Bruno Oliveira Maroneze
The morphology and syntax of both
varieties of Portuguese differ in many aspects. This small text describes
some of the most important differences between them. First, however, an
important remark must be done: most of EP characteristics are found in
BP written texts, because the BP normative grammar is built from EP spoken
BP inflection system is identical
to EP, but there is a syntactic peculiarity: in informal situations, only
the determiner of the noun phrase is pluralized. In EP, this is a dialectal
||os livros usados the
used books (lit. "the (masc. pl.) books used (pl.)")
||os livro usado the
used books (lit. "the (masc. pl.) book used (sg.)")
Sometimes, the plural is marked
on the possessive, even if an article precedes it. This phenomenon is not
very understood yet:
||os meus livros my
books ("the (masc. pl.) my (masc. pl.) books")
||o meus livro my
books ("the (masc. sg.) my (masc. pl.) books")
EP opposes /a/ and //
in first person plural of first conjugation verbs:
BP does not make this distinction, pronouncing
both with .
In some popular varieties, there is a (socially disregarded) distinction
between present and perfect preterite tense somewhat similar to this one
we sing (present tense) vs.
cant[a]mos we sang (“perfect preterite”
In Portuguese (both EP and BP), there
are two forms for the future tense:
BP (pop.): cantamos we
sing vs. cantemo we
Both forms are used in EP, but the first
one is highly formal in BP.
vou cantar lit.
‘I go to sing’
The conditional forms also have this
but in this case, both forms are used
in BP, although some quantitative studies point to a preference of the
second one. In both varieties, the “imperfect preterite” form sometimes
substitutes the conditional:
ia cantar lit.
I went to sing
The continuous tenses are formed with
the gerund in BP, but with the preposition
a + infinitive, in EP:
Se eu pudesse ser menino / eu roubava
essa rosa. (1)
If I could
be a boy, I would steal that rose.
If I could be boy I stole (imp. pret.) that rose).
The existential construction is formed
with the verb haver in EP, but in BP, this verb is used only in formal
situations; instead, BP uses the verb ter ‘to have’:
BP: estou comendo I
EP: estou a comer lit.
I am to eat.
EP: Há gente nesta casa.
There are people in this house.
BP: Tem gente nesta casa. lit.
Have people in this house.
There are very important differences
between BP and EP in the usage of pronouns.
The relative pronoun cujo
‘whose’ (from Latin cujus) is used
only in EP (and sometimes in written BP). Instead, BP uses a different
form of relativization:
||O autor cujo livro eu li.
The author whose book I read. ("The author whose
book I read.")
||O autor que eu li o livro
dele. ("The author that I read the book of-him.")
This different form is also used
in other relative constructions:
||O menino com quem eu falei.
The boy with whom I talked. ("The boy whom I talked
||O menino que eu falei com ele.
("The boy that I talked with him.")
This was the subject of a very important
study by Fernando Tarallo (1983).
Personal pronouns and the verbal paradigm
BP doesn’t know the second person
plural pronoun vós ‘you’ pl.,
and the second person singular pronoun tu ‘you’
sg. is used only in some regions. Instead, BP uses the pronouns
and vocês (pl.), which
come from the old treatment form Vossa Mercê ‘your
mercy’, originally a formal treatment (in EP, this form has yet
the original sense). Compare with Spanish usted(es) and Catalan
which have the same etymology. BP verbal paradigm, then, is reduced to
four (or three, depending on the tense) person forms:
The first person plural pronoun
is being substituted by the expression a gente ‘the
people’, in a way similar to the French pronoun “on”; so, the first
person plural form becomes identical to the third person singular. My study,
do Sujeito no Português Brasileiro”, deals with some implications
of this new BP paradigm.
Possessive and demonstrative adjectives/pronouns
The use of the form você(s)
made important changes on the use of possessives. First, the form vosso(s)
/ vossa(s) (which corresponds to vós) is not used; second,
there is a confusion between the forms teu(s) / tua(s) (corresponding
to the old pronoun tu) and the forms seu(s) / sua(s) (third
person forms, and also corresponding to the pronoun você(s)):
||teu livro your
||seu livro your
book or his / her book
This confusion forces the use of
the forms dele(s) / dela(s) ‘of him’, ‘of
her’, ‘of them’ to distinguish:
o livro dele
o livro dela
o livro deles
o livro delas
or his / her book
his book (lit.
‘the book of him’)
The demonstrative system also became
reduced, but probably not because of the use of você(s); maybe
for phonological reasons:
este / esta / isto
esse / essa / isso
aquele / aquela / aquilo(2)
him / her / them)
esse / essa / isso
aquele / aquela / aquilo
(or este / esta /
As one can see, in BP there is no
distinction between este and esse, except in written texts.
Position of clitics
These are some of the most important
differences between BP and EP, and have been very seriously studied.
The position of object clitics in
EP is largely conservative, corresponding to an early stage of Romance
languages; BP, on the other hand, has innovated accompanying the changes
in the other Romance languages.
While in EP the clitics are mainly
enclitic, in BP (and in other Romance languages) proclisis is preferred:
In EP, sentences cannot begin with an
object clitic (Tobler-Mussafia Law):
EP: Ela viu-me. She
BP: Ela me viu.
Fr.: Elle m’a vu.
It.: Lei m’ha veduto.
Sp.: Ella me ha visto.
BP allows proclisis even in imperative
sentences, unlike other Romance languages:
EP: Deram-me este livro. Someone
gave me this book.
EP: * Me deram este livro.
BP: Me deram este livro.
The pronoun você(s) has
no object clitic form; because of that, the non-clitic form of the clitic
te (corresponding to the old pronoun tu) are used:
EP: Dê-me um cigarro. Give
me a cigarette.
BP: Me dá um cigarro.(3)
||Eu te amo. I
love you. (with the clitic te)
Eu amo você. (with
the non-clitic form)
The third person (non-reflexive)
clitics are not commonly used in BP; instead, the nominative pronouns are
Câmara Jr. (1957) proposes the
following stages for the evolution of this phenomenon:
EP: Visitei-o ontem. I
visited him yesterday.
BP: Visitei ele ontem.
I. The clitic is proclitic, following
the general tendency in BP:
O visitei ontem.
II. The first vowel of the phonological
word (i. e., the clitic) undergoes apheresis, a common phenomenon in BP
(compare with imagina => magina imagine!):
[o] Visitei ontem.
There are many other differences between
both varieties, like the loss of third person forms in imperatives and
the reduced usage of inflected infinitives in BP, which deserve a larger
and more detailed study. But I hope this small paper is sufficient to show
the main aspects of the Portuguese spoken on both sides of the Atlantic.
III. The nominative pronoun must be
used to substitute the clitic. This is sometimes extended to other persons:
Olha eu instead of Me
olha (‘Look at me!’), but this is socially
CÂMARA Jr., Joaquim Mattoso (1957)
Ele como acusativo no português do Brasil. In: FGV. Dispersos.
Rio de Janeiro, 1972, p. 47-53.
___. (1972) História e estrutura
da língua portuguesa. Rio de Janeiro: Padrão.
CASTILHO, Ataliba T. de (1999) O
Português do Brasil. In: ILARI, Rodolfo. Lingüística
Românica. São Paulo: Ática.
TEYSSIER, Paul (1997) História
da língua portuguesa. São Paulo: Martins Fontes.
TARALLO, Fernando (1983) Relativization
strategies in Brazilian Portuguese. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.
___. (1994) Tempos Lingüísticos:
itinerário histórico da língua portuguesa. São
2001 Written for Orbis Latinus by Bruno
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