Portuguese Language: Wikis


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Pronunciation [puɾtuˈɡeʃ] (European), [poɹtuˈɡes] (BP-caipira), [poχtuˈɡeʃ] (BP-carioca), [poɾtuˈɡes] (BP-paulistano), [pɔhtuˈɡes] (BP-nordestino)[1]
Spoken in Officially in Brazil, East Timor, Macau, Portugal and six countries in Africa.
Total speakers Native: ≈210 million [2][3]
Total:~240 million[4][5]
Ranking 6
Language family Indo-European
Writing system Latin alphabet (Portuguese variant)
Official status
Official language in

 Cape Verde
 East Timor
 Equatorial Guinea
 São Tomé and Príncipe

Countries and territories with a significant percentage of speakers:
 United States
 South Africa

International organizations:
African Union
 European Union
Latin Union

Regulated by International Portuguese Language Institute; CPLP; Academia Brasileira de Letras (Brazil); Academia das Ciências de Lisboa, Classe de Letras (Portugal)
Language codes
ISO 639-1 pt
ISO 639-2 por
ISO 639-3 por

Portuguese (About this sound português or língua portuguesa) is a Romance language that originated in what is now Galicia and northern Portugal. 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) that spanned from Brazil in the Americas to Goa and other parts of India, Macau in China, Timor (north of Australia) and Angola in Africa. It was used as the exclusive lingua franca on the island of Sri Lanka for almost 350 years. During that time, many creole languages based on Portuguese also appeared around the world, especially in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.

Today it is one of the world's major languages, ranked seventh according to number of native speakers (between 205 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 Macau and Tetum in East Timor. There are sizeable communities of Portuguese speakers in various regions of North America, notably in the United States (New Jersey, New England, California and south Florida) and in Ontario, Canada.

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. Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes once called Portuguese "the sweet language",[6] Lope de Vega referred to it as "sweet" [7] 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 Angola, Brazil (190.6 million),[8] Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal (10.6 million),[9] São Tomé and Príncipe and Mozambique.[10] It is also one of the official languages of the special administrative region of Macau (with Chinese) and East Timor, (with Tetum). It is the language of most of the population in Portugal (100%)[citation needed], Brazil (100%)[citation needed], São Tomé and Príncipe (99.8%)[citation needed] and Angola (80%), and is the most widely spoken language in Mozambique (40%), though only 6.5% are native speakers. No data is available for Cape Verde, but almost all the population is bilingual, and the monolingual population speaks Cape Verdean Creole.[11]

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%).

Uruguay 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.[12]

It is also spoken by substantial immigrant communities, though not official, in Andorra, Australia,[13] France, Luxembourg, Jersey (with a statistically significant Portuguese-speaking community of approximately 10,000 people), Paraguay, Namibia, South Africa, Switzerland, Venezuela, Japan[14] and the U.S. states of California, Connecticut,[15] Florida,[16] Massachusetts, New Jersey,[17] New York[18] and Rhode Island.[19] In some parts of India, such as Goa[20] and Daman and Diu,[21] Portuguese is still spoken. There are also significant populations of Portuguese speakers in Canada (mainly concentrated in and around Toronto),[22] Bermuda[23] and the Netherlands Antilles.

Portuguese is an official language of several international organizations. The Community of Portuguese Language Countries[10] (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,[24] Mercosul, the Organization of American States, 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.

Estação da Luz, home of the Museum of the Portuguese Language, in São Paulo, Brazil.

Portuguese and Spanish are the fastest-growing European languages (with the exception of English, being the world lingua franca)[citation needed], 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 Guinea's third official language, to meet the requirements to apply for full membership of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries. 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.[25]

In March 1994 the Bosque de Portugal (Portugal's Woods) was founded in the Brazilian city of Curitiba. 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 Timor brought yet another pillar for that nation in 2007.

In March 2006, the Museum of the Portuguese Language, an interactive museum about the Portuguese language, was founded in São Paulo, 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 Brazil 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.[26] 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, Brasília, because of the generalized population from all parts of the country.

