Portuguese language: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

Portuguese ( or língua portuguesa) is a Romance language that originated in what is now Galiciamarker and northern Portugalmarker. It is derived from the Latin spoken by the romanized pre-Roman peoples of the Iberian Peninsula (namely the Gallaeci, the Lusitanians, the Celtici and the Conii) around 2000 years ago. It spread worldwide in the 15th and 16th centuries as Portugal established a colonial and commercial empire (1415–1999) which spanned from Brazilmarker in the Americas to Goamarker and other parts of Indiamarker, Macaumarker in Chinamarker and Timormarker (north of Australia). It was used as the exclusive lingua franca on the island of Sri Lankamarker for almost 350 years. During that time, many creole languages based on Portuguese also appeared around the world, especially in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbeanmarker.

Today it is one of the world's major languages, ranked seventh according to number of native speakers (between 191 and 230 million). It is the language of about half of South America's population, even though Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas. It is also a major lingua franca in Portugal's former colonial possessions in Africa. It is an official language in nine countries (see the table on the right), also being co-official with Cantonese Chinese in Macaumarker and Tetum in East Timormarker. There are sizeable communities of Portuguese speakers in various regions of North America, notably in the United Statesmarker (New Jerseymarker, New Englandmarker, Californiamarker and south Floridamarker) and in Ontariomarker, Canadamarker.

In various aspects, the system of sounds in Portuguese is more similar to the phonologies of Catalan or French than, say, those of Spanish or Italian. Spanishmarker author Miguel de Cervantes once called Portuguese "the sweet language", Lope de Vega referred to it as "suave" while Brazilian writer Olavo Bilac poetically described it as a última flor do Lácio, inculta e bela: "the last flower of Latium, wild and beautiful". Portuguese is also termed "the language of Camões", after one of Portugal's best known literary figures, Luís Vaz de Camões.

Geographic distribution

Countries and regions where Portuguese has official status.
Members of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries.
Today, Portuguese is the official language of Angolamarker, Brazilmarker (190.6 million), Cape Verdemarker, Guinea-Bissaumarker, Portugalmarker (10.6 million), São Tomé and Príncipemarker and Mozambiquemarker. It is also one of the official languages of the special administrative region of Macaumarker (with Chinese) and East Timormarker, (with Tetum). It is the language of most of the population in Portugal (100%), Brazil (100%), São Tomé and Príncipe (99.8%) and Angola (80%), and is the most widely spoken language in Mozambique (40%), though only 6.5% are native speakers. No data are available for Cape Verde, but almost all the population is bilingual, and the monolingual population speaks Cape Verdean Creole.

Small Portuguese-speaking communities subsist in former overseas colonies of Portugal such as Macau, where it is spoken by 7% of the population, and East Timor (13.6%).

Uruguaymarker gave Portuguese an equal status to Spanish in its educational system at the north border with Brazil. In the rest of the country, it is taught as an obligatory subject beginning in the 6th grade.

It is also spoken by substantial immigrant communities, though not official, in Andorramarker, Australia, Francemarker, Luxembourgmarker, Jerseymarker (with a statistically significant Portuguese-speaking community of approximately 10,000 people), Paraguaymarker, Namibiamarker, South Africa, Switzerlandmarker, Venezuelamarker, Japanmarker and the U.S.marker states of Californiamarker, Connecticutmarker, Floridamarker, Massachusettsmarker, New Jerseymarker, New Yorkmarker and Rhode Islandmarker.In some parts of India, such as Goamarker and Daman and Diumarker, Portuguese is still spoken. There are also significant populations of Portuguese speakers in Canadamarker (mainly concentrated in and around Torontomarker), Bermudamarker and the Netherlands Antillesmarker.

Portuguese is an official language of several international organizations. The Community of Portuguese Language Countriesmarker (with the Portuguese acronym CPLP) consists of the eight independent countries that have Portuguese as an official language. It is also an official language of the European Union, accounting for 3% of its population, Mercosul, the Organization of American Statesmarker, the Organization of Ibero-American States, the Union of South American Nations, and the African Union (one of the working languages) and one of the official languages of other organizations. The Portuguese language is gaining popularity in Africa, Asia, and South America as a second language for study.

