Standardization in Portuguese: pan-lusophone or pluricentric codification?
2022-04-12, 10:00–10:30 (Europe/Vienna), Room 1

Standardization in Portuguese: pan-lusophone or pluricentric codification?

The current standardization of Portuguese is inevitably associated with an ontological and political question: what is the Portuguese language today and what we want it to be? Is it the common language of the Portuguese-speaking world, though still idealized and lusocentric? Is it a pluricentric language, but still revolving around the European and Brazilian standards? Is it an international language, even though it is still multinational? Is it one language or two – “Portuguese” and “Brazilian”?

Portuguese is a pluricentric language with two dominant national standardized varieties, namely European Portuguese (EP) and Brazilian Portuguese (BP) and non-dominant, non-standardized varieties, such as, among other, Mozambican Portuguese (MP) and Angolan Portuguese (AP) which are at an advanced stage of nativization. Lectometric and socio-cognitive research on lexical and constructional variables confirms the ongoing process of divergence between European and Brazilian standards and points to a situation of symmetric pluricentricity between the two national varieties (cf. Soares da Silva 2014, 2016). The emergence of African varieties of Portuguese, especially MP and AP, is already observable and studied (e.g. Gonçalves 2005, 2010, 2013; Inverno 2018), and there is empirical evidence for the Afro-Brazilian continuum hypothesis (Petter 2009; Álvarez López, Gonçalves & Avelar 2018), due to a Bantu substratum and contact-induced changes. Demographic projection data from Portuguese-speaking countries and data on the demolinguistic evolution of Portuguese until the end of the 21st century show a high population increase in the Portuguese-speaking African countries, especially in Angola and Mozambique, and point to a dramatic increase of African Portuguese and the increasing pluricentricity of Portuguese (cf. Oliveira 2016).

The current trend in Portuguese language policy is to promote the participation of all Portuguese-speaking countries in a multilateral, rather than bilateral, management model. Nevertheless, Portugal and Brazil will probably keep their dominant status, while other countries without a standard will have difficulty being as involved as the former. Another trend is the development of common foundations for the language (currently limited to spelling) in order to establish Portuguese as an international language in a globalized world. Although current policies acknowledge and value the extensive variation of Portuguese across national varieties, it is not yet clear whether they will lead to a truly pluricentric codification of several standards (each with its own dynamic), or to a pan-Lusophone codification of a supranational educated norm, as a guiding reference to facilitate international cooperation, or even a mix of both. In addition, the idea of an international Portuguese as a “balanced standard” between Portugal and Brazil that should be taught internationally (Mulinacci 2016) remains ineffective so far. Taking into account the linguistic and demolinguistic pluricentricity indicators, it will be argued that more important than a pan-Lusophone supranational model to which some romantic and rationalist language policies seem to aspire, there should be more comparative studies on the established and emerging standards, with a view to undertaking a real pluricentric codification of Portuguese.

Panel affiliation

European standard language culture. Comparative standardology in the 21s century: theoretical and methodological challenges


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Augusto Soares da Silva is Full Professor of Linguistics at the Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences of the Catholic University of Portugal. His research focuses on lexical semantics, grammar and conceptualization, and language variation and change within the framework of Cognitive Linguistics, adopting an empirical, usage-based approach. He is also interested in metaphor, ideology and discourse. He is the author of more than a hundred articles and many books on cognitive semantics, construction grammar, language pluricentricity, semantic change and the relationships between language, cognition and society. His book O Mundo dos Sentidos em Português: Polissemia, Semântica e Cognição (‘The World of Meanings in Portuguese: Polysemy, Semantics and Cognition’, 2006) won an international award from the Portuguese Language Society. More recently, he edited the book Pluricentricity: Language Variation and Sociocognitive Dimensions (Berlin/Boston, Mouton de Gruyter, 2014). He now coordinates two research projects on the comparison of European and Brazilian Portuguese: Lexical and Grammatical Convergence and Divergence, and Conceptualization of Emotions. He is a member of the scientific committee of various national and international journals as well as of the Societas Linguistica Europaea and of the International Cognitive Linguistics Association. He is the director of the Center for Philosophical and Humanistic Studies and coordinator of the Communications Sciences course and the PhD program in Linguistics.

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