Portuguese, with its “sibling” languages French, Spanish, Italian, and others, are collectively called the “Romance” languages, and not without reason. They all have their origins in the Roman empire who spread the Latin language across the European countries.
Although the Romance languages are very closely related to each other, there are some marked differences between them. And when it comes to the Portuguese language, Brazilian Portuguese is somewhat of an outlier in many areas (although by population, it is now the most common version of the language).
Most of the other Portuguese-speaking parts of the world speak a version of Portuguese which is similar to that of Portugal, but sometimes, Brazilian or Brazilian-like features are there. In general, however, the main linguistic divide is between the Brazilian and Portuguese variations.
Ironically, although many Portuguese-speaking countries are either within the African continent itself, or islands off of its coast(s), Brazilian Portuguese tends to have more African features than any other kind of Portuguese. Why would this be the case?
It’s not a secret that millions of slaves were brought over from Africa to what is now Brazil. Besides, Brazil became independent from Portugal way earlier than its African former colonies did, meaning that the influence from Europe was way stronger in those areas, once again ironically.
In the early 1800s, slaves started to arrive from the Nagó people in Africa, who inhabit today a good chunk of Nigeria, as well as large parts of neighboring Togo and Benin.
The Nagó are famously sung about in many famous Brazilian songs, although they are more commonly and vulgarly known as the Yoruba people. However, Yoruba is actually the name of their language, technically.
In fact, Yoruba as a language survives in two distinct places in the Western Hemisphere: Cuba and Brazil. Specifically, many people in the Brazilian state of Bahía speak Yoruba as a native language. Remarkably, Cuban and Brazilian Yoruba speakers and African Yoruba speakers to this day speak mutually intelligible versions of the language, meaning that people from all three areas can understand one another without any major issues.
Brazilian Portuguese is a much “softer” version of the language than its European counterpart. This is especially true for consonants such as the “d” and the “g” when they precede a frontal vowel such as “e” or “i” in Brazil.
Final “e”s in European Portuguese are generally pronounced with the neutral vowel. In English, think of the first syllable of the word “ahead” to get an idea of what the neutral vowel sounds like. In Brazil, this is pronounced like an “ee” sound.
So, for example, the popular Portuguese last name “Andrade” would be pronounced in Portugal as “an-DRAH-duh”, whereas in Brazil, the same name would be pronounced as “an-DRAH-jee”
Likewise, final “t”s in Brazilian Portuguese get the same “softening” treatment, turning to a “ch” sound. So, for example, the word “internet” in Brazil would be pronounced as “eenterNEch”, or sometimes as “enterNEchee”, depending on what part of Brazil the speaker comes from.
Brazilian Portuguese, once again depending on the region, also tends to turn final “o”s into a “ooh” sound or a “uuh” sound like the vowel in the English word “book”.
In both European and Brazilian Portuguese, there are slight regional differences as well, naturally. These usually have a lot to do with rules for pronouncing the “r” and the “s”.
Brazil, not surprisingly, has a lot more loan words from various of its neighbor languages in its vocabulary. Here are two very interesting examples:
“Malandro” is a word meaning “thief” or “low-life”, or a kind of low-level criminal or thug. It is a term shared with its neighboring countries Venezuela and Colombia.
One other key difference with Brazilian Portuguese is its form of address. They use “você” almost exclusively for second-person address instead of “tu”, and conjugate it in the third person. However, unlike “usted” in Spanish, “você” is considered to be equalizing and informal in nature.
Now that you know the differences between Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, you might be still wondering: do Portuguese and Brazilians understand each other? Well, despite the linguistic differences and cultural disparities, speakers of Brazilian and European Portuguese can easily communicate with each other. In fact, Communication between Portugal and Brazil has never stopped since Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered the latter in 1500.
This communication has grown over time and developed into diplomatic relationships and trade agreements. Businesses in both countries partner with one another, with ongoing professional communication between both ends. Not only that, companies from other countries consider the two countries as lucrative markets to expand their business into. That raises the question of what the speakers of other languages need to break into the Portuguese and Brazilian markets.
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