Portuguese - Português Language

The Portuguese is a Romance language inflected, from the Galician - Portuguese. After the independence of Portugal in 1139 and the subsequent reconquest towards the south, the language was expanded by the limits of the current Portugal. Likewise, the language spread throughout the period of discoveries in Brazil, six countries in Africa and other parts of the world. About this sound.

With approximately 260,000,000 speakers, Portuguese is the seventh most spoken mother tongue in the world and the third most spoken language in using the Latin alphabet, after Spanish and English. Portuguese is also the most spoken language in the Southern Hemisphere, with Angola, Mozambique, East Timor and, first, Brazil.

Currently, it is the main language of Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe and East Timor. All these countries make up the Community of Portuguese-speaking countries. It also has a small number of speakers in Macao (although there is a significant rebound in its use by trade relations between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries) and in Goa. It is also spoken in its Creole form, in some sectors of India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia. It is also spoken by large and important colonies of established Portuguese-speaking countries such as Andorra, Luxembourg, Canada, the United States, Namibia, Paraguay, South Africa, France, Japan, Colombia, and Venezuela. In addition to having a high number of speakers in localities of the Spanish-Portuguese border such as Badajoz or La Codosera.

Portuguese is known as the "language of Camões", the author of the epic poem Os Lusíadas and as "the last flower of Lazio", an expression used in the Portuguese Líone sonnet of Brazilian writer Olavo Bilac. For his part, Miguel de Cervantes considered Portuguese a "sweet and pleasant" language. In March 2006, the Portuguese Language Museum opened in São Paulo, the city with the largest number of lusophones in the world.


The Portuguese develops to the west of the Iberian Peninsula due to the evolution of Latin spoken by Roman soldiers and settlers in the early 3rd century BC. C. However, that Latin, which was imposed on the languages already spoken in the area, also received influences from them. With the fall of the Roman Empire, the Visigoths arrived in the area and the language was enriched with Germanic lexicon, especially in the field of agriculture, commerce and science. In 711, the Arabs enter the Iberian peninsula and conquer it almost completely. However, from s. VIII began to recede and to the north kingdoms and counties were formed. Already in the ninth century appears the Portucalense County, which would later become Portugal.

In 1143, Portugal became independent, although at that time there was not much difference between the language spoken there and that spoken in the Kingdom of Galicia. Subsequently, Castilian began to settle in Galicia and Galician and Portuguese were differentiated. In the S. XIII, King Dionysus proclaimed Portuguese as the official language. Subsequently, the language spread around the world in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as Portugal established a colonial and commercial empire encompassing Brazil in America. Goa in India, Macao in China, in Asia, East Timor in Oceania and Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe and Cape Verde in Africa. It was also used as an exclusive free language in parts of the island of Ceylon for almost 350 years. During this period, many Creole languages based on Portuguese around the world emerged, especially in Africa and Asia.

Geographic distribution

Portuguese is the native language of Portugal, Brazil, Sao Tome and Principe (95%), Cape Verde (95%), Guinea-Bissau (60%) and Angola (75%). On the other hand, 50% of the inhabitants of Mozambique speak it, only 36% of the population of East Timor and 20% of Macao. Similarly, in some parts of ancient Portuguese India such as Goa, Damán, Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli also speak Portuguese, although in a generalized way, and in the Malay state of Malacca there are still some communities that continue to use it as their first language.

There are also significant communities of immigrants Lusophone in many countries like Andorra (11,229 in 2012 according to the Department of Statistics), Bermuda, Canada (565,275 people according to the 2006 census), France (13, 1% of foreigners), Luxembourg (15%), Namibia (4-5%), Paraguay (636 000 people), South Africa (more than 500 000) Switzerland(196 000 citizens in 2008), Venezuela (554,000 people) and the United States (0.44% of the population or 1,687,126 Lusophone). Also, 5.20% of Spaniards say they can speak it (where we can include the Portuguese variant of Olivenza).

Official language

Portuguese is the official language of Angola, Brazil, Portugal, Sao Tome and Principe, Mozambique Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and East Timor. It is also one of the official languages of Equatorial Guinea (next to Spanish and French) and Macau (next to Chinese).

The Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) is an international organization constituted by the eight independent countries that have Portuguese as their official language. Similarly, the Latin Union is another international organization constituted by the countries of Romanesque languages such as Portuguese. Moreover, Portuguese is also an official language of the European Union, the Organization of American States, the Organization of American States, the Mercosur, the Union of South American Nations And one of the official and working languages of the African Union.

The countries that have Portuguese as their official language have a particularity: they do not border with another country of the same language. That does not happen with the English - speaking, Francophone, Spanish- speaking, Arabic-speaking or German-speaking countries. The territories colonized by Portugal were not subdivided after colonization in various countries, as happened with the colonies of Spain in America, with the French and British colonies in Africa.

Portuguese as a foreign language

Since 2008, the Portuguese is taught compulsorily at schools in Uruguay and from 2009 in Argentina and can also be found in school curricula in Zambia, Congo, Senegal, Namibia, Swaziland, Coast Ivory and South Africa. In the Spanish case, the Junta de Extremadura has promoted Portuguese as an optional language (second foreign language, after English) and it is noteworthy the case of the city of Badajoz, where it is celebrated on June 10, day of Portugal. In addition, the Junta de Andalucía has launched the José Saramago program to implement Portuguese as a second foreign language in the institutes of Andalusia.

Also, according to data from the Camões Institute, there are 160,000 people studying Portuguese as a foreign language (of which 80,000 do so in their facilities, according to their own data). Portuguese has been considered a "vital" language in 20 years in the United Kingdom as can be seen from a study by the British Council and is currently the fifth most used language on the Internet. On the other hand, in China, there are 28 higher education institutions that teach the language (the vast majority located in the former Portuguese colony of Macao, where the use of Portuguese is booming due to trade relations between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries), with 1350 students. The same situation is happening in Japan where there is a community of 500,000 Japanese Brazilians.

Dialectology and variants

In the same way as other languages, Portuguese has evolved throughout history and has received the influence of various languages and dialects until it reaches the current state. However, it should be considered that today's Portuguese comprises several dialects, subdialects, you speak and sub-talk, very different from each other, in addition to the two internationally recognized standards (Brazilian and European). Currently, Portuguese is the only language in the Western world with more than one hundred million speakers with two official spellings. This situation was resolved by the Orthographic Agreement of 1990.

Portuguese has a great variety of dialects, many of them with a marked lexical difference in relation to the Brazilian and Portuguese standards. However, these differences do not harm intelligibility among speakers of different dialects.

The first studies on the dialects of European Portuguese were recorded by Leite de Vasconcelos at the beginning of the s. XX. Thus, in the dialects of southern Portugal (the "southern" called) have similarities with the Brazilian speech, especially in the use of the gerund. In Europe, the Tras-os-Montes dialect called Mirandés presents similarities with the Spaniard and that of Alto Miño with Galician. An almost disappeared dialect is the Portuguese Oliventino spoken in Olivenza and Táliga.

After the independence of the former African colonies, the Portuguese standard of Portugal was chosen as the official language. It is also worth noting that in the European Portuguese language there is a more prestigious variety that gave rise to this standard: the Lisbon variety. In Brazil, the largest number of speakers is found in the southeastern region of the country as it was the destination of intense internal migration thanks to its economic power. The European and American dialects of Portuguese present certain problems of intelligibility between them due, above all, to cultural, phonetic and lexical differences.

Some Lusophone Christian communities in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia preserve this language despite being isolated from Portugal. The language suffered many alterations in these communities and in many Portuguese-based Creole dialects were born, some of which still exist after centuries of isolation. A variety of words of Portuguese origin can also be observed in the tetum. Also, Portuguese words entered into the lexicons of other languages such as Japanese, Swahili, Indonesian and Malay.

Classification and related languages

Modern Portuguese comes from the Galician-Portuguese language. The first Portuguese grammar (Portuguese Lingoagem grammar), the work of the presbyter and professor of rhetoric of Coimbra Fernando de Oliveira, was published in Lisbon in 1536 (44 years after the Spanish grammar of Antonio de Nebrija, which is the first to be published of all the romantic grammars).

