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February 25, 2010

Brazilian Portuguese Language


Portuguese is the eighth most spoken language worldwide and the third among the Western countries, after English and Spanish. About 200 million people communicate through this language, officially adopted in eight countries: Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe and East Timor. It is also one of the official languages of the European Union, since Portugal joined the group.

The official language of Brazil is Portuguese which is spoken by almost all of the population and is virtually the only language used in newspapers, radio, television, and for business and administrative purposes. The exception to this is in the municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira where Nheengatu, an indigenous language of South America, has been granted co-official status with Portuguese. Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas, making the language an important part of Brazilian national identity and giving it a national culture distinct from those of its Spanish-speaking neighbors.

Flag of Brazil

Brazilian Portuguese has had its own development, influenced by the Amerindian and African languages. As a result, the language is somewhat different, mostly in phonology, from the language of Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries. These differences are comparable to those between American and British English.

The language was introduced in Brazil around the XVI century with the early Portuguese colonization process. However, the indigenous people also taught the Europeans how to speak Tupi-Guarani, specially the Tupinambá, one of the Tupi dialects. The General Language or Tupinambá became the most spoken language in Brazil in the late XVII century, even with a literary characteristic, as it was used by missionaries in the translation of sacred texts, prayers and anthems.

Concerned about ensuring the political presence in Brazil, Portugal proclaimed the Directory of the Indians, in 1757, which considered the prevailing language as “a truly abominable and satanic invention”. Children of the Portuguese and indigenous were prohibited from learning and speaking another language other than Portuguese.

At first, the rule was valid only for the areas that today correspond to the States of Pará and Maranhão. But in 1759, a permit extended the law making the use of the Portuguese language mandatory throughout the national territory, assuring its teaching hegemony.

In 2008, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), which included representatives from all countries with Portuguese as the official language, reached an agreement on the reform of Portuguese into one international language, as opposed to two diverged dialects of the same language. All CPLP countries were given from 2009 until 2014 to adjust to the necessary changes.

Minority languages are spoken throughout the nation. One hundred and eighty Amerindian languages are spoken in remote areas and a number of other languages are spoken by immigrants and their descendants. There are significant communities of German (mostly the Hunsrückisch, a High German language dialect) and Italian (mostly the Talian dialect, of Venetian origin) speakers in the south of the country, both of which, are influenced by the Portuguese language.

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