Portuguese language

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Portuguese (Português)
Spoken in: Angola, Andorra, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea Bissau, Luxembourg, Macau (China), Mozambique, Namibia, Paraguay, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe and other countries.
Region: see below
Total speakers: 208 million–218 million1
Ranking: 6
Genetic classification: Indo-European


Official status
Official language of: Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, European Union, Guinea Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, Portugal and São Tomé and Príncipe
Regulated by: International Portuguese Language Institute; CPLP
Language codes
ISO 639-1pt
ISO 639-2por
See also: LanguageList of languages

Portuguese (português) is a Romance language predominantly spoken in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea Bissau, Macau (China), Mozambique, Portugal, and São Tomé and Príncipe. Many linguists consider that Galician, the native language of Galicia, is actually a variety of Portuguese, strongly influenced by the Spanish language. With more than 200 million native speakers, Portuguese is one of the few languages spoken in such widely-distributed parts of the world, and is the fifth or sixth most-spoken first language in the world. Because Brazil, with 184 million inhabitants, constitutes about 51% of South America's population, Portuguese is the most widely spoken language in South America and it is also one of the key languages in Africa.

The language was spread worldwide in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as Portugal created the first and the longest lived modern-world colonial and commercial empire (14151975), spanning from Brazil in the Americas to Macau in China. As a result, 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 also various Portuguese Creole languages spread all over the world. It is an important minority language in Andorra, Luxembourg, Namibia, and Paraguay. Large Portuguese-speaking immigrant communities exist in many cities around the world, including Montreal, Toronto in Canada, Paris in France and Boston, New Bedford, Cape Cod and Newark in the United States.

The Portuguese language is nicknamed A língua de Camões ("The language of Camões", after Luís de Camões, the author of The Lusiad); A última flor do Lácio ("The last flower of Latium", by Olavo Bilac) or The sweet language (by Cervantes). Portuguese language speakers are known as Lusitanic or Lusophones (in Portuguese, Lusófonos), after the Roman name for the province of Lusitania.



Main article: History of the Portuguese language

Missing image
Ajuda Library, created in the 15th century as "Royal Library". Mother of the Portuguese and Brazilian National Libraries. (courtesy IPPAR)

Portuguese developed in the Western Iberian Peninsula from the spoken Latin language brought there by Roman soldiers and colonists 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.

Arriving on the Iberian Peninsula in 218 BC, the Romans brought with them the Roman people's language, Vulgar Latin, from which all Romance languages (also known as "New Latin Languages") descend. Already in the 2nd century BC southern Lusitania was Romanized. Strabo, a 1st-century Greek geographer, comments in one of the books of his Geographia "encyclopedia": "they have adopted the Roman customs, and they no longer remember their own language." The language was spread by arriving Roman soldiers, settlers and merchants, who built Roman cities mostly near previous civilizations' settlements.

Between 409 A.D. and 711, as the Roman Empire was collapsing, the Iberian Peninsula was invaded by peoples of Germanic origin, known to 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 and administration were closed, Europe entered the Dark Ages and communities became isolated, the popular Latin language was left free to evolve on its own and the uniformity of the Peninsula was soon disrupted, leading to the formation of the "Lusitanian Romance". 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 their Romance dialects so that when the Moors were overthrown, the influence that they had exerted on the language was small. Its main effect was in the lexicon.

The earliest surviving records of a distinctively Portuguese language are administrative documents from the ninth century, still interspersed with many phrases in Latin. Today this phase is known as "Proto-Portuguese" (spoken in the period between the 9th to the 12th century).

Extract of medieval
Portuguese poetry
Das que vejo
non desejo
outra senhor se vós non,
e desejo
tan sobejo,
mataria um leon,
senhor do meu coraçon:
fin roseta,
bela sobre toda fror,
fin roseta,
non me meta
en tal coita voss'amor!
João de Lobeira

Portugal was formally recognized by the Kingdom of Leon as an independent country in 1143, with King Afonso Henriques. In the first period of "Old Portuguese" - Portuguese-Galician Period (from the 12th to the 14th century) - the language gradually came into general use. Previously it had mostly been used on the Christian Iberian Peninsula as a language for poetry. In 1290, king Denis created the first Portuguese University in Lisbon (the Estudo Geral) and decreed that Portuguese, then simply called the "Vulgar language" should be known as the Portuguese language and should be officially used.

