Portuguese in Africa

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The PALOP, highlighted in red
The first contact of Africa to Portugal after its discovery of the Congo river in the 15th century. Africa is home to the fastest growing Portuguese-speaking countries, making Africa a major player in the future development of Portuguese as an international language in the 21st century.

Portuguese in the African continent is spoken in a number of African states and is the official language in five of these. These states are: Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe There are Portuguese-speaking communities in most countries of Southern Africa, a mixture of Portuguese settlers and Angolans and Mozambicans who left their countries during the civil wars. A rough estimate has it that there are about 14 million Portuguese speakers across Africa,[1] but depending on the criteria applied, the number might even be considerably higher. Like French and English, Portuguese has become a post-colonial language in Africa and one of the working languages of the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Portuguese co-exists in Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Principe with Portuguese-based creoles (Upper Guinea and Gulf of Guinea Creoles), and in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bissau with autochthonous African languages (mainly Niger–Congo family).

In Africa, Portuguese experiences pressure and possibly competition from French and English. Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau and São Tomé and Príncipe are all members of La Francophonie and Mozambique is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and has observer status at La Francophonie. Conversely, Equatorial Guinea has announced its decision to introduce Portuguese as its third official language, in addition to Spanish and French, and has made a request for membership in the CPLP. Mauritius and Senegal have also joined the CPLP as associate observer members.

Geographic distribution[edit]

The nation-states with Portuguese as an official language in Africa are referred to by the acronym PALOP (Países Africanos de Língua Oficial Portuguesa) and include the following: Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe. Portuguese is a primarily urban language having a reduced presence in rural areas, except for in Angola and São Tomé and Príncipe, where the language is more widespread.

South Africa also has approximately 300,000 speakers of Portuguese, primarily settlers from Madeira and white Angolans and Mozambicans who emigrated from 1975 onwards, following the independence of the former colonies. The civil wars in Angola and Mozambique also resulted in more recent migrations of refugees (some of whom speak Portuguese) to neighbouring countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, Zambia and South Africa. Other migrations involved returning Afro-Brazilian ex-slaves to places such as Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Angola and Mozambique. There are also some returning white Portuguese African refugees and their descendants from Brazil, Portugal, and South Africa to their former African-controlled territories, mostly to Angola and Mozambique, and most importantly, there is the arrival of Portuguese post-colonial settlers in Angola in the recent years, because of Portugal's economic interests and Angolan economic boom.

Senegal has its own Lusophone connection with a significant community of Cape Verdeans in Dakar and speakers of Guinea-Bissau Creole in its southern region of Casamance, which was once part of the Portuguese colonial empire. Portuguese is taught as a foreign language throughout the country.[2] In 2008, Senegal became an observer nation in the CPLP.

Equatorial Guinea, at one point a Portuguese colony, is home to a Portuguese-based Creole and is an observer nation in the CPLP. Portuguese is in the process of being declared an official in Equatorial Guinea.

Mauritius, a multilingual island in the Indian Ocean, has strong cultural ties with Mozambique. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to encounter the island. In 2006, Mauritius joined the CPLP as an associate member.

As a fellow member of the SADC, Zambia has introduced Portuguese language instruction in its primary school system, partially due to the presence of a large Angolan population there.[3]

The role of Portuguese in Africa[edit]

As an official language, Portuguese serves in the realms of administration, education, law, politics and media. Given the existing linguistic diversity of the PALOPs, Portuguese also serves the purpose of lingua franca allowing communication between fellow citizens of different ethno-linguistic backgrounds.

Additionally, Portuguese connects the PALOP countries to one another and to Portugal, East Timor, Macau and Brazil, itself a former Portuguese colony.

Music is one way in which the linguistic profiles of PALOP have increased. Many recording artists from PALOP, in addition to singing in their maternal languages, sing in Portuguese to one degree or another. The success of these artists in the world music industry increases international awareness of Portuguese as an African language.

As a literary language, Portuguese has a strong role in the PALOP. Authors such as Luandino Vieira, Mia Couto, Lopito Feijóo, Luis Kandjimbo, Manuel Rui or Ondjaki have made valuable contributions to lusophone literature, prompting an African scent and ideas to the language and creating a place for the Portuguese language in the African imaginary.

Media[edit]

Portuguese is the language of journalism, which serves as a vehicle for the dissemination of the language. Literacy being an issue, radio serves as an important source of information for Lusophone Africans.

BBC Para África, RFI and RTP África are all media outlets that make a point of presenting Portuguese as an African language aside from its origins in Europe.

African varieties of Portuguese abroad[edit]

As a result of immigration to Portugal various varieties of African Portuguese have influenced contemporary speech in Portugal. In the 1970s, it came from white people from the former colonies (referred to as Retornados). More recent immigration from the PALOPs has resulted in a visible demographic of black and brown Portuguese who have strong links to Lusophone Africa.

In Brazil, many of the indigenous African languages that influence African Portuguese had the same influence historically on the formation of Brazilian Portuguese during the colonial period, especially lexically.

Local norms and norms of reference[edit]

In Africa, Standard Portuguese (Português-padrão), based on European Portuguese spoken in Coimbra and Lisbon, forms the basis for the written and spoken norm, although there are local variations of the language. As the number of both L1 and L2 speakers increases, one can see the emergence of distinct national varieties of Portuguese specific to each country. Some aspects of phonology of African dialects in Angola, and São Tomé and Príncipe share similarities with Brazilian dialects, this has historical motivations, although younger generations and upper class, in both countries, tend to use standard (European) pronunciation.

In Angolan Journalism, both the "estar+gerund" and the "estar+infinitive" constructions are acceptable for the present progressive tense. Another example is in pronominal syntax where the placement of object pronouns can be placed before or after the relevant verb. In Cape Verdean Portuguese, compound tenses are favoured over simple tenses due to the influence of Cape Verdean Creole.

Unlike Portugal and Brazil, the PALOPs are multilingual societies. Wilson Trajano Filho differentiates between Brazil and Portugal which are focused speech communities and the PALOPs which are diffused speech communities. Omar Ribeiro Thomaz maintains that Portuguese is used to communicate concepts and realities unique to each society.[4]

In the varieties of Portuguese spoken in the Mainland PALOPs, this results in large amounts of lexical borrowing from these languages. In Angola and Mozambique, large numbers of Portuguese words have been incorporated into their indigenous languages. Portuguese is the main source of new words for the various lusophone creoles spoken on the continent. This complex relationship between Portuguese and these other languages has implications for language planning in the African member states of the CPLP.

Creoles[edit]

Any discussion of the role of the Portuguese language in Africa must take into account the various Portuguese creoles that have developed there. These languages co-exist with Portuguese and, in the countries where they are spoken, form a continuum with the lexifying language.

In Cape Verde, Crioulo levinho refers to a variety of Cape Verdean Creole which takes on various features of Portuguese and is a result of processes of code switching, bilingualism and diglossia in the archipelago. In Sāo Tome e Principe, Santomense Portuguese is a variety of Portuguese strongly influenced by Forro in syntax and vocabulary. Since the lexicons of those languages are derived from Portuguese, even creole-speakers who do not speak Portuguese have a passive knowledge of it.

In addition, Portuguese creoles have often been (and often continue to be) written using Portuguese orthography. An important issue in discussions of standardization of creoles is whether it is better to devise a truly phonetic orthography or to choose an etymological one based on Portuguese.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Future of Portuguese". BB Portuguese. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Over 17,000 Senegalese learning Portuguese
  3. ^ Zambia to introduce Portuguese into school curriculum
  4. ^ Brazilian Anthropologists in Africa

External links[edit]