Portuguese language

Portuguese (português or, in full, língua portuguesa) is a Romance language originating in the Iberian Peninsula of Europe. It is the sole official language of Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Brazil,[6] while having co-official language status in East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, and Macau. A Portuguese-speaking person or nation is referred to as "Lusophone" (lusófono). As the result of expansion during colonial times, a cultural presence of Portuguese and Portuguese creole speakers are also found around the world.[7] Portuguese is part of the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several dialects of Vulgar Latin in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia and the County of Portugal, and has kept some Celtic phonology in its lexicon.[8][9]

With approximately 215 to 220 million native speakers and 50 million L2 speakers, Portuguese has approximately 270 million total speakers. It is usually listed as the sixth-most spoken language and the third-most spoken European language in the world in terms of native speakers.[10] Being the most widely spoken language in South America[11][12] and all of the Southern Hemisphere,[13] it is also the second-most spoken language, after Spanish, in Latin America, one of the 10 most spoken languages in Africa,[14] and is an official language of the European Union, Mercosur, the Organization of American States, the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union, and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, an international organization made up of all of the world's officially Lusophone nations. In 1997, a comprehensive academic study ranked the Brazilian variety of Portuguese as one of the 10 most influential languages in the world.[15][16]

When the Romans arrived in the Iberian Peninsula in 216 BC, they brought the Latin language with them, from which all Romance languages are descended. The language was spread by Roman soldiers, settlers, and merchants, who built Roman cities mostly near the settlements of previous Celtic civilizations established long before the Roman arrivals. For that reason, the language has kept a relevant substratum of much older, Atlantic European Megalithic Culture[17] and Celtic culture,[18] part of the Hispano-Celtic group of ancient languages.[19]

Between AD 409 and AD 711, as the Roman Empire collapsed in Western Europe, the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by Germanic peoples of the Migration Period. The occupiers, mainly Suebi,[20][21] Visigoths and Buri[22] who originally spoke Germanic languages, quickly adopted late Roman culture and the Vulgar Latin dialects of the peninsula and over the next 300 years totally integrated into the local populations. Some Germanic words from that period are part of the Portuguese lexicon. After the Moorish invasion beginning in 711, Arabic became the administrative and common language in the conquered regions, but most of the remaining Christian population continued to speak a form of Romance commonly known as Mozarabic, which lasted three centuries longer in Spain. Like other Neo-Latin and European languages, Portuguese has adopted a significant number of loanwords from Greek,[23] mainly in technical and scientific terminology. These borrowings occurred via Latin, and later during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Portuguese evolved from the medieval language, known today by linguists as Galician-Portuguese, Old Portuguese or Old Galician, of the northwestern medieval Kingdom of Galicia and County of Portugal.[24]

It is in Latin administrative documents of the 9th century that written Galician-Portuguese words and phrases are first recorded. This phase is known as Proto-Portuguese, which lasted from the 9th century until the 12th-century independence of the County of Portugal from the Kingdom of León, which had by then assumed reign over Galicia.

In the first part of the Galician-Portuguese period (from the 12th to the 14th century), the language was increasingly used for documents and other written forms. 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 in France. The Occitan digraphs lh and nh, used in its classical orthography, were adopted by the orthography of Portuguese, presumably by Gerald of Braga,[25] a monk from Moissac, who became bishop of Braga in Portugal in 1047, playing a major role in modernizing written Portuguese using classical Occitan norms.[26] Portugal became an independent kingdom in 1139, under King Afonso I of Portugal. In 1290, King Denis of Portugal created the first Portuguese university in Lisbon (the Estudos Gerais, which later moved to Coimbra) and decreed for Portuguese, then simply called the "common language", to be known as the Portuguese language and used officially.

In the second period of Old Portuguese, in the 15th and 16th centuries, with the Portuguese discoveries, the language was taken to many regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. By the mid-16th century, Portuguese 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. The Portuguese expanded across South America, across Africa to the Pacific Ocean, taking their language with them.