In the second period of "Old Portuguese", from the 14th to the 16th century, with the Portuguese discoveries, the Portuguese language spread to many regions of Asia, Africa and The Americas (nowadays, most of the Portuguese speakers live in Brazil, in South 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. The spreading 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 it being called Cristão ("Christian") in many places in Asia. The Japanese-Portuguese Dictionary of 1603 was a product of Jesuit missionary activity in Japan. The language continued to be popular in parts of Asia until the 19th century.

Some Portuguese-speaking Christian communities in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia preserved their language even after they were isolated from Portugal. The language has largely changed in these communities and has evolved through the centuries into several Portuguese creoles, some still existing today, after hundreds of years of isolation. A considerable number of words of Portuguese origin are also found in Tetum. Portuguese words entered the lexicons of many other languages, such as Japanese, Indonesian, Malay, or Swahili.

The end of "Old Portuguese" was marked by the publication of the Cancioneiro Geral de Garcia de Resende, in 1516. The period of "Modern Portuguese" (spanning from the 16th century to present day) saw an increase in the number of words of Classical Latin origin and erudite words of Greek origin borrowed into Portuguese during the Renaissance, which augmented the complexity of the language.

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, but it has a very distinctive phonology. A speaker of one of these languages may require some practice to effectively understand a speaker of the other (although generally it is easier for a Portuguese native speaker to learn Spanish than the other way around). Compare, for example:

Ela fecha sempre a janela antes de jantar. (Portuguese)
Ella cierra siempre la ventana antes de cenar. (Spanish)

Some less common phrasings and word choices have closer cognates in Spanish:

Ela encerra sempre a janela antes de cear. (less common Portuguese)

(Which translates as "She always closes the window before having dinner.")

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.

Portuguese also has significant similarities with Mirandese, Catalan, Italian, French and with other Romance languages. Portuguese sometimes appears closer to French and Catalan than Spanish does, due to the occurrence of nasalization in both French and Portuguese, and due to certain sound changes (for example, diphthongization of low-mid stressed vowels, aspiration of /f/, devoicing of sibilants, and change of intervocalic [ʎ] to [ʒ]) that set off Spanish from the others. For example, Portuguese "bom" (masculine word for good) and French or Catalan "bon" are very similar, while Spanish "bueno" is somewhat different, and Portuguese "filha", French "fille" and Catalan "filla" are opposed to Spanish "hija". European Portuguese came under additional French influence as a result of the Napoleonic dominion in Lisbon from 1807-1812, and cultural influences after that.

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 scepter". In English we would say, "We will bring you your scepter." The form Nós vos traremos o vosso ceptro. is also correct, used mainly in spoken Portuguese, while the first form is preferred for written Portuguese.

Geographic distribution

Main article: Geographic distribution of the Portuguese language

Portuguese language territories
country speakers
speakers population
Angola1 7 60% NA 11,190,786
Cape Verde5 4% 72% 418,224
Guinea-Bissau2 6 NA 14% 1,416,027
Mozambique1 9% 40% 19,406,703
São Tomé and Príncipe2 5 50% 95% 187,410
not official:
Namibia2 3 20% 20% 2,030,692
South Africa3 2% 2% 44,344,136
East Timor2 NA 25% 1,040,880
Macau, China 2% 3% 449,198
not official:
Daman, India2 10% 10% NA
Goa, India 3-5% 5% NA
Portugal 100% 100% 10,566,212
not official:
Luxembourg3 14% 14% 468,571
Andorra4 4-13% 4-13% 70,549
France4 2% 2% 60,656,178
Switzerland4 2% 2% 7,489,370
The Americas
Brazil 99% 100% 186,112,794
not official:
Paraguay4 7% 7% 6,347,884
Bermuda4 4% 4% 65,365
Venezuela4 1-2% 1-2% 25,375,281
Canada4 1-2% 1-2% 32,805,041
Netherlands Antilles4 1% 1% 219,958
United States of America4 0.5-0.7% 0.5-0.7% 295,900,500

