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Across the vast yet split up area in which Portuguese is spoken throughout the world, its pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary, as with all living languages, varies to differing degrees from region to region. Such differences however have not compromised the essential unity of Portuguese. Despite the spread of the language within Europe and more markedly throughout the rest of the world, Portuguese has managed to maintain a high level of cohesion between its varieties.
The regional characteristics that a language often acquires over time may render it a dialect. Some linguists also distinguish between a speech and a dialect:
In light of the difficulty of categorising the regional differences that a language may take on, we will use in this text the term dialect to refer to the collection of linguistic peculiarities found within a given area, without taking into consideration how greatly these peculiarities differ from what is considered the standard language.
In the study of the forms that the Portuguese language has taken on, it is necessary to distinguish between its dialects and creoles, especially in the regions of Africa, Asia and Oceania where it is spoken. The Portuguese creoles are a result of the contact that the Portuguese language had from the fifteenth century with the indigenous languages that it encountered throughout the world. At present, these creoles have differentiated themselves from standard Portuguese to such a degree that, unlike dialects, they are considered to be separate languages derived from Portuguese.