Considerations on the Portuguese Language and the Orthographic Agreement Part II

A bit of history about the Orthographic Agreement

In 1911, the first orthographic model was established as a reference for schools and universities, as well as for publications. Applicable to all Portuguese-speaking countries, the so-called Formulário Ortográfico was not fully adopted by Brazil, giving rise to a debate and negotiations that went on for decades in an attempt to obtain a normative international treaty on spelling that would be accepted by all parties involved, unifying the various written variants.

Therefore, an initial agreement was signed in 1931, once more with differences in interpretation between Portugal and Brazil.

In 1945, a new agreement was signed that aimed to finally unify the spelling in all Portuguese-speaking countries, including Brazil. Brazil signed this agreement, but in practice—and contrary to what happened in Portugal—they didn’t apply it, continuing to follow the provisions of previous agreements.

Once again, in what promised to be a never-ending debate between the official representatives of the Portuguese-speaking countries (Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and São Tomé e Príncipe*), the negotiations to reach a consensus spanned decades, with a few revisions agreed upon in the 1970s.

In the 1990s, as a result of the efforts of the Brazilian Academy of Letters and the Academy of Sciences of Lisbon, the Orthographic Agreement of the Portuguese Language of 1990 was at long last signed.

Obviously, as we’re not talking about a reform that could be applied overnight, a transition period was stipulated during which both the new and previous rules would be valid, with the Orthographic Agreement only coming into effect in 2009.

Angola and Mozambique are currently the only signatory countries that haven’t yet implemented the standard.

The New Orthographic Agreement

The new spelling agreement, also known as new Acordo Ortográfico (AO), or the Orthographic Agreement, is nothing more than the previously mentioned 1990 agreement. It’s referred to as new because it was only approved by 2009. That is, during the almost two decades of expected “transition,” in practice, the overwhelming majority of people didn’t use the new standard!

In schools, most teachers continued to teach according to the old rules, the ones they cherished and had learned; TV, magazines, and newspapers also stubbornly refused to adopt the changes; most books continued to be published under the “old” rules.

The previous orthography was ingrained in people’s minds and hearts, immortalized in a multitude of contemporary to classic books that populate the shelves of Portuguese-speaking literature lovers, resulting in a great shock to a considerable number of people when the rules became mandatory.

It’s true that the new AO aims to simplify language, not complicate it.

Supposedly, the closer the written language is to the spoken language, the easier it would become to learn. In a (vain) attempt to bring the way we write closer to the way we speak, the AO puts phonetics before spelling.

Some of the most striking changes were the elimination of unreadable consonants and some accents, as well as the simplification of the hyphenation rules.

These changes, however, have created much more confusion than simplification.

Contestation

Although approved, the new Orthographic Agreement was met with a huge wave of protest, including allegations of unconstitutionality, with many scholars, academics, and literary professionals flatly refusing to adhere to the new rules and still writing under the old 1945 Agreement.

The pursued unification is utopian, in addition to being unnecessary, and the changes in the new agreement give rise to a series of linguistic problems for which the experts have not yet found an answer. The addition of optional rules and double spellings has only aggravated the problem and further disfigured our centuries-old and very rich language.

From this it can be inferred that many of the changes introduced were drafted negligently and inconsequentially, and in practice have given rise to the profound confusion and inconsistencies that have undermined everything that has been written since 2009 in the media, in literature, in subtitling, and even in schools.

Verbarium and the “New” AO

At Verbarium, we are against the Orthographic Agreement of 1990 because we believe our language is a historical and cultural asset that must be preserved.

As such, all written content we produce for our website, social media, blog, and communications marks our position to follow the rules of the more sensible and widely known 1945 Spelling Agreement.

However, all the projects we accept are handled in accordance with the customer’s preferences, so we do apply the New Agreement rules whenever the customer so wishes.

We specialize in translating and proofreading texts with the 1990 AO, and when requested, we correctly use the established rules—which we do not agree with, but know how to apply correctly.

We have even developed internal materials that allow us to resolve inconsistencies in translations received from other sources since the implementation of the new agreement.

Why?

Because our priority is ultimately customer satisfaction, and this is above our personal convictions on the subject.

With or without the New Agreement, don’t hesitate to use our professionals for your translations. Contact us!

 

* East Timor joined the CPLP only in 2002, upon its independence, and Equatorial Guinea only joined in by 2014.

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