1 Official data, Mozambique - 1997; Angola - 1983
2 Projection made by government, Catholic church or association
3 Official teaching of Portuguese
4 Based on emigration numbers
5 The remaining population speaks a Portuguese Creole
6 A substantial part of the population speaks a Portuguese Creole
7 A Portuguese Pidgin/ Simple Portuguese is used has lingua franca for communication between different tribes. 30% of Angolans are monolingual in Portuguese, many speak Portuguese as second language and tribal languages as native tongue, or vice-versa.

Portuguese is the first language in Angola, Brazil, Portugal and São Tomé and Príncipe, and the most widely used language in Mozambique.

Missing image

Portuguese is also one of the official languages of East Timor (with Tetum) and Macau (with Chinese). It is widely spoken, but not official, in Andorra, Luxembourg, Namibia and Paraguay. Portuguese Creoles are the mother tongue of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau's population.

Portuguese is spoken by about 187 million people in South America, 16 million Africans, 12 million Europeans, two million in North America and 0.33 million in Asia. The table "Portuguese language countries and territories" includes countries where the Portuguese language is official and while not official, where it is spoken by more than 0.5% of the population.

The CPLP or Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries is an international organization consisting of the eight independent countries which have Portuguese as an official language. Portuguese is also an official language of the European Union, Mercosul and the African Union (one of the working languages) and one of the official languages of other organizations. The Portuguese language is gaining popularity in Africa, Asia, and South America as a second language for study.


Main article: Portuguese dialects

Portuguese is a very rich language in terms of dialects, each with its particularity. Most of the differentiation between them are the pronunciation of certain vowels. Between Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese, there are differences in vocabulary, pronunciation and syntax, especially in popular varieties. The dialect of Piauí, in northeastern Brazil is closest dialect to European Portuguese in Brazil, other very close dialects are the ones of Belém and Rio de Janeiro. There are several similarities in pronunciation, syntax and simplification in grammar use between vernacular Brazilian Portuguese and vernacular Angolan Portuguese. But there are no differences between standard European and Angolan Portuguese. Coimbra Portuguese is considered the most standardized Portuguese dialect.

Some apparent differences between the two varieties in lexicon are not really differences. In Brazil, the common term for carpet is tapete, while in Portugal it's alcatifa. However, many dialectal zones in Portugal use tapete and other areas in Brazil use alcatifa. This applies in several such apparent differences, except in the new terms, such as ônibus in Brazil, which is autocarro in Portugal. A conversation between an Angolan, a Brazilian and a Portuguese from very rural areas flows very easily. The most exotic Portuguese dialect is vernacular São Tomean Portuguese, because of the interaction with local Portuguese Creoles, but even with this one there are no difficulties when talking to a person from another country.

Examples of words that are different in Portuguese dialects from three different continents Angola (Africa), Portugal (Europe) and Brazil (South America).


  • Angola: machimbombo
  • Brazil: ônibus
  • Portugal: autocarro

slum quarter

  • Angola: musseque
  • Brazil: favela
  • Portugal: bairro de lata or ilha

Go away

  • Angola: bazar, ir embora
  • Brazil: ir embora, (or vazar as a slang - Portuguese "to leak");
  • Portugal: ir embora, (or bazar as a slang - from Kimbundu kubaza - to break, leave with rush);

Major Portuguese dialects:

Portuguese dialects of Brazil
Portuguese dialects of Brazil


  1. Caipira — Countryside of São Paulo - Piraquara — caipira from Vale do Paraíba (São Paulo (state) / Minas Gerais)
  2. Cearense — Ceará
  3. Baiano — Region of Bahia
  4. image:Loudspeaker.png Fluminense (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som90.html)States of Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo (the city of Rio de Janeiro has a particular way of speaking)
  5. Gaúcho — Rio Grande do Sul
  6. Mineiro — Minas Gerais
  7. image:Loudspeaker.png Nordestino (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som91.html)northeastern states of Brazil (the interior area and Recife have particular ways of speaking)
  8. Nortista — Amazon Basin states
  9. Paulistano — city of São Paulo
  10. Sertanejo — States of Goiás and Mato Grosso
  11. Sulista — south of Brazil (the city of Curitiba has a particular way of speaking)
Missing image
Portuguese dialects of Portugal


