Where does Portuguese come from?
Português is documented from the XII century; its origins are to be connected to the Galician dialect, of Galicia, and its expansion has followed the stages of the Reconquista by the Christians against the Arabs, spreading gradually from North-East to South-West.
In the historical evolution of Portuguese there are two major periods: the Archaic phase, from the origins to the mid-XVI century, and the Modern phase, from the mid-XVI century to the present day.
The writing of the oldest poetries (of Provencal influence) dates back to the XIII century: the Cantigas de amigo (Lyrics of love), de escarnho (derision) and de maldizer (with polemical and satirical content). Medieval prose includes edifying works, and translation and imitation of the Breton cycle (Demanda do Santo Graal).
What are the main linguistic features of Portuguese?
The main linguistic features of Portuguese, which characterize it among the Romance languages, are:
1.- The transition from Latin au to ou or oi.
2.- The passage of the groups cl, fl, pl to ch (Latin flamma = chama).
3.- The fall of intervocalic d, l and n.
4.- The abundance of the consonant system as compared to that of Spanish.
5.- The presence of a complete set of nasal vowels.
6.- Vowels also take different tones depending on their position relative to the accent of intensity (For example, o is pronounced as open in dórme, and u in dormír).
7.- In morphology, the presence of a personal (inflected) infinitive beside the impersonal one.
8.- In the future tense and conditional mode, the possibility to introduce the unstressed personal pronoun between the verbal stem and the ending (direi, I will say, dir-te-ei, I will tell you);
The lexicon, on a dominant Latin base, has incorporated many Arab, German, Spanish, French, Italian elements; and also words of Amerindian, African and Asian origin during the colonial expansion of Portugal.
Currently there are in Portugal three main groups of dialects: Galician in the North; the dialect of the region of the Entre Douro and Minho and that of the region of Beira; the dialects of Extremadura, Alentejo and Algarve in the South.
Who speaks Portuguese?
As compared to continental Portuguese, significant differences can be observed in the language spoken in the Azores and Madeira, connected with the Southern dialects, and especially in the language spoken in Brazil, which has relevant phonetic, morphological, syntactic and even more lexical differences. The Portuguese varieties spoken in the vast colonial territories have developed various creoles, with very elementary phonetics and grammar: the Indo-Portuguese (Goa, Ceylon), the Malayo-Portuguese (Java, Malacca), the Sino-Portuguese (Macao), the Negro-Portuguese (Angola, Guinea). Such languages are heavily in decline, however, after the loss of these territories by Portugal.
- Enciclopedia Grolier