Portuguese

Where is the problem in using the term “Portugal’s Portuguese?” 

It may be an odd expression for my English-reading public, but there is such a thing, as we need to differentiate our dialect from the variations existent in the former colonies.

I cannot point out an obvious and concrete problem with the term. However, I have the intuition that using it is a little wrong.

There is a small voice in the back of my head that says: it sounds a bit nationalistic. That voice tells me: use “European Portuguese” instead.

But is it really so problematic, declaring a language variant as belonging to a country?

Perhaps this is a sensitivity peculiar to me, but I associate the term “European” with a certain pretentiousness. After all, nobody calls the Portuguese spoken in Brazil “South American Portuguese.” In Europe, there is only one country where Portuguese is the official language – and it is Portugal!

I don’t feel uncomfortable saying “Brazilian Portuguese.” In fact, it bothers me more to say that a person speaks or writes in “Brazilian.”

A Brazilian is a person from Brazil.

“Speaks Brazilian” is like saying that someone “speaks like a Brazilian.”

This way of saying it implies a comparison and a comparison implies a value judgment.

Language is a changing thing. The original is original; originality is something of value. We like original things because we recognize a certain merit, an inalienable quality. An act of creation “from nothing” is a divine act.

Of course, the Portuguese language did not come “from nothing.” It evolved from a rich lineage of dialects that have mixed and unmixed over a hemisphere-spanning spoken and written journey. But such a language has its own flavor.

On the other hand, the variant also has merit, it has its own, different qualities. Brazilian Portuguese is more experimental, with its incorporation of indigenous and English words.

It is a language that has recovered a little of the passion and musicality that Portugal’s Portuguese lost when diverging from its Iberian relatives.

“Amo-te” (I love you) emphasizes the verb to love.

“Te amo” (rather more awkwardly translated directly to “you-I-love”)  emphasizes the subject.

It is a more personal, less formal dialect.

And perhaps the distinction is becoming increasingly irrelevant. When I was twenty years old, I had never met a person from Brazil. I had only heard Brazilian Portuguese in soap operas.

Fifteen years later, I had already worked with many Brazilians. The dialect became such a part of my daily life that I found myself mixing the two types of Portuguese with some frequency.

I don’t like 1990’s orthographic agreement, I never did. I have a natural aversion to the idea that institutions can tell me how to speak or write. As for the natural and organic development of the language, I have the greatest respect and admiration.

Over the years, as we all get richer, we find it easier to travel. On the other hand, the world is turning more digital by the day. The result is that the various language variants start to become consolidated.

Perhaps one day, this essay will be irrelevant.

Maybe that day is coming, the day of a single, unified Portuguese language.

News

In November 2018, I decided that I was going to write and publish something every day. I did that for a year. 

Granted, I took a break here and there, but overall, I think I did a passable job. 

In November 2019, I stopped.

I didn’t  stop due to disappointment; I wasn’t expecting any concrete development. But I also didn’t feel that keeping at it had contributed in any special way to my life, or to my craft.

On the one hand, I felt the urge to return to more elaborate work. Books and other projects.

On the other hand, it is good to have the discipline to do something every day.

So, here is my new intention: to start writing some notes here, once more.

These will be different from the year of content that I worked on previously.

On some occasions, they will amount to mere descriptions of articles that made more sense to publish elsewhere.

In other occasions, they will be notes and sketches of thoughts that I ended up deciding not to publish anywhere.

Consider this my little public notepad.

Welcome. 2020 started late for this blog, but I’ll make it worth following.