Nheengatu is a member of the Tupí-Guarani branch of the Tupian language family. It is spoken by about 3,000 people in Brazil, 3,000 in Colombia and 2,000 in Venezuela. In Brazil the language is spoken mainly along the Rio Negro. It is also known as língua geral da Amazônia, língua geral amazônica (Amazonian General Language), nhengatu, nyengatú, língua geral, geral or yeral.
Nheengatu developed from tupinambá, a language spoken by the Tupi people on the north coast of Brazil in Maranhão and Pará. It was standardised by Jesuit missionaries during the 17th century, and became the lingua franca throughout much of Brazil between missionaries, settlers of European origin, and the indigenous peoples.
Use of Nheengatu diminished after Portuguese was imposed by the Marquis of Pombal in 1758, after the Jesuits were expelled from Brazil in 1759, and also as a result of increased immigration from Portugal.
Today, Nheengatu has official status in the municipality of São Gabriel da Cachoeira, in Brazil's Amazonas State.
Nheengatu is closely related to Paraguayan Guaraní, and there is considerable mutual intelligibility between the two languages.
There are a number of different ways to spell Nheengatu. Some are based on Portuguese spelling, others use slight different spelling conventions.
Brasil, ker pi upé, coaracyáua,
Çaiçú í çaarúçáua çui ouié,
Marecê, ne yuakaupé, poranga.
Ocenipuca Curuça iepé!
Brasil, um sonho intenso, um raio vívido,
De amor e de esperança à terra desce,
Se em teu formoso céu, risonho e límpido,
A imagem do Cruzeiro resplandece.
Brazil, an intense dream, a vivid ray
of love and hope descends to earth
if in thy lovely, smiling and clear skies
the image of the (Southern) Cross shines resplendently.
Part of the Brazilian national anthem
Information about Nheengatu
Page last modified: 25.10.21
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