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Review of  The Routledge Portuguese Bilingual Dictionary

Reviewer: Rolf Kemmler
Book Title: The Routledge Portuguese Bilingual Dictionary
Book Author: Maria Allen
Publisher: Routledge (Taylor and Francis)
Linguistic Field(s): Language Documentation
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 23.3335

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AUTHOR: Maria Allen
TITLE: The Routledge Portuguese Bilingual Dictionary
SUBTITLE: Portuguese-English and English-Portuguese
PUBLISHER: Routledge
YEAR: 2011

Rolf Kemmler, Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro / Centro de Estudos em
Letras, Portugal


This is the first edition of a relatively small bilingual dictionary of
Portuguese and English. It is divided into three sections; an introduction
section (pp. i-xxiii), an English-Portuguese dictionary (pp. 1-349); and a
Portuguese-English dictionary (pp. 351-753).

The introductory section offers a quite concise ''Preface'' that offers some key
information on the work and its author. One of the most essential details is the
statement that ''it contains approximately 65.000 entries and over 50.000
definitions in a current lexicographic structure with examples and many
idiomatic expressions in both languages, including the Brazilian variant, where
it differs from the European-African Portuguese and, to a smaller extent,
American English'' (p. vi). The preface's final paragraphs inform the reader
about the author, Mary F. Allen, who used to be a Portuguese lecturer at the
University of Westminster for several decades.

Following the author's ''Acknowledgements'' (p. vi) are four pages with practical
information on ''How to use this dictionary'', both in English (pp. viii-ix), and
in Portuguese (pp. x-xi). The text on these pages is, however, no simple
translation, but rather serves as an explanation for the English-Portuguese and
the Portuguese-English dictionary.

The next chapter is dedicated to ''Orthographic Changes'' in the Portuguese
language (written in English; pp. xiv-xviii), which include:

- the formal introduction of the graphemes in words of foreign origin;
- the suppression of non-voiced consonants in the sequences pt> (e.g. ‘ação’, ‘diretor’, ‘ótimo’; formerly ‘acção’, ‘director’, ‘óptimo’)
and (e.g., in Brazil, ‘súbdito’ vs. ‘súdito’ and
‘aritmética’ vs. ‘arimética’);
- the use of small letters for days, months, and seasons (e.g. ‘quinta-feira’,
‘janeiro’, ‘primavera’) and facultative use of small or capital letters in
several other cases (e.g. titles of books, honorific titles, disciplines, etc.);
- the suppression of dieresis (e.g. Portuguese ‘trema’, only used in Brazil) as
formerly in 'lingüística' and 'agüentar', now 'linguística' and 'aguentar';
- the suppression of the use of accents in some specific contexts and the
introduction of the facultative use of accents in some norms;
- changes in the use of hyphens (as Allen states, ''this is still a grey area,
which is under discussion'' (p. xvii)).

The dictionary is completed by a chapter on ''Abbreviations/Abreviaturas'' (pp.
xix-xxi) and Weights and Measures (pp. xxii-xxiii).


Given the 65.000 entries with 50.000 definitions, the dictionary may be
considered a bilingual pocket dictionary, being only slightly larger than a
standard paperback book. The dictionary, as such, certainly isn't pioneering
work, but it seems quite obvious that the author wished to elaborate a slender
modern dictionary meant for the use of British students, translators and
bilingual speakers of the Portuguese language. Thus, she opted to offer mostly
one or two equivalences for most entries which, all in all, seem to be quite
adequate -- even when referring to more colloquial terms. Occasionally, the
author adds cultural information in small grey text areas. Due to the
dictionary's size, it would have been most desirable if more of such
extralinguistic comments had been introduced in order to further enrich the
dictionary. It's quite obvious that the lexicographic part is the author's
forte. It might, however, be argued whether or not the dictionary really might
be of use to full-fledged translators and bilingual speakers, as its brevity
(which might be positive for beginners) could be viewed as a disadvantage by
more advanced and professional users of both languages. Also, if we consider
that the dictionary is made for all kinds of users of lexicographic works (but
mostly non-native-speakers of the Portuguese language), one might ask why there
is a total absence of phonetic information?

Concerning the ''Notes on Portuguese grammar'' and ''Algumas observações
gramaticais'', we cannot fail to note that together, they occupy a little more
than one page. The English notes are reduced to observations on the singular and
plural endings of most Portuguese nouns (p. xii). The Portuguese notes are
slightly more elaborate and contain short considerations on the definite article
(e.g. ‘o Senhor Silva’ (‘Mr. Silva’); ‘os alunos’ (‘students’)) and the
possessive adjective (e.g. ‘vou lavar as mãos’ (‘I am going to wash my hands’)),
as well as the use of the past tense ('tenho comido' as 'I have been eating' but
not 'I have eaten') and passives in Portuguese (‘Aqui fala-se chinês’ (‘Chinese
is spoken here’)). Also, these notes contain some considerations on the use of
comparatives and superlatives in English as well as some English verbs. All in
all, the linguistic observations seem to fall somewhat short of what readers may
hope for. In this sense, a short overview on both Portuguese and English
grammar, with stress on the more difficult areas for the respective non-native
speakers, would have been more satisfying.

