Mozambican Portuguese

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Mozambican Portuguese
português moçambicano, português do Moçambique
Native speakers
8.2 million[1]
L2 speakers: 30% of the population of Mozambique (1997 census)[2]
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Catholic University of Mozambique (Beira) - (Universidade Católica de Moçambique)

Mozambican Portuguese (Portuguese: português moçambicano) refers to the varieties of Portuguese spoken in Mozambique. Portuguese is the official language of the country.

Several variables factor into the emergence of Mozambican Portuguese. Mozambique shares the linguistic norm used in the other Portuguese-speaking African countries and Portugal. Mozambican Portuguese also enriches the Portuguese language with new words and expressions.


According to the 1997 census,[2] 40% of the population of Mozambique spoke Portuguese. 9% spoke it at home, and 6.5% considered Portuguese to be their mother tongue.

Historical and social context[edit]

Portuguese is a post-colonial language. Imposed during the colonial era, Portuguese was selected as the official language of the new state as it was ethnically neutral. It was also the common language of the elites who received their post-secondary education in Portugal. Portuguese played an important role in the rhetoric of the independence movement, being seen as a potential vehicle for the articulation of a national identity.

Mozambique has extraordinary enthnolinguistic diversity, with no one language dominating demographically. Portuguese serves as a lingua franca allowing communication of Mozambicans with fellow citizens of other ethnicities, including especially white Mozambicans. Of those Mozambicans who speak Portuguese, the majority are non-native speakers, thus spoken with accents of African languages. The lack of native speakers is due, in part, to the exodus of massive number of white Mozambicans to places such as Portugal, South Africa, and Brazil and to the fact that the country is far from the rest of the Lusosphere. This left very few native speakers of Portuguese in Mozambique. But in cities like Maputo, it is the native language of majority of residents.

The standard Mozambican Portuguese used in education, media and legal documents is based on European Portuguese vocabulary used in Lisbon, but Mozambican Portuguese dialects differ from standard European Portuguese both in terms of pronunciation and colloquial vocabulary.


Standard European Portuguese is the norm of reference in Mozambique. In terms of pronunciation, however, Mozambican Portuguese shows several departures, some of which are due to the influence of other languages of Mozambique:[citation needed]

  • The suppression of unstressed vowels is not as strong as in Portugal.
  • The elision of word-final 'r' (for example, estar as [eʃˈta] instead of [eʃˈtaɾ])
  • Occasional pronunciation of the initial and final 'e' as [i] (for example, felicidade as [felisiˈdadi] instead of [felisiˈdadɨ] or [fɨlisiˈðaðɨ]).
  • /b, d, ɡ/ are pronounced as plosives [b, d, ɡ] in all positions.

The above tendencies are stronger in vernacular speech and less marked in cultivated speech, thus the pronunciation of first-language speakers sound more European Portuguese and the enumerated conditions listed above except latter.


There are many words and expressions borrowed from indigenous languages of Mozambique into Portuguese. Examples include:

  • chima from the Emakhuwa, Cisena and Cinyungwe languages, is a type of porridge
  • xituculumucumba from Xirona is a type of bogeyman
  • machamba from Swahili refers to agricultural land
  • dumba-nengue from Xirona is a term used for informal trade or commerce
  • madala from Xichangana is a person of high status or esteem
  • nhamussoro from Cindau is a person who can mediate between the living and the dead

Mozambican Portuguese also borrowed words of Arabic origin, because of national Islamic presence.

  • metical (Mozambican currency, from mitķāl, an Arabic unit of weight, from taķāl', weigh).

One also finds neologisms in Mozambican Portuguese such as

  • machimbombo the word for bus also shared with other lusophone African countries.
  • cronicar, the word crónica turned into a verb
  • desconseguir meaning 'to fail' a negation of the verb conseguir using the prefix 'des-' rather than não.
  • depressar instead of ir depressa
  • agorinha instead of agora mesmo
  • tirar dinheiro meaning financiar, 'to finance'
  • tirar lágrimas meaning chorar, 'to cry'
  • assistir televisão instead of ver a televisão
  • comer dinheiro ('eat money') meaning 'to embezzle'
  • mata-bicho ('kill the beast') meaning 'breakfast'

There are also words which, as a result of semantic expansion, have acquired additional meanings:[citation needed]

  • estrutura which in addition to 'structure' also means 'authority'
  • situação which is used to mean 'conflict' or 'war'.
  • calamidade can mean clothes donated to victims of natural disasters or conflict. It also refers to divorcées and widows who have begun a new relationship.
  • nascer, 'to be born' has the additional meaning of 'to give birth to'

Many of these words came to Portugal, which was settled by returning Portuguese refugees after Mozambican independence. These words were also brought to Brazil again by Portuguese refugees after independence.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Portuguese (Mozambique) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ a b [1]

External links[edit]