CONVERSING IN COLONY: THE BRASÍLICA AND THE VULGAR IN PORTUGUESE AMERICA, 1500-1759
Johns Hopkins University
This dissertation casts light on a topic hitherto unstudied, of the colony-wide lingua francas of Portuguese America, the Brasílica and the Vulgar. It examines the first two hundred and fifty years of colonial history in the two administrative provinces of Portuguese America: the State of Brazil (Brazil) and the State of Maranhão and Pará (Amazônia). In early phases of contact and trade, communication between native American Indians and Europeans took place in the Tupi-Guarani languages which had already been prevalent along the Atlantic coast since the start of colonization (1500). This language continued as an interlanguage that bridged communications between Indians, Europeans and Africans during the beginning of permanent settlement (1530s) in Brazil. By the 1550s, the Brasílica, based on the Tupi-Guarani coastal languages, gained a standard format, a written, alphabetic form and a Christian register through language translation projects spearheaded by Jesuit missionaries. It was taught in schools and catechesis and grew to sustain interlingual relations until the late seventeenth century. In the early seventeenth century, the Brasílica expanded into Amazônia as an important interlanguage. Indian, European, African and American-born settlers who uprooted themselves and relocated to the northern colony brought the language with them. Jesuit missionaries trained in the Brasílica, Tupi-Guarani speaking Indian allies and crown policy were significant factors in maintaining the daily use of the language. In Amazônia, the Brasílica was named the official language of the colony (1686) but by 1722, its use was prohibited by ii the crown and replaced by the Portuguese language. At the same time, however, a new language, called by sources “the Vulgar,” had emerged, replacing the Brasílica’s historical dominance as colonial interlanguage and challenging efforts by the crown to introduce the Portuguese language as lingua franca. Central to this dissertation is a view of the constituents of the colonies by language group, an approach which permits new ways of viewing inter- and intra-group dynamics. The identification and study of the Vulgar, previously unknown in the scholarship, points in new directions of research and calls for cross-disciplinary investigations rooted in history, linguistics and anthropology.