Portuguese 101

Portuguese is written using the Latin alphabet with 26 letters. Three of them (K, W and Y) are only used for non-Portuguese origin words, in terms like darwinismo (Darwinism, from English "Darwin"). It uses ç and acute, grave, circumflex and tilde accents over vowels, as well as, in some forms and only in Brazil, diaeresis on a U as in lingüística (Linguistics, linguística is used in the rest of the Portuguese speaking nations).

Written Varieties

As of 2005, Portuguese has two major written forms:

~ European and African Portuguese
~ Brazilian Portuguese

In Brazil most first 'c's in 'cc', 'cç' or 'ct'; and 'p's in 'pc', 'pç' or 'pt' were eliminated from the language, since they are not pronounced in the cultivated spoken language, but are remnants from the language's Latin origin (though some continue to exist in cultivated Brazilian Portuguese, others in European Portuguese). An example is "facto" (in Portugal) and "fato" (in Brazil), both meaning fact -- one of the rare words that will continue to be accepted and is pronounced differently in both countries.


A 1990 Spelling Reform (Port. Reforma Ortográfica), intended to create an International Portuguese Standard, was ratified by Brazil, Cape Verde, and Portugal. East Timor, not an original subscriber, will ratify shortly along with Guinea-Bissau. Brazil and East Timor were the biggest supporters of the reform and pressured the CPLP for a fast implementation, but the implementation date has not yet been set. In East Timor, both orthographies are currently being taught to children. Galiza was also invited to take part in the reform but the Galician government ignored the invitation (note that this government states that Galician and Portuguese are different languages). However, an unofficial commission formed by Galician linguists (supporting the unity of the language) was sent and participated in the reform. 2

At first, the Agreement established that its entrance into practice would only occur when all the countries of the CPLP had ratified it. But the Portuguese-speaking African countries have not ratified, possibly due to problems in implementing it. In the CPLP’s summit of 26–27 July 2004, an adjustment will prompt implementation when just three countries ratify it. The agreement will eliminate most first 'c's in 'cc', 'cç' or 'ct'; and 'p's in 'pc', 'pç' or 'pt' from European/ African Portuguese, the dieresis and accent marks in words ending in "éia" in Brazil and add some new spelling rules. And it will allow either orthography for words like anónimo or anônimo, depending on the dialect of the author or person being transcribed. Late in October 2004, Brazil became the first to approve the adjustment and asked its ambassadors in Portugal and Cape Verde to promote the rapid implementation in those countries. The agreement will enter into practice in the first day of the next month when the third country ratifies it.

Even if today's orthographies do not harm intelligibility between native speakers, the orthography of one country is considered incorrect in the other, leading to two different translations of the same book written in another language and it can confuse foreigners that are learning the language. One endeavour of this reform is to promote the language internationally, just like the spelling reforms of Spanish by the Real Academia Española helped to promote the Spanish language. The language is not very popular internationally, even if it is the third-most-spoken Western language in the world, after English and Spanish. Another objective is Portugal's aid to Brazil and African countries in education of the Portuguese language to African and Amerindian populations, Brazil's educational aid to Africa and greater cultural and academic exchange.

Another agreement was made for the new words that will come into the language.

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