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 creole languages such as that 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 the 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 because of the Renaissance (learned words borrowed from Latin also came from Renaissance Latin, the form of Latin during that time), which greatly enriched the lexicon. Most literate Portuguese speakers were also literate in Latin; and thus they easily adopted Latin words into their writing – and eventually speech – in Portuguese.[27]

Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes once called Portuguese "the sweet and gracious language", while the Brazilian poet Olavo Bilac described it as a última flor do Lácio, inculta e bela ("the last flower of Latium, naive and beautiful"). Portuguese is also termed "the language of Camões", after Luís Vaz de Camões, one of the greatest literary figures in the Portuguese language and author of the Portuguese epic poem The Lusiads.[28][29][30]

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 language speakers in the world.[31] The museum is the first of its kind in the world.[31] In 2015 the museum was partially destroyed in a fire,[32] but restored and reopened in 2020.

Portuguese is the native language of the vast majority of the people in Portugal,[34] Brazil[35] and São Tomé and Príncipe (95%).[36] Perhaps 75% of the population of urban Angola speaks Portuguese natively,[37] with approximately 85% fluent; these rates are lower in the countryside.[38] Just over 50% (and rapidly increasing) of the population of Mozambique are native speakers of Portuguese, and 70% are fluent, according to the 2007 census.[39] Portuguese is also spoken natively by 30% of the population in Guinea-Bissau, and a Portuguese-based creole is understood by all.[40] No data is available for Cape Verde, but almost all the population is bilingual, and the monolingual population speaks the Portuguese-based Cape Verdean Creole. Portuguese is mentioned in the Constitution of South Africa as one of the languages spoken by communities within the country for which the Pan South African Language Board was charged with promoting and ensuring respect.[41]

There are also significant Portuguese-speaking immigrant communities in many countries including Andorra (15.4%),[42] Bermuda,[43] Canada (400,275 people in the 2006 census),[44] France (900,000 people),[45] Japan (400,000 people),[46] Jersey,[47] Namibia (about 4–5% of the population, mainly refugees from Angola in the north of the country),[48] Paraguay (10.7% or 636,000 people),[49] Macau (0.6% or 12,000 people),[50] Switzerland (196,000 nationals in 2008),[51] Venezuela (554,000).[52] and the United States (0.35% of the population or 1,228,126 speakers according to the 2007 American Community Survey).[53]

In some parts of former Portuguese India, namely Goa[54] and Daman and Diu,[55] the language is still spoken by about 10,000 people. In 2014, an estimated 1,500 students were learning Portuguese in Goa.[56]

The Community of Portuguese Language Countries[6] (in Portuguese Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa, with the Portuguese acronym CPLP) consists of the nine independent countries that have Portuguese as an official language: Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal and São Tomé and Príncipe.[6]

Equatorial Guinea made a formal application for full membership to the CPLP in June 2010, a status given only to states with Portuguese as an official language.[57] In 2011, Portuguese became its third official language (besides Spanish and French)[58] and, in July 2014, the country was accepted as a member of the CPLP.[59]

Portuguese is also one of the official languages of the Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China of Macau (alongside Chinese) and of several international organizations, including Mercosur,[60] the Organization of Ibero-American States,[61] the Union of South American Nations,[62] the Organization of American States,[63] the African Union,[64] the Economic Community of West African States,[64] the Southern African Development Community[64] and the European Union.[65]

According to The World Factbook's country population estimates for 2018, the population of each of the ten jurisdictions is as follows (by descending order):

The combined population of the entire Lusophone area was estimated at 279 million in July 2017. This number does not include the Lusophone diaspora, estimated at approximately 10 million people (including 4.5 million Portuguese, 3 million Brazilians, although it is hard to obtain official accurate numbers of diasporic Portuguese speakers because a significant portion of these citizens are naturalized citizens born outside of Lusophone territory or are children of immigrants, and may have only a basic command of the language. Additionally, a large part of the diaspora is a part of the already-counted population of the Portuguese-speaking countries and territories, such as the high number of Brazilian and PALOP emigrant citizens in Portugal or the high number of Portuguese emigrant citizens in the PALOP and Brazil.