The medieval Portuguese had its maximum importance in the peninsula from the end of the 12th century until the middle of the 14th century. By 1400 the Galician-Portuguese was, according to some authors, losing its unity as a result of the division of its territory between two different states (the kingdom of Portugal and the Galician part of the Leonese Crown) and the fact of being a second level language (due to the official/obligatory nature of Spanish for official writings and other necessities) within Galicia itself (with which the Galician version of the language was being influenced by Spanish). Thus some authors argue that it was separated into two different versions: Galician and Portuguese. However, the idiomatic separation of the two linguistic varieties is currently discussed by the different philological schools or opinion groups regarding this issue. Fundamentally Galician philologists and Galician nationalists demand the unity of both languages (Portuguese and Galician).

Classification: Indo - European > Italic > Romance Group > Romance > Italo-Western languages > Italian-Western Group - Western Sub > Group Galo-Iberian > Group Ibero-Romance > Ibero-Western Group > Subgroup Galaico-Portuguese.

Influence in other languages

Portuguese has influenced other languages, both those very close linguistically and those that have been colonized. Thus, Portuguese, pure or Creole was spoken throughout India, Malaysia, Thailand, China, etc. by the Portuguese and their descendants as well as the Hindus, Muslims, Jews and other Europeans. It became for a long time the frank language of the East.

Thus, 38 words of Portuguese origin are counted in English, especially in «colonial English» as marmelada (jam), flamengo (flamenco), buffalo or pagode (pagoda). In the case of Spanish, in addition to Portuñol, influence is seen in the border areas of Brazil both at the phonetic level (the slight palatalization of the deaf dental/t/), the elision of the preposition "a" in construction « go + to + infinitive » (or vice versa in the case of Portuguese) at a grammatical or lexical level.

General phonological characteristics

Portuguese has 9 oral vowels, and 19 consonant phonemes, although some varieties have fewer phonemes (Brazilian Portuguese has 8 oral vowels). There are also 5 vowels that some phonologists analyze as oral vowel allophones, 10 oral diphthongs and 5 nasal diphthongs. In total, Brazilian Portuguese has 13 vowel phonemes. In addition, Portuguese is a complex accent language, since there are different pronunciations even within the variants of the same language.


At seven vowels of late Latin, medieval Portuguese added two mid-central vowels, one of which ([ɨ]) tends to elision in rapid or relaxed speech, as is the case with the expiration (/ɯ̽/) of French. The contrastive value of these two vowels is small, the half-closed vowels /eo/ and the semi-open vowels /ɛ ɔ/ are phonetically distinctive and alternate in various forms of apophony. Like the Catalan, the Portuguese uses vowel qualities that contrast in tonic syllables but are neutralized in unstressed syllables: isolated vowels tend to close and in some cases to centralize, when they are unstressed. Nasal diphthongs appear mostly at the end of the word.

Spelling Reforms

For many years, Portugal (until 1975, including colonies) and Brazil made unilateral decisions and did not get a common agreement regarding the language.

There have been five spelling agreements: that of 1911, that of 1943, that of 1945, that of 1971 and, finally, that of 1990. The most important are that of 1943, which was only in force in Brazil between August 12, 1943 and December 31, 2008 (with some changes introduced by the 1971 reform). 1945 and came into force in Portugal (and then colonies) between 8 December 1945 and the entry into force of the agreement spell 1990.

1990 Spelling Agreement

The Spelling Agreement of the Portuguese language of 1990 was born with the intention of creating a single spelling agreed with all the countries of Portuguese official language and where an unofficial delegation of observers from Galicia was also present. The signatories that ratified the original agreement were Portugal (1991), Brazil (1995), Cape Verde (1998) and Sao Tome and Principe (2006).