  1. image:Loudspeaker.png Açoreano (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som69.html)Azores (São Miguel Island and Terceira Island have particular ways of speaking)
  2. image:Loudspeaker.png Alentejano (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som40.html)Alentejo
  3. image:Loudspeaker.png Algarvio (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som44.html)Algarve (there is a particular small dialect in the western area)
  4. image:Loudspeaker.png Alto-Minhoto (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som1.html)North of Braga (interior)
  5. image:Loudspeaker.png Baixo-Beirão; Alto-Alentejano (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som49.html)Central Portugal (interior)
  6. image:Loudspeaker.png Beirão (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som9.html)central Portugal
  7. image:Loudspeaker.png Estremenho (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som22.html)Regions of Coimbra and Lisbon (can be subdivided in Lisbon Portuguese and Coimbra Portuguese)
  8. image:Loudspeaker.png Madeirense (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som60.html)Madeira
  9. image:Loudspeaker.png Nortenho (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som14.html)Regions of Braga and Porto
  10. image:Loudspeaker.png Transmontano (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som6.html)Trás-os-Montes


  1. Benguelense — Benguela province
  2. image:Loudspeaker.png Luandense (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som85.html)Luanda province
  3. Sulista — South of Angola
Missing image
Portuguese dialects of Angola

Other areas

  • image:Loudspeaker.png Caboverdiano (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som87.html)Cape Verde
  • image:Loudspeaker.png Guineense (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som88.html)Guinea-Bissau
  • image:Loudspeaker.png Macaense (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som92.html)Macau, China
  • image:Loudspeaker.png Moçambicano (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som89.html)Mozambique
  • image:Loudspeaker.png Santomense (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som83.html)São Tomé and Principe
  • image:Loudspeaker.png Timorense (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/cvc/hlp/geografia/som84.html)East Timor
  • Damaense — Daman, India
  • Goês — State of Goa, India


Main article: Portuguese Creole

Portugal in the period of discoveries and colonization created a linguistic contact with native languages and people of the discovered lands and thus pidgins were formed. Until the 18th century, these Portuguese pidgins were used as Lingua Franca in Asia and Africa. Later, the Portuguese pidgins were expanded grammatically and lexically, as it became a native language. About three million people worldwide speak a Portuguese Creole. These creoles are spoken, mostly, by inter-racial communities (Portuguese people with natives).

In the past, Portuguese creoles were also spoken in India (several other areas), Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia (other areas), and possibly in Brazil.


Main article: Portuguese phonology

The Portuguese language is particularly interesting to linguists because of the complexity of its phonetic structure. The language contains a maximum of 9 oral vowels, 5 nasal vowels and a large number of possible diphthongs including five nasal diphthongs.

The following table includes standardized forms of Portuguese and most common pronunciation in most regions:


sound examples meaning Observation
[a] lá, rato, there, mouse
[ɐ] luva, dia glove, day
[ɛ] café, festa, coffee, party
[e] você, medo you, fear
[ɨ] or [ə] leite, levar milk, to take occurs mostly in European Portuguese. In Brazil, in general, it sounds as [i] (post-stress) or [e] (pre-stressed)
[i] idiota, milhão idiot, million
[ɔ] nó, moda knot, fashion
[o] avô, olho, grandparent, eye
[u] santo, uvas saint, grapes

Note: \ʏ\ in certain U occurs in the dialects of Portalegre, Castelo Branco, Algarve (Barlavento area) and São Miguel Island. \ø\ occurs in São Miguel Island, for example in boi (ox) \bø\.

