An Introduction And Definition Of Portuguese English Language Essay

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Portuguese is a language that proves its longevity and strict rules and regulations through the research that has been conducted over the years. This is a language that is strong in culture and dialect, while maintaining its individuality throughout its existence. The purpose of the current writing is to discuss the history and the culture of Portuguese, while also giving some insight into the structure that makes it the language that it is today. It is evident that there is research concerning the dialect as well as the plethora of variations that exist, however there is a lack of evidence to explain the true linguistics. Portuguese language (2010), defines the Portuguese language as a member of the Romance group of the Italic subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. Portuguese is the native dialect of over 170 million people, of whom are primarily located in Portugal and the Portuguese islands in the Atlantic; in Brazil and in Portugal's former overseas provinces in Africa and Asia-Angola, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and São Tomé and Principe. It has been expressed that there are differences in the Portuguese spoken in areas like Brazil, where pronunciation varies slightly; however the difference has been considered minor and not of any particular difference.

Portuguese language (2011), explains that in Northwestern Spain a dialect of Portuguese that is spoken is referred to as Galician, spoken in northwestern Spain, is a dialect of Portuguese. Written materials in Portuguese date from a property agreement of the late 12th century, and literary works appeared in the 13th and 14th centuries. In 2008, the Portuguese parliament passed an act mandating the use of a standardized orthography based on Brazilian forms. Standard Portuguese is based on the dialect of Lisbon. Dialectal variation within the country is not great, but Brazilian Portuguese varies from European Portuguese in several respects, including several sound changes and some differences in verb conjugation and syntax.

Structure & Background of the Language

Native speakers of Brazilian Portuguese know how to distinguish the Paulista (São Paulo) variety from the Carioca (Rio de Janeiro) variety, the Gaúcha (Rio Grande do Sul) variety from those spoken in the northeast and north, without mentioning all other types of varieties of Portuguese in Brazil. A native speaker also knows differences in linguistic uses: for example, that some expressions belong to the speech of younger persons and that particular expressions can only be used in informal situations, etc. To know one language is also to know its varieties. Varieties are not ugly or beautiful, right or wrong, good or bad, elegant or inelegant; they are simply different (Massini-Cagliari, 2004).

Romance languages (2011), explains that there are five main Portuguese dialect groups, all mutually intelligible:Northern, or Galician, Central, or Beira, Southern (Estremenho, including Lisbon, Alentejo, and Algarve), Insular, including the dialects of Madeira and the Azores, and Brazilian. Standard Portuguese was developed in the 16th century, basically from the dialects spoken from Lisbon to Coimbra. Brazilian (Brasileiro) differs from the Portuguese spoken in Portugal in several respects, in syntax as well as phonology and vocabulary, but many writers still use an academic metropolitan standard. A creolized form, once widespread in Brazil, seems now to be dying out. A Judeo-Portuguese is attested in 18th-century Amsterdam and Livorno (Leghorn, Italy), but virtually no trace of that dialect remains today. In the region of northwestern Spain that adjoins Portugal, the Galician dialects lack uniformity and are closer to Spanish. Even in Castile, where standard Spanish (Castilian) originated, Galician was the conventional language of the courtly lyric until roughly 1400, but it lost ground in the 15th century, and Castilian replaced Galician as the official language of Galicia in 1500. Dialect poetry in Galician has flourished from the 18th century, with an upsurge in the 19th century.

It is reported that until the 15th century, Portuguese and Galician formed one single linguistic unit, Gallego-Portuguese. The first evidence for the language consists of scattered words in 9th-12th-century Latin texts; continuous documents date from approximately 1192, the date assigned to an extant property agreement between the children of a well-to-do family from the Minho River valley. Literature began to flourish especially during the 13th and 14th centuries, when the soft Gallego-Portuguese tongue was preferred by courtly lyric poets throughout the Iberian Peninsula except in the Catalan area. In the 16th century, Portugal's golden age, Galician and Portuguese grew further apart, with the consolidation of the standard Portuguese language. From the 16th to the 18th century, Galician was used only as a home language (i.e., as a means of communication within the family). Toward the end of the 18th century, it was revived as a language of culture. Today, with Spanish, it is an official language of the autonomous community of Galicia (Romance languages, 2011).

