The Portuguese Language

Portuguese is an Iberian Romance language that is now considered to be one of the fastest-growing languages spoken worldwide by a total of 236 million speakers. It is a globalized language that has an approximately 222 million native speakers across five different continents in the world. Portuguese is the second Romance language in terms of the numbers of speakers after Spanish, which is largely due to the number of speakers in the country of Brazil where up to 194 million people speak Portuguese.

Portuguese is an official language in Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde Islands, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, and São Tomé and Príncipe. It is also spoken as a second or third language in other countries such as Andorra, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, France, Luxembourg, Macau in China, Spain and Uruguay. Due to the fact that the Portuguese had immense cultural influence over many territories during its expansion in the colonial times, it was spoken as a form of creole in Daman, Diu, and Goa in India, Batticaloa in Sri Lanka, Flores island in Indonesia, the state of Malacca in Malaysia, and some parts of the Caribbean.

Like Spanish, Portuguese evolved from several dialects of Vulgar Latin. A number of Portuguese words can still be traced to its pre-Roman origin during the times when the Hispano-Celtic Gallaecian language was spoken in the Iberian region. These people who spoke the language consisted of mainly the Celtici, Cynetes, Gallaeci, and Lusitanians who inhabited the northwestern part of Iberia and the coast of Portugal. Portuguese also share over a thousand loan words from Latin and other Celtic tribes like the Gaulish language.

In the 5th century, the Iberian peninsula was conquered by the Visigoths and as the inhabitants came under the Visigothic influence, they adopted several hundreds of Germanic words into their lexicon. For instance, the word stake in Portuguese is called ‘estaca’, while in Gothic, it is called ‘stakka’. Likewise, Portuguese words like ‘espora’ and ‘guerra’, which means spur and war in English respectively, is called ‘spaúra’ and ‘wirro’ in Gothic.

During the medieval period, Portuguese was known as Galician-Portuguese or Old Galician. Old Galician was then known as “the common language”. Its first records of administrative documents was discovered to be dated back into the 9th century. At that time, Old Galician had also acquired up to over 600 words from Arabic when the Moors from North Africa invaded the Iberian peninsula. Then, in 1290, a Portuguese king established the first Portuguese university in Lisbon and decreed that “the common language” should be known officially as Portuguese (or português).

During the colonial expansion of the 15th and 16th century, Portuguese was brought to many regions of Africa, Asia and the Americas. Religious influence as well as mixed marriages between the Portuguese and locals of these colonized regions led to the formation of creole languages.

From the 16th century on, Galician-Portuguese was used only as a means of communication within the family. Galician was then revived as a language of culture towards the start of the 19th century.

On the other hand, the official Portuguese language received an influx of loanwords from other European languages, such as English and French. This is why some English or Romance language speakers today are able to roughly guess what some Portuguese texts are trying to convey when they read Portuguese. As for Brazilian Portuguese, the inhabitants in Brazil adopted a greater number of loanwords from European languages, as well as languages from Japan and Africa. Some lexicons also adopted some words from the Amerindians.

Portuguese Alphabets, Consonants, and Vowels

Portuguese alphabets, consonants, and vowels of both Brazilian and Portugal

Portuguese Articles and Grammatical Genders

Portuguese has two forms of articles - Definite and Indefinite. These articles are to be used in agreement with the gender and number of the noun to which they refer. Nouns, on the other hand, are classified into two grammatical genders. They are either ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’, and are inflected for grammatical number, which is known to be either 'singular' or ‘plural'. Similar to the English structure, nouns are always preceded by the article (either definite or indefinite). For instance, when saying “the book” in Portuguese, it would be "o livro”, while when referring to "some books", it would be "uns livros”. This is only for masculine nouns. When referring to a feminine nouns such as “a house", it would be "uma casa”.

Portuguese Articles and Grammatical Genders

Portuguese Adjectives

Adjectives usually follow the nouns that they modify. Unlike in English where adjectives precedes the nouns, it is not always the case in Portuguese. However, there are some exceptions whereby the adjectives precede the noun.

For instance, in cases where an adjective follows the noun, it goes like this — "casa vermelha" (red house), or “campos verdes” (green fields), or “criança feliz” (happy child).

In another example, cases where an adjective precedes the noun, it goes like this — “grande homem” (great man) or “boa esposa” (good wife).

Portuguese adjectives are routinely inflected for gender and number, just like those for nouns. Some adjectives are invariable and do not change their form regardless of gender or numbers. These adjectives usually end with an ‘-s’, or are compound words, or a few color adjectives.

Portuguese Adjectives

Portuguese Verbs, Tenses, and Conjugations

All Portuguese infinitive verbs end in the letter ‘r’. Its verb can be divided into three main conjugation classes. They are the ‘ar’ conjugation, ‘er’/‘or’ conjugation, and ‘ir’ conjugation.

Portuguese Verbs, Tenses and Conjugations