We Are All Poliglots
The languages of Brazil
Know some languages that enriched the vocabulary of Brazilian Portuguese
by Leandro Narloch
Arabian, Yoruba, Tupi, Cantonese, Catalan, Occitan. Every time you open your mouth to speak good old Brazilian Portuguese, you end up letting go words from these languages, as well as from other 30 ones. This is a pessimistic perspective, since nobody knows for sure how many languages had their terms converted into Portuguese since the year 218 BC, when the Romans showed up in the Iberian Peninsula and started forming what would become the Portuguese language.
“All languages and cultures in the world are alive due to contact and dialogue,” says Caetano Galindo, a Philology professor at the Federal University of Paraná. Foreign words converted into Portuguese ones are like fossils: they tell the history of the peoples who lived along those who spoke the “Camoens’ language.” Peoples who were artistically flourishing left behind terms on spectacles and culture. Like Italian, for example. Warrior peoples enriched our vocabulary on war. “Canivete” (penknife), “bando” (gang) and “guerra” (war) itself came from German barbarians (the Suebi and the Visigoths), who ruled the Iberian Peninsula between the 5th and 7th centuries.
The Arabians, who expelled the Germans in 711 and remained in the peninsula for 300 years, also knew about war and gave us more warlike terms. But their greatest contribution to Portuguese was in terms related to technology – back then, their civilization was technically highly superior to the European one. The news they brought to Europe were registered in the language: “alicate” (pliers), “alicerce” (foundation), “azeite” (olive oil) – almost all words starting with an A, as they were spoken after the Arabian article “al”). Even the preposition “até” (until) came from the Arabian, a rare case of linguistic borrowing.
The indigenous and African languages also left their mark in Brazil – the indigenous ones described the exhuberant nature, for which the Europeans literally did not have words, and the African ones impreganated our culture, particularly in religion and culinary. Nowadays, many people think the English influence in the language is bad. Nationalisms aside, these people will have to work hard if they want to free Brazilian Portuguese from all foreign words.
Thirty languages in one
Some languages that enriched the vocabulary of Brazilian Portuguese
|Basque, Celt and Phoenician||When the Romans appeared in the lands where Portugal would be founded, they came across many languages that gave a small contribution to Portuguese||“esquerdo” (left), “bezerro” (calf), “bizarro” (bizarre), “caminho” (path), “carpinteiro” (carpenter), “cerveja” (beer), “mapa” (map), “túnica” (tunic)|
|German languages||In 409, the German warriors invade the Iberian Peninsula leaving behind words about the one theme they knew most: war||“arreio” (gear), “canivete” (penknife), “bando” (gang), “trotar” (to trot), “banco” (bank), “espora” (spur), “faísca” (sparkle), “falcão” (hawk), “guerra” (war), “cãibra” (cramp)|
|Arabian||The assimilated Arabian words reflect areas in which the Islamic culture stood out during the Middle Ages: militarism, technics of production, finances, agriculture and culinary||“arsenal” (arsenal), “alicate” (pliers), “alfaiate” (tailor), “almofada” (cushion), “arroz” (rice), “alqueire” (bushel), “alvará” (permit), “alfândega” (customs), “azeite” (olive oil), “açúcar” (sugar)|
|Chinese||The spices which enchanted the Portuguese became part of the language||“chá” (tea), “leque” (fan), “nanquim” (nankeen)|
|Tupi language||Used to describe the Brazilian nature, unknown to the Portuguese people of the 18th century||“capim” (grass), “caatinga” (caatinga scrub), “abacaxi” (pineapple), “cipó” (liana), “carioca” (native of Rio de Janeiro)|
|Yoruba||Words from the African-Brazilian cults and culinary||“orixá” (orisha), “candomblé”, “vatapá”, “acarajé”|
|Quimbumbo||The language of the slaves from Angola influenced many thematic areas of Portuguese||“Fubá”, “caçula” (youngest), “senzala”, “bunda” (buttocks), “cafuné”, “samba”|
|Italian||Terms from Fine Arts and spectacles of the Renaissance||“camarim” (dressing room), “cenário” (scenery), “florete” (fencing foil), “ópera” (opera), “fiasco” (fiasco)|
|French||The great cultural language of the 18th and 19th centuries. The French influence decreased only after the Second World War||“avenida” (avenue), “boné” (cap), “chapéu” (hat), “envelope” (envelope), “esquina” (corner), “estrangeiro” (foreigner), “paletó” (jacket), “lupa” (magnifying glass), “gabinete” (cabinet), “abajur” (lamp)|
|English||English and Portuguese trade cards since the end of the 19th century, but after the Second World War the influence became massive||“futebol” (football), “chute” (kick), “bife” (beef), “cheque” (cheque), “pudim” (pudding), “sanduíche” (sandwich), “túnel” (tunnel), “turismo” (tourism), “estresse” (stress)|