“The Language of Brazil”
Portuguese is the language spoken in Brazil. This unique language is spoken by nearly all Brazilians. The people of Brazil are proud of their language and with its colorful people and distinct culture, it is only fitting that a language reflects its spirit.
Brazilian Portuguese has had its own development over history, influenced by the Indigenous people that have lived there for thousands of years, also influenced by European immigrants, and also influenced by several African languages.
As a result, the language is somewhat different, from the language of Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries. These differences are comparable to those between American and British English.
Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking country in South America making the language an important part of Brazilian national identity and giving it a national culture distinct from those of its Spanish-speaking neighbors. South America is typically characterized as a Spanish continent and many Brazilians resent that many foreigners, particularly North Americans and Europeans, think Brazilians speak Spanish. There are some similarities between Portuguese and Spanish, but also significant differences in pronunciation and in basic vocabulary between the two languages.
Portuguese is the official and the main language spoken in Brazil. Nearly all Brazilians speak Portuguese. The only exceptions are some members of Indigenous groups that speak Tupí-Guarani, Arawak, Carib, Gê, and numerous other indigenous languages. Also, there are pockets of immigrants living in Brazil that are primarily from Japan and a few other countries, who have not yet learned Portuguese.
About the Portuguese Language
The Portuguese language is spoken by around 275 million people worldwide, making Portuguese the fifth-most spoken language in the world.
Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, Portugal, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome and Principe, and Mozambique. Also, in some parts of India, such as Goa and Daman and Diu, Portuguese is still spoken. There are also significant populations of Portuguese speakers in Bermuda and in several states throughout the United States there are over a half-million Portuguese native speakers, particularly in New Jersey and New York.
Portuguese belongs to a group of languages called Romance languages or Neo-Latin languages that evolved from Latin, the language of Latium in Ancient Italy, or more specifically, the city of Rome.
After the Roman empire expanded into southwestern Europe, a form of Latin language gradually became established in the Iberian Peninsula (now Portugal and the Spanish province of Galicia) and combined with a handful of languages and dialects of that time, this eventually evolved into the Portuguese language that we know of today.
History of Brazilian Portuguese
The Portuguese language was introduced to Brazil by explorers from Portugal, which was during the age of exploration in the early 16th century. When the Portuguese settlers arrived, they encountered the natives known at the Tupi people, who dominated most of the Brazilian coast and they spoke a set of closely related languages.
In the first two centuries of colonization, a language based on Tupian languages (known as Língua geral) was widely spoken in the colony along with Portuguese as the general language of the colony. Língua Geral was studied and taught by the Jesuit missionaries who spread the Tupi language to areas where the language was not spoken. This was when Brazilian Portuguese inherited words associated with plants and animals from the indigenous language.
In the mid-1700s, the Jesuits were expelled and the Tupi language (Lingua geral) along with other indigenous languages in Brazil were banned by royal decree. Although, before that prohibition, the Portuguese language was the dominant language in Brazil. Most of the several other native languages gradually disappeared as the populations that spoke them were integrated when the Portuguese-speaking population expanded to most of Brazil.
The Brazilian Portuguese language received a new source of contributions with the influx of African slaves. The Portuguese spoken in Brazil absorbed many African influences, which led to a notable differentiation from the Portuguese spoken in Portugal.
After Brazilian independence in 1822, Brazil started to receive substantial immigration of non-Portuguese-speaking people from Europe and Asia. Brazilian Portuguese became influenced by Europeans who had migrated to the central and southern parts of the country and much of their dialect and pronunciation of their own languages hybridized with the Portuguese.
Most immigrants, particularly Italians. and Spaniards, adopted the Portuguese language after a few generations. Other immigrants, particularly Germans and Japanese, preserved their languages and took more generations to adopt Portuguese as their mother tongue. In addition, there are quite a few immigrant communities throughout Brazil that still speak in their own native tongue as well as Portuguese.
Brazilian Portuguese Today
Within Brazil, there are no dialects of Portuguese, but only moderate regional variation in accent, vocabulary, and use of personal nouns, pronouns, and verb conjugations. Variations tend to diminish as a result of mass media, especially national television networks that are viewed by the majority of Brazilians.
Brazilian Portuguese differs somewhat in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation from the language of Portugal. Brazilian Portuguese contains a large number of indigenous terms, particularly Tupi-Guarani words for native plants, animals, and place-names that are not found in continental Portuguese.
While regional accents exist in Brazil, they are not very pronounced and native Portuguese speakers from one region have no difficulty understanding those from other regions. The vast majority of Brazilians are monolingual in Portuguese, although many middle-class and elite Brazilians study English and to a lesser extent Spanish, French, and German.
If you are in Brazil you can visit the Museum of the Portuguese Language (Portuguese: Museu da Lingua Portuguesa) in Sao Paulo for more in-depth information on the Portuguese language. This museum features innovative and virtual exhibits which feature a mixture of art, technology and interactivity. It consists of diverse exhibitions with hands-on activities, videos, sounds and images about Linguistics and Portuguese language developments.
The museum occupies three floors of the Estacão da Luz train station, in downtown Sao Paulo. The entryway to the museum contains the “Tree of the Language”, a three-story high sculpture, created by Brazilian architect Rafic Farah. The leaves are outlines of objects and the roots are formed by words that gave rise to those words in Portuguese.