1902 Encyclopedia > Spain > Portuguese Language

(Part 38)


Portuguese Language

III. PORTUGUESE.--Portuguese-Galician constitutes the second branch of the Latin of Spain. In it we must distinguish—(1) Portuguese (Portuguez, perhaps a contraction from the oldPortw^aZe2 = Portugalensis), the language of the kingdom of Portugal and its colonies in Africa, Asia, and America (Brazil); (2) Galician (Gallego), or the language of the old kingdom of Galicia (the modern provinces of Pontevedra, La Coruna, Orense, and Lugo) and of a portion of the old kingdom of Leon (the territory of Vierzo in the province of Leon). Portuguese, like Castilian, is a literary language, which for ages has served as the vehicle of the literature of the Portuguese nation constituted in the beginning of the 12th century. Galician, on the other hand, which began early in the Middle Ages a literary life,'—for it was employed by Alfonso the Wise in his cantigas in honour of the Virgin,—decayed in proportion as the monarchy of Castile and Leon, to which Galicia had been annexed, gathered force and unity in its southward conquest. At the present day Gallego, which is simply Portuguese variously modified and with a development in some respects arrested, is far from having as a dialect the same importance as Catalan, not only because the Spaniards who speak it (1,800,000) number much less than the Catalans (3,500,000), but also because, its literary culture having been early abandoned in favour of Castilian, it inevitably fell into the vegetative condition of a provincial patois. Speaking generally, Portuguese is further removed than Castilian from Latin; its development has gone further, and its actual forms are more worn out than those of the sister language, and hence it has, not without reason, been compared to French, with which it has some very notable analogies. But, on the other hand, Portuguese has remained more exclusively Latin in its vocabulary, and, particularly in its conjugation, it has managed to preserve several features which give it, as compared with Castilian, a highly archaic air. Old Portuguese, and more especially the poetic language of the 13th century, received from the language of the troubadours, in whose poetry the earlier Portuguese poets found much of their inspiration, certain words and certain turns of expression which have left upon it indelible traces.

Vowels. _—Lat. £, S with the accent have not been diphthongized into ie, uo, tee: pe (pedem), dez (decern), bom (bonus), pode (potet). On the other hand, Portuguese has a large number of strong diphthongs produced by the attraction of an i in hiatus or the resolution of an explosive into i : raiba (rabia), feira (feria), feito (factum), seixo (saxum), oito (octo). A quite peculiar feature of the language occurs in the "nasal vowels," which are formed by the Latin accented vowels followed by m, n, or nt, nd : bc~ (bene), gra (grandem), bo (bonum). These nasal vowels enter into combination with a final atonic vowel: irmblo (germanus); also amdo (amant), sermdo (sermonem), where the o is a degenerated representative of the Latin final vowel. In Old Portuguese the nasal vowel or diphthong was not as now marked by the til (~), but was expressed indifferently and without regard to the etymology by m or n: bem (bene), tan (tantum), disserom (dixerunt), sermom (sermonem). The Latin diphthong au is rendered in Portuguese by ou (ouro, aurum; pouco, paucum), also pronounced oi. With regard to the atonic vowels, there is a tendency to reduce a into a vowel resembling the Fr. e "muet," to pronounce o as u, and to drop e after a group of consonants {dent for dente).

Consonants.—Here the most remarkable feature, and that which most distinctly marks the wear and tear through which the language has passed, is the disappearance of the median consonants I and n : corôa (corona), lua (luna), per formerly poer (ponere), conego (canonicus), rir (venire), dor, formerly door (dolorem), paço (palatium), saude (salutem), pego (pelagus). Latin b passes regularly into v : cavallo (caballus), fava (faba), arvore (arborera) ; but, on the other hand, Latin initial v readily tends to become b: bexiga (vesica), bodo (votum). Latin initial f never becomes h: fazer (facere), filo (filum). Latin c before e and i is represented either by the hard sibilant s or by the soft z. Latin g between vowels is dropped before e and i: 1er for leer (légère), dedo (digitum); the same is the case with d, of course, in similar circumstances : remir (redimere), rir (ridere). Latin j has assumed the sound of the French j. The Latin combinations cl, fl, pi at the beginning of words are transformed in two ways in words of popular origin. Either the initial consonant is retained while the I is changed into r: cravo (clavum), prazer (placere), fror (florem) ; or the group is changed in ch ( = Fr. ch, Catal. x) through the intermediate sounds Icj, fj, pj: chamar (clamare), chao (planus), chamma (flamma). Within the word the same group and other groups also in which the second consonant is an I produce l mouillée (written Ih, just as n mouillée is written nh, as in Provençal): ovelha (ovie'la), velho (*veclus); and sometimes ch : facho (fac'lum), ancho (amplum). Lat. ss or sc before e and i gives x (Fr. ch): baixo (bassus), faxa (fascia). The group ct is reduced toit: leito (lectum), peito (pectus), noite (noctem); sometimes to ut : douto (doctus). Such words as fruto, reto, dileto are modern derivatives from the learned forms fructo, recto, dilecto. Latin cs becomes is: seis (sex); or isc, x ( = Fr. ich, ch): seixo (saxum), luxo (luxum); or even ss: disse (dixi).

