The Portuguese Language – Some Information About History and Structure
The Portuguese language is ranked as the 6th largest in the world, it is spoken by over 200 million people and is one of the official languages of the UN. On this page I have explained a little about its origins, spread and structure. I have also tried to define what is particular about Brazilian Portuguese.
Origins of the Portuguese Language
The Portuguese language makes part of the Latin family (officially called Romance languages). It was the Roman invasion of the Iberic peninsula that lay out the foundation some 200 years BC. Vulgar Latin mixed with local languages, it was later also influnced by others like Germanic and Arabian. They say that a actual language could start to be distinguished around the turn of the first millenium. In 1290 King Denis of Portugal officially declared it a language.
Spread of the Portuguese Language
Portugal was very active in the European colonization of the world that started in the late 15th century, their ships went all around the world. Strong participation in the arising trade (as well with slaves) made sure that the language became official outside Portugal. Portuguese speaking countries and territories are: Portugal, Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Macau (East Asia), Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe. It is also common on Flores (Indonesia) Goa (India) and a few other regions. In all these places you have distinct dialects and variations.
Structure and Vocabulary
The Portuguese Grammar is Latin in its structure, though it can differ quite a lot from say Spanish. The vocabulary is mostly of Latin origin but many words have other roots; German, French, Arabian, Japanese to name a few. It is very rich in words, for instance it has over 1000 (!) irregular verbs making it a real challenge to master. The pronunciation is quite difficult to learn (especially that nasal ã sound) and it does not correspond well to the written language. The variations are big between the different dialects.
Although it differs a bit from the Portuguese Portuguese in its spelling and in some words it is the prononiciation that is the biggest variation. In general you can say that it is a lot softer and more singing. Since this also varies a lot in Brazil you can’t generalize too much. Most notably are the “tch” and “dch” sounds for t and d following an i (very notable in Rio where also an s in the end is pronunced sch). The r must be mentioned as well: In the beginning of a word it is pronunced as an h (Ronaldo is “Honaldo”); this is also the case with double r (cachorro is “cachoho”). In some parts of the South, most famously in the interior of São Paulo, the r does not transform into an h and is strongly “rolled” in some words (porta is something like “porrta”).