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Differences between Brazilian Portuguese and Iberian Portuguese

All languages evolve. The same happened with the Portuguese language in Brazil. When the first Europeans arrived in what nowadays is Brazil, there were approximately 6 million indigenous people there. They had different languages, but the main language groups were Tupi-guarani and Jê. Most of the people living along the coast spoke Tupi and this created a reference for Europeans contacting the indigenous people. With time a variant of the Tupi language called nheengatu (general language) was standardised by Jesuit missionaries and became the lingua franca throughout much of Brazil between missionaries, settlers of European origin and the indigenous peoples. Until the middle of the XVIII century this was basically the language spoken in Brazil. By this time the Portuguese Marquis of Pombal decreed Portuguese as the official language of Brazil and the Jesuits were expelled from Brazil.

With only an oral basis to support itself, Brazilian Portuguese experienced almost three centuries of undisturbed and substantial diversification from the Iberian variant, since the Portuguese began to settle in the country until the relocation of the Portuguese Court and Government to Rio de Janeiro in 1807, fleeing from the Napoleonic threat of invasion to Portugal. The first newspaper printer in Brazil was established in 1808.

This cultural and geographical gap resulted in phonetic discrepancies between the two varieties, which do not prevent communication via written text between Portugal and Brazil.

Phonetics: in Brazil one speaks relatively slower and the vowels are more clearly pronounced. In Portugal some atonic vowels are “ignored” and only the tonic vowels are clearly pronounced.

Example:  the word "girl" in Brazil: menina  <---> in Portugal: mnina

However, broader differences are observed in morphology, syntax and lexicology.

Last but not least, there are also differences in the logic. Iberian Portuguese is more literal. Brazilian Portuguese is more context-based. A cliché about this is told by the Brazilian writer Mario Prata in his book “Schifaizfavoire”: In Brazil you enter in a bar and ask: “Do you have coffee?”. The probable reaction is that the bartender brings you a cup of coffee. In Portugal if you ask the same question, you may get as the only reaction the answer: “Yes, I have” or “No, I haven’t”.  

All this poses a big challenges for translating texts from one variant to the other.

Sources: Wikipedia, other sites and the book Schifaizfavoire by Mario Prata.

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