This question is about the accent of speakers of pt-BR, pt-AN and pt-MZ when compared to pt-PT.

Ever since Angola and Mozambique got their independence from Portugal in 1975, Brazil has received quite a few immigrants from both nations. Since my first contact with them, I’ve found their accents to sound much more like the Portuguese accent than the Brazilian accent does, and I’ve wondered why.

As far as I know, from the sixteenth century onwards, the Portuguese presence in Brazil has been much stroger than in Angola or Mozambique. Brazil was home to the Portuguese Court from 1808 to 1822, and the heart of the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves from 1815 to 1822. In addition, an estimated number of 950,000 Portuguese immigrants entered Brazil from 1500 to 1822, plus 1,770,000 from 1836 to 1968, according to official data. That represents a lot more than those who left Portugal for the African colonies. The distance from Portugal to Brazil, Angola and Mozambique doesn’t seem to be an important factor either. Whereas Angola and Brazil seem to be equidistant to Portugal, Mozambique is certainly much farther away. All things considered, I cannot understand why pt-BR sounds more different from pt-PT than do pt-AN and pt-MZ, and I wonder whether there is an explanation for that.

I’ve also considered the possibility that this assumption may be wrong and that spoken pt-AN and pt-MZ sound just as different from pt-PT as pt-BR does. If that be the case, this question would be totally off-topic, imo.

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    You're right. There are noticeable differences between spoken pr_BR and pt_PT whereas the African variants sound much more like the European. Just a comment, not an answer, but... The African nations gained their independence 153 years later than Brazil. Perhaps that account for the difference. – CelticWarrior Oct 2 '16 at 4:38
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    I think where you say «original Portuguese accent» you mean '21th century European Portuguese accent'. – Jacinto Oct 2 '16 at 15:31
  • @Jacinto Not only 21st Century, but the Portuguese spoken by those who were born and raised in Portugal. – Centaurus Oct 2 '16 at 15:37
  • Yes, that's what '21st century European Portuguese' is: the Portuguese spoken presently by people raised in Portugal. – Jacinto Oct 2 '16 at 15:52
  • To boil it down, Portuguese in Africa is a language of colonization and Portuguese in Brazil was not. This is very similar to varieties of English, too. English in Africa is closer to BrE than AmE. Same reason. – Lambie Oct 4 '16 at 23:24

African Portuguese accents vary a good deal, as do Brazilian and to a lesser extent European Portuguese accents, but African and European accents are indeed much closer to each other than either of them is to Brazilian Portuguese. See this question about accents in Portuguese-speaking Africa, Portugal and Brazil. I cannot account for all the differences and similarities, but one good reason is that European and Brazilian Portuguese have been evolving autonomously for two or three centuries whereas African Portuguese is basically a recent offshoot of 20th century European Portuguese.

Portuguese settlement in Brazil started in earnest in the mid-1500s. According to estimates colonial Brazil had 100,000 people by 1600, 300,000 by 1700, and around 3.5 million by 1800, so surpassing Portugal towards the end of this period. At an early stage, while the colonial population was still small, the influx of new people from Portugal may have kept accents evolving in tandem in Portugal and Brazil. But at some point the Portuguese-speaking community in Brazil became large enough, so that newcomers would have little or no influence. Note that children pick up the accent from other children, not their own parents. So children coming from Portugal, or born in Brazil to Portuguese parents would pick up the Brazilian accent.

So accents in Portugal and Brazil began diverging. For instance beginning in the 1700s people in Portugal embarked on a wholesale reduction of pre-tonic vowels that Brazilians never took up (see Sérgio Carvalho, As Pretônicas < e > e < o > no Português do Brasil e no Português Europeu, 2010). So in Portugal corcovado is now pronounced /kuɾkuˈvadu/ (/kɔɾkɔ’vadu/ or (/kɔʁkɔ’vadu/ in Brazil); parada is pronounced /pɐˈɾadɐ/ (/paˈɾadɐ/ in Brazil; so the first a is closed as the last one in Portugal, but open as the second one in Brazil). As for pre-tonic e, in Portugal it is now often nearly or completely elided, so that Teresa will be pronounced /tɨˈɾezɐ/ or simply /’tɾezɐ/ (but /teˈɾezɐ/ in Brazil). This in turn enabled, I think, the stress-timed rhythm of European Portuguese, whereas Brazil kept a more syllable-timed rhythm typical of the other West Iberian languages.

This in my view accounts for most of the difference between Brazilian and European Portuguese accents (Sérgio Carvalho, more cautiously, says it is perhaps one of the most important differences; but let a Brazilian read out loud, without inserting any extra vowel sounds, Treza qria vzitar u curcuvado, and let me know what the listners think). The change process began in Portugal after the Portuguese language was well established in Brazil, but was fairly complete when people started migrating from Portugal to Angola and Mozambique in large numbers in the 20th century.