The Portuguese language therefore serves more than 250 million people daily, who have direct or indirect legal, juridical and social contact with it, varying from the only language used in any contact, to only education, contact with local or international administration, commerce and services or the simple sight of road signs, public information and advertising in Portuguese.

Portuguese is a mandatory subject in the school curriculum in Uruguay.[67] Other countries where Portuguese is commonly taught in schools or where it has been introduced as an option include Venezuela,[68] Zambia,[69] the Republic of the Congo,[70] Senegal,[70] Namibia,[48] Eswatini (Swaziland),[70] South Africa,[70] Ivory Coast,[71] and Mauritius.[72] In 2017, a project was launched to introduce Portuguese as a school subject in Zimbabwe.[73][74] Also, according to Portugal's Minister of Foreign Affairs, the language will be part of the school curriculum of a total of 32 countries by 2020.[75] In the countries listed below, Portuguese is spoken either as a native language by vast majorities due to the Portuguese colonial past or as a lingua franca in bordering and multilingual regions, such as on the border between Brazil and Uruguay & Paraguay, as well as Angola and Namibia. In in many other countries, Portuguese is spoken by majorities as a second language. And there are still communities of thousands of Portuguese (or Creole) first language speakers in Goa, Sri Lanka, Kuala Lumpur, Daman and Diu, etc. due to Portuguese colonization. In East Timor, the number of Portuguese speakers is quickly increasing as Portuguese and Brazilian teachers are making great strides in teaching Portuguese in the schools all over the island.[citation needed] Additionally, there are many large Portuguese immigrant communities all over the world.

According to estimates by UNESCO, Portuguese is the fastest-growing European language after English and the language has, according to the newspaper The Portugal News publishing data given from UNESCO, the highest potential for growth as an international language in southern Africa and South America.[77] Portuguese is a globalized language spoken officially on five continents, and as a second language by millions worldwide.

Since 1991, when Brazil signed into the economic community of Mercosul with other South American nations, namely Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, Portuguese is either mandatory, or taught, in the schools of those South American countries.

Although early in the 21st century, after Macau was returned to China and Brazilian immigration to Japan slowed down, the use of Portuguese was in decline in Asia, it is once again becoming a language of opportunity there, mostly because of increased diplomatic and financial ties with economically powerful Portuguese-speaking countries (Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, etc.) in the world.[78][79]

Portuguese, being a language spread on all continents, is official in several international organizations; one of twenty official of the European Union, an official language of NATO, Organization of American States (alongside Spanish, French and English), one of eighteen official languages of the European Space Agency. It is also a working language in nonprofit organisations such as the Red Cross (alongside English, German, Spanish, French, Arabic and Russian), Amnesty International (alongside 32 other languages of which English is the most used, followed by Spanish, French, German, and Italian), and Médecins sans Frontières (used alongside English, Spanish, French and Arabic), in addition to being the official legal language in the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights, also in Community of Portuguese Language Countries, an international organization formed essentially by lusophone countries.

Portuguese is one of the Indo-European languages that is likely to grow and increase its global relevance, because due to the huge number of speakers (292 million people) and especially the importance of Brazil in the world scenario, it is very likely that the Portuguese-speaking countries manage to make it official in the United Nations, an old claim among the CPLP countries. Besides being the only post-colonial European language that is able to face English and French in Africa.

Ethnically diverse East Timor has Portuguese as one of its official languages

Você, a pronoun meaning "you", is used for educated, formal, and colloquial respectful speech in most Portuguese-speaking regions. In a few Brazilian states such as Rio Grande do Sul, Pará, among others, você is virtually absent from the spoken language. Riograndense and European Portuguese normally distinguishes formal from informal speech by verbal conjugation. Informal speech employs tu followed by second person verbs, formal language retains the formal você, followed by the third person conjugation.

