
Sertanejo — States of Goiás and Mato Grosso
Sulista — south of Brazil
Açoriano — Azores
Alentejano — Alentejo
Algarvio — Algarve (there is a particular small dialect in the western area)
Alto-Minhoto — North of Braga (interior)
Baixo-Beirão; Alto-Alentejano — Central Portugal (interior)
Beirão — central Portugal
Estremenho — Regions of Coimbra and Lisbon (can be subdivided in Lisbon Portuguese and Coimbra Portuguese)
Madeirense — Madeira
Nortenho — Regions of Braga and Porto
Transmontano — Trás-os-Montes
Benguelense — Benguela province
Luandense — Luanda province
Sulista — South of Angola
Caboverdiano — Cape Verde
Guineense — Guinea-Bissau
Macaense — Macau, China
Moçambicano — Mozambique
Santomense — São Tomé and Principe
Timorense — East Timor
Damaense — Daman, India
Goês — State of Goa, India
Portugal in the period of discoveries and colonization created a linguistic contact with native languages and people of the discovered lands and thus pidgins were formed. Until the 18th century, these Portuguese pidgins were used as Lingua Franca in Asia and Africa. Later, the Portuguese pidgins were expanded grammatically and lexically, as it became a native language. About three million people worldwide speak a Portuguese Creole. These creoles are spoken, mostly, by inter-racial communities (Portuguese people with natives).
Crioulo do Barlavento (Criol)
Crioulo de São Vicente (the Creole of São Vicente, of Barlavento group, kept very close to Portuguese and a decreolization process occurs between younger people, its linguistic status is subject of debate.)
Crioulo do Sotavento (Kriolu)
Guinea-Bissau and Senegal:
Upper Guinea Creole (Crioulo da Guiné, Kriol)
Korlay Indo-Portuguese (Kristi)
Diu Indo-Portuguese (near extinction)
Malaysia and Singapore:
Cristao (Papiá Kristang)
Netherlands Antilles and Aruba:
São Tomé and Principe:
Lunguyê (near extinction)
Sri Lanka Indo-Portuguese
In the past, Portuguese creoles were also spoken in India (several other areas), Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia (other areas) and possibly in Brazil.
The Portuguese language is particularly interesting to linguists because of the complexity of its phonetic structure. The language contains 9 vowels, 5 nasal vowels and 25 consonantal sounds. Also, Portuguese is a “free accentuation language”, as distinct pronunciation exists even in the same dialect.
In addition, there are two classes of Diphthongs in Portuguese: The “Oral Diphtongs “: ai [aj], ei [ɐj] (Lisbon only) or [ej], éi [ɛj], oi [oj], ói [ɔj], ui [uj], au ao [aw], eu [ew], éu [ɛw], ou [ow] (Northern Portugal/ few areas in Brazil only) and iu [iw]. And, the “Nasal Diphthongs “: ãe ãi [ɐ̃j], em en(s) [ẽj̃], õe [õj̃], ui [ũj̃] and ão (tonic verbal forms) am (atonic verbal forms) [ɐ̃w̃].
Note: In most Brazilian dialects, especially the most widely spoken ones, D and T tend to become affricate before the unstressed phoneme /i/ (which can correspond to either E or I in the alphabet). The affricate D is /dʒ/ and the affricate T is /tʃ/. Therefore, in the most common Brazilian pronunciation for the word “dia” (day) is /dʒiɐ/.
Verbs are divided into three conjugations, which can be identified by looking at the infinitive ending, one of “-ar”, “-er”, “-ir” (and “-or”, which is present in a single verb, “por” (to put). This verb pertains, however, to the “-er” conjugation, as in past it was spoken “poner”, then “poer” then “por”.). Most verbs end with “-ar”, such as cantar (to sing). All verbs with the same ending follow the same pattern.
In Portuguese, verbs are divided into moods:
Imperative. Used to express a wish, command or advice
Indicative. Used to express a fact
Subjunctive. Used to express a wish or a possibility
All Portuguese nouns have one of two genders: masculine or inclusive and feminine or exclusive. Most adjectives and pronouns, and all articles indicate the gender of the noun they reference. The feminine gender in adjectives is formed in a different way from that in nouns. Most adjectives ending in a consonant remain unchanged: homem superior (superior man), mulher superior (superior woman). This is also true for adjectives ending in “e”: homem forte (strong man), mulher forte (strong woman). Except for this, the noun and the adjective must always be in agreement: homem alto (tall man), mulher alta (tall woman).