In Sao Tome and Principe in July 2004, the Second Modifying Protocol was approved during the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the CPLP. This second protocol allowed the agreement to enter into force with the ratification of only three countries, without the need to wait for the other members of the CPLP to adopt this procedure. It also contemplated the accession of East Timor, which was not independent in 1990. Therefore, when this protocol was ratified by Brazil (2004), Cape Verde (2005) and Sao Tome and Principe (2006), the new spelling agreement entered in force in the international legal order and the legal systems of the three countries mentioned above since 1 January 2007.

After much debate, on May 16, 2008, the Portuguese parliament approved this protocol and established a period of up to six years for the orthographic reform to be fully implemented. However, there is no official date for its entry into force, which is governed by the 1945 rule. However, it is already used in the education system (since 2011/2012) and in official documents since 2012.

In Brazil, it became operational in January 2009, when President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed the legislation on the agreement in the second half of 2009. However, the two spellings were going to be in effect until 2012, although a decree of former president Dilma Rousseff extended the deadline until 2015.


The grammar, morphology and syntax of Portuguese are similar to those of other Romance languages, especially Spanish and especially Galician. Portuguese is a relatively synthetic and flexible language.

Nouns, adjectives, pronouns and articles are moderately flexed: there are two genders (male and female) and two numbers (singular and plural). The grammatical case of its mother tongue, Latin, was lost, but personal pronouns are still divided into three main forms: Subject, object of the verb and object of the preposition. Most nouns and adjectives can have many diminutive or augmentative suffixes and most adjectives can add a superlative suffix. Adjectives are usually postponed to the noun.

The verbs, on the other hand, are very flexed: there are three tenses (past, present and future), three modes (indicative, subjunctive and imperative), three aspects (perfective, imperfective and progressive), two voices (active and passive) and An infinitive flexed. The super-perfect and imperfect tenses are synthetic, which implies a total of 11 conjugation paradigms, while the progressive tenses and passive constructions are peripheral. As in other Romance languages, there is also a passive impersonal construction, where the agent is replaced by an indefinite pronoun. Portuguese is basically an SVO language, although there is also a SOV syntax with a few pronouns and the word order is not usually too rigid. Portuguese has two copulative verbs.

The Portuguese language has several grammatical characteristics that distinguishes it from most Romance languages as a synthetic past perfect pasture, a personal infinity or a perfect past composed with the idea of repetition. An exclusive resource of this language is mesolysis.


The Houaiss Dictionary of the Portuguese language, with about 228,500 entries, 376,500 meanings, 415,500 synonyms, 26,400 antonyms and 57,000 archaisms, is an example of the lexical richness of the Portuguese language. According to a study conducted by the Brazilian Academy of Letters, the Portuguese has about 390,000 lexical units. These appear in the orthographic vocabulary of the Portuguese language.

Most of the Portuguese lexicon derives from Latin, since it is a Romanesque language. However, due to the Arab occupation of the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages and Portugal's participation in the Age of Discoveries, the Portuguese adopted words from around the world. In the thirteenth century, for example, the Portuguese lexicon had about 80% of words of Latin origin and 20% of Pre-Roman, Germanic and Arabic origin. Currently, Portuguese has in its vocabulary terms from different languages such as Provencal, Dutch, Hebrew, Persian, Quechua, Chinese, Turkish, Japanese, German and Russian, as well as closer languages such as English, French, Spanish and Italian. It also has influence from some African languages. According to the Ethnologue of all languages of the world, there is a lexical similarity of 89% between Portuguese and Spanish. As such, intelligibility is high between both languages.

In very few words in Portuguese you can see its pre-Roman origin, which can be Galician, Lusitanian, Celtic or conios. The Phoenicians and the Carthaginians were also briefly present in Portugal. In the fifth century, Roman Hispania was conquered by Germans, suevos and Visigoths. These peoples contributed some words to the lexicon, although mainly those related to war. Between the ninth and thirteenth centuries, the Portuguese acquired about 1000 words of Arabic, due to Muslim influenceon the peninsula In the S. XV, Portuguese maritime explorations led to the introduction of foreigners of many Asian languages. Already in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, Portuguese had influences of African and Native American languages due to Portugal's role in the slave trade and the establishment of large Portuguese colonies in Angola, Mozambique and Brazil.

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Portuguese - Português
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