Portuguese and Spanish are the fastest-growing European languages (with the exception of English, being the world lingua franca) , and, according to estimates by UNESCO, the Portuguese language has the highest potential for growth as an international language in southern Africa and South America. The Portuguese-speaking African countries are expected to have a combined population of 83 million by 2050. In total, the Portuguese-speaking countries will have 335 million people by the same year. Since 1991, when Brazil signed into the economic market of Mercosul with other South American nations, such as Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, there has been an increase in interest in the study of Portuguese in those South American countries. The demographic weight of Brazil in the continent will continue to strengthen the presence of the language in the region. Although in the early 21st century, after Macau was ceded to China in 1999, the use of Portuguese was in decline in Asia, it is becoming a language of opportunity there; mostly because of East Timor's boost in the number of speakers in the last five years but also because of increased Chinese diplomatic and financial ties with Portuguese-speaking countries.

In July 2007, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema announced his government's decision to establish Portuguese as Equatorial Guineamarker's third official language, to meet the requirements to apply for full membership of the Community of Portuguese Language Countriesmarker. This upgrading from its current Associate Observer condition would result in Equatorial Guinea being able to access several professional and academic exchange programs and the facilitation of cross-border circulation of citizens. Its application is currently being assessed by other CPLP members.

In March 1994 the Bosque de Portugalmarker (Portugal's Woods) was founded in the Brazilian city of Curitibamarker. The park houses the Portuguese Language Memorial, which honors the Portuguese immigrants and the countries that adopted the Portuguese language. Originally there were seven nations represented with pillars, but the independence of East Timormarker brought yet another pillar for that nation in 2007.

In March 2006, the Museum of the Portuguese Languagemarker, an interactive museum about the Portuguese language, was founded in São Paulomarker, Brazil, the city with the greatest number of Portuguese speakers in the world.


Portuguese is a pluricentric language with two main groups of dialects, those of Brazilmarker and those of the Old World. For historical reasons, the dialects of Africa and Asia are generally closer to those of Portugal than the Brazilian dialects, although in some aspects of their phonetics, especially the pronunciation of unstressed vowels, they resemble Brazilian Portuguese more than European Portuguese. They have not been studied as widely as European and Brazilian Portuguese.

Audio samples of some dialects of Portuguese are available below. There are some differences between the areas but these are the best approximations possible. For example, the caipira dialect has some differences from the one of Minas Gerais, but in general it is very close. A good example of Brazilian Portuguese may be found in the capital city, Brasíliamarker, because of the generalized population from all parts of the country.

Portuguese dialects of Angola


  1. Benguelense  — Benguelamarker province.
  2. Luandense  — Luandamarker province.
  3. Sulista  — South of Angola.

Dialects of Portuguese in Brazil


  1. Caipira  — States of São Paulomarker (countryside; the city of São Paulo and the eastern areas of the state have their own accent, called paulistano); southern Minas Geraismarker, northern Paranámarker, Goiásmarker and Mato Grosso do Sul.
  2. Cearense  — Cearámarker.
  3. Baiano  — Bahia.
  4. Fluminense  — Variants spoken in the states of Rio de Janeiromarker (excluding the city of Rio de Janeiro and its adjacent metropolitan areas, which have their own dialect, called carioca).
  5. Gaúcho  — Rio Grande do Sul. (There are many distinct accents in Rio Grande do Sul, mainly due to the heavy influx of European immigrants of diverse origins, those which have settled several colonies throughout the state.)
  6. Mineiro  — Minas Geraismarker (not prevalent in the Triângulo Mineiro, southern and southeastern Minas Geraismarker and also excluding the city of Belo Horizontemarker, which has its own accent.).
  7. Nordestino  — northeastern states of Brazil (Pernambuco, Paraíbamarker and Rio Grande do Norte have a particular way of speaking).
  8. Nortista  — Amazon Basin states.
  9. Paulistano  — Variants spoken around São Paulomarker city and the eastern areas of São Paulo state.
  10. Sertanejo  — States of Goiásmarker and Mato Grosso (the city of Cuiabámarker has a particular way of speaking).
  11. Sulista  — Variants spoken in the areas between the northern regions of Rio Grande do Sul and southern regions of São Paulo state. (The cities of Curitibamarker, Florianópolismarker, and Itapetiningamarker have fairly distinct accents as well.)
  12. Carioca  — Variants spoken in Rio de Janeiromarker City and Niteroimarker

