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Letter from the Editor | 230

Language in evolution

The Portuguese language spoken in Brazil has always seemed strange, and sometimes unrecognizable, to the Portuguese. The reverse is also true. Some Brazilian visitors on their first trip to the land of the famous poet Camões understand little of European Portuguese. Each nationality jokingly accuses the other of speaking a nonsense language that is intentionally difficult to understand. This is one of those disagreements in which both sides are mostly right. The language of the Portuguese colonizers of Brazil has never stopped changing, although some rudiments of antiquated Portuguese can be found in a few places in this huge country. The language spoken in Brazil was brought from Portugal and disseminated throughout Brazil’s South and Central-West, beginning in the 16th-century, by the São Paulo pioneers, who added some regional aspects to the language during their extended expeditions. This issue’s cover story recounts stories like this based on an extensive study carried out over the last 30 years that identified characteristics specific to Brazilian Portuguese. The language spoken in Brazil is so different from the original European language that it can be considered unique. Experts estimate that perhaps in another 200 years it will actually become its own language, as explained in the report by Special Editor Carlos Fioravanti.

The residents of colonial São Paulo were also the subject of study by historian Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, who investigated the river expeditions that journeyed from São Paulo towards Mato Grosso. The researcher and author of several classics in Brazilian historiography published Monsoons in 1945 and worked for many years on a new version of the book in order to rewrite it based on the results of new research. Everything indicates that an obsession with improving what was already complete and printed was one of Sérgio Buarque’s characteristics. It is worth reading about the reprinting of Monsoons in two volumes—one with the original text and the other with the rewritten chapters—in the report by Special Editor Marcos Pivetta.

The American biologist Thomas Lovejoy has nothing to do with São Paulo’s pioneers, although over the last 50 years he has also traversed land little known to science—in this case, the Amazon. He began his work in the region in 1965 and has lost count of the number of times he has been there, almost always traveling from the United States. Lovejoy has a good relationship with the government, which allows him to influence the formulation of environmental public policy. Five decades later, he remains committed to projects to define areas and strategies for the preservation of forests and to thinking about the future of the Amazon, as explained in an interview with Maria Guimarães and Carlos Fioravanti.

In recent years, environmental policy has received technological support that included the decisive participation of Brazilian researchers. The Earth Engine platform, by the computer giant Google, originated in Brazil a short time ago and has become important in the development of digital high-resolution maps from satellite images. Reporter Yuri Vasconcelos describes the development process and the main uses of this digital tool.