Conjugation of verbs in tu has three different forms in Brazil (verb "to see": tu viste?, in the traditional second person, tu viu?, in the third person, and tu visse?, in the innovative second person), the conjugation used in the Brazilian states of Pará, Santa Catarina and Maranhão being generally traditional second person, the kind that is used in other Portuguese-speaking countries and learned in Brazilian schools.

The predominance of Southeastern-based media products has established você as the pronoun of choice for the second person singular in both writing and multimedia communications. However, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, the country's main cultural center, the usage of tu has been expanding ever since the end of the 20th century,[80] being most frequent among youngsters, and a number of studies have also shown an increase in its use in a number of other Brazilian dialects.[81][82]

Modern Standard European Portuguese (português padrão[citation needed] or português continental) is based on the Portuguese spoken in the area including and surrounding the cities of Coimbra and Lisbon, in central Portugal. Standard European Portuguese is also the preferred standard by the Portuguese-speaking African countries. As such, and despite the fact that its speakers are dispersed around the world, Portuguese has only two dialects used for learning: the European and the Brazilian. Some aspects and sounds found in many dialects of Brazil are exclusive to South America, and cannot be found in Europe. The same occur with the Santomean, Mozambican, Bissau-Guinean, Angolan and Cape Verdean dialects, being exclusive to Africa. See Portuguese in Africa.

Audio samples of some dialects and accents of Portuguese are available below.[83] There are some differences between the areas but these are the best approximations possible. IPA transcriptions refer to the names in local pronunciation.

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.

Portuguese, like Catalan, preserves the stressed vowels of Vulgar Latin which became diphthongs in most other Romance languages; cf. Port., Cat., Sard. pedra ; Fr. pierre, Sp. piedra, It. pietra, Ro. piatră, from Lat. petra ("stone"); or Port. fogo, Cat. foc, Sard. fogu; Sp. fuego, It. fuoco, Fr. feu, Ro. foc, 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 exit"), tenere ("to have"), catena ("jail"), Port. sair, ter, cadeia.

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

The Portuguese language is the only Romance language that preserves the clitic case mesoclisis: cf. dar-te-ei (I'll give thee), amar-te-ei (I'll love you), contactá-los-ei (I'll contact them). Like Galician, it also retains the Latin synthetic pluperfect tense: eu estivera (I had been), eu vivera (I had lived), vós vivêreis (you had lived).[104] Romanian also has this tense, but uses the -s- form.

Most of the lexicon of Portuguese is derived, directly or through other Romance languages, from Latin. Nevertheless, because of its original Lusitanian and Celtic Gallaecian heritage, and the later participation of Portugal in the Age of Discovery, it has a relevant number of words from the ancient Hispano-Celtic group[19] and adopted loanwords from other languages around the world.

A number of Portuguese words can still be traced to the pre-Roman inhabitants of Portugal, which included the Gallaeci, Lusitanians, Celtici and Cynetes. Most of these words derived from the Hispano-Celtic Gallaecian language of northwestern Iberia, and are very often shared with Galician since both languages have the same origin in the medieval language of Galician-Portuguese. A few of these words existed in Latin as loanwords from other Celtic sources, often Gaulish. Altogether these are over 2,000 words, some verbs and toponymic names of towns, rivers, utensils and plants.

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 with some 500 Germanic words to the lexicon. Many of these words are related to warfare – such as espora 'spur', estaca ('stake'), and guerra ('war'), from Gothic *spaúra, *stakka, and *wirro respectively; the natural world i.e. suino ('swine') from *sweina, gavião ('hawk') from *gabilans, vaga ('wave') from *vigan' human emotions such as orgulho or orgulhoso ('pride', 'proud') from Old Germanic *urguol or verbs like gravar ('to craft, record, graft') from *graba or esmagar ('to squeeze, quash, grind') from Suebian *magōn or esfarrapar ('to shred') from *harpō. The Germanic languages influence also exists in toponymic surnames and patronymic surnames borne by Visigoth sovereigns and their descendants, and it dwells on placenames such as 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'). Other examples of Portuguese names, surnames and town names of Germanic toponymic origin include Henrique, Henriques, Vermoim, Mandim, Calquim, Baguim, Gemunde, Guetim, Sermonde and many more, are quite common mainly in the old Suebi and later Visigothic dominated regions, covering today's Northern half of Portugal and Galicia.

