2 Some remarks concerning Portunhol / Portuñol and the mix of languages in general

It is to suppose that a lo of people who learn Portuguese speak already Spanish. This chapter is only relevant for people who already speaks Spanish or Italian.

Portunhol in Portuguese or portuñol in Spanish designates a mix of Portuguese and Spanish. It is often described as as "language" or at least "a dialect", something stable used in some region as a means of communication on a daily basis. However this author would say that it is nothing that must be learned if someone speaks Spanish or Portuguese. This is a stage Spanish or Portuguese speakers pass through when learning Portuguese or Spanish. With the same arguments one could call italoñol the mix of Spanish and Italian used by native Spanish or Italian speakers if they learn Italian or Spanish.

What could be said is that the mixing up between Spanish and Portuguese is much bigger than the mixing up of for instance French and Portuguese, although Portuguese has more similarities, from a phonetic point of view, nasals sounds, voiced and unvoiced sounds, r etc. with French than with Spanish.

If one speaks Spanish ( or Italian) and just wants to learn enough Portuguese to get understood a solid portunhol can be achieved very easily and in less than 200 hours.

However there is a second myth, the myth that Spanish native speakers and Portuguese native speakers can understand each other without any problem. That doesen't work. It is true that Portuguese native speakers have little problems to understand Spanish native speakers, but the trick doesn't work the other way round. Portuguese is famous for being very hearer unfriendly. European Portuguese still more that Brasilian Portuguese. Without a solid portunhol there is no communication possible and this is still mor true, if the person one communicates with speaks pure Portuguese.

From portunhol to Portuguese it is a long way. At the beginning the brain uses almost all its resources to verify if a sentence is pure Portuguese or if there are Spanish elements, what slows down the speaking rate. A nice example for portunhol we have here: Dilma Rousseff falando em "Portunhol". (Dilma Rousseff was the president of Brasil in the years 2011 until 2016. ) That's easy to understand if someone speaks Spanish.

Portunhol is not an extraordinary phenomenon. If there are a lot of similarities between the mother tongue and the foreign language there is always a mixing up. The fact that only portunhol became so famous is due to the fact that Spanish and Portuguese geographically meet each other more often than other languages and therefore these to languages collide more often than other languages. In some regions, the south of Brasil and the north of Uruguay the clash of these two languages is so frequent, that people call the mix up they use on a daily basis portunhol.

There are a lot of video on the internet about portunhol, for instance this one Reportagem 2 - O uso do Portunhol. In this video the portunhol is called a dialect. A dialect is a stable, grammatically and phonetically, variation of a language. The author doubts that portunhol has the stability of a dialect, without really having studied the phenomenon, but it is in any case a strange phenomenon. There are a lot of regions in the world where two very similar languages meet each other geographically, for instance in Cataluña Catalan and Spanish, or Galicia, gallego and Spanish. In general in these areas people are perfectly bilingual and a mixing up is at most a transitional state in the learning process.

This author has never been in this area, but it is hard to imagine that people "learn" portunhol. In other words that there are stable structures that people use in daily conversation. This author would say that it is much more probable that the speakers mix up the two languages in always the same way, individually and espontaneously without having actually learned these structures and that therefore portunhol seems to have a stability. Denglish for instance, Germans speaking English, is not a dialect, although they there is kind of a stability. Germans speaking English simply make always the same errors.

It is hard to imagine that portunhol is a stable system, in other words a system that differs in a stable way from Spanish or Portuguese and that people who communicate in portunhol use the same structures in a stable way. It is more likely to assume that it is more Spanish or Portuguese depending on the degree they are fluent in Portuguese or Spanish. It is to assume that the basis of the communication is not a common dialect, but a spontaneous mixing up depending on the fluency the participiants have in the respective other language. This mixing up is not accepted by some people, see this video DIGA ISSO EM PORTUGUÊS! 7 PALAVRAS que são PORTUNHOL. On the other hand there is a mouvement that tries to promote portunhol as kind of a lingua franca Brazilian summer: We speak Portunhol here! There is no doubt that portunhol is not a normal mix up of languages, but it is hard to see what it is.

If contacts in border regions have the effect that people try to take into account the native language of the person they communicate with, if they use the vocabulary and the grammar structure of this language, it is to suppose that they will try to improve their fluency in this language until they speak it fluently. What will be actually spoken at the end of this process depends on the fluency they obtained. If a Brasilian is fluent in Spanish, they will communicate in Spanish, if a Spanish native speaker is fluent in Portuguese, they will communicate in Portuguese. Thats's obvious.

Non linguists denotes portunhol very often as a dialect or even a language. It is questionable that portunhol is a dialect. A dialect is a variation of a language with phonetical and grammatical structures that differs from the "official" language, however this official language is defined. These structures are stable and dialect speakers uses the same grammatical structures and pronunciation as the other dialect speaker they talk with. There is non learning process and the system doesn't evolve any further. Catalan or gallego is a full fletched language. It doesn't evolve any more. (At least as far as fundamental properties in grammar and pronouciation are concerned.)

Furthermore one could believe that portunhol is kind of pidgin language. However pidgin languages developped in a situation where one dominant language, mostly English, Spanish, Portuguese, French is opposed to many other underprivileged languages. The underprivileged groups with their different languages can't communicate directly between each other, but they all have a certain knowledge of the dominant language and use therefore this language to communicate between each other. A pidgin language is a foreign language for all participants. This is obviously not the case with portunhol. In portunhol we have two fully fledged languages, with a large history, culture and most of all a lot of speakers. For the same reason portunhol is not a creole language either. If a pidgeon language evolves, it can become a fully fletched language and can become the mother tongue of the population. The basis of a creole language can be another language, but differ so strongly, influenced by a lot of other languages, from the language it is based on, that a direct communication in the language creol is based on is not longer possible as shown in this video, see Speak Haitian Creole. (Actually it has nothing to do with French. It requires fantasie to get from Pa gen pwoblèm to Pas de problème.) The same is true by the way for pidgin languages, as shown here: TALKING PIDGIN.

The opposite is sustained in the Spanish wikipedia: Portuñol riverense. They call portunhol a dialect.

Last not least. The personal impression of the author is that most brasilians prefer English and not Spanish if they communicate with someone who can't speak Portuguese. This author would say, that these people are right: How many Brazilians and Portuguese can speak Spanish?. This is strange as well, because one would believe that they prefer another roman language and most of all Spanish, because there are a lot of similar words, one could even say that most of the words are similar, but that is not the case. The situation is completely different in Italy. There are really a lot of italians fluent in Spanish. A lot of brasilians prefer english even it they get Spanish offerend. We can learn here, that things are very often not like we expect them to be.




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