Portuguese Language History: A Guide For Curious Portuguese Learners
by Olly Richards
If you’re learning Portuguese, then get ready to discover the fascinating story of Portuguese language history.
From its beginning in the Western part of the Iberian peninsula to today being the official language in 10 countries around the globe, including Brazil, the country that holds the largest number of speakers, the journey through its spread and development is a real page-turner.
- Where did the Portuguese language come from?
- What are its roots?
- Where do people speak Portuguese and why?
Discover the answers to these questions in this post and get ready to impress with your knowledge of Portuguese language history.
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In these countries, there is a large minority population of Portuguese-speakers due to proximity to a Portuguese speaking country as is the case of Spain, France, Uruguay, Venezuela, Paraguay and Andorra.
Additionally, in other countries, there is a large Portuguese-speaking immigrant population. Of these, Japan has the largest number of Portuguese-speaking immigrants from Brazil.
Where Is Portuguese Spoken
Portuguese is the official language of 10 countries and territories. Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Portugal, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Macau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe are all locations with native Portuguese speakers.
The 15th and the 16th centuries are when Portuguese colonialism took place. The Portuguese language was brought to many countries in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, as the Portuguese colonized these countries and territories. It was used as a common language to facilitate communication, and thus, it gained popularity among the locals of the colonized countries.
Today, the Portuguese language remains the official and primary language of communication in many of these countries.
Portuguese Outside Of Portugal
Portuguese is the second most spoken romance language, behind Spanish, partially because of the large population of speakers in Brazil, where it is the national language. There are many respects in which Brazilian Portuguese differs from European Portuguese in sound and structure.
Another notable difference is the presence of more audible vowels in Brazilian Portuguese. Beyond this, the nuances of spoken versions of both language practices continue to evolve as generations of speakers age and the world continues to globalize, leading to changes in language practices internationally. Portuguese has been made an official language of Mozambique, Angola, the Cape Verde Islands, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, East Timor and Macao.
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Iberian Union Restoration And Early Brigantine Era
Portugal voluntarily entered a dynastic union between 1580 and 1640. This occurred because the last two kings of the House of Aviz King Sebastian, who died in the battle of Alcácer Quibir in Morocco, and his great-uncle and successor, King-CardinalHenry of Portugal both died without heirs, resulting in the Portuguese succession crisis of 1580.
Subsequently, Philip II of Spain claimed the throne and was accepted as Philip I of Portugal. Portugal did not lose its formal independence, briefly forming a union of kingdoms. At this time Spain was a geographic territory. The joining of the two crowns deprived Portugal of an independent foreign policy and led to its involvement in the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Netherlands.
Portuguese Sun King
King John IV’s eldest son came to reign as Afonso VI, however his physical and mental disabilities left him overpowered by Luís de Vasconcelos e Sousa, 3rd Count of Castelo Melhor. In a palace coup organized by the King’s wife, , and his brother, Pedro, Duke of Beja, King Afonso VI was declared mentally incompetent and exiled first to the Azores and then to the Royal Palace of Sintra, outside Lisbon. After Afonso’s death, Pedro came to the throne as King Pedro II. Pedro’s reign saw the consolidation of national independence, imperial expansion, and investment in domestic production.
Portuguese As A Foreign Language
Portuguese is a mandatory subject in the school curriculum in Uruguay. Other countries where Portuguese is commonly taught in schools or where it has been introduced as an option include Venezuela,Zambia, the Republic of the Congo,Senegal,Namibia,Eswatini ,South Africa,Ivory Coast, and Mauritius. In 2017, a project was launched to introduce Portuguese as a school subject in Zimbabwe. Also, according to Portugal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the language will be part of the school curriculum of a total of 32 countries by 2020. In the countries listed below, Portuguese is spoken either as a native language by vast majorities due to the Portuguese colonial past or as a lingua franca in bordering and multilingual regions, such as on the border between Brazil and Uruguay & Paraguay, as well as Angola and Namibia. In many other countries, Portuguese is spoken by majorities as a second language. And there are still communities of thousands of Portuguese first language speakers in Goa, Sri Lanka, Kuala Lumpur, Daman and Diu, etc. due to Portuguese colonization. In East Timor, the number of Portuguese speakers is quickly increasing as Portuguese and Brazilian teachers are making great strides in teaching Portuguese in the schools all over the island. Additionally, there are many large Portuguese immigrant communities all over the world.
