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History of Portuguese
Quick Reference
  ·  Official Language
Portugal, Brazil
  ·  Common 2nd language of
Angola and Mozambique
  ·  Number of Speakers
135 million
  ·  Origin
Romance language developed from spread of Latin, i.e. Roman occupation of Iberian Peninsula. Some Arabic influence from Muslim rule (8th century).
  ·  Alphabet & Scripts
Roman alphabet
Due to the extraordinary maritime explorations of Vasco da Gama, Bartolomeu Dias, Magellan and Cabral, Portugal is a country with an astonishing history of world-wide travel and discovery. Today the spread of the Portuguese language bears witness to this spirit of adventure.

Portuguese belongs to the Romance group of languages. The Romance languages evolved from Latin as a result of the military victories of the Romans and their subsequent political and cultural domination.

Gradually Latin became established in the Iberian Peninsula and finally replaced the native languages (with exception of Basque). During the centuries that followed control of the peninsula changed hands many times; the Germanic invasion in the 5th Century was curtailed by the Visigoths, who in turn were defeated by the Moors from North Africa in the 8th Century.

At this time the Portuguese language was slowly emerging and the main effect of Muslim rule was the incorporation of a large number of Arabic words into the vocabulary - such words betray their descent by the prefix al which is the Arabic definite article. (Algarve is derived from the Arabic al-gharb meaning 'western land'). It was not until the 11th Century that Portugal recognised Portuguese as her national language.

Today Portuguese is spoken in 4 continents, is the official language of 7 independent countries and boasts over 150 million speakers. It is assumed to be the 7th most widely spoken language in the world and 3rd of the European languages, after English and Spanish.

Phonetically, Portuguese is an extremely rich language. It has a vast range of vocalic or vowel sounds including nasal equivalents for most of them. (Nasal vowels are indicated by a tilde (~) or are followed by m or n.). Portuguese grammar follows fairly similar patterns to those of other Latin languages, for example Spanish. In its written form Portuguese is reasonably similar to Spanish, however pronunciation makes it distinctive.

Portuguese is a very logical language. The days of the week are named according to the order and number of the days of creation and not after a conventional list of pagan deities as in English;

domingo - the day of the Lord

segunda-feira - second day of creation

terça-feira - third day of creation, and so on until

sábado - Sabbath, the day of rest.

The accent in Portuguese is important. Many words in Portuguese have the same spelling but the inclusion of an accent can give an entirely different meaning, for example e means 'and', whereas é means 'is'.

If a Portuguese word which includes the letters k, w or y, they are foreign or borrowed words and are generally used in bars or bistros - 'whisky' for example.

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Did you know?
There are no "primitive" languages. All languages have a system of sounds, words and sentences that can adequately communicate the content of culture.
Portuguese History
Portuguese Speaking
» Portugal
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