Dialects of Portuguese in Portugal


  1. Açoriano (Azorean)  — Azores.
  2. Alentejano  — Alentejo
  3. Algarvio  — Algarve (there is a particular dialect in a small part of western Algarve).
  4. Alto-Minhoto  — North of Braga (hinterland).
  5. Baixo-Beirão; Alto-Alentejano  — Central Portugal (hinterland).
  6. Beirão  — Central Portugal.
  7. Estremenho  — Regions of Coimbra and Lisbonmarker (the Lisbon dialect has some peculiar features not shared with the one of Coimbra).
  8. Madeirense (Madeiran)  — Madeiramarker.
  9. Nortenho  — Regions of Braga and Portomarker.
  10. Transmontano  — Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro.

Other countries

Differences between dialects are mostly of accent and vocabulary, but between the Brazilian dialects and other dialects, especially in their most colloquial forms, there can also be some grammatical differences. The Portuguese-based creoles spoken in various parts of Africa, Asia, and the Americas are independent languages which should not be confused with Portuguese itself.


Arriving in the Iberian Peninsulamarker in 216 BC, the Romans brought with them the Latin language, from which all Romance languages descend. The language was spread by arriving Roman soldiers, settlers, and merchants, who built Roman cities mostly near the settlements of previous civilizations.

Portuguese poetry
Das que vejo
nom desejo
outra senhor se vós nom,
e desejo
tam sobejo,
mataria um leon,
senhor do meu coraçom:
fim roseta,
bela sobre toda fror,
fim roseta,
nom me meta
em tal coita voss'amor!
João de Lobeira

(c. 1270–1330)

Between 409 and 711 AD, as the Roman Empire collapsed in Western Europe, the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by Germanic peoples (Migration Period). The occupiers, mainly Suebi and Visigoths, quickly adopted late Roman culture and the Vulgar Latin dialects of the peninsula. After the Moorish invasion of 711, Arabic became the administrative language in the conquered regions, but most of the population continued to speak a form of Romance commonly known as Mozarabic. The influence exerted by Arabic on the Romance dialects spoken in the Christian kingdoms of the north was small, affecting mainly their lexicon.

The earliest surviving records of a distinctively Portuguese language are administrative documents of the 9th century, still interspersed with many Latin phrases. Today this phase is known as Proto-Portuguese (between the 9th and the 12th centuries). In the first period of Old Portuguese  — Galician-Portuguese Period (from the 12th to the 14th century)  — the language gradually came into general use. For some time, it was the language of preference for lyric poetry in Christian Hispania, much as Occitan was the language of the poetry of the troubadours. Portugal became an independent kingdom from the Kingdom of Leon in 1139, under king Afonso I of Portugal. In 1290, king Denis of Portugal created the first Portuguese university in Lisbon (the Estudos Gerais, later moved to Coimbra) and decreed that Portuguese, then simply called the "common language" should be known as the Portuguese language and used officially.

In the second period of Old Portuguese, from the 14th to the 16th centuries, with the Portuguese discoveries, the language was taken to many regions of Asia, Africa and the Americas (nowadays, the great majority of Portuguese speakers live in Brazil, in South America). By the 16th century, it had become a lingua franca in Asia and Africa, used not only for colonial administration and trade but also for communication between local officials and Europeans of all nationalities. Its spread was helped by mixed marriages between Portuguese and local people, and by its association with Roman Catholic missionary efforts, which led to the formation of a creole language called Kristang in many parts of Asia (from the word cristão, "Christian"). The language continued to be popular in parts of Asia until the 19th century. Some Portuguese-speaking Christian communities in Indiamarker, Sri Lankamarker, Malaysiamarker, and Indonesiamarker preserved their language even after they were isolated from Portugal.

The end of the Old Portuguese period was marked by the publication of the Cancioneiro Geral by Garcia de Resende, in 1516. The early times of Modern Portuguese, which spans a period from the 16th century to the present day, were characterized by an increase in the number of learned words borrowed from Classical Latin and Classical Greek since the Renaissance, which greatly enriched the lexicon.


A distinctive feature of Portuguese is that it preserved the stressed vowels of Vulgar Latin, which became diphthongs in other Romance languages; cf. Fr. pierre, Sp. piedra, It. pietra, Ro. piatră, Port. pedra ("stone"), from Lat. petram; or Sp. fuego, It. fuoco, Fr. feu, Ro. foc, Port. fogo, from Lat. focus ("fireplace"). Another characteristic of early Portuguese was the loss of intervocalic l and n, sometimes followed by the merger of the two surrounding vowels, or by the insertion of an epenthetic vowel between them: cf. Lat. salire ("to leave"), tenere ("to have"), catenam ("chain"), Sp. salir, tener, cadena, Port. sair, ter, cadeia.