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Pombaline Era And Enlightenment
In 1738, fidalgoSebastião José de Carvalho e Melo ” rel=”nofollow”> Marquis of Pombal) began a diplomatic career as the Portuguese Ambassador in London and later in Vienna. The Queen consort of Portugal, Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria, was fond of Carvalho e Melo and after his first wife died, she arranged the widowed Carvalho e Melo’s second marriage to the daughter of the Austrian Field Marshal Leopold Josef, Count von Daun. King John V, however, was not pleased and recalled Carvalho e Melo to Portugal in 1749. John V died the following year and his son, Joseph I, was crowned. In contrast to his father, Joseph I was fond of Carvalho e Melo, and with the Queen Mother’s approval, he appointed Carvalho e Melo as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
As the King’s confidence in Carvalho e Melo increased, the King entrusted him with more control of the state. By 1755, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo was made Prime Minister. Impressed by British economic success that he had witnessed from his time as an Ambassador, he successfully implemented similar economic policies in Portugal. He abolished slavery in mainland Portugal and in the Portuguese colonies in India, reorganized the army and the navy, restructured the University of Coimbra, and ended legal discrimination against different Christian sects in Portugal by abolishing the distinction between Old and New Christians.
Are Galician And Portuguese The Same Language
Well, Galician and Portuguese are different languages, even though they share the same origin, Galician-Portuguese: Galego-portugués in Galician, Língua galego-portuguesa in Portuguese.
Why is Portuguese different from Spanish?
Spanish has 5 vowel sounds, while Portuguese is leading with 9. The vowels with a nasal sound dont found in Spanish. Portuguese has much more complex phonology than Spanish with many extra sounds. And this is the one reason that Portuguese speakers have an easier time understanding spoken Spanish than vice versa.
Are Portuguese and Spanish the same race?
Nuclear DNA analysis shows that Spanish and Portuguese populations are most closely related to other populations of western Europe. There is an axis of significant genetic differentiation along the eastwest direction, in contrast to remarkable genetic similarity in the northsouth direction.
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Roman Lusitania And Gallaecia
Romans first invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 219 BC. The Carthaginians, Rome’s adversary in the Punic Wars, were expelled from their coastal colonies. During the last days of , almost the entire peninsula was annexed to the Roman Republic.
The Roman conquest of what is now part of Portugal took almost two hundred years and took many lives of young soldiers andthe lives of those who were sentenced to a certain death in the slave mines when not sold as slaves to other parts of the empire. It suffered a severe setback in 155 BC, when a rebellion began in the north. The Lusitanians and other native tribes, under the leadership of Viriathus, wrested control of all of western Iberia.
Rome sent numerous legions and its best generals to Lusitania to quell the rebellion, but to no avail the Lusitanians kept conquering territory. The Roman leaders decided to change their strategy. They bribed Viriathus’s allies to kill him. In 139 BC, Viriathus was assassinated and Tautalus became leader of the Lusitanians.
Rome installed a colonial regime. The complete Romanization of Lusitania only took place in the Visigothic era.
Brazilian Vs European Spelling
There are some differences between the orthographies of Brazil and other Portuguese language countries. One of the most pervasive is the use of acute accents in the European/African orthography in many words such as sinónimo, where the Brazilian orthography has a circumflex accent, sinônimo. Another important difference is that Brazilian spelling often lacks c or t before c, ç, or t, where the European orthography has them for example, cf. Brazilian fato with European facto, “fact”, or Brazilian objeto with European objecto, “object”. Some of these spelling differences reflect differences in the pronunciation of the words, but others are merely graphic.
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Galician And The Fala
The closest language to Portuguese is Galician, spoken in the autonomous community of Galicia . The two were at one time a single language, known today as Galician-Portuguese, but since the political separation of Portugal from Galicia they have diverged somewhat, especially in pronunciation and vocabulary. Nevertheless, the core vocabulary and grammar of Galician are still noticeably closer to Portuguese than to Spanish. In particular, it uses the future subjunctive, the personal infinitive, and the synthetic pluperfect . Mutual intelligibility is good between Galicians and northern Portuguese, but poorer between Galicians and speakers from central Portugal.
The Fala language is another descendant of Galician-Portuguese, spoken by a small number of people in the Spanish towns of Valverdi du Fresnu, As Ellas and Sa Martín de Trebellu .
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The Emergence Of Portuguese
In the 14th century The County of Portugal appeared which would later become Portugal in 1143. With every historical event in the region, the language went on evolving and spreading little by little throughout the region that we now know as Portugal. In the 13th century King Denis finally established Portuguese as the official language of the Portuguese Kingdom, and later in the 15th and 16th centuries, the age of colonisation, it spread to the countries that today have Portuguese as an official language.
Classification And Related Languages
- Galician, Fala and portunhol do pampa , its closest relatives.
- Mirandese, Leonese, Asturian, Extremaduran and Cantabrian . Mirandese is the only recognised regional language spoken in Portugal .
- Spanish and calão .
Portuguese and other Romance languages share considerable similarities in both vocabulary and grammar. Portuguese speakers will usually need some formal study before attaining strong comprehension in those Romance languages, and vice versa. However, Portuguese and Galician are fully mutually intelligible, and Spanish is considerably intelligible for lusophones, owing to their genealogical proximity and shared genealogical history as West Iberian , historical contact between speakers and mutual influence, shared areal features as well as modern lexical, structural, and grammatical similarity between them.