Between the 9th and early 13th centuries, Portuguese acquired some 400 to 600 words from Arabic by influence of Moorish Iberia. They are often recognizable by the initial Arabic article a(l)-, and include common words such as aldeia ('village') from الضيعة alḍaiʿa, alface ('lettuce') from الخس alkhass, armazém ('warehouse') from المخزن almakhzan, and azeite ('olive oil') from الزيت azzait.

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, chá ('tea') from Chinese chá, and canja[105] ('chicken-soup, piece of cake') from Malay.

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 acquired 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 kifumate > cafuné ('head caress') (Brazil), kusula > caçula ('youngest child') (Brazil), marimbondo ('tropical wasp') (Brazil), and kubungula > bungular ('to dance like a wizard') (Angola). 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 pipoca ('popcorn') from Tupi and tucano ('toucan') from Guarani tucan.

Finally, it has received a steady influx of loanwords from other European languages, especially French and English. These are by far the most important languages when referring to loanwords. There are many examples such as: colchete/crochê ('bracket'/'crochet'), paletó ('jacket'), batom ('lipstick'), and filé/filete ('steak'/'slice'), rua ('street'), respectively, from French crochet, paletot, bâton, filet, rue; and bife ('steak'), futebol, revólver, stock/estoque, folclore, from English "beef", "football", "revolver", "stock", "folklore".

Examples from other European languages: macarrão ('pasta'), piloto ('pilot'), carroça ('carriage'), and barraca ('barrack'), from Italian maccherone, pilota, carrozza, and baracca; melena ('hair lock'), fiambre ('wet-cured ham') (in Portugal, in contrast with presunto 'dry-cured ham' from Latin prae-exsuctus 'dehydrated') or ('canned ham') (in Brazil, in contrast with non-canned, wet-cured (presunto cozido) and dry-cured (presunto cru)), or castelhano ('Castilian'), from Spanish melena ('mane'), fiambre and castellano.

Map showing the historical retreat and expansion of Portuguese (Galician-Portuguese) within the context of its linguistic neighbors between the year 1000 and 2000.

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

Portuguese and other Romance languages (namely French and Italian) share considerable similarities in both vocabulary and grammar. Portuguese speakers will usually need some formal study before attaining strong comprehension in those Romance languages, and vice versa. However, Portuguese and Galician are fully mutually intelligible, and Spanish is considerably intelligible for lusophones, owing to their genealogical proximity and shared genealogical history as West Iberian (Ibero-Romance languages), historical contact between speakers and mutual influence, shared areal features as well as modern lexical, structural, and grammatical similarity (89%) between them.[106][107][108][109]

Portuñol/Portunhol, a form of code-switching, has a more lively use and is more readily mentioned in popular culture in South America. Said code-switching is not to be confused with the Portuñol spoken on the borders of Brazil with Uruguay (dialeto do pampa) and Paraguay (dialeto dos brasiguaios), and of Portugal with Spain (barranquenho), that are Portuguese dialects spoken natively by thousands of people, which have been heavily influenced by Spanish.[110]

Portuguese and Spanish are the only Ibero-Romance languages, and perhaps the only Romance languages with such thriving inter-language forms, in which visible and lively bilingual contact dialects and code-switching have formed, in which functional bilingual communication is achieved through attempting an approximation to the target foreign language (known as 'Portuñol') without a learned acquisition process, but nevertheless facilitates communication. There is an emerging literature focused on such phenomena (including informal attempts of standardization of the linguistic continua and their usage).[110]

