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The Portuguese Language

Portuguese, the national language of Portugal and Brazil, belongs to the Romance language group. It is descended from the Vulgar Latin of the western Iberian Peninsula (the regions of Gallaecia and Lusitania of the Roman Empire), as is Galician, often wrongly considered a dialect of Spanish.

Portugal originated as a county of the Kingdom of Galicia, the westernmost area of the Christian north of the peninsula, the south having been under Moorish rule since the eighth century. Its name derived from the towns of Porto (Oporto) and Gaia (< CALE) at the mouth of the Douro river. As Galicia fell under Castilian rule, Portugal achieved independence under the Burgundian nobility to whom the county was granted in the eleventh century. Alfonso Henriques, victor of the battle of Sao Mamede (1128), was the first to take the title of King of Portugal. Apart from a short period of Castilian rule (1580-1640), Portugal was to remain an independent state.
The speed of the Portuguese re-conquest of the Moorish areas played an important part in the development of the language. The centre of the kingdom was already in Christian hands, after the fall of Coimbra (1064), and many previously depopulated areas had been repopulated by settlers from the north. The capture of Lisbon in 1147 and Faro in 1249 completed the expulsion of the Moors, nearly 250 years before the end of the Spanish re-conquest, bringing northern and central settlers into the Mozarabic (Arabized Romance) areas. The political centre of the kingdom also moved south, Guimaraes being supplanted first by Coimbra, and subsequently by Lisbon as capital and seat of the court. The establishment of the university in Lisbon and Coimbra in 1288, to move between the two cities until its eventual establishment in Coimbra in 1537, made the centre and south the intellectual centre (although Braga in the north remained the religious capital) . The form of Portuguese which eventually emerged as standard was the result of the interaction of northern and southern varieties, which gives Portuguese dialects their relative homogeneity.

For several centuries after the independence of Portugal , the divergence of Portuguese and Galician was slight enough for them to be considered variants of the same language. Galician-Portuguese was generally preferred to Castilian as a medium for lyric poetry until the middle of the fourteenth century. Portuguese first appears as the language of legal documents at the beginning of the thirteenth century, coexisting with Latin throughout that century and finally replacing it during the reign of 0. Dinis (1279-1325).

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the spread of the Portuguese Empire established Portuguese as the language of colonies in Africa, India and South America. A Portuguese-based pidgin was widely used as a reconnaissance language for explorers and later as a lingua franca for slaves shipped from Africa to America and the Caribbean. Some Portuguese lexical items, e.g. pikinini 'child' (pequeninho, diminutive of pequeno 'small '), save 'k now ' (saber), are common to almost all creoles. Caribbean creoles have a larger Portuguese element, whose origin is controversial - the Spanish-based Papiamentu of Curacao is the only clear case of largeĀ­ scale relexification of an originally Portuguese-based creole. Brazilian Portuguese (BP), phonologically conservative, and lexically affected by the indigenous Tupi languages and the Africa n languages of the slave population, was clearly distinct from European Portuguese (EP) by the eighteenth century. Continued emigration from Portugal perpetuated the European norm beside Brazilian Portuguese, especially in Rio de Janeiro, where D. Joao and his court took refuge in 1808. After Brazil gained its independence in 1822, there was great pressure from literary and political circles to establish independent Brazilian norms, in the face of a conservative prescriptive grammatical tradition based on European Portuguese.

With over 160 million speakers, Portuguese is reckoned to be the fifth most widely spoken language in the world. It is spoken by 10 million people in Portugal and approaching 150 million in Brazil ; it remains the language of administration of the former colonies of Angola , Mozambique , GuineĀ­ Bissau, S. Tome-Principe and the Cape Verde Islands (where it exists beside Portuguese-based creoles) and is spoken in isolated pockets in Goa , Timor, Malaysia , Macao and in emigre communities in North America.