Nasal vowels

sound examples meaning Observation
[ɐ̃] irmã, lançar sister, to launch In Northern Portugal the sound is [ã]
[ẽ] lembrar, então remember, then
[ĩ] limbo, brincar limb, to play
[õ] bom, montanha good (m, sg), mountain
[ũ] um, untar one, to dip in grease


sound examples meaning
[j] caixa, ideia box, idea
[w] ao, mau to, bad

In addition, there are two classes of Diphthongs in Portuguese:

  • The Oral Diphthongs: ai [aj], ei [ɐj] (Lisbon only) or [ej], éi [ɛj], oi [oj], ói [ɔj], ui [uj], au ao [aw], eu [ew], éu [ɛw], ou [ow] (Northern Portugal/ few areas in Brazil only) and iu [iw].
  • The Nasal Diphthongs: ãe ãi [ɐ̃j], em en(s) [ẽj̃], õe [õj̃], ui [ũj̃] and ão (tonic verbal forms) am (atonic verbal forms) [ɐ̃w̃].


sound examples meaning Observation
[b] bola ball
[p] pêra pear
[t] tosta toast
[d] dedo finger
[k] casa, aquilo house, that
[g] gato cat
[f] ferro iron
[v] vento wind
[s] sapo, assado frog, roasted
[z] natureza, raso nature, shallow
[ʃ] cheque, xadrez check, chess
[ʒ] jogo, gelo game, ice
[l] logo soon
[ɫ] Brasil Brazil With a few exceptions, in Brazil it sounds as [w].
[ʎ] alho garlic
[ɾ] tiro, mar shot, sea In Brazil, ending "r" (as in "mar") has many variations, including ɾ but also: h, x, ɹ or even surpressed.
[r] rosa, carro rose, car Most dialects in Portugal and Africa uses it. Occurs in some dialects in Brazil.
[ʀ] or [ʁ] rosa, carro rose, car Occurs mostly in Lisbon. It can occur in other dialects, namely in main urban areas of Portugal.
[x] or [χ] rosa, carro rose, car Occurs mostly in Rio de Janeiro
[h] rosa, carro rose, car For many dialects in Brazil.
[m] mapa map
[n] número number
[ɲ] ninho nest In many Brazilian, Angolan and São Tomean dialects it can be pronounced as [ ̃j̃].

Note: In most Brazilian dialects, especially the most widely spoken ones, D and T tend to become affricate before the unstressed phoneme /i/ (which can correspond to either E or I in the alphabet). The affricate D is /dʒ/ and the affricate T is /tʃ/. Therefore, in the most common Brazilian pronunciation for the word "dia" (day) is /dʒiɐ/. Affricate T occurs, although declining, in Northern Portugal in words beginning with "ch" (China becomes /'tʃinɐ/), this was a feature of Old Portuguese.


Main article: Portuguese grammar

Verbs are divided into three conjugations, which can be identified by looking at the infinitive ending, one of "-ar", "-er", "-ir" (and "-or", which is present in a small number of verbs ,like "por" (to put). This verb pertains, however, to the "-er" conjugation, as in past it was spoken "poner", then "poer" then "por".). Most verbs end with "-ar", such as cantar (to sing). All verbs with the same ending follow the same pattern.

In Portuguese, verbs are divided into moods:

  • Imperative. Used to express a wish, command or advice
  • Indicative. Used to express a fact
  • Subjunctive. Used to express a wish or a possibility

All Portuguese nouns have one of two genders: masculine or inclusive and feminine or exclusive. Most adjectives and pronouns, and all articles indicate the gender of the noun they reference. The feminine gender in adjectives is formed in a different way from that in nouns. Most adjectives ending in a consonant remain unchanged: homem superior (superior man), mulher superior (superior woman). This is also true for adjectives ending in "e": homem forte (strong man), mulher forte (strong woman). Except for this, the noun and the adjective must always be in agreement: homem alto (tall man), mulher alta (tall woman).

