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3.3.a. The History of the language in Brazil

When Portugal first colonized Brazil, a process that began with discover in the year 1500, Tupi, or more precisely the Tupinambá, one of the languages of the Tupi-Guarani family spoken by indians who lived on the Brazilian seacoast, was used along with Portuguese as the general language of the colony. This was primarily because the Jesuit priests studied and taught the Tupi language. In 1757, Tupi was banned by royal decree, although the language had already been overwhelmed by Portuguese spoken by the large number of immigrants from the mother country. When the Jesuits were expelled in 1759, Portuguese became the language of the country. However, Portuguese inherited words associated with flora and fauna from indigenous languages. Among these words were abacaxi (pineapple), mandioca (manioc flour), caju (cashew), tatu (armadillo), and piranha, the voracious fish, as well as proper and geographic names.

The Portuguese language in Brazil received a new source of contributions with the influx of African slaves. The African influence came primarily from the Iorubá spoken by slaves from Nigeria. Some of these words also found their way to Europe. Iorubá contributions derived from words connected with religion and the Afro-Brazilian cuisine. From the Angolan Quimbundo language came words such as caçula, meaning the youngest child, moleque (a street child), and the dance samba.

During the 18th century, other differences between the American and European Portuguese developed. At that time Brazilian Portuguese failed to adopt linguistic changes taking place in Portugal produced by French influence. The Brazilian Portuguese remained loyal to the pronunciation used at the time of its discovery. However, when Don João, the Portuguese king, and the royal entourage took refuge in Brazil in 1808 (when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Portugal), his presence helped to reapproximate the Portuguese spoken in the cities to the Portuguese of Portugal.

After Brazilian independence in 1822, Brazilian Portuguese became influenced by Europeans who had migrated to the central and southern parts of the country. This is the reason one finds in those areas variations in pronunciation and a few superficial lexical changes. These changes reflect the nationalities settling in each area.

In the 20th century, the split between the Portuguese and Brazilian variants of Portuguese heightened as the result of new words for technological innovations. This happened because Portuguese lacked a uniform procedure for adopting such words. Certain words took different forms in different countries. For example: in Portugal one hears comboio, and in Brazil one hears trem, both meaning train. Autocarro in Portugal is the same thing as ônibus in Brazil, both meaning bus. At the beginning of this century, the nationalism and the individualism of the Romantic movement began promoting the creation of a language norm based on the Brazilian version of the Portuguese language. In 1922, the Modernists reintroduced this argument, promoting a need to break with traditional Portuguese models and to adopt the Brazilian speech pattern. This opening by the Modernists led to the successful adoption of the Brazilian norm in literature.

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Last updated: Feb/09/2006