Portugal had kept coastal outposts in Africa from the 1500s, but, with the exception of Cape Verde, Portuguese presence there was very limited before the 20th century, and no significant Portuguese-speaking communities developed. See Wikipédia article on Angolan Portuguese and Perpétua Gonçalves História da Língua Portuguesa em Mozambique, 2000.

For instance the 18th century Afro-Portuguese elite in Angola spoke kimbundu as their mother language and Portuguese as second language only (Wikipédia). Portuguese presence in Mozambique was even less significant, so much so that until 1752 Mozambique was administered from Portuguese India (Perpétua Gonçalves).

Portugal effectively occupied the Angolan and Mozambican territories only in the late 1800s and early 1900s. And It was only after that that significant numbers of Portuguese people settled there, and took 20th century European Portuguese with them. It was from these people that significant numbers of native Angolans and Mozambicans first learned Portuguese. Still not everybody speaks Portuguese there today. In 2007 only 50% of Mozambicans spoke Portuguese, and only 11% as mother language (Wikipédia). In Angola 71% of the population speaks Portuguese (Wikipédia).

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  • Great answer. I cannot speak for African nations but Brazil is big and get a lot of influence from other eropean powers like France, Dutch and Spain and most recently Italy, Germany and Japan – jean Oct 6 '16 at 11:49
  • @jean It's true that Brazil is a large country - the fifth largest in the world. And it's also true that we received a huge number of immigrants from Italy, Germany and Japan during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But not from France or the Netherlands, I'm afraid.. That great influx of foreigners accounts for regional differences within Brazil, but not the differences between spoken pt-PT and pt-BR. – Centaurus Oct 8 '16 at 1:24
  • @jean Glad you liked. I’m no expert on language evolution, but I’ve read a little. And it looks as though accents are driven mostly by internal dynamics, not so much by external influence. Portuguese is a case in point. Linguists I’ve heard say that, starting from the 16th-17th centuries common origin, it was European, not Brazilian, Portuguese accent that changed the most (that vowel reduction thing; I wonder whether someone has run the «Treza qria vzitar o curcuvadu» experiment I suggested), and there was no significant immigration into Portugal. So in Portugal it was all internal dynamics. – Jacinto Oct 8 '16 at 9:09
  • @Centaurus Yes we got Dutch immigrants from Netherlands for more than 20 years, Portugual+Spain and Netherlands issued an war for it and in the end Portugual win. We got French settlements in Rio Janeiro, Paraíba and Maranhão. In fact São Luís got it's name from the french king. I'm no linguist and don't want a flame war. Just pointing out we got a lot of mixing. In fact there are a lot of brazilian portuquese words derived form tupi-guarani and from the african slaves. Also I know a few word in portuguese come from portugual settlements in India – jean Oct 10 '16 at 10:31
  • @jean The French and Dutch settlements in Brazil were short-lived and were not considered immigration. They were invasions and the invaders were eventually driven out of Brazil by the Portuguese. They didn't stay here long enough to leave any important contribution. The influence the French invasion had in our culture, habits and language can be compared to that of the short-lived Swedish settlement in Delaware, USA. The Dutch stayed a little longer, 24 years, but not in the most populated area. Nor were they accepted by their neighboring Portuguese immigrants. – Centaurus Oct 17 '16 at 1:43

All "isolated" languages evolve differently, to a greater or lesser extent. American English is different, both in accent and grammar to British English. Quebecois French is different to standard French. South American Spanish is different to Castilian. Maybe this last is the closest comparison to Brazilian and Continental Portuguese, where both vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation differ.

One reason is that the "isolated" language tends to maintain connections to the region from where the original speakers came - and regional variations centuries ago may have been greater than today. People in Portugal can tell where someone grew up from their accent and usage of the language, so imagine what it was like when there was no unifying source of radio or television. A second reason is due to isolation and changes over time, this is because every language has many words with similar meanings and many ways to say the same thing, so if one "dialect" starts to use one rather than another, variations occur in the spoken language. This is especially true of "new" or "borrowed" words.... like bus, or train, etc. which didn't exist at the first separation.

Different outside influences over time can also affect this - for years after the early C19th, the "second language" taught in Portugal was French, so influences from that would occur, whereas Brazil is surrounded by Spanish speaking nations and also had immigrants from many other countries.

Lastly, language has become more "standardised" over the past 100 years or so, which has cemented differences between dialects that no longer have a connection.

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    Your answer explains how isolation brings about differences. It doesn't explain, however, why the people of Mozambique, which is much farther away from Portugal than Brazil, still keep an accent and vocabulary much closer to pt-PT than br-PT does. – Centaurus May 15 at 17:02

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