Inflexion.—The Portuguese article, now reduced to the vocalic form o, a, os, as, was lo (exceptionally also el, which still survives in the expression El-Jiei), la, los, las in the old language. Words ending in I in the singular lose the I in the plural (because it then becomes median, and so is dropped): sol (solem), but soes (soles); those having do in the sing, form the plural either in des or in ôes according to the etymology : thus cdo (canem) makes edes, but raçdo makes raçôes. As regards the pronoun, mention must be made of the non-etymological forms of the personal mim and of the feminine possessive minha, where the second n has been brought in by the initial nasal. Portuguese conjugation has more that is interesting. In the personal suffixes the forms of the 2d pers. pi. in ades, edes, ides lost the d in the 15th century, and have now become ais, eis, is through the intermediate forms aes, ees, eis. The form in des has persisted only in those verbs where it was protected by the consonants n or r preceding it : pondes, tendes, vindes, amardes, and also no doubt in some forms of the present of the imperative, where the theme has been reduced to an extraordinary degree b}7 the disappearance of a consonant and the contraction of vowels: ides, credes, ledes, &c. Portuguese is the only Romance language which possesses a personal or conjugated infinitive : amar, amar-es, amar, amar-mos, amar-des, amar-em; e.g., antes de sair-mos, "before we go out." Again, Portuguese alone has preserved the pluperfect in its original meaning, so that, for example, amara (amaveram) signifies not merely as elsewhere "I would love," but also "I had loved." The future perfect, retained as in Castilian, has lost its vowel of inflexion in the 1st and 3d pers. sing, and consequently becomes liable to be confounded with the infinitive (amar, render, partir). Portuguese, though less frequently than Castilian, employs ter (tenere) as an auxiliary, alongside of aver ; and it also supplements the use of essere with sedere, which furnished the subj. seja, the imperative se, sede, the gerundive sendo, the participle sido, and some other tenses in the old language. Among the peculiarities of Portuguese conjugation may be mentioned—(1) the assimilation of the 3d pers. sing, to the 1st in strong perfects (houve, pude, quiz, fez), while Castilian has hnbe and hubo ; (2) the imperfects punha, tinha, vinha (from por, ter, and vir), which are accented on the radical in order to avoid the loss of the n (ponia would have made poia), and which substitute u and i for o and e in order to distinguish from the present subjunctive (ponha, tenha, venha).

Galician.—Almost all the phonetic features which distinguish Portuguese from Castilian are possessed by Gallego also. Portuguese and Galician even now are practically one language, and still more was this the case formerly : the identity of the two idioms would become still more obvious if the orthography employed by the Galicians were more strictly phonetic, and if certain transcriptions of sounds borrowed from the grammar of the official language (Castilian) did not veil the true pronunciation of the dialect. It is stated, for example, that Gallego does not possess nasal diphthongs ; still it may be conceded once for all that such a word as planus, which in Galician is written sometimes chau and sometimes chan, cannot be very remote from the Portuguese nasal pronunciation chao. One of the most notable differences between normal Portuguese and Galician is the substitution of the surd spirant in place of the sonant spirant for the Lat. j before all vowels and g before e and i: xuez (judicem), Port, juiz; xunto (junctum), Port, junto ; xente (gentem), Port, gente. In conjugation the peculiarities of Gallego are more marked ; some find their explanation within the dialect itself, others seem to be due to Castilian influence. The 2d persons plural have still their old form ades, edes, ides, so that in this instance it would seem as if Gallego had been arrested in its progress while Portuguese had gone on progressing ; but it is to be observed that with these full forms the grammarians admit contracted forms as well: ás (Port, ais), és (Port, eis), is (Port. is). The 1st pers. sing, of the perfect of conjugations in er and ir has come to be complicated by a nasal resonance similar to that which we find in the Portuguese mim; we have vendin, partin, instead of vendi, parti, and by analogy this form in in has extended itself also to the perfect of the conjugation in ar, anáfalin, gardin, íoxfalei, gardei are found. The second persons of the same tense take the endings che, ches in the singular and chedes in the plural: falache or falaches (fabulasti), falacliedes as well as faldstedes (fabulastis), bateche or batiche, pi. batestes or batechedes, &c. Ti (tibi) having given che in Galician, we see that falasti has become falache by a phonetic process. The 3d pers. sing, of strong perfect is not in e as in Portuguese (houve, pode), but in o (houbo, puido, soubo, coubo, &c.); Castilian influence may be traceable here. If a contemporary grammarian, Saco Arce, is to be trusted, Gallego would form an absolute exception to the law of Spanish accentuation in the imperfect and pluperfect indicative : falabamos, falabddes; batíamos, batiádes; pidiámos, pididdes; andfalardmos,falarádes; baterámos, baterádes; pidirámos,pidirádes. The future perfect indicative and the imperfect subjunctive, on the other hand, would seem to be accented regularly: faldremos, faldsemos. The important question is worth further study in detail.

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