When the elided consonant was n, it often nasalized the preceding vowel: cf. Lat. manum ("hand"), ranam ("frog"), bonum ("good"), Port. mão, rãa, bõo (now mão, , bom). This process was the source of most of the nasal diphthongs which are typical of Portuguese. In particular, the Latin endings -anem, -anum and -onem became -ão in most cases, cf. Lat. canem ("dog"), germanum ("brother"), rationem ("reason") with Modern Port. cão, irmão, razão, and their plurals -anes, -anos, -ones normally became -ães, -ãos, -ões, cf. cães, irmãos, razões.


Most of the lexicon of Portuguese is derived from Latin. Nevertheless, because of the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsulamarker during the Middle Ages, and the participation of Portugal in the Age of Discovery, it has adopted loanwords from all over the world.

Very few Portuguese words can be traced to the pre-Roman inhabitants of Portugal, which included the Gallaeci, Lusitanians, Celtici and Cynetes. The Phoeniciansmarker and Carthaginiansmarker, briefly present, also left some scarce traces. Some notable examples are abóbora "pumpkin" and bezerro "year-old calf", from the nearby Celtiberian language (probably through the Celtici); cerveja "beer", from Celtic; and cachorro "dog", from Basque.

In the 5th century, the Iberian Peninsula (the Roman Hispania) was conquered by the Germanic Suebi and Visigoths. As they adopted the Roman civilization and language, however, these people contributed only a few words to the lexicon, mostly related to warfare  — such as espora "spur", estaca "stake", and guerra "war", from Gothic *spaúra, *stakka, and *wirro, respectively. The influence also exists in toponymic and patronymic surnames borne by Visigoth sovereigns and their descendants, and it dwells on placenames such has Ermesindemarker, Esposendemarker and Resende where sinde and sende are derived from the Germanic "sinths" (military expedition) and in the case of Resende, the prefix re comes from Germanic "reths" (council).

Between the 9th and 13th centuries, Portuguese acquired about 800 words from Arabic by influence of Moorish Iberiamarker. They are often recognizable by the initial Arabic article a(l)-, and include many common words such as aldeia "village" from الضيعة aldaya, alface "lettuce" from الخس alkhass, armazém "warehouse" from المخزن almahazan, and azeite "olive oil" from الزيت azzait. From Arabic came also the grammatically peculiar word oxalá إن شاء الله "hopefully". The Mozambican currency name metical was derived from the word متقال mitqāl, a unit of weight. The word Mozambique itself is from the Arabic name of sultan Muça Alebique (Musa Alibiki). The name of the Portuguese town of Fátimamarker comes from the name of one of the daughters of the prophet Muhammad.

Starting in the 15th century, the Portuguese maritime explorations led to the introduction of many loanwords from Asian languages. For instance, catana "cutlass" from Japanese katana and chá "tea" from Chinese chá.

From South America came batata "potato", from Taino; ananás and abacaxi, from Tupi-Guarani naná and Tupi ibá cati, respectively (two species of pineapple), and tucano "toucan" from Guarani tucan. See List of Brazil state name etymologies, for some more examples.

From the 16th to the 19th centuries, because of the role of Portugal as intermediary in the Atlantic slave trade, and the establishment of large Portuguese colonies in Angola, Mozambique, and Brazil, Portuguese got several words of African and Amerind origin, especially names for most of the animals and plants found in those territories. While those terms are mostly used in the former colonies, many became current in European Portuguese as well. From Kimbundu, for example, came kifumatecafuné "head caress", kusulacaçula "youngest child", marimbondo "tropical wasp", and kubungulabungular "to dance like a wizard".

Finally, it has received a steady influx of loanwords from other European languages. For example, melena "hair lock", fiambre "wet-cured ham" (in contrast with presunto "dry-cured ham" from Latin prae-exsuctus "dehydrated"), and castelhano "Castilian", from Spanish; colchete/crochê "bracket"/"crochet", paletó "jacket", batom "lipstick", and filé/filete "steak"/"slice" respectively, from French crochet, paletot, bâton, filet; macarrão "pasta", piloto "pilot", carroça "carriage", and barraca "barrack", from Italian maccherone, pilota, carrozza, baracca; and bife "steak", futebol, revólver, estoque, folclore, time from English beef,football, revolver, stock, folklore, and team.