Portuguese dialects of Angola


  1. Benguelense  — Benguela province.
  2. Loudspeaker.svg Luandense  — Luanda province.
  3. Sulista  — South of Angola.
Dialects of Portuguese in Brazil


  1. Caipira  — States of São Paulo (countryside; the city of São Paulo and the eastern areas of the state have their own accent, called paulistano); southern Minas Gerais, northern Paraná, southeastern Mato Grosso do Sul.
  2. Cearense  — Ceará.
  3. Baiano  — Bahia.
  4. Loudspeaker.svg Fluminense  — Variants spoken in the states of Rio de Janeiro (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, who have settled in colonies throughout the state.)
  6. Mineiro  — Minas Gerais (not prevalent in the Triângulo Mineiro; includes southern and southeastern Minas Gerais; the city of Belo Horizonte has an accent of its own.).[citation needed]
  7. Loudspeaker.svg Nordestino  — northeastern states of Brazil (Pernambuco, Paraíba and Rio Grande do Norte have a particular way of speaking).[27]
  8. Nortista  — Amazon Basin states.
  9. Paulistano  — Variants spoken around São Paulo city and some eastern areas of São Paulo state.
  10. Sertanejo  — States of Goiás and Mato Grosso.
  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 Curitiba and Florianópolis have fairly distinct accents as well.)
  12. Carioca  — Variants spoken in Rio de Janeiro City and Niteroi
Dialects of Portuguese in Portugal


  1. Loudspeaker.svg Açoriano (Azorean)  — Azores.
  2. Loudspeaker.svg Alentejano  — Alentejo
  3. Loudspeaker.svg Algarvio  — Algarve (there is a particular dialect in a small part of western Algarve).
  4. Loudspeaker.svg Alto-Minhoto  — North of Braga (hinterland).
  5. Loudspeaker.svg Baixo-Beirão; Alto-Alentejano  — Central Portugal (hinterland).
  6. Loudspeaker.svg Beirão  — Central Portugal.
  7. Loudspeaker.svg Estremenho  — Regions of Coimbra and Lisbon (the Lisbon dialect has some peculiar features not shared with the one of Coimbra).
  8. Loudspeaker.svg Madeirense (Madeiran)  — Madeira.
  9. Loudspeaker.svg Nortenho  — Regions of Braga and Porto.
  10. Loudspeaker.svg 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 that should not be confused with Portuguese.


Baroque Library of the Coimbra University, Portugal.

Arriving in the Iberian Peninsula 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 India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Indonesia 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 ("fire"). 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 typical in 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 Peninsula 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 Phoenicians and Carthaginians, 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 Ermesinde, Esposende 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 Iberia. 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).

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.

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.[citation needed] 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 spoken clearly, but the reverse is generally not true unless formal education is involved.[citation needed]

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)[28] 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 Fresno, Eljas and San Martín de Trevejo (autonomous community of Extremadura, 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 Brazil until the 18th century, and on the language spoken around Sikka in Flores Island, Indonesia. 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 Japan. 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.[29][30]

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,[31] 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.[32]


Several factors detract from this campaign. The current official languages of the UN are either 1) official/dominant in many countries (English, Spanish, Arabic, 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.[33][34]


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 /ɯ̽/, or /ɨ/, or /ə/). The high vowels /e o/ and the low vowels /ɛ ɔ/ 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 Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Uvular
Nasal m n ɲ
Plosive p b k ɡ
Fricative f v s z ʃ ʒ ʁ
Approximant j w
Lateral l ʎ
Flap ɾ