See also: Portuguese pronouns, Portuguese verb conjugation
The Dicionário Houaiss da Língua Portuguesa, by Antônio Houaiss (1915 – 1999), son of Lebanese immigrants in Brazil and former Brazilian Minister of Culture, was created with the support of almost two hundred lexicographers from several countries and it is the most complete Portuguese dictionary to date (about 228,500 entries, 376,500 acceptations , 415,500 synonyms, 26,400 antonyms and 57,000 historical words) it includes all variations of the Portuguese language (African, Asian, Brazilian and of Portugal). Dedicating his life to the language, Houaiss started his work in 1986, and died one year before the dictionary was completed by his colleagues in the year 2000, without seeing his dream come true. The dictionary is quickly becoming a reference to the language, some classfied it as a “monument to the language”.
Portuguese, both in morphology and syntax, represents an organic transformation of Latin without the direct intervention of any foreign language. The sounds, grammatical forms, and syntactical types, with a few exceptions, are derived from Latin. And almost 90% of the vocabulary is still derived from the language of Rome. Some of the changes began during the Empire, others took place later. Since Portuguese was reinfluenced by it (reinfluence represented with 1), many original words are still familiar to Portuguese speakers.
Nasalization — A vowel before [m] and [n] has a tendency to become a nasal vowel; this occurs in many languages. In the case of Portuguese, it happened between the sixth and seventh centuries. This change sharply distinguishes Portuguese from Spanish, in which it did not occur.
LVNA → l[ũ]a → Lua (moon).
Palatalization — Another assimilation occurs before the high vowels [i] and [e], or near the semi-vowel, or palatal [j].
CENTV → [tj]ento → [ts]ento → cento, (hundred)
FACERE → fa[tj]ere → fa[ts]er → fa[dz]er → fazer, (to do)
A more ancient evolution was FORTIA → for[ts]a → força (strength)
Elision — Simultaneous influence in a consonant by vowels, occurring in a syntagmatic chain.
DOLORE → door → dor (pain) — dolorido¹ (in pain)
BONV → bõo → bom, (good)
ANELLV → ãelo → elo (Ring) — Anel¹ (hand ring)
Voicing — some consonants did not disappear but rather evolved with voiceless stops becoming voiced stops and voiced stops becoming voiced fricatives in certain positions:
MVTV → mudo (deaf)
LACV → lago (lake)
FABA → fava (broadbean)
Simplification of consonant clusters, especially doubled consonants, occurred:
GVTTA → gota (drop)
PECCARE → pecar (to sin)
Dissimilation — Modification of a sound by the influence of neighbouring sounds.
Dissimilation between vowels:
LOCVSTA → lagosta (lobster)
CAMPANA → campãa → campa (tomb)
Dissimilation between consonants:
MEMORARE → nembrar → lembrar (to remember) — Memorizar¹ (to memorize)
ANIMA → alma (soul) — Animado¹ (livened up)
LOCALE → logar → lugar (place) — local¹ (place)
Some other alterations were semi-vowel metathesis: PRIMARIV becomes primeiro (Eng. first); consonant metathesis in [l] and [r] are rare in Portuguese (e.g. TENEBRAS > teevras > trevas, Eng. darkness); and epenthesis, where there is not a total assimilation by adding new sounds. Such as for wine: Vulgar Latin: VINO, medieval Portuguese Vi~o, Modern Portuguese (since 14th or 15th centuries): Vinho. Another specially relevant shift was the loss of the intervocalic /l/ in a very large set of words, already described in the list above as an example of “elision” → e.g: SALIRE > sair; COLARE > coar; NOTVLA > nódoa, with the typical portuguese voicing of /t/ in /d/ (AMATVS > amado). Fewer words remained unchanged, such as Taberna (tavern).
Very few traces of the native or pre-Roman settlers like the Phoenicians, Carthaginians or Celts lexicon persist in the language, but there are some exceptions, such as Abóbora (pumpkin) and Bezerro (year-old calf) from Iberian languages or Cerveja (beer) and Saco (bag) from Celtic and Phoenician, respectively.
Post-Roman influences, before the Discovery age, were also small. The Germanic influence in Portuguese was restricted to warfare and related topics, such has Barão (baron) from Germanic baro or Guerra (war) from Gothic *wirro. Projections indicate 1000 Arabic loan words, including: Aldeia (village) from aldaya, Alface (lettuce) from alkhass, Armazém (warehouse) from almahazan, Azeite (olive oil) from azzait and most words starting with “al”.