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The Portuguese Language Orthographic Agreement
As a consequence of the expansion of the Portuguese territory during the Age of Discovery, now there is a Brazilian Portuguese and a European Portuguese . It is the same language, but with some variations.
One of these variations concerns to the orthographic rules. Thus, in 1990, an agreement was signed with the aim of standardizing the spelling of the Portuguese language.
If you want to know more about this, read our previous article Portuguese Language: before and after 1990
Portuguese Only Had 23 Letters Until 2009
Yes, youre reading that right. The letters, k,w, and y werent a part of the Portuguese alphabet until recently. In words having k, the Portuguese would swap the k with qu, while w and y sounds were only found in foreign proper nouns.
In 2009, Portuguese-speaking countries across the globe came together to sign a new Orthographic Agreement. This agreement standardized the spellings across different variations of the language and introduced the letters k,w, and y.
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Origin Of The Portuguese Language
The Popularity of the Portuguese Language
Portuguese is a Romance language that came from Galician-Portuguese, which was used in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia. It is one of the major languages of the world and an official language of the European Union, the Organization of American States, the African Union, and Lusophone countries. Roughly 272.9 million people speak Portuguese. It is now the fifth-most spoken language in the world, the third-most spoken language in the Western Hemisphere, and the most spoken in the Southern Hemisphere.
The History of Portuguese
The Portuguese language originated from Latin in the Western Iberian Peninsula. Roman soldiers and colonists introduced Latin in 216 BCE. The language extended to other regions by Roman soldiers, settlers, and merchants. When the Roman Empire collapsed in Western Europe, the Iberian Peninsula was taken over by Germanic peoples . This occurred between 409 and 711 CE. After the Roman conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, Vulgar Latin replaced almost every local language. Vulgar Latin is any of the nonstandard forms of Latin that formed Romance languages. In the territories along the Atlantic coast, it slowly became what is known as the Galician-Portuguese language. This language divided into Galician and Portuguese branches after the merging of Galicia into Spain.
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The Later Years
Portuguese Is Part Of The Romance Family
If we were to place Portuguese in a family tree, we would see its actual relatives are the Romance languages. It is hard to say exactly how many there are, but the most spoken ones are Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French and Romanian.
Their common ancestor is Vulgar Latin, the language of the Roman soldiers during the spread of the Roman Empire. And of course, this is the reason behind their family name: Romance. Just like Portuguese, each of those languages then developed as a mix of the native, pre-Roman tongues and the colonizing Latin. This explains why their grammar and vocabulary are quite similar.
Such an interesting and beautiful language! Now you know 4 new things about Portuguese.
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Modern And Contemporary Portuguese
Modern Portuguese dates back to the 16th century and coincides with the Renaissance period and the epic poetry of Luís Vaz de Camões.
Camões most acclaimed work is called Os Lusíadas and the author is to the Portuguese language what Shakespeare is to English.
Portuguese eventually became a sophisticated language reflecting its classical Roman and Greek origins. It is nowadays used for international and scientific communication in hundreds of universities across Lusophone countries.
Unsurprisingly, English has exerted a great deal of influence on Portuguese over the last decades, especially in the areas of technology and science .
Lusophone literature is vast and has dozens of internationally acclaimed authors, for instance Natalia Borges Polesso, Mia Couto, António Lobo Antunes, and of course the Nobel-awarded José Saramago, just to name a few.
In 2006, the Museum of the Portuguese Language was founded in São Paulo, Brazil, and which, with over 12 million inhabitants, is the city with the greatest number of Portuguese native speakers in the world.
Carnation Revolution And European Integration
The Portuguese government and army resisted the of its overseas territories until April 1974, when a left-wing military coup in Lisbon, known as the Carnation Revolution, led the way for the independence of the overseas territories in Africa and Asia, as well as for the restoration of democracy after two years of a transitional period known as PREC . This period was characterized by social turmoil and power disputes between left- and right-wing political forces. By the summer of 1975, the tension between these was so high, that the country was on the verge of civil war. The forces connected to the extreme left-wing launched a further coup d’état on 25 November but the Group of Nine, a moderate military faction, immediately initiated a counter-coup. The main episode of this confrontation was the successful assault on the barracks of the left-wing dominated Military Police Regiment by the moderate forces of the Commando Regiment, resulting in three soldiers killed in action. The Group of Nine emerged victorious, thus preventing the establishment of a communist state in Portugal and ending the period of political instability in the country. The retreat from the overseas territories and the acceptance of its independence terms by Portuguese head representatives for overseas negotiations, which would create independent states in 1975, prompted a mass exodus of Portuguese citizens from Portugal’s African territories .
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