The consonant inventory of Portuguese is fairly conservative. The medieval affricates /ts/, /dz/, /tʃ/, /dʒ/ merged with the fricatives /s/, /z/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, 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, /t/ and /d/ have the affricate allophones [tʃ] and [dʒ], respectively, before /i/ and /ĩ/. (Quebec French has a similar phenomenon, with alveolar affricates instead of postalveolars. Japanese is another example).
  • At the end of a syllable, the phoneme /l/ has the allophone [u̯] in Brazilian Portuguese (L-vocalization).
  • In many parts of Brazil and Angola, intervocalic /ɲ/ is pronounced as a nasalized palatal approximant [ȷ̃], which nasalizes the preceding vowel, so that, for instance, /ˈniɲu/ is pronounced [ˈnĩȷ̃u].
  • In most of Brazil, the alveolar sibilants /s/ and /z/ 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, /ʃ/ before voiceless consonants, and /ʒ/ before voiced consonants (in Judeo-Spanish, /s/ is often replaced with /ʃ/ at the ends of syllables, too).
  • There is considerable dialectal variation in the value of the rhotic phoneme /ʁ/. 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, suʃtẽˈtavɐ ˈkõtɾɐ ˈeɫɨ ˈvɛnuʒ ˈbɛɫɐ sustẽˈtavɐ ˈkõtɾɐ ˈeli ˈvẽnuz ˈbɛlɐ Against him spoke the lovely Venus
Afeiçoada à gente Lusitana, ɐfɐi̯sʊˈada ˈʒẽtɨ ɫuziˈtɐnɐ afei̯soˈada ˈʒẽt(ʃ)i luziˈtɐ̃nɐ Favoring the people of Portugal,
Por quantas qualidades via nela pʊɾ ˈkwɐ̃tɐʃ kwɐɫiˈdadɨʒ ˈviɐ ˈnɛɫɐ poɾ ˈkwɐ̃tɐs kwaliˈdad(ʒ)iz ˈviɐ ˈnɛlɐ She saw resurrected in them
Da antiga tão amada sua Romana; dãˈtiɡɐ tɐ̃ũ̯ ɐˈmadɐ ˈsuɐ ʁuˈmɐnɐ dãˈt(ʃ)iɡɐ tɐ̃ũ̯ aˈmadɐ ˈsuɐ xõˈmɐ̃nɐ For her love of Roman virtue;
Nos fortes corações,
na grande estrela,
nʊʃ ˈfɔɾtɨʃ kʊɾɐˈsõĩ̯ʒ
nɐ ˈɡɾɐ̃dɨʃˈtɾeɫɐ
nus ˈfɔɾt(ʃ)is koɾaˈsõĩ̯z
na ˈɡɾɐ̃d(ʒ)j esˈtɾelɐ
In their stout hearts, in the great star
Que mostraram na terra Tingitana, kɨ muʃˈtɾaɾɐ̃ũ̯ nɐ ˈtɛʁɐ tĩʒiˈtɐnɐ ki mosˈtɾaɾɐ̃ũ̯ na ˈtɛxɐ t(ʃ)ĩʒiˈtɐ̃nɐ Which shone bright above Ceuta,
E na língua, na qual quando imagina, i nɐ ˈɫĩɡwɐ nɐ kwaɫ ˈkwɐ̃dw imɐˈʒinɐ i na ˈlĩɡwɐ na kwau̯ ˈkwɐ̃dw imaˈʒĩnɐ In the language that when it is imagined
Com pouca corrupção crê que é a Latina. kõ ˈpokɐ kʊʁupˈsɐ̃ũ̯ kɾe kjɛ ɐ ɫɐˈtinɐ kõ ˈpou̯kɐ koxup(i)ˈsɐ̃ũ̯ kɾe kjɛ a laˈt(ʃ)ĩnɐ With little corruption, believes that it is Latin.[35]


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 that 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.[36]
  • 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 that must be fulfilled in the future, so that the independent clause will occur. English normally employs the present tense under the same circumstances:
Se eu 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


  1. ^ In this discussion of a politician woman from Alagoas state it is possible to notice that the "r" in this position is a voiceless glottal fricative http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKoGPP0ntz0
  2. ^ Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (2005). "Portuguese". Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Fifteenth edition. SIL International. http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=por. Retrieved 2008-10-15. "Population total all countries: 177,457,180" 
  3. ^ "Portuguese Language". Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation. 2008. http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761564972/Portuguese_Language.html. Retrieved 2008-10-15. "about 221 million speakers" 
  4. ^ Lusa angency (2008). "Portuguese". http://www.brazzilmag.com/content/view/9689/1/. Retrieved 2009-01-15. "Portuguese Total 2008" 
  5. ^ "Somos 6000 billion milhões de falantes" (in Portuguese). http://diario.iol.pt/sociedade/lingua-portuguesa-portugues-ensino-governo-alunos/972503-4071.html. 
  6. ^ http://www.cervantesvirtual.com/servlet/SirveObras/cerv/12604733118045969643624/p0000009.htm
  7. ^ 'Encyclopedia of Literature' Joseph T. Shipley; Philosophical Library, 1946. 1188 pgs.
  8. ^ IBGE Official website
  9. ^ INE Official website
  10. ^ a b CPLP Official website
  11. ^ See the main article Geographic distribution of Portuguese, for references.
  12. ^ Uruguay recently adopted Portuguese language in its education system as an obligatory subject http://noticias.uol.com.br/ultnot/lusa/2007/11/05/ult611u75523.jhtm
  13. ^ The Portuguese-Speaking Community in Australia
  15. ^ Where America's Other Languages Are Spoken
  16. ^ Widely spoken but 'minor'? Portuguese seeks respect
  17. ^ Hispanic Reading Room of the U.S. Library of Congress website, Twentieth-Century Arrivals from Portugal Settle in Newark, New Jersey,
  18. ^ Brazucas (Brazilians living in New York)
  19. ^ Hispanic Reading Room of the U.S. Library of Congress website, Whaling, Fishing, and Industrial Employment in Southeastern New England
  20. ^ Portuguese Language in Goa
  21. ^ The Portuguese Experience: The Case of Goa, Daman and Diu
  22. ^ Multicultural Canada
  23. ^ World InfoZone: Bermuda
  24. ^ EUROPA website Languages in the EU
  25. ^ "Obiang convierte al portugués en tercer idioma oficial para entrar en la Comunidad lusófona de Naciones", Terra. 13-07-2007
  26. ^ From Audio samples of the dialects of Portuguese at the Instituto Camões website.
  27. ^ Note: the speaker of this sound file is from Rio, and he is talking about his experience with Nordestino and Nortista accents.
  28. ^ Ethnologue
  29. ^ Yves Camus, "Jesuits' Journeys in Chinese Studies"
  30. ^ "Dicionário Português-Chinês : Pu Han ci dian : Portuguese-Chinese dictionary", by Michele Ruggieri, Matteo Ricci; edited by John W. Witek. Published 2001, Biblioteca Nacional. ISBN 9725652983. Partial preview available on Google Books
  31. ^ ONU: Petição para tornar português língua oficial
  32. ^ Português pode ser língua oficial na ONU
  33. ^ http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portugu%C3%AAs_brasileiro
  34. ^ Handbook of the International Phonetic Association pg. 126-130; the reference applies to the entire section
  35. ^ White, Landeg. (1997). The Lusiads  — English translation. Oxford World's Classics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280151-1
  36. ^ Squartini, Mario (1998) Verbal Periphrases in Romance  — Aspect, Actionality, and Grammaticalization ISBN 3-11-016160-5