Researchers go further to express that Brazil is the only Portuguese speaking country in America and is surrounded by Spanish-speaking countries. The fifth largest country in the world, with a population of 175 million inhabitants, Brazil is and was viewed, both by foreign observers but also by its own population, as an enormous, linguistically homogeneous giant. Generally, Brazilians assume that everybody in Brazil speaks a unique variety of the Portuguese language. According to this language perception, Brazil is a country without any linguistic problems. This language perception by Brazilians can be considered correct only in the sense that almost everyone can communicate through Portuguese everywhere within the Brazilian territory. Indeed, in Brazil, almost the total population is constituted of monolingual Portuguese speakers, and the vast majority of them will never learn a second language (Massini-Cagliari, 2004).

This study conducted by Jesus & Shadle (2002) concerned Portuguese phonetics and phonology which indicate that fricatives are central to some interesting features of the language, yet studies of Portuguese fricatives have been few and limited. In this study, Portuguese fricatives were analyzed in ways designed to enhance our description of the language and to increase our understanding of the production of fricatives. Corpora of Portuguese words containing /f, v, s, z, ∫, z/, nonsense words of the pattern /V1FV2/ that follow Portuguese phonological rules, and sustained fricatives were recorded by four native speakers of European Portuguese (two men, two women). Results of analysis show that more than half of the voiced fricatives devoice; devoicing occurs more often in word-final fricatives. Averaged power spectra were computed for all fricatives and parameterized in order to aid comparisons across speaker and across corpus, and to gain insight into the production mechanisms underlying the language-specific variations. Substantial differences were found between spectra of voiced and unvoiced, same-place fricatives. The parameters spectral slope, frequency of maximum amplitude, and dynamic amplitude, derived from previous studies, behaved as predicted for changes in effort level, voicing, and location within the fricative. Changes in syllable stress, however, did not affect the fricatives in a manner consistent with effort level variation. Some combinations were also useful for separating the fricatives by place or by sibilance.

In research conducted by Guy (1981), a quantitative analysis was conducted on a group of linguistic variables in Brazilian Portuguese (BP). In addition, the researcher used the results to attack problems found in the history of the Portuguese language, as well as in the variations in linguistics. The variables in question are two cases where phonology and syntax interact. First, there is variation in nominal plural marking, constrained mainly by position of a word in the NP, so that the first word is almost always marked, but subsequent words are rarely marked. Interacting with this is a variable phonological rule deleting final S (producing, e.g. meno for menos)--which happens to be the main nominal plural marker. Second, there is variation in subject-verb number agreement, so that plural subjects often co-occur with singular verbs. The results of the research indicates:

An investigation of the social distribution of the variables showed small stylistic differences; regular (and sometimes powerful) sex differences with women more closely approximating the standard than men, and no age grading nor any evidence of change in progress. The results of the quantitative analysis are used in an investigation of the origins of the popular dialect. … Evidence from social history, such as the vast numbers of African slaves taken to Brazil and the economic impact and long duration of the institution of slavery in Brazil, make a creoles history very plausible, indeed likely. It is suggested that some of the linguistic facts are also better explained by a creole or creole-like history. The case is not conclusive, but the weight of evidence tends to support a creole-like origin for popular BP (Guy, 1981).

Studies have also been done regarding the nature of language, memory, and reading skills of bilingual students and to determine the relationship between reading problems in English and reading problems in Portuguese. The study assessed the reading, language, and memory skills of 37 bilingual Portuguese-Canadian children, aged 9-12 years. English was their main instructional language and Portuguese was the language spoken at home. All children attended a Heritage Language Program at school where they were taught to read and write Portuguese. The children were administered word and pseudo word reading, language, and working memory tasks in English and Portuguese. The majority of the children (67%) showed at least average proficiency in both languages. The children who had low reading scores in English also had significantly lower scores on the Portuguese tasks. There was a significant relationship between the acquisition of word and pseudo word reading, working memory, and syntactic awareness skills in the two languages. The Portuguese-Canadian children who were normally achieving readers did not differ from a comparison group of monolingual English speaking normally achieving readers except that the bilingual children had significantly lower scores on the English syntactic awareness task. The bilingual reading disabled children had similar scores to the monolingual reading disabled children on word reading and working memory but lower scores on the syntactic awareness task. However, the bilingual reading disabled children had significantly higher scores than the monolingual English speaking reading disabled children on the English pseudo word reading test and the English spelling task, perhaps reflecting a positive transfer from the more regular grapheme phoneme conversion rules of Portuguese. (Da Fontoura & Siegel, 1995, p. 139)

