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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: February 2010

2 - Early Afro-Portuguese texts


The earliest Afro-Portuguese texts

The initial Afro-Portuguese linguistic contacts, and the concomitant formation of contact vernaculars, pidgins, and lingua francas, took place in West Africa, as well as aboard trading ships which plied the waters between southern Europe and the sub-Saharan African coast. Little is known about the specifics of the languages used by Africans and Europeans, but native and foreigner varieties of Portuguese were widely used throughout Africa, eventually extending along the entire Portuguese trade route, encompassing the South Asian subcontinent, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macao, Indonesia, and many Pacific islands. Naro (1978) has documented the use of many forms of Portuguese beginning in the fifteenth century, by ships' crews, slave traders, African and European merchants, slaves, and so forth. Frequently Portuguese was used as a lingua franca among individuals who did not use this language natively, thus contributing to the incipient pidginization of Portuguese outside of Europe, and the widespread acceptance of pidgin Portuguese forms as part of an emerging maritime vernacular whose traces are found in creole languages and nautical jargon throughout the world. The discussion involving Naro (1978, 1988, 1993), Goodman (1987a, 1987b), and Clements (1992, 1993) provides a good survey of the issues involved, as well as of the controversy surrounding both the input and the output of these multilingual contacts.

It is known through historical accounts that some Africans in coastal areas visited by the Portuguese, as well as inland in the Kongo kingdom, began learning the rudiments of Portuguese around the midpoint of the fifteenth century.