Common phrases in Portuguese

Portuguese language
Translation in English
Olá!/Oi! (the latter mostly used in Brazil and between Lusitanian youths) [Hey, ei, e aí? = what's up? Extremely informal, Br]; Salve!/Saudações! Hello!/Hi!; Hail/Greetings!
Alô?; Sim; Pronto; [Diga, Fale. Between intimate acquaitances] (Brazil)/ (Quem) Está lá? Está cá?; Estou sim? (formal); Tou?, ta lá? (informal) (Portugal) Hello (mostly by telephone).
Pois não? /(Estou) Às (suas) ordens, à sua disposição./Posso ajudar? Em que posso ajudá-lo? (male), ajudá-la? (female) Hello; Yes; of course; What do you wish?; May I help you?.
Saúde/Tintim/Um Brinde a.../Bebamos a... (When toasting, wassailing)
Boa viagem/Vá com Deus/Desejo-te só o que há de melhor/Tudo de bom/Deus te proteja/Deus te guie! Have a nice trip/I wish you all the best/Godspeed.
Tudo bem?/Como está(s)?/Como vai você?(Brazil)/Como vai? (Brazil)/Como vai(s) andando? (Portugal)/Como tem passado? How are you?.
Bem, obrigado(a) I am fine, thank you.
Prazer em conhecer-te (in Portugal for both genders)/ Prazer em conhecê-lo (male, very used in Brazil, yet formal in Portugal and PALOP)/ conhecê-la (female, same as previous)/(Muito) Prazer/Satisfação/Encantado(a) Nice to meet you.
Bom dia. Good morning.
Boa tarde. Good afternoon.
Boa noite. Good evening/Good night.
Adeus!/Tchau!/Tchau-tchau!/Adeusinho, tchauzinho. Goodbye/Bye/bye-bye.
Despedir-se/Dizer adeus/Dar tchau To bid farewell, to say goodbye.
(Que) Tenha um bom/belo dia/Fique bem/Passar bem! Have a nice day!/ Literally: Be well!
Bom apetite! Enjoy your meal.
Até logo/Até breve/Até mais ver/Até já (Portugal)/Até depois/Te vejo depois/A gente se vê (Br)/A gente se fala (Br)/Até mais tarde/Até amanhã/Até à próxima sexta (sexta-feira)/Até segunda/Te vejo segunda-feira. See you soon/later/tomorrow/Till next Friday/See you Monday
Desculpa/Desculpe/Perdão/Desculpa-me/Desculpe-me/Peço desculpa I am sorry/Accept my apologies
Lamento (muito)! I'm (so) sorry!
Perdoa-me/Perdoe-me Forgive me!/I beg your pardon!
Como?/O que é que disseste?/O que disse?/O quê?/Pode(s) repetir? What?/What did you say?/Can you repeat?
Com licença/Perdão/Desculpe Excuse me.
Por favor/Se faz(es) favor/Por gentileza/Por obséquio/Se vos apraz/Se vos aprouver/Se lhe aprouver/Se lhe satisfaz/Se for de sua vontade/Se não for incómodo (pt)/Se não for incômodo (br)/Eu agradeceria/Eu agradecia/ Eu ficaria/ficava grato/a. Please.
(Muito) obrigado(male)/ obrigada (female). Thank you (very much)/Much obliged.
Fico grato/agradecido (male)/ Grata/agradecida (female)./ Bondade sua/ É muita gentileza (sua)/ É muita generosidade/ É muita mercê. Much obliged.
Fico/Fiquei/Estou lisonjeado (male)/ lisonjeada (female). I am flattered.
De nada/Por nada/Disponha/Não tem de quê/Não tem por onde/Não por isso/Foi uma satisfação/Foi um prazer. You are quite welcome/Think nothing of it/Do not mention it/It was a pleasure.
Parabéns/Felicitações/Congratulações! Congratulations.
Parabéns / Feliz aniversário! Happy birthday.
Boa sorte. Good luck.
Que dia é hoje? Which day is today?
Que horas são? What time is it?
Quantos anos tens?/Quantos anos você tem?/Que idade tens?/Qual (é) a sua/tua idade? How old are you?/What is your age?
Qual é o seu/teu nome? / Como (é que) te chamas /se chama ? / Como é o teu/seu nome? / Como você se chama? (br) / Qual sua graça? (not very used) What is your name?
(O) meu nome é... /(Eu) sou o/a... / (Eu) chamo-me... / (Eu) me chamo... My name is.../I am...
Quanto custa?/Quanto é?/Quanto vale? How much (for money)?
Onde é a casa-de-banho?/Onde fica a casa-de-banho?/Onde é/são o(s) lavabo(s)/a toalete/sanitário/banheiro (br)? Onde fica o lavatório? Where is the bathroom?
(Desejo-lhe/Desejo-te) as melhoras!/Estimo as melhoras!/Desejo-lhe uma rápida recuperação/Estimo-lhe um pronto restabelecimento! I wish you a speedy recovery!
(Eu) te amo/(Eu) amo-te/(Eu) amo você/ Vos amo!/ Ego te amo/ (Eu) adoro-te/ (Eu) te adoro/ (Eu) adoro você! / (Eu) gosto de ti/ (Eu) gosto de você/ Eu curto ... (Br) I love you/thee!/ I adore you/ I like you!/ I dig/fancy ...

