Just as Spanish, French, Italian and Romanian, Portuguese is considered to be a Romance language. In another words, it has had its very beginning in Vulgar Latin which came through the Roman invasion in 218 B.C. into the Iberian Peninsula – the area where Portugal and Spain are located today.
The Origin of European Portuguese
The name Vulgar Latin itself tells you that this was not a refined language. Even though, Latin was the language spoken in Rome by the magistrate and the highly educated people, they did not come to the Iberian Peninsula. It was the Roman soldiers, and the uneducated settlers and merchants who came in contact with the population in the Peninsula. As the Roman Empire spread throughout the area, Vulgar Latin became the official language in the whole Iberian Peninsula for many years. But, it still had some influence from the previous language that existed there before.
In 711, when the Roman Empire was weakened, the Arab people invaded the Peninsula imposing the Arabic language into the area. In spite of that, the people continued speaking their own version of Latin leading to three different dialects: Catalan, Castilian y Galician-Portuguese.
Then, the Galician-Portuguese branched out into two new languages: Galician and Portuguese. Portuguese became the established language in the south of the Peninsula, the area of Lisbon, and consequently, into the area that was later called Portugal. With the expansion of the Portuguese Empire, this language reached areas in Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.
The Origin of Brazilian Portuguese
When the Portuguese settlers arrived in Brazil in 1500, the native population spoke a type of Tupi-Guarani language. With the help of the Jesuits, who learned the indigenous language, both Portuguese and the language of the land were spoken until 1557. By this time, many immigrants had arrived in Brazil, and the Portuguese Crown prohibited the use of the Tupi-Guarani. In 1559, when the Jesuits were expelled from the new found land, Portuguese became the official language of Brazil. Even so, there was a strong influence of the Tupi-Guarani language in our Portuguese.
Later, with the slave trade, our language received many contributions from the African languages spoken by the slaves, especially from Nigeria and Angola.
After 1822, when Brazil became independent from the colonization of Portugal, there was no more Influence from the Crown into our language. Then, many people from different areas of Europe began to immigrate to the center and south of Brazil bringing the influence of their languages.
Even though Brazilian Portuguese as it stands today has evolved from Vulgar Latin, it undoubtedly has gone through the influence of a wonderful mixture of languages from the foreigners who in a way or another settled in Brazil. This process resulted into a variety of accents in the different regions of Brazil, and also in the subtle differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese.
Check out what else you might want to learn about the Portuguese language in our All About Portuguese page.