Some History About the Portuguese Langauage
Literacy: Age 15 and over can read and write total population: 93.3% male: 95.5% female: 91.3% (2003 est.)
Countries Portuguese is Spoken:
Andorra, Angola, Aruba, Bermuda, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Gibraltar, Guinea-Bissau, Macau, Mozambique, Portugal & Sao Tome and Principe
About the Portuguese Language
Portuguese ranks second after Spanish as the most widely spoken Romance language, and it ranks eighth in the world in terms of number of speakers. More than 150 million people speak Brazilian Portuguese in Brazil, and another 10 million people speak Portuguese in Portugal. There are even some 4.6 million people in Africa who speak Portuguese. Plus, did you know that there are half a million people who speak Portuguese in the United States?
Standard Continental Portuguese is a modern version of the colloquial Latin spoken by the Romans who occupied the Iberian Peninsula for more than half a millennium. It was a simplified version of Latin that avoided passive verbs forms, complicated tenses, and the entire declension system. The variety of influences on the Portuguese language stems from the consecutive invasions of Visigoths and Muslims in later years, not to mention influences from France and Spain due to the proximity of those countries to Portugal.
There were two main dialects of Portuguese in medieval times: Galician-Portuguese (spoken in the Northwestern region of the Iberian Peninsula) and Luso-Mozarabic (spoken in the region between the Mondego and Tagus Rivers, which was under Muslim control). During the 11th and 12th centuries, the conquest of the Muslim-controlled territory and the imposition of permanent boundaries caused the two dialects to merge, giving birth to the Portuguese language. The first written documents in the Portuguese language date from the late 12th century, and literary works appeared soon after.
The history of Brazilian Portuguese begins with the colonization of Brazil by Portugal in 1500.
Brazilian Portuguese varies from European Portuguese in many respects, including pronunciation and vocabulary. Many of the differences can be attributed to the influence of the languages of the indigenous populations of Brazil and to the admixture of African words brought over by slaves. Moreover, while Continental Portuguese was heavily influenced by the French language during the 18th century, Brazilian Portuguese did not register those changes. Also, the Portuguese pronunciation differs from region to region in Brazil, depending on the settlement patterns of European immigrants.
English words of Portuguese origin include tapioca, petunia, piranha, cashew, ipecac, macaw and toucan. English words that come from Continental Portuguese vocabulary include lingo, fandango, albino, brocade, and molasses.
Formal and Informal Address
An English speaker learning Portuguese may be interested in the concept of formal and informal address in Continental Portuguese. When you speak Portuguese to an older person, or someone you don’t know very well, you should use the formal você form of address. When speaking Continental Portuguese to a child, a good friend, or a family member, use the informal tu form of address instead.
Brazilians have dropped the distinction between you-formal and you-familiar that exists in Continental Portuguese. You should use the formal você form of address for all occasions when you speak Brazilian Portuguese.
An interesting note: despite the existence of the você form, it is customary in both European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese to address someone in the third person in order to be polite. For example, you might say Como está a senhora? (How is the lady?) when speaking to a woman you don’t know very well.
Portuguese Pronunciation and Portuguese Grammar
Some aspects of Portuguese pronunciation may seem unusual to native English speakers who are learning Portuguese. The use of nasalized vowels, for example, requires some practice. Ways that nasalized vowels are indicated in spelling include an ‘m’ or ‘n’ after the vowel, or a tilde (~) over the vowel.
Unlike English, Portuguese nouns have gender. When you learn Portuguese vocabulary, it is important to learn the gender of nouns and to make sure that adjectives agree with the nouns they modify. For example, mulher simpática (friendly woman) and homen simpático (friendly man) demonstrate how adjectives change their endings to agree with the gender of feminine and masculine nouns.
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