Mother Tongue

Last Edited: 07 May 2022

Language - here we are talking about what our early ancestors, great-grandparents and grandparents spoke. Time has led to a change between the language spoken then and that spoken today.

Having descended from the Iberian peninsula, our first known ancestors would have spoken an older form of Portuguese before it gradually evolved into the Açoreano Portuguese dialect. This then changed to Patuá - a creole version of Portuguese, with the colonization of Mação. For the families descended from Ludovico Miguel Cordeiro who moved on to Singapore, the Portuguese spoken eventually developed into Kristang. Kristang is the creole Portuguese spoken in Malacca. A sizable number of Portuguese from Malacca migrated to Singapore bringing with them this form of creole. 

Today, we are more comfortable expressing ourselves in English (with accents - American, Australian, British, Canadian, Scottish, Singlish), Patuá and Cantonese! 

We will take a look at the Portuguese language and how creole differs from the main language.

Portuguese has its roots and foundation in Latin, the language of the Romans who for centuries occupied the Iberian Peninsula. It is also commonly referred to as Lusitanian or Luso, named after the Lusitanians who occupied the lands between the Tagus and Minho rivers in Portugal. They are considered to be the true ancestors of the Portuguese. The vulgar Latin that was spoken throughout the peninsula eventually evolved into the present day languages of Catalan, Galician, Castilian and Portuguese.

... Portuguese has
of a Genoese/Italian cadence, with nasal overtones
similar to

During the Moorish occupation of Portugal - which lasted 500 years or so - the Moors introduced approximately 600 Arabic words into the Portuguese language. Portuguese also contains many Italian, French and Greek words as well. Depending on whom you speak with, you would get different opinions of Portuguese pronunciation, vocabulary, etc.

The Portuguese are notorious for slurring syllables and chewing up word endings. Thankfully, educated Portuguese tend to enunciate their words more clearly and speak more melodically. According to the Ethnologue, Portuguese is approx. 89% similar to Spanish.

Insofar as pronunciation is concerned, Portuguese has somewhat of a Genoese/Italian cadence, with nasal overtones similar to French.

Some Portuguese Phrases ...

Good day! Bom dia! [bõ 'dia!] Good afternoon! Boa tarde! ['boa 'tardə!] Hello! Olá! [o'la!] How are you? Como está? ['komu isch'ta?] Fine, thanks. Bem obrigado. [bẽi ubri'gadu] What's your name? Como se chama? ['komu ße 'schãma?]

The Portuguese language ranks fifth in the world with an estimated 200 million speakers worldwide. Portuguese is the official language of Portugal (including Açores and Madeira), Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde Islands, São Tomé & Príncipe islands and up until 1999, Mação - although Cantonese was always the lingua franca for 98% of the Macanese.

A creole language is a language which has been derived from a pidgin that has become the native language of a group of people. On their settlement in the various colonies, the Portuguese had to communicate with the locals and vice-versa. In time, words from the local language became incorporated in the main language and formed part of it. Both Kristang, the creole spoken in Malacca and Patuá spoken in Mação were colourfully spiced up with Singhalese, Malay and Cantonese words. Grammar and syntax were kept rudimentary.

Kristang originated after the conquest of Malacca in 1511 by the Portuguese. The community of speakers are descended mainly from marriages between Portuguese settlers and local Malay women, as well as a certain number of migrants from Goa, themselves of mixed Indian and Portuguese ancestry. Kristang had a substantial influence on Patuá due to the substantial migration from Malacca to Mação after Malacca’s takeover by the Dutch. Its grammatical structure is similar to that of the Malay language. Even after Portugal lost Malacca and almost all contact, the Kristang community largely preserved its language. The language is not taught at school, although there are still some Church services in Portuguese.

Patuá developed mainly among Mação’s Portuguese settlers after the mid-16th century when Mação became the hub for portuguese naval, commercial and religious activities in East Asia. These settlers often married women from Malacca and Sri Lanka and so the language had strong Malay and Singhalese influence from the beginning. In the 17th century it was further influenced and strengthened by the influx of immigrants from other Portuguese colonies in Asia, especially from Malacca, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Patuá is on the brink of extinction and is spoken by Mação’s Eurasian minority (about 2% of the population) and some of the Macanese diaspora overseas. Large efforts are being made to preserve it.

Wikepedia – Kristang
Wikepedia - Patuá