See also: Portuguese pronouns, Portuguese verb conjugation


Main article: Portuguese vocabulary

The Dicionário Houaiss da Língua Portuguesa, by Antônio Houaiss (1915 – 1999), son of Lebanese immigrants in Brazil and former Brazilian Minister of Culture, was created with the support of almost two hundred lexicographers from several countries and it is the most complete Portuguese dictionary to date (about 228,500 entries, 376,500 acceptations, 415,500 synonyms, 26,400 antonyms and 57,000 historical words) it includes all variations of the Portuguese language (African, Asian, Brazilian and of Portugal). Dedicating his life to the language, Houaiss started his work in 1986, and died one year before the dictionary was completed by his colleagues in the year 2000, without seeing his dream come true. The dictionary is quickly becoming a reference to the language, some classified it as a "monument to the language".

Portuguese, both in morphology and syntax, represents an organic transformation of Latin without the direct intervention of any foreign language. The sounds, grammatical forms, and syntactical types, with a few exceptions, are derived from Latin. And almost 90% of the vocabulary is still derived from the language of Rome. Some of the changes began during the Empire, others took place later. In Late Middle Ages, Portuguese was eroding as much as French, but a conservative policy re-approached it to Latin.

  • Nasalization — A vowel before [m] and [n] has a tendency to become a nasal vowel. In the case of Portuguese, it happened between the sixth and seventh centuries, possibly influenced by previously spoken Celtic languages. LVNA → l[ũ]a — Lua (moon).
  • Progressive Nasalization — Spread of nasalization forward from a nasal consonant, especially [m]. MADRE → made → mae → mãe mother; HAC NOCTE → ãnoite → ãõte → ontem /õtẽĩ/ (yesterday).
  • Elision — Vulgar Latin [l], [n], [d] and [g] were deleted between vowels; the vowels then coalesced. DOLORE → door → dor (pain) BONV → bõo → bom (good).
  • Palatalization — Another assimilation occurs before the front vowels [i] and [e], or near the palatal semi-vowel [j]. CENTV → [tj]ento → [ts]ento → cento, (hundred) FACERE → fa[tj]ere → fa[ts]er → fa[dz]er → fazer, (to do). A more ancient evolution was FORTIA → for[ts]a → força (strength).
  • Voicing — voiceless stops became voiced stops between vowels (and [b] became [v]):
MVTV → mudo (deaf) LACV → lago (lake) FABA → fava (broadbean).
  • Simplification of consonant clusters, especially doubled consonants, occurred: GVTTA → gota (drop); PECCARE → pecar (to sin)
  • Dissimilation — similar sounds in a word have a tendency to become different over time, so as to ease pronunciation. Vowels: LOCVSTA → lagosta (lobster). Consonants: ANIMA → alma (soul) LOCALE → logar → lugar (place).
  • metathesis — a sound change that alters the order of phonemes in a word. Semi-vowel metathesis: PRIMARIV → primeiro (first); Consonant metathesis in [l] and [r]: TENEBRAS → teevras → trevas (darkness); these last ones are rare in Portuguese. Vowel metathesis: GENUCULUM → genoclo → gẽo[lj]o → joelho (knee).
  • epenthesis, insertion of a sound to break up a difficult-to-pronounce combination of vowels: GALLINA → Gali~a → Galinha (Chicken); VINO → Vi~o → Vinho (wine)

Another specially relevant shift was the loss of the intervocalic /l/ in a very large set of words, already described in the list above as an example of "elision" → e.g: SALIRE → sair; COLARE → coar; NOTVLA → nódoa, with the typical portuguese voicing of /t/ in /d/ (AMATVS → amado). Fewer words remained unchanged, or reevolved to the original word, such as taberna (tavern) or coxa (thigh). Due to re-influence of Latin, words like LOCALE which evolved to lugar has local as synonym.

Very few traces of the native or pre-Roman settlers like the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Iberians, or Celts lexicon persist in the language, but there are some exceptions, such as Abóbora (pumpkin) and Bezerro (year-old calf) from Iberian languages or Cerveja (beer) and Saco (bag) from Celtic and Phoenician, respectively.

Post-Roman influences, before the Discovery age, were also small. The Germanic influence in Portuguese was restricted to warfare and related topics, such has Barão (baron) from Germanic baro or Guerra (war) from Gothic *wirro. Projections indicate 1000 Arabic loan words, including: Aldeia (village) from aldaya, Alface (lettuce) from alkhass, Armazém (warehouse) from almahazan, Azeite (olive oil) from azzait and most words starting with "al".

