Brazilian Languages – PART IV – Nheengatu
by Antônio Neto
Resulted from genetic relation of Ancient Tupi and colonialists imposes of a portuguese-tupi general language, nheengatu is a interesting language, which challenges any linguistic theory. Likewise sanskrit, general languages of South America blends linguistic and religious institutions, because nheengatu is the catholic language of Amazonia at present day, as sanskrit was the brahmanic language.
Since religious institutions tends to be more conservative and linguistic institutions tends to be more dinamic, nheengatu had some aspect of a artificial language, maintained under jesuits interests. However, languages of Rio Negro transpassing geographical barriers, with a notewhorty multilinguism among people from some regions of Colombia, Venezuela and northern Brazil. Because the extensive use of boats as a principal transport, its very common nheengatu speakers also communicate with portuguese, spanish and other indigenous languages like baniwa and curipaco, whereas tukano is considered for him a hard language to learn.
The strong of portuguese monolinguism was consolidated with expulsion of jesuits by Marques de Pombal (1757), which brought a big harm to brazilian languages living. So, the number of nheengatu speakers and prestige of general language had decreased. After a history of resistence, claiming for their own space, sometimes supported by catholics of Teologia da Libertação, amazonic indigenous founded FOIRN (Federação das Organizações Indígenas do Rio Negro). Nowadays, each indigenous population has its own way to dealing with strangers, but all of them is protected by FOIRN.
The following links talks about nheengatu musics, São Gabriel da Cachoeira (the most indigenous city of Brazil, which more than 90% of its population has some indigenous ethnicity) and FOIRN: