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The word portunhol is a portmanteau of the words Portugués/Português ("Portuguese") and Español/Espanhol ("Spanish").
Portunhol is a lingua franca, or simplified mixture of the two languages that allows speakers of either Spanish of Portuguese who are not proficient in the other language to communicate with one another. When speakers of one of the languages attempt to speak the other language, there is often interference from the native language, which causes the phenomenon of code-switching to occur. It is possible to conduct a moderately fluent conversation in this way because Portuguese and Spanish are closely related Romance languages. They have almost identical syntactic structures, as well as overlapping lexicons due to cognates, which means that a single macro-grammar is produced when the two mix. The phrase en el hueco de la noite longa e langue illustrates a code-switch between the Spanish article la and the Portuguese noun noite. This example reveals the grammatical possibilities of code-switching between the two languages.
Language contact between Spanish and Portuguese is the result of sustained contact between the two languages in border communities and multilingual trade environments. Such regions include the border regions between Portugal and Spain, as well as the ones between Brazil, whose official language is Portuguese, and most of its neighboring countries, such as Uruguay and Paraguay, whose official languages are Spanish. Because Portuñol is a spontaneous register resulting from the occasional mixing of Spanish and Portuguese, it is highly diverse; there is no one dialect or standard of Portuñol. There does, however, tend to be a stronger presence of Spanish in Portuñol.
In recent years, Portuñol has begun to appear in realms other than everyday speech. It has become a literary medium, especially in Uruguay and Brazil. María Jesus Fernández García describes it as a linguistic recreation of the actual language. However, she goes on to say that the literature only occasionally provides a true representation of Portuñol, and that authors often choose to select only some of the features that are characteristic of Portuñol. One important literary work written in Portuñol is Mar paraguayo by Brazilian author Wilson Bueno. The following passage shows the mixing of Spanish and Portuguese in his novel.
|Hoje me vejo diante de seu olhar de morto, este homem que me faz dançar castanholas na cama, que me faz sofrer, que me faz, que me construiu de dor e sangue, o sangue que verteu minha vida amarga. Desde seus ombros, meu destino igual àquele feito de um punhal na chave direita do coração.1 Agora neste momento, eu não sei o que falar com sua cara dura, roxos2 os olhos soterrados, estes que eram meus olhos.||“Hoy me vejo adelante de su olhar de muerto, esto hombre que me hace dançar castanholas en la cama, que me hace sofrir, que me hace, que me há construído de dolor y sangre, la sangre que vertiô mi vida amarga. Desde sus ombros, mi destino igual quel hecho de uno punhal en la clave derecha del corazón.1 Ahora en neste momento, yo no sê que hablar com su cara dura, rojos2 los olhos soterrados, estos que eram mis ojos.”||Hoy me veo adelante de su mirada de muerto, este hombre que me hace bailar castañuelas en la cama, que me hace sufrir, que me hace, que me ha construido de dolor y sangre, la sangre que vertió mi vida amarga. Desde sus hombros, mi destino igual aquél hecho de un puñal en la clave derecha del corazón.1 Ahora en este momento, yo no sé qué hablar con su cara dura, rojos2 los ojos soterrados, estos que eran mis ojos.|
The appearance of Portuñol has prompted two opposing opinions or attitudes towards its existence. On the one hand, it is viewed as the product of laziness among speakers unwilling to learn a different language. On the other hand, it is seen as the logical product of globalization. As far as the future of Portuñol is concerned, according to Francisco A. Marcos Marín, it is too difficult to evaluate possible repercussions that Portuñol could have on future linguistic maps because it is not easy to separate linguistic tendencies that are merely in style and those that are permanent.
- Fernández García, Mª Jesús. "Portuñol y literatura." Revista de estudios extremeños 62.II (2006): 555-577.
- Marcos Marín, Francisco. "De lenguas y fronteras: el espanglish y el portuñol."Nueva revista de política, cultura y arte 74 (2001): 70-79.
- Lipski, John M (2006). "Too close for comfort? the genesis of "portuñol/portunhol"" (PDF). In Face, Timothy L; Klee, Carol A. Selected Proceedings of the 8th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium (Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project): 1–22. Retrieved 2008-12-29.
- Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.), 2013. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Seventeenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com.
- Bueno, Wilson. 1992. Mar paraguayo. São Paulo: Editora Iluminuras, pg. 15