Classification and related languages

Portuguese belongs to the West Iberian branch of the Romance languages, and it has special ties with the following members of this group:

Despite the obvious lexical and grammatical similarities between Portuguese and other Romance languages, it is not mutually intelligible with them. Apart from Galician, Portuguese speakers will usually need some formal study of basic grammar and vocabulary, before attaining a reasonable level of comprehension of those languages, and vice versa. Native speakers of Portuguese do tend to understand standard Spanish which is spoken clearly, but the reverse is generally not true unless formal education is involved.

Galician and the Fala

The closest language to Portuguese is Galician, spoken in the autonomous community of Galicia (northwestern Spain). The two were at one time a single language, known today as Galician-Portuguese, but since the political separation of Portugal from Galicia they have diverged somewhat, especially in pronunciation and vocabulary. Nevertheless, the core vocabulary and grammar of Galician are still noticeably closer to Portuguese than to those of Spanish. In particular, like Portuguese, it uses the future subjunctive, the personal infinitive, and the synthetic pluperfect (see the section on the grammar of Portuguese, below). Mutual intelligibility (estimated at 85% by R. A. Hall, Jr., 1989) is good between Galicians and northern Portuguese, but poorer between Galicians and speakers from central Portugal.

The Fala language is another descendant of Galician-Portuguese, spoken by a small number of people in the Spanish towns of Valverde del Fresnomarker, Eljasmarker and San Martín de Trevejomarker (autonomous community of Extremaduramarker, near the border with Portugal).

Influence on other languages

Portuguese has provided loanwords to many languages, such as Indonesian, Manado Malay, Sri Lankan Tamil and Sinhalese (see Sri Lanka Indo-Portuguese), Malay, Bengali, English, Hindi, Konkani, Marathi, Tetum, Xitsonga, Papiamentu, Japanese, Lanc-Patuá (spoken in northern Brazil) and Sranan Tongo (spoken in Suriname). It left a strong influence on the língua brasílica, a Tupi-Guarani language which was the most widely spoken in Brazilmarker until the 18th century, and on the language spoken around Sikka in Flores Islandmarker, Indonesiamarker. In nearby Larantuka, Portuguese is used for prayers in Holy Week rituals.The Japanese-Portuguese dictionary Nippo Jisho (1603) was the first dictionary of Japanese in a European language, a product of Jesuit missionary activity in Japanmarker. Building on the work of earlier Portuguese missionaries, the Dictionarium Anamiticum, Lusitanum et Latinum (Annamite-Portuguese-Latin dictionary) of Alexandre de Rhodes (1651) introduced the modern orthography of Vietnamese, which is based on the orthography of 17th-century Portuguese. The Romanization of Chinese was also influenced by the Portuguese language (among others), particularly regarding Chinese surnames; one example is Mei. During 1583-88 Italian Jesuits Michele Ruggieri and Matteo Ricci created a Portuguese-Chinese dictionary - the first ever European-Chinese dictionary.

