Brazil is a country of a little over 200 million inhabitants, of which 99% have Portuguese as their mother tongue, with most of the remaining 1% proficient in Portuguese as a second language. 1 The process of divergence of Brazilian Portuguese from that spoken in Portugal dates back to the earliest days of the colonization of Brazil, from 1532 onwards. During this period, Portuguese, as spoken at court in Lisbon, was largely exclusive to the ruling elite, the law courts and the Church in Brazil, while the colonization and evangelization of the native population was conducted in the so-called língua geral (‘general tongue’), a creolized version of the major indigenous language of the coastal region, Tupinambá, with a generous admixture of Portuguese vocabulary. Thus from the earliest times, European Portuguese was seen as the language of authority, used in writing and other formal contexts, while everyday exchanges between settlers and the indigenous population were in the língua geral and, increasingly over the course of time, pidgin Portuguese. As the use of Portuguese among the populace increased, it was inevitable that the contact between Portuguese speakers and local populations would lead to a simplification of some aspects of Portuguese grammar in the spoken language, a process that was subsequently compounded by the arrival of large numbers of slaves from Africa and speakers of different regional dialects of Portuguese among the substantial number of new settlers from Portugal attracted by the discovery of gold and diamonds in the interior of Brazil. After the use of Portuguese in the colony became compulsory in 1758 – a measure taken to reassert the authority of the Portuguese crown –, a number of different spoken variants could be identified: those of settlers from different regions of Portugal; those of indigenous tribes living in permanent contact with the Portuguese; that of people of mixed indigenous and Portuguese parentage; that of recently-arrived slaves from Africa; that of people of mixed African and Portuguese parentage; that used for communication between slaves and slave-owners and a hybrid of all these developing in the emerging cities. European Portuguese continued to be the standard used in writing and formal education. Not surprisingly, the spoken language saw the influx of a large number of words of indigenous origin, particularly to name plants, animals and other natural phenomena previously unknown in Europe, as well as the addition of some terms of African origin, and inevitable changes in the pronunciation of the language as a result of its adoption by 4non-native speakers. Add to this the fact that, between 1538 and 1850, around 70% of the Brazilian population were of indigenous, African or mixed-race origin, the vast majority of them enslaved and illiterate – as against only 30% of Portuguese descent – and it is easy to see why the spoken language of Brazil would develop into a variant distinct not only from the speech of Portugal, but also from the written standard used in the country, which was still largely identical to that of Portugal.