The closest relative of Portuguese is Galician, which is spoken in the autonomous community (region) and historical nationality of Galicia (northwestern Spain). The two were at one time a single language, known today as Galician-Portuguese, but they have diverged especially in pronunciation and vocabulary due to the political separation of Portugal from Galicia. There is, however, still a linguistic continuity consisting of the variant of Galician referred to as galego-português baixo-limiao, which is spoken in several Galician villages between the municipalities of Entrimo and Lobios and the transborder region of the natural park of Peneda-Gerês/Xurês. It is "considered a rarity, a living vestige of the medieval language that ranged from Cantabria to Mondego [...]".[111] As reported by UNESCO, due to the pressure of Spanish on the standard official version of Galician and centuries-old Hispanization, the Galician language was on the verge of disappearing.[111] According to the UNESCO philologist Tapani Salminen, the proximity to Portuguese protects Galician.[112] The core vocabulary and grammar of Galician are noticeably closer to Portuguese than to those of Spanish and within the EU context, Galician is often considered the same language as Portuguese. [113] Galician like Portuguese, uses the future subjunctive, the personal infinitive, and the synthetic pluperfect. Mutual intelligibility (estimated at 90% by R. A. Hall, Jr., 1989)[114] is excellent between Galicians and northern Portuguese. Despite political efforts in Spain to define them as separate languages, many linguists consider Galician to be a co-dialect of the Portuguese language with regional variations.[115][116]

Another member of the Galician-Portuguese group, most commonly thought of as a Galician dialect, is spoken in the Eonavian region in a western strip in Asturias and the westernmost parts of the provinces of León and Zamora, along the frontier with Galicia, between the Eo and Navia rivers (or more exactly Eo and Frexulfe rivers). It is called eonaviego or gallego-asturiano by its speakers.

The Fala language, known by its speakers as xalimés, mañegu, a fala de Xálima and chapurráu and in Portuguese as a fala de Xálima, a fala da Estremadura, o galego da Estremadura, valego or galaico-estremenho, is another descendant of Galician-Portuguese, spoken by a small number of people in the Spanish towns of Valverde del Fresno (Valverdi du Fresnu), Eljas (As Ellas) and San Martín de Trevejo (Sa Martín de Trevellu) in the autonomous community of Extremadura, near the border with Portugal.

There are a number of other places in Spain in which the native language of the common people is a descendant of the Galician-Portuguese group, such as La Alamedilla, Cedillo (Cedilho), Herrera de Alcántara (Ferreira d'Alcântara) and Olivenza (Olivença), but in these municipalities, what is spoken is actually Portuguese, not disputed as such in the mainstream.

The diversity of dialects of the Portuguese language is known since the time of medieval Portuguese-Galician language when it coexisted with the Lusitanian-Mozarabic dialect, spoken in the south of Portugal. The dialectal diversity becomes more evident in the work of Fernão d'Oliveira, in the Grammatica da Lingoagem Portuguesa, (1536), where he remarks that the people of Portuguese regions of Beira, Alentejo, Estremadura, and Entre Douro e Minho, all speak differently from each other. Also Contador d'Argote (1725) distinguishes three main varieties of dialects: the local dialects, the dialects of time, and of profession (work jargon). Of local dialects he highlights five main dialects: the dialect of Estremadura, of Entre-Douro e Minho, of Beira, of Algarve and of Trás-os-Montes. He also makes reference to the overseas dialects, the rustic dialects, the poetic dialect and that of prose.[117]

In the kingdom of Portugal, Ladinho (or Lingoagem Ladinha) was the name given to the pure Portuguese romance language, without any mixture of Aravia or Gerigonça Judenga.[118] While the term língua vulgar was used to name the language before D. Dinis decided to call it "Portuguese language",[119] the erudite version used and known as Galician-Portuguese (the language of the Portuguese court) and all other Portuguese dialects were spoken at the same time. In a historical perspective the Portuguese language was never just one dialect. Just like today there is a standard Portuguese (actually two) among the several dialects of Portuguese, in the past there was Galician-Portuguese as the "standard", coexisting with other dialects.