  • 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

Portuguese language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Simple English

Where Portuguese is spoken around the world.

The Portuguese language is one of the of Romance languages (languages which came from the Latin language). The Portuguese word for Portuguese is "português".


Who speaks Portuguese

This language has its own Wikipedia Project.

The Portuguese language is the 3rd most spoken western language (just after English and Spanish) with about 200 million native speakers, and a few more millions all over the world because of the people of Portugal, Brasil / Brazil, Cabo Verde / Cape Verde, Angola, Moçambique / Mozambique, etc. who traveled to many different parts of the world.

As Portuguese and Spanish are both Romance languages, they have a lot of things in common, but they are not the same. Usually a Portuguese speaker can understand a Spanish speaker. On the other hand, it is more rare that a Spanish speaker would understand a Portuguese speaker. That happens because Portuguese is a more Latin and French-based language than Spanish is. As an example: "Abri a janela muito rápido para jantar" (Portuguese) "Abrí la ventana muy pronto para cenar" (Spanish) "I opened the window very fast so I can have dinner" (English). Although the written language seems similar to Spanish, most spoken Portuguese does not. At times, it may even sound more like French, due to both languages using vowels where air passes through the nose in the nasal cavities. For example, the first three letters of bom dia (good day) sound very much like the first three letters of the same word in French: bonjour. The vowel o here is called a "nasal vowel," and its symbol is õ. Even though French had a strong impact on both English and Portuguese, this occurred in very different ways. Overall, Portuguese is not any more similar to English than Spanish.

The places where people speak Portuguese as first language are Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea Bissau, Macau (Region of China), Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe and in the cities of Goa, Damão and Diu (India).

Words in Portuguese that are similar to English ones

Portuguese and English have words that mean the same thing and look similar as well. This is because these words came from the same languages (for example Latin, Greek or French).


  • Visão Vision
  • Informação Information
  • Confuso Confused
  • Batismo Baptism
  • Artigo Article
  • Capital Capital
  • Total Total
  • Mapa Map
  • Problema Problem
  • História History
  • Fruta Fruit
  • Banana Banana
  • Tomate Tomato
  • Chocolate Chocolate
  • Linguagem Language

The list is long.

Some English words came from Portuguese, for example tank (tanque), cacao (cacau) and marmalade (marmelada from ”marmelo” = quince).

Examples of usual phrases

  • Olá! Hello!
  • Oi! Hi!
  • Como estás? How are you?
  • Estou bem, obrigado. I'm fine, thanks.
  • Como vai "How are you going?"
  • Você fala português? Do you speak Portuguese?
  • Eu falo português. I speak Portuguese.
  • Eu não falo português. I do not speak Portuguese.
  • Tenho de ir, adeus! I must go, bye!
  • Até logo! See you later!
  • O que está fazendo? What are you doing?
  • Eu tenho 18 anos. I'm 18 years old

Different versions

Portuguese is the official language for all countries of CPLP (Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa) "Community of Portuguese Language Countries". The Portuguese-speaking countries have more than 240 million people across the world. The CPLP was formed in 1996 with seven countries: Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and São Tomé and Príncipe. East Timor joined in 2002. The CPLP nations speak Portuguese with different accent. In some regions of Brazil the pronoun 'tu' is not used as much as in Portugal. Also regional slang can be found in different areas. The Portuguese Accord Orthographic of 1990 (Acordo Ortográfico de 1990) tries to smooth over those differences.

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