Portuguese Information

Portuguese is a Romance language that originated in what is now Galicia and northern Portugal. It is derived from the Latin spoken by the romanized pre-Roman peoples of the Iberian Peninsula around 2000 years ago. It spread worldwide in the 15th and 16th centuries as Portugal established a colonial and commercial empire that spanned from Brazil in the Americas to Goa and other parts of India, Macau in China, Timor and the five African countries that make up the PALOP lusophone space

Today it is one of the world's major languages, ranked seventh according to number of native speakers . It is the language of about half of South America's population, even though Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas. It is also a major lingua franca in Portugal's former colonial possessions in Africa. It is an official language in nine countries , also being co-official with Cantonese Chinese in Macau and Tetum in East Timor. There are sizeable communities of Portuguese speakers in various regions of North America, notably in the United States and in Ontario, Canada .

In various aspects, the system of sounds in Portuguese is more similar to the phonologies of Catalan or French than, say, those of Spanish or Italian. Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes once called Portuguese "the sweet language",Lope de Vega referred to it as "sweet" while Brazilian writer Olavo Bilac poetically described it as a última flor do Lácio, inculta e bela: "the last flower of Latium, wild and beautiful". Portuguese is also termed "the language of Camões", after one of Portugal's best known literary figures, Luís Vaz de Camões.

Wikipedia, Portuguese, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portuguese_language (as of Apr 8, 2010)

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