From Spanish to Portuguese

       Since I am still traveling in Brazil and do not have pictures to upload yet, I will nerd out for a second on Linguistics. Being a Spanish speaker makes it much easier to pick up B. Portuguese from what I’ve experienced so far. Comprehension is already decent and production goes by leaps and bounds each day. It brings up the question in my mind, when two daughter languages evolve from the same parent language, up to what point are they still considered dialects of the same language and when should they be classified as separate languages? I remember that usually two dialects of the same language are mutually intelligible and when they are not, they become classified as separate languages. Spanish and Portuguese seem to me to be in this grey area. They are not completely mutually intelligible but they don’t seem to be mutually unintelligible either. The Yiddish linguist Max Weinreich stated, “A language is a dialect with an army and navy.” He was speaking about how oftentimes two very similar languages, or dialects, are only classified as separate languages when the two neighboring countries that speak them are sovereign and claim a different label for the variety of the language that they speak. Such seems to be the case for Swedish and Norweigen, as well as Czech and Slovakian. (Please let me know if this statement is faulty somehow, I speak none of those languages and am going off of what native speakers of those languages have told me). On the other hand, I have heard Cantonese as being referred to as a dialect of Chinese, yet I have also heard it reported that speakers of Cantonese and Mandarin do not understand eachother. Going back to Spanish and Portuguese, there are some regular sound changes that I could mention upon initial analyses.

Spanish                 B. Portuguese
Diphthong              Monophthong
Monophthong        Diphthong (These two statements are general and not always applicable, there are many diphthongs in Spanish that remain the same in B. Portuguese)

-ción                      -ção
[o] ———————> [u]/___#    ([o] becomes [u] at the end of words)
[e]———————-> [i]/___#     ([e] becomes [i] at the end of words)
C———————–> 0/V__V     (A consonant is deleted in between two vowels, usually in the last syllable of a word, may not be absolute)

I’ll stop myself from analyzing these differences any further because these are both European languages that have been documented extensively. These are just a few observations I’ve made during my first few weeks of travel in Brazil. In my opinion, a Spanish speaker would probably only need about 2-3 months of immersion to be conversationally fluent in Portuguese as opposed to the average 6 months for other less closely related Indo-European languages and 9+ months for non-related languages. Once again, this is only based on observations within the context of my travel and language learning experiences.
As for B. Portuguese, I have learned a lot during my first few weeks here. It was difficult for me to study Portuguese preemptively, probably because of the lack of tangible results. However, once in-country, anything learnt is extremely valuable and immediately applicable. Much is learnt in day to day interactions and conversation. I started out with what I call bullshit Portuguese (Spanish spoken with a pseudo-Brazilian accent), but is moving more and more everyday to the correct pronunciation and grammar. Besides day to day conversation, I find a dictionary with IPA pronunciation, a simple grammar book, and Pimsleur audio lessons (available for free download on thepiratebay, or so I hear…) to be useful. Excuse the density of this post, I had to nerd out for a bit but I will post pictures and interesting tidbits once I can upload pictures next month.


2 thoughts on “From Spanish to Portuguese

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