With the Portuguese discoveries linguistic contact was made, and the Portuguese language became influenced by other languages other than European or Arabic. In Asia, the language gained words such has catana (cutlass) from Japanese katana, Corja (rabble) from Malay Kórchchu or chá (tea) from Chinese cha. In South America, the language gained words such has Ananás, from Tupi-Guarani naná and Abacaxi from Tupi ibá cati both relating to different species of pineapple, or even Tucano (toucan) from Guarani tucan. The African influence in lexicon was made in Brazil and Africa (mostly in Angola) include words such has Bungular (to dance like African wizards) from Kimbundu kubungula or Cafuné (affections made in the head) from Kimbundu kifumate. Many placenames and local animals have Amerindian names in Brazil, in Angola and Mozambique, the same occurring with the local Bantu languages. These influences are also small even in the local variations of Portuguese in Brazil and Africa.
Portuguese is written using the Latin alphabet with 26 letters. Three of them (K, W and Y) are only used for non-Portuguese origin words, in terms like darwinismo (Darwinism, from English “Darwin”). It uses ç and acute, grave, circumflex and tilde accents over vowels, as well as, in some forms and only in Brazil, diaeresis on a U as in lingüística (Linguistics, linguística is used in the rest of the Portuguese speaking nations).
Written varieties and Spelling Reform
As of 2005, Portuguese has two written standards:
European and African Portuguese
In Brazil most first ‘c’s in ‘cc’, ‘cç’ or ‘ct’; and ‘p’s in ‘pc’, ‘pç’ or ‘pt’ were eliminated from the language, since they are not pronounced in the cultivated spoken language, but are remnants from the language’s Latin origin (though some continue to exist in cultivated Brazilian Portuguese, others in European Portuguese). An example is “facto” (in Portugal) and “fato” (in Brazil), both meaning fact — one of the rare words that will continue to be accepted and is pronounced differently in both countries.
Also, there are differences in accent marks, due to:
Different pronunciation: Brazil uses closed vowels in words such as “Antônio” (Anthony) or “anônimo” (anonymous), whereas Portugal and Africa use open ones, “António” or “anónimo”, respectively.
Easier reading: Because “qu” can be read in two different ways in Portuguese: “kw” or “k”, Brazil uses the diaeresis (called ‘trema’ in Portuguese), insted of “cinquenta” they write “cinqüenta”. It was part of an orthographic agreement but abolished in Portugal.
A 1990 Spelling Reform (Port. Reforma Ortográfica), intended to create an International Portuguese Standard, was ratified by Brazil, Cape Verde, and Portugal. East Timor, not an original subscriber, will ratify shortly along with Guinea-Bissau. Brazil and East Timor were the biggest supporters of the reform and pressured the CPLP for a fast implementation, but the implementation date has not yet been set. In East Timor, both orthographies are currently being taught to children.
At first, the Agreement established that its entrance into practice would only occur when all the countries of the CPLP had ratified it. But the Portuguese-speaking African countries have not ratified, possibly due to problems in implementing it. In the CPLP’s summit of 26–27 July 2004, an adjustment will prompt implementation when just three countries ractify it. The agreement will eliminate most first ‘c’s in ‘cc’, ‘cç’ or ‘ct’; and ‘p’s in ‘pc’, ‘pç’ or ‘pt’ from European/ African Portuguese, the dieresis and accent marks in words ending in “éia” in Brazil and add some new spelling rules. And it will allow either orthography for words like anónimo or anônimo, depending on the dialect of the author or person being transcribed. Late in October 2004, Brazil became the first to approve the adjustment and asked its ambassors in Portugal and Cape Verde to promote the rapid implementation in those countries. The agreement will enter into practice in the first day of the next month when the third country ratifies it.
One aim of this reform is to promote the language internationally, just like the spelling reforms of Spanish by the Real Academia Española in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries helped to promote the Spanish language. The language is not very popular internationally, even if it is the third-most-spoken Western language in the world, after English and Spanish. Even if today’s orthographies do not harm intelligibility between native speakers, the orthography of one country is considered incorrect in the other, leading to two different translations of the same book written in another language. Another objective is Brazil’s aid to Portugal in education for the Portuguese speaking African countries.
Another agreement was made for the new words that will come into the language.
To English speakers, the most famous writer in the Portuguese language is the poet Luís Vaz de Camoes or Luís Vaz Camoens (1524–1580), author of the epic poem, the Lusiad.
Several other authors and poets are also internationally known, such as: Eça de Queirós (1845–1900), one of the most famous Portuguese language novelists; Fernando Pessoa (1888—1935), one of the greatest poets in the history of the language; Jorge Amado (1912—2001), a popular novelist; Paulo Coelho (born 1947), an internationally bestselling novelist; and José Saramago (born 1922) who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998.
Last updated: 07-29-2005 23:39:30
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