Tarallo (1983), conducted research that analyzes competing relativization strategies in spoken Brazilian Portuguese (=SBP). It demonstrates that relativization in SBP is done through a deletion rule, not through wh-movement. In contrast, relativization in the written language follows the standard analysis of relativization as postulated by Chomsky in 1977. The competing relativization strategies found in SBP are: (1) the gap-leaving variant, superficially identical to standard written language relatives (it applies in subject and direct object relatives); (2) the resumptive pronoun strategy which surfaces with the gap position filled with a pronoun (it applies throughout the syntactic scale); and (3) the PP-chopping strategy which also involves a gap (it applies only to lower syntactic slots). The dissertation analyzes a wide variety of material: forty-five hours of tape-recorded interviews with informants from urban Sao Paulo; media speech data; and diachronic data. The deletion analysis is motivated by similar patterns of pro-drop effective in main clauses and in subordinates other than relatives. Patterns of pronominal retention and deletion outside relative clauses directly match the gap/pronounce alternation found inside relatives. On the socio-stylistic level this work demonstrates that: (1) lower-class speakers favor the use of resumptive pronoun, unlike middle-class and upper-class speakers, who favor the PP-chopping strategy, and (2) spontaneous style favors presumptive pronouns. The diachronic data analysis situates PP-chopping as the result of a drastic change in the pronominal system in the 19th century. This change entailed pro-drop reaching down to direct object, and prepositional phrase positions, a change that was first implemented in main clauses

Lorenzino (1998), the primary goal of this dissertation is to explore the question of the genesis and development of the Angolar Creole Portuguese of São Tomé and Príncipe (Gulf of Guinea), off the coast of West Africa. Angolar is the language spoken by descendants of maroon slaves who escaped from Portuguese plantations on São Tomé beginning in the mid-sixteenth century (1535-1550). Due to the isolation of these maroon communities, their language kept the general structure of Santomense Creole Portuguese, the majority creole spoken on the plantations. Communication between the Portuguese and slaves, and among the slaves themselves, must have been constrained by factors such as first languages, exposure to some form of contact Portuguese prior to their arrival on São Tomé, their length of stay on the island and their social status. Modern divergences between Angolar and Santomense are the outcome of the lexical expansion and further restructuring which Santomense underwent as the result of its closer contact with Portuguese spoken on the plantations as opposed to differences in grammar and pronunciation, which Angolar retained from early Santomense.  Lastly the research indicated that in contrast, Angolar is the result of the partial relexification that Santomense underwent due to the later influence of Kimbundu- speaking Maroons. In this respect, the Angolares' existence away from the plantations was more likely to have favored the maintenance of African languages than remaining on the plantations, where exposure to Portuguese and the increasing role of Santomense as the medium of communication among slaves forced Africans to give up their native languages faster (p.1).

Meaning behind the Language

Brucki & Rocha (2004) discussed and researched verbal fluency is a very useful test, which can be used to evaluate executive functions and language. The category test can be used to evaluate semantic memory. A number of versions of the category test based on letter and semantic categories have been used. The most extensive experience has been obtained with FAS (oral fluency by letters F, A and S) and the animal category. Deficits in this task have been observed in patients with focal cortical brain lesions, mainly frontal injury, as well as temporal injury , Parkinson's disease), schizophrenia (5,6), and subcortical and Alzheimer dementia (7-12). Finally, the category fluency test seems to be more sensitive than the phonological test, even during the initial course of Alzheimer's disease, discriminating between early Alzheimer's disease and normal controls.The population of Brazil is aging and current low literacy and educational levels continue to be problems hampering the correct evaluation of subjects with suspected cognitive impairment. However, normative data are needed for use in comparison with other studies, and descriptive analysis can help to understand cognitive processes in poorly educated individuals. Many studies have revealed the influence of education on total scores.


Though there is data available regarding Portuguese this research further affirms the need for additional research regarding the linguistics and variations in dialect in the Portuguese language. Research has been done regarding the abilities of English speakers learning Portuguese as a second language as well as the difficulties that have been seen regarding the variations in dialect, but the true history of Portuguese still remains obscure. This is a language that they have explained to us its primary location, as well as how many people speak the language , and lastly there is even an explanation as to how people can determine where an individual is from due to the variations in his or her specific speech patterns and dialect. A major concern is the lack of recent information pertaining to the language chosen for this research.


Tarallo, F. (1983) Relativization Strategies in Brazilian Portuguese. Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI8326337.

Guy, G.(1981). Linguistics Variation in Brazilian Portuguese: Aspects of the Phonology, Syntax, and Language History. Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI8117786.

Massini-Cagliari, G. (2004). Language policy in Brazil: monolingualism and linguistic prejudice. Language Policy, 3(1), 3-23. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Portuguese language. (2011). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from

Portuguese language. (2010). Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 1. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Romance languages. (2011). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from