With the Portuguese discoveries linguistic contact was made, and the Portuguese language became influenced by other languages other than European or Arabic. In Asia, the language gained words such has catana (cutlass) from Japanese katana, Corja (rabble) from Malay Kórchchu or chá (tea) from Chinese cha. In South America, the language gained words such has Ananás, from Tupi-Guarani naná and Abacaxi from Tupi ibá cati both relating to different species of pineapple, or even Tucano (toucan) from Guarani tucan. The African influence in lexicon was made in Brazil and Africa (mostly in Angola) include words such has Bungular (to dance like African wizards) from Kimbundu kubungula or Cafuné (affections made in the head) from Kimbundu kifumate. Many names of places and local animals have Amerindian names in Brazil, in Angola and Mozambique, the same occurring with the local Bantu languages. These influences are also small even in the local variations of Portuguese in Brazil and Africa.

Writing system

Main article: Portuguese alphabet

Portuguese is written using the Latin alphabet with 26 letters. Three of them (K, W and Y) are only used for non-Portuguese origin words, in terms like darwinismo (Darwinism, from English "Darwin"). It uses ç and acute, grave, circumflex and tilde accents over vowels, as well as, in some forms and only in Brazil, diaeresis on a U as in lingüística (Linguistics, linguística is used in the rest of the Portuguese speaking nations).

Written varieties and Spelling Reform

As of 2005, Portuguese has two written standards:

  • European and African Portuguese
  • Brazilian Portuguese
Portugal/ Africa Brazil translation
acção ação action
direcção direção direction
eléctrico elétrico electric
óptimo ótimo very good

In Brazil most first 'c's in 'cc', 'cç' or 'ct'; and 'p's in 'pc', 'pç' or 'pt' were eliminated from the language, since they are not pronounced in the cultivated spoken language, but are remnants from the language's Latin origin (though some continue to exist in cultivated Brazilian Portuguese, others in European Portuguese). An example is "facto" (in Portugal) and "fato" (in Brazil), both meaning fact -- one of the rare words that will continue to be accepted and is pronounced differently in both countries.

Also, there are differences in accent marks, due to:

  1. Different pronunciation: Brazil uses closed vowels in words such as "Antônio" (Anthony) or "anônimo" (anonymous), whereas Portugal and Africa use open ones, "António" or "anónimo", respectively.
  2. Easier reading: Because "qu" can be read in two different ways in Portuguese: "kw" or "k", Brazil uses the diaeresis (called 'trema' in Portuguese), instead of "cinquenta" they write "cinqüenta". It was part of an orthographic agreement but abolished in Portugal.

A 1990 Spelling Reform (Port. Reforma Ortográfica), intended to create an International Portuguese Standard, was ratified by Brazil, Cape Verde, and Portugal. East Timor, not an original subscriber, will ratify shortly along with Guinea-Bissau. Brazil and East Timor were the biggest supporters of the reform and pressured the CPLP for a fast implementation, but the implementation date has not yet been set. In East Timor, both orthographies are currently being taught to children. Galiza was also invited to take part in the reform but the Galician government ignored the invitation (note that this government states that Galician and Portuguese are different languages). However, an unofficial commission formed by Galician linguists (supporting the unity of the language) was sent and participated in the reform. 2

At first, the Agreement established that its entrance into practice would only occur when all the countries of the CPLP had ratified it. But the Portuguese-speaking African countries have not ratified, possibly due to problems in implementing it. In the CPLP’s summit of 2627 July 2004, an adjustment will prompt implementation when just three countries ratify it. The agreement will eliminate most first 'c's in 'cc', 'cç' or 'ct'; and 'p's in 'pc', 'pç' or 'pt' from European/ African Portuguese, the dieresis and accent marks in words ending in "éia" in Brazil and add some new spelling rules. And it will allow either orthography for words like anónimo or anônimo, depending on the dialect of the author or person being transcribed. Late in October 2004, Brazil became the first to approve the adjustment and asked its ambassadors in Portugal and Cape Verde to promote the rapid implementation in those countries. The agreement will enter into practice in the first day of the next month when the third country ratifies it.