Concerning the orthographic changes, the Portuguese language was subjected to
(due to the reform of 1990) some important issues that need to be outlined. The
subchapter ''The principal changes'', which offers insight into the linguistic
changes made to what formerly was known as the Luso-Brazilian orthography, is
mostly correct. The following introductory paragraphs, however, require some
revision, as they contain some incorrect information concerning this vital area:

''Portuguese is the official language in eight countries across the world, and
during the compilation of this dictionary, the talks about orthographic changes
have been going on between Brazil and Portugal. Four countries agreed and
ratified these changes in 2008. There are still some aspects to be discussed
and, consequently, the dubious areas which are still unresolved, shall not be
included in the current dictionary. Portugal has proposed a six-year moratorium,
so that all eight countries have time to adjust to the new orthography. The
''old'' spelling is still in use in all the eight countries.''

The ''Acordo ortográfico da língua portuguesa'' (‘The Portuguese Language
Orthographic Agreement’) the author is talking about, without any explicit
reference, was signed by the representatives of the then-existing seven
countries where Portuguese is an official language (i.e. Angola, Brazil, Cape
Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal and São Tomé and Príncipe) on
December 16, 1990. In the document, it was agreed that the new orthographic
regime would come into effect on January 1, 1994, but it seems logical that the
African signatories would be awaiting the application of the new orthographic
rules by Portugal and Brazil, who had been arguing about a solution for a common
base of a simplified Portuguese orthography since 1911 (cf. Kemmler 2009).

In Portugal, the reformed orthography was ratified in 1991, and in Brazil, only
in 1995. As this obviously meant that a new date, or even better, a new mode for
the implementation of the plurilateral orthographic reform needed to be found,
the ''Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa'' (CPLP), founded as a ‘Community
of Portuguese Language Countries’ in 1996, served as a platform for the
negotiation of further terms. In 2004, East Timor, a CPLP member since 2002,
became the eighth member of the agreement's signatories.

As the First Modifying Protocol (signed July 17, 1998) didn't produce the
desired effect, on July 25, 2004, the CPLP members agreed on another modus that
established for the coming into effect of the new orthographic regime after the
deposition of the third ratification title with the Portuguese Foreign Ministry
in Lisbon. Given that by December 2006, three of these documents had been
deposited, the Brazilian President decreed that the new regime would take effect
in Brazil beginning on January 1, 2009 (Kemmler 2010). With the corresponding
Portuguese document having been deposited on May 13, 2009, the formal
application of the new regime beginning January 1, 2012 was only a formality
(Kemmler 2011). While there is still some opposition amongst a small number of
private citizens, the application of the new orthography in the whole public
sector in Brazil and in Portugal has been swift and rather pacific.

By facilitating unity in the diversity of the linguistic reality of the
Lusophone countries, the key element of the orthographic agreement is the 'norma
culta', that is, the spelling in accordance to the 'educated norm' that can be
observed as linguistic reality in the country in question. Thus, Brazilians get
to write 'Antônio' and 'fato' [‘for fact’], whereas the Portuguese write
'António' and 'facto'.

Obviously, private citizens that aren't obliged to partake in public
communication may still go on writing as they wish. Teachers, professors, and
public servants, however, are obligated to write according to the new, somewhat
simplified rules no later than five years after the agreement's coming into
effect in the aforementioned countries. For students living in Lusophone
countries, this means, naturally, that they cannot really count on any grace
period, but rather that they have to write according to the new rules no matter
what. Also, most of the important Brazilian and Portuguese newspapers have
applied the necessary changes; some did so even before the new regime was
mandatory in the public sector.

In this sense, the author's ambivalence concerning the new orthographic rules
(even those she might have reason for disagreeing with, as other scholars do)
doesn't really make sense in what was meant to be a popular dictionary for
practical use. Even if we consider that the orthographic agreement only changed
a tiny proportion of Portuguese words, the utility of a dictionary that doesn't
adhere to the current orthographic system seems questionable; even if we
consider the dictionary to serve for the use of beginners. This, as well as any
other of the mentioned slight shortcomings can (and should) be remedied in
possible future editions.


Kemmler, Rolf. 2009. Para a história da ortografia simplificada. Silva,
Maurício. Org. 2009. Ortografia da língua portuguesa: história, discurso e
representações. São Paulo: Editora Contexto. 53-94.

Kemmler, Rolf. 2010. O Papel do Segundo Protocolo ao Acordo Ortográfico de 1990
na História da Ortografia Simplificada. Chrystello, José Chris. ed. 2010. Atas /
Anais do 14.º Colóquio da Lusofonia, Bragança, Portugal: 27 setembro -- 2
outubro 2010. CD-ROM (ISBN 978-989-95891-5-5). file CDlusofonia2010\atas
finais.pdf. 261-282.

Kemmler, Rolf. 2011. Uma querela lusófona com final feliz: a entrada em vigor do
Acordo Ortográfico da Língua Portuguesa de 1990. Associação Internacional dos
Colóquios da Lusofonia. 2011. 15.º Coloquio da Lusofonia, Macau: quatro séculos
de Lusofonia - Passado, Presente e Futuro (11-15 abril 2011). CD-ROM (ISBN
978-989-95891-7-9). file CD AtasEncontros 2011 Macau/ATAS2011.pdf. 287-298.

Rolf Kemmler is an auxiliary researcher in the field of Portuguese linguistic historiography with the Centro de Estudos em Letras (CEL), University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD, Vila Real, Portugal). He received his doctorate in Romance Philology from Bremen University (Germany) in 2005, with a thesis entitled 'A Academia Orthográfica Portugueza na Lisboa do Século das Luzes: Vida, obras e atividades de João Pinheiro Freire da Cunha (1738-1811)', published in 2007. His research interests focus on the history of Portuguese orthography as well as the history of Portuguese and Latin-Portuguese grammar.

Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9780415434331
Pages: 760
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