The standard form of European Portuguese is traditionally defined as the speech of Lisbon and Coimbra. The distinctive traits of Lisbon phonology (centralization of !el to lei in palatal contexts; uvular ! RI in place of alveolar.
/r/) have more recently become dominant as a result of diffusion by the mass media. Unless otherwise stated, all phonetic citation forms are of European Portuguese.
Of the two main urban accents of Brazilian Portuguese, Carioca (Rio de Janeiro) shows a greater approximation towards European norms than Paulista (Sao Paulo). While the extreme north and south show considerable conservatism, regional differences in Brazilian Portuguese are still less marked than class-based differences; non-standard, basilectal vanettes show considerable effects of creolization, with drastic simplifications of inflectional morphology and concord.

 

Phonology

Portuguese orthography is phonological rather than narrowly phonemic or phonetic, assuming knowledge of the main phonological and morphophonemic processes of the language.

It also uses a variety of devices to indicate word stress. Final stress is regular (i.e. orthographically unmarked) in words whose final syllable either (a) contains an oral diphthong , one of the nasal vowels /a 6 i u oi/ or orthographic iio, i , u, iie (as opposed to am, e , o, em ( en) , which indicate unstressed final syllables); or (b) ends in r , l or z (but not s, which generally indicates

Brazilian and Portuguese orthographies have been progressively harmonized by agreements between the respective governments and academies, latterly in 1971 decrees in both countries, in which the distinctively Brazilian convention of marking u n predictable closed mid vowels with the circumflex was abandoned, as part of a rationalization of the use of accents. The orthographic differences that remain reflect phonological differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese.

The vowel system of Portuguese is one of the most complex of the Romance family. Portuguese is rich in monophthongs and (falling) diphthongs, as a result of two developments which set it off from Castilian.

 

Portuguese Pronouns

Portuguese maintains a highly structured system of address forms which has been compared to the honorific systems of oriental languages. Second person plural forms are no longer used except in a religious or highly formal ceremonial context (and accordingly appear in parentheses in the charts of verb forms and pronouns). Second person singular forms are used for familiar address in European Portuguese (and conservative Brazilian Portuguese dialects); otherwise, third person verb forms are used for all address in Brazilian Portuguese, and formal (and plural) address in European Portuguese, with the pronoun voce or (in EP) the partly pronominal o senhor (m .) , a senhora (f.). In addition , a wide range of titles can be used as address forms e.g. o pai 'father', o senhor doutor 'Doctor', a av6 'grandmother' etc., with third person verb forms. Accordingly, third person object pronouns o(s), a(s) , have also acquired second person reference. Brazilian Portuguese has been resistant to this: there is a tendency fo !he, exclusively used as an indirect object in European Portuguese , to be used for second person functions. Alternatively, the second person object pronoun te is used even where the corresponding subject pronoun and verb forms are missing, or else weak forms are avoided altogether: eu vi ele 'I saw him ', eu vi voce 'I saw you '.

 

Syntax

The basic word order of Portuguese simplex sentences is subject-verb-object: o gato comeu a galinha 'the cat ate the hen''.
As in Spanish, the subjunctive mood occupies a less central position, especially in spoken registers. Its use is determined by a complex of grammatical and semantic factors, so that any attempt to define its 'meaning' must come to terms with the fact that it is rarely independently meaningful. The subjunctive is used to the exclusion of the indicative in a wide range of subordinate clause

 

Lexicon

The main body of the Portuguese lexicon is predictably of Latin origin, either by direct transmission through Vulgar Latin or as a result of borrowing at some stage of the language's history. The same Latin etymon can thus surface in several different phonetic and semantic guises. Portuguese shares the common Romance and Ibero-Romance heritage of pre-Roman Celtic and post-Roman Germanic vocabulary.

The African element is fairly strong in Brazilian Portuguese , particularly in those areas of popular culture and belief with strong African roots: macumba 'voodoo ritual ', samba , marimba ; cachimbo 'pi pe' has passed into common European Portuguese usage. Tupi contributes a large vocabulary of Brazilian Portuguese flora and fauna: maracuja 'passion-fruit ', piranha 'piranha fish'. Contacts with the Far East contributed cha 'tea' (borrowed from Manda rin: English tea is the Min form); mandarim 'ma nda ri n ' from Malay mantri contaminated by Ptg. mandar 'to order'. Portuguese makes extensive use of derivational suffixes. As well as the common stock of noun- and verb-forming suffixes derived and borrowed from Latin.

 




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