One aim of this reform is to promote the language internationally, just like the spelling reforms of Spanish by the Real Academia Española in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries helped to promote the Spanish language. The language is not very popular internationally, even if it is the third-most-spoken Western language in the world, after English and Spanish. Even if today's orthographies do not harm intelligibility between native speakers, the orthography of one country is considered incorrect in the other, leading to two different translations of the same book written in another language. Another objective is Brazil's aid to Portugal in education for the Portuguese speaking African countries.

Another agreement was made for the new words that will come into the language.


To English speakers, the most famous writer in the Portuguese language is the poet Luís Vaz de Camões or Luís Vaz Camoens (15241580), author of the epic poem, the Lusiad.

Several other authors and poets are also internationally known, such as: Machado de Assis (1839-1908), the most traditional Brazilian novelist; Eça de Queirós (18451900), one of the most famous Portuguese language novelists; Fernando Pessoa (18881935), one of the greatest poets in the history of the language; Jorge Amado (19122001), a popular novelist; Pepetela (born 1941), A famous Angolan novelist, Paulo Coelho (born 1947), an internationally bestselling novelist; Mia Couto (1955), the most famous novelist from Mozambique; and José Saramago (born 1922) who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998.

See also: Camoens Prize


PT. - Standard Pronunciation of Portugal
BR. - Normal Pronunciation of Brazil
note: The pronunciation of "o" and final "s" in Rio de Janeiro follows the European standard.
translation phrase IPA
Portuguese: português PT. Template:Audio BR.
hello: olá; oi (mostly used in Brazil) Template:Audio;
see you later (preferable); good-bye: até logo; adeus ; PT. ; BR. ;
please: por favor PT. BR.
thank you (m); thank you (f): obrigado; obrigada ;
sorry: desculpe PT. BR.
that one: aquele (m); aquela (f) PT. ; BR. ;
how much?: quanto
yes: sim
no: não
I don't understand: não entendo
where's the bathroom?: Brazil: Onde fica o banheiro
Portugal, others: Onde fica a casa de banho
generic toast: à vossa!; saúde  ; PT. BR.
Do you speak English?: Fala inglês? PT. BR.

See also


  • 1First and Second with first language speakers, respectively. Only counting figures from countries in the table "Portuguese language countries and Territories". Considering second language speakers those people who are bilingual and use Portuguese as a second language.
  • 2www.lusografia.org (http://www.lusografia.org/ao/index.htm)


  • Dicionário Houaiss da Língua Portuguesa Temas e Debates ed., 2005.
  • Poesia e Prosa Medievais Ulisseia 1998 (3rd ed.; ISBN 9789725681244).
  • Bases Temáticas - Língua Portuguesa in Instituto Camões (http://www.instituto-camoes.pt/bases/lingua.htm)
  • A Língua Portuguesa in Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil (http://www.linguaportuguesa.ufrn.br/)
  • Portuguese Literature in The Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12307a.htm)
  • Bergström, Magnus & Reis, Neves Prontuário Ortográfico Editorial Notícias, 2004.
  • Lindley Cintra, Luís F. Nova Proposta de Classificação dos Dialectos Galego-Portugueses Boletim de Filologia, Lisboa, Centro de Estudos Filológicos, 1971.

External links

Template:InterWiki Template:Wikibookspar

Advanced speakers
(English language websites)

da:Portugisisk (sprog) de:Portugiesische Sprache es:Idioma portugués eo:Portugala lingvo fr:Portugais gl:Portugués id:Bahasa Portugis is:Portúgalska it:Lingua portoghese he:פורטוגזית la:Lingua Lusitana lt:Portugalų kalba li:Portugees zh-min-nan:Portugal-gú nl:Portugees ja:ポルトガル語 no:Portugisisk språk oc:Portugués pl:Język portugalski pt:Língua portuguesa ro:Limba portugheză rm:Lingua portugaisa ru:Португальский язык fi:Portugalin kieli sv:Portugisiska th:ภาษาโปรตุเกส zh:葡萄牙語


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