See also List of English words of Portuguese origin, Loan words in Indonesian, Japanese words of Portuguese origin, Borrowed words in Malay, Sinhala words of Portuguese origin, Loan words from Portuguese in Sri Lankan Tamil.

Derived languages

Beginning in the 16th century, the extensive contacts between Portuguese travelers and settlers, African slaves, and local populations led to the appearance of many pidgins with varying amounts of Portuguese influence. As each of these pidgins became the mother tongue of succeeding generations, they evolved into fully fledged creole languages, which remained in use in many parts of Asia and Africa until the 18th century. Some Portuguese-based or Portuguese-influenced creoles are still spoken today, by over 3 million people worldwide, especially people of partial Portuguese ancestry.

Movement to make Portuguese an official language of the UN


There is a growing number of people in the Portuguese-speaking media and the internet who are presenting the case to the CPLP and other organizations to run a debate in the Lusophone community with the purpose of bringing forward a petition to make Portuguese an official language of the United Nations.

In October 2005, during the international Convention of the Elos Club International that took place in Tavira, Portugal, a petition was written and unanimously approved whose text can be found on the internet with the title Petição Para Tornar Oficial o Idioma Português na ONU. Romulo Alexandre Soares, president of the Brazil-Portugal Chamber highlights that the positioning of Brazil in the international arena as one of the emergent powers of the 21st century, the size of its population, and the presence of the language around the world provides legitimacy and justifies a petition to the UN to make the Portuguese language an official language of the UN.


Several factors detract from this campaign. The current official languages of the UN are either 1) official/dominant in many countries (English, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, and French) or 2) have several hundreds of millions of speakers (Chinese). English, Spanish, and Arabic fulfill both criteria. Portuguese is a global language in that it is the official tongue of several sovereign countries on four continents. It also has over 200 million speakers. However, it exhibits some noticeable differences when compared to the current 6 UN official languages. For example, English, French, Arabic and Spanish are each official languages of multiple states and of over half of the world's countries. In contrast, four out of every five speakers of the Portuguese-speaking world live in just one country: Brazil. In addition to Brazil, Portuguese is the official language in only 7 other sovereign states; however, English is official in 53 states, French in 29 states, Arabic in 25 states, and Spanish in 20 states.

More significantly, in each part of the world with a Portuguese-speaking country, this language is overshadowed by other powerful languages that are already official languages of the UN. For example, in the Americas, the 190 million Portuguese-speaking Brazilians are overshadowed by the most spoken languages in the Western Hemisphere: Spanish (~360 million speakers) and English (~340 million speakers). Portuguese is overshadowed to an even greater extent in Europe, the continent in which four of the six UN languages originated (English, French, Spanish, and Russian). In the European context, Portuguese is not even among the ten most spoken languages on the continent, with a number of speakers comparable to those of Czech and Bulgarian. In Africa, Portuguese is eclipsed as a continental lingua franca by English and French in countries that surround Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, and Mozambique. Finally in Asia, a continent with several languages that have hundreds of millions of speakers, the only sovereign state with Portuguese as an official language is East Timor, which has only a million people. While Brazilian migration has brought 300,000 fluent Portuguese speakers to Japan, Portuguese does not enjoy any official status whatsoever in that country. Therefore, while Portuguese will gain increasing importance as Brazil continues its development as a major economy, it will likely face the same hurdles that prevented Japanese and German (both languages of major global economies with millions of speakers) from becoming both international languages and official ones of the UN.


There is a maximum of 9 oral vowels and 19 consonants, though some varieties of the language have fewer phonemes (Brazilian Portuguese has 8 oral vowels). There are also five nasal vowels, which some linguists regard as allophones of the oral vowels, ten oral diphthongs, and five nasal diphthongs. In total, Brazilian Portuguese has 13 vowel phonemes.


Chart of monophthongs of the Portuguese of Lisbon

To the seven vowels of Vulgar Latin, European Portuguese has added two near central vowels, one of which tends to be elided in rapid speech, like the e caduc of French (represented as either , or , or ). The high vowels and the low vowels are four distinct phonemes, and they alternate in various forms of apophony. Like Catalan, Portuguese uses vowel quality to contrast stressed syllables with unstressed syllables: isolated vowels tend to be raised, and in some cases centralized, when unstressed. Nasal diphthongs occur mostly at the ends of words.


