▸The emergence of non-native varieties: the case of Mozambican Portuguese

Keynote by Prof. Dr Inês MACHUNGO (Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, Mozambique)


The prevailing status of languages of European origin as official languages in post-colonial Africa has been a matter of controversy which has been addressed by writers (NGUGI WA THIONGO, 1987; MIA COUTO, 2009), philosophers (APPIAH, 1997) politicians (OBOTE, 1967; GANHÃO, 1979) academics (ROSÁRIO, 1982; BAMGBOSE, 1991; LOPES, 1997; NGUNGA, 1999; FIRMINO, 2002; BOKAMBA, 2011; CHIMBUTANE, 2018) and others.

For some, the maintenance of languages of European origin, often as the sole official, in a post-colonial situation can lead to elitism, given that it is the elites who best master these languages, which promotes social inequalities, underdevelopment and alienation of the most disadvantaged populations (MYERS -SCOTTON,1993; NGUGI WA THIONGO,1997). For others, given the multilingual situation that characterizes most African countries, it is difficult to do without European languages as they guarantee inter-ethnic communication; moreover, these languages undergo a process of transformation, caused by their adaptation to the new socio-cultural contexts of the countries where they are preserved, giving rise to the emergence of non-native varieties (ALTOBBAI, 2020; NEW,1995).

The paper builds on these assumptions and analyzes the implantation  and resulting nativization of Portuguese in Mozambique. Taking into consideration that a pluricentric language, is a language that is used as an official language at more than one country with its own codified norm, it is argued, in this paper, that Portuguese in Mozambique has its own identity, making the nation a norm-setting centre by the deliberate use of its “norms” (MUHR, 2016) .

Since independence from  colonialism, Portuguese has been adopted as the sole official language, in a context where it co-exists with more than 20 Bantu languages, the first languages of the overwhelming majority of the population. As a result of this language policy and of the expansion of education carried in Portuguese, the use of this language has reached out to places and domains that were previously the purview of local languages. Over time and increasingly  Portuguese has been appropriated by Mozambicans (GANHÃO, 1979), a process that leads to its nativization: Portuguese acquires new social functions and develops typical structural and rhetorical characteristics (MACHUNGO & FIRMINO, 2022).

Because Portuguese in Mozambique is acquiring an ontological status, there is a need to develop a language model that structurally and discursively is recognized and accepted by speakers. It therefore becomes an imperative and requires social commitment to provide the Mozambican variety of Portuguese with appropriate regulatory instruments that normalize its use in all spheres of social life.

Several studies describe Mozambican Portuguese from structural, sociolinguistic and discursive perspectives (GONÇALVES, 2010, 2018; CHIMBUTANE, 2018; FIRMINO, 2002, 2011; LOPES, 1997 MACHUNGO, 2000; MENDES, 2000,among others) thus contributing to its establishment. The paper highlights the Mozambican Portuguese Orthographic Vocabulary (VOMOLP), available for consultation, and the Mozambican Portuguese Dictionary (DiPoMo), still under development, aimed at providing a large-scale linguistic resource that describes and characterizes the Mozambican Portuguese (PM) lexicon from a non-contrastive perspective. DiPoMo legitimizes the PM’s lexicon and constitutes an instrument of citizenship.

Prof. Dr Inês Machungo holds a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Ghana, a Master’s in Portuguese Linguistics from the University of Lisbon, a Degree in Modern Languages and Literature from the University of Coimbra, a Bachelor’s Degree in Modern Letters from the Eduardo Mondlane University; she is a professor at national and foreign universities in graduate and post-graduate programs; she carries out research in the field of Applied Linguistics (morphosemantics, lexicology, lexicography) and language policy, domains of her main publications. She is currently a researcher at the Cátedra of Portuguese Second Language / Foreign Language based at Eduardo Mondlane University, where she coordinates the projects “Observatory of Mozambican Portuguese Neologisms”, “Mozambican Portuguese Orthographic Vocabulary” and the “Mozambican Portuguese Dictionary”.