Portuguese has provided loanwords to many languages, such as Indonesian, Manado Malay, Malayalam, Sri Lankan Tamil and Sinhala, Malay, Bengali, English, Hindi, Swahili, Afrikaans, Konkani, Marathi, Punjabi, Tetum, Xitsonga, Japanese, Lanc-Patuá, Esan, Bandari (spoken in Iran) 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.[120][121]

For instance, as Portuguese merchants were presumably the first to introduce the sweet orange in Europe, in several modern Indo-European languages the fruit has been named after them. Some examples are Albanian portokall, Bosnian (archaic) portokal, prtokal, Bulgarian портокал (portokal), Greek πορτοκάλι (portokáli), Macedonian portokal, Persian پرتقال (porteghal), and Romanian portocală.[122][123] Related names can be found in other languages, such as Arabic البرتقال (burtuqāl), Georgian ფორთოხალი (p'ort'oxali), Turkish portakal and Amharic birtukan.[122] Also, in southern Italian dialects (e.g. Neapolitan), an orange is portogallo or purtuallo, literally "(the) Portuguese (one)", in contrast to standard Italian arancia.

Beginning in the 16th century, the extensive contacts between Portuguese travelers and settlers, African and Asian 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, Africa and South America 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.

Portuguese phonology is similar to those of languages such as Catalan and Franco-Provençal, whereas that of Spanish, which is similar to those of Sardinian and the Southern Italian dialects. Some would describe the phonology of Portuguese as a blend of Spanish, Gallo-Romance (e.g. French) and the languages of northern Italy (especially Genoese).[124][18]

There is a maximum of 9 oral vowels, 2 semivowels and 21 consonants; though some varieties of the language have fewer phonemes. There are also five nasal vowels, which some linguists regard as allophones of the oral vowels. Galician-Portuguese developed in the region of the former Roman province of Gallaecia, from the Vulgar Latin (common Latin) that had been introduced by Roman soldiers, colonists and magistrates during the time of the Roman Empire. Although the process may have been slower than in other regions, the centuries of contact with Vulgar Latin, after a period of bilingualism, completely extinguished the native languages, leading to the evolution of a new variety of Latin with a few Gallaecian features.[125][126]

Gallaecian and Lusitanian influences were absorbed into the local Vulgar Latin dialect, which can be detected in some Galician-Portuguese words as well as in placenames of Celtic and Iberian origin.[127][128]

An early form of Galician-Portuguese was already spoken in the Kingdom of the Suebi and by the year 800 Galician-Portuguese had already become the vernacular of northwestern Iberia.[129] The first known phonetic changes in Vulgar Latin, which began the evolution to Galician-Portuguese, took place during the rule of the Germanic groups, the Suebi (411–585) and Visigoths (585–711).[129] The Galician-Portuguese "inflected infinitive" (or "personal infinitive")[130][131] and the nasal vowels may have evolved under the influence of local Celtic (as in Old French).[132][133] The nasal vowels would thus be a phonologic characteristic of the Vulgar Latin spoken in Roman Gallaecia, but they are not attested in writing until after the 6th and 7th centuries.[134]

Like Catalan and German, Portuguese uses vowel quality to contrast stressed syllables with unstressed syllables. Unstressed isolated vowels tend to be raised and sometimes centralized.

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. Portuguese and Spanish share very similar grammar. Portuguese also has some grammatical innovations not found in other Romance languages (except Galician and Fala):

Portuguese orthography is based on the Latin alphabet and makes use of the acute accent, the circumflex accent, the grave accent, the tilde, and the cedilla to denote stress, vowel height, nasalization, and other sound changes. The diaeresis was abolished by the last Orthography Agreement. Accented letters and digraphs are not counted as separate characters for collation purposes.