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Portuguese is a Romance language spoken in Portugal and most of its former colonies, including Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and East Timor. With 199 million native speakers, Portuguese is the sixth most popular mother-tongue language in the world, and the second Romance language, outnumbered only by Spanish.
Portuguese is nicknamed ”A l ngua de Cam es” (after Lu s de Cam es, the author of The Lusiad); and ”A ltima flor do L cio” (“The last flower of Latium”).
The Portuguese language was spread worldwide in the 15th and 16th centuries as Portugal created the first and the longest lived modern-world colonial and commercial empire, spanning from Brazil in the Americas to Macau in China and Japan. As a result of that expansion, 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 more than 20 Portuguese Creole languages. It is an important minority language in Andorra, Luxembourg, Namibia and South Africa. Large Portuguese-speaking immigrant communities exist in many cities around the world, e.g. Paris in France, Boston, New Jersey and Miami in the USA.
Portuguese developed in the Western Iberian Peninsula from the spoken Latin language brought there by Roman soldiers 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.
The Romans conquered the Western Iberian Peninsula ? the Roman province of Lusitania, currently Portugal and the region of Galicia region of Spain ? in 218 BC, and brought with them a popular version of Latin, the Vulgar Latin from which all Romance languages descend. Almost 90% of the Portuguese lexicon comes from Latin: although the Iberian Peninsula was inhabited since well before the Roman colonization, very few traces of the native languages persist in modern Portuguese.
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 were closed, the Latin language was left free to evolve on its own. As each barbarian tribe spoke Latin in a different way, the uniformity of the Peninsula was soon disrupted, leading to the formation of well-differentiated languages (Portuguese-Galician, Spanish and Catalan). The Suevi people, in particular, are believed to be responsible for the linguistic differentiation of the Portuguese and Galician dialects away from the Spanish ones. The Germanic languages influenced Portuguese in words linked to war and violence, such as “Guerra” (to mean War).
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 Romance; so that when the Moors were expelled, the influence that they had exerted on the language was small. Its main effect was in the lexicon: modern Portuguese still has a large number of words of Arabic origin, especially relating to food and agriculture, which have no cognates in other Romance languages. The Arabic influence is also visible in placenames throughout the Southern provinces, such as Algarve and ”Ftima”.
The rise of the Portuguese language:
The ancient Roman province of Lusitania had split into two separate provinces, Lusitania in the south and Galecia in the north. The Portuguese language developed mainly in Northern Portugal and Galicia, but was largely influenced by similar Romance dialects spoken in southern Portugal.
For a long time the Romance dialect of that region evolved only as a spoken language.
The earliest surviving records of a distinctively Portuguese language are administrative documents from the 9th century, still interspersed with many phrases in Latin.
The written vernacular came gradually into general use in the following centuries. Portugal became an independent country in 1143, with King Afonso Henriques. The ensuing relative political and geographical separation between Portugal and Castille (later Spain) allowed the two countries to evolve their vernacular Latin in separate directions. In 1290, king Diniz created the first Portuguese University in Lisbon (the Estudo Geral) and decreed that Portuguese, then called the “Vulgar language” or Vulgar Latin should be used in preference to Classical Latin and known as “Portuguese language”. In 1296, Portuguese is adopted by Royal Chancellery. Used now not only in poetry but also when writing law and in notaries.
Until 1350, the language Portuguese-Galician remained the native language of Galicia and Portugal only; but by the 14th century Portuguese had become a mature language with a rich literary tradition, and was adopted also by many Leonese, Castilian, Aragonese and Catalan poets. During that time, Galicia came under the influence of Castilian (basically modern Spanish), and the southern variant became the language of Portugal.
The Portuguese discoveries:
Between the 14th and the 16th centuries, with the Portuguese discoveries, the Portuguese language spread to many regions of Asia, Africa and 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. In Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) several kings became fluent speakers of Portuguese, and nobles often took Portuguese names. 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 the language being called ”Crist o” (“Christian”) in many places. The language continued popular even in despite severe measures taken by the Dutch to abolish it in Ceylon and Indonesia Some Portuguese-speaking Christian communities in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia preserved their language even after they were isolated from Portugal, and have evolved through the centuries into several Portuguese Creoles. Also, many words of Portuguese origin entered the lexicons of many other languages such as “arigat” to mean “thank you” in Japanese (from “obrigado”), “sepatu” to mean “shoe” in Indonesian (from “sapato”), “keju” to mean “cheese” in Malay (from “queijo”), “meza” to mean table in Swahili (from “mesa”).
With the Renaissance, increases in the number of words of Classical Latin origin and erudite words of Greek origin increased the complexity of Portuguese. The end of “Old Portuguese” was marked by the publication of the Cancioneiro Geral de Garcia de Resende, in 1516. But Old Portuguese is still spoken, as a dialect, especially in S o Tom and Principe, but also Brazil and rural Portugal.
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, it is different in speech. 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) Almost all words in Spanish or Portuguese have close relatives in both languages if you are cultivated enough to use less common words: Ela encerra sempre a janela antes de cear. (less common Portuguese) (Which translates as ?She always closes the window before having dinner?”) Portuguese is somewhat similar to Catalan in sounds. 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 sceptre”. In English we would say, “We will bring you your sceptre.” The form ”N s vos traremos o vosso ceptro.” is also correct, although less common in Portugal, but more common in Brazil.
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. Tourists in Portugal and Brazil should note that trying to communicate with the locals in Spanish may seem offensive. French or English languages should be preferred in Portugal, if not speaking Portuguese. Portuguese people appreciate an “ol” for hello and “tchau” (do not use “Adeus”) for good-bye.