Consonant phonemes of Portuguese
Bilabial Labio-dental Dental Alveolar Post-alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular

The consonant inventory of Portuguese is fairly conservative. The medieval affricates , , , merged with the fricatives , , , , respectively, but not with each other, and there were no other significant changes to the consonant phonemes since then. However, some notable dialectal variants and allophones have appeared, among which:
  • In many regions of Brazil, and have the affricate allophones and , respectively, before and . (Quebec French has a similar phenomenon, with alveolar affricates instead of postalveolars. Japanese is another example).
  • At the end of a syllable, the phoneme has the allophone in Brazilian Portuguese (L-vocalization).
  • In many parts of Brazil and Angola, intervocalic is pronounced as a nasalized palatal approximant which nasalizes the preceding vowel, so that, for instance, is pronounced .
  • In most of Brazil, the alveolar sibilants and occur in complementary distribution at the ends of syllables, depending on whether the consonant that follows is voiceless or voiced, as in English. But in most of Portugal and parts of Brazil, sibilants are postalveolar at the ends of syllables, before voiceless consonants, and before voiced consonants (in Judeo-Spanish, is often replaced with at the ends of syllables, too).
  • There is considerable dialectal variation in the value of the rhotic phoneme . See Guttural R in Portuguese, for details.

Examples of different pronunciation

Excerpt from the Portuguese national epic Os Lusíadas, by author Luís de Camões (I, 33)
Original IPA (European Portuguese) IPA (Brazilian Portuguese) Translation
Sustentava contra ele Vénus bela, Against him spoke the lovely Venus
Afeiçoada à gente Lusitana, Favoring the people of Portugal,
Por quantas qualidades via nela She saw resurrected in them
Da antiga tão amada sua Romana; For her love of Roman virtue;
Nos fortes corações,

na grande estrela,
In their stout hearts, in the great star
Que mostraram na terra Tingitana, Which shone bright above Ceuta,
E na língua, na qual quando imagina, In the language which when it is imagined
Com pouca corrupção crê que é a Latina. With little corruption, believes that it is Latin.


A notable aspect of the grammar of Portuguese is the verb. Morphologically, more verbal inflections from classical Latin have been preserved by Portuguese than by any other major Romance language. See Romance copula, for a detailed comparison. It has also some innovations not found in other Romance languages (except Galician and the Fala):
  • The present perfect tense has an iterative sense unique to Galician-Portuguese language group. It denotes an action or a series of actions which began in the past and are expected to keep repeating in the future. For instance, the sentence Tenho tentado falar com ela would be translated to "I have been trying to talk to her", not "I have tried to talk to her". On the other hand, the correct translation of the question "Have you heard the latest news?" is not *Tem ouvido a última notícia?, but Ouviu a última notícia?, since no repetition is implied.
  • The future subjunctive tense, which was developed by medieval West Iberian Romance, but has now fallen into disuse in Spanish and Galician, is still used in vernacular Portuguese. It appears in dependent clauses that denote a condition which must be fulfilled in the future, so that the independent clause will occur. English normally employs the present tense under the same circumstances:

Se for eleito presidente, mudarei a lei.
If I am elected president, I will change the law.

Quando fores mais velho, vais entender.
When you are older, you will understand.
  • The personal infinitive: infinitives can inflect according to their subject in person and number, often showing who is expected to perform a certain action; cf. É melhor voltares "It is better [for you] to go back," É melhor voltarmos "It is better [for us] to go back." Perhaps for this reason, infinitive clauses replace subjunctive clauses more often in Portuguese than in other Romance languages.

Writing system

Written varieties
Portugal and non-1990 Agreement countries Brazil and 1990 Agreement countries translation
direcção direção direction
óptimo ótimo excellent, optimal

Portuguese is written with 23 or 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, making use of five diacritics to denote stress, vowel height, contraction, nasalization, and other sound changes (acute accent, grave accent, circumflex accent, tilde, and cedilla). Accented characters and digraphs are not counted as separate letters for collation purposes.

Spelling reforms

See also





  • Poesia e Prosa Medievais, by Maria Ema Tarracha Ferreira, Ulisseia 1998, 3rd ed., ISBN 978-972-568-124-4.
  • Bases Temáticas  — Língua Portuguesa in Instituto Camões
  • Portuguese Literature in The Catholic Encyclopedia

Phonology, orthography and grammar

Reference dictionaries

Linguistic studies

External links

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address