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Originally published Saturday, May 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Portugal's lawmakers accept Brazilian version of language

Lawmakers on Friday adopted a widely contested standardization of Portuguese that will require hundreds of words to be spelled the Brazilian...

The Associated Press

Where Portuguese is spoken

In addition to Portugal:

1. Brazil

2. Angola

3. Mozambique

4. East Timor

5. Cape Verde

6. Guinea-Bissau

7. São Tomé and Príncipe

LISBON, Portugal — Lawmakers on Friday adopted a widely contested standardization of Portuguese that will require hundreds of words to be spelled the Brazilian way.

Legislators with the governing Socialist Party and the main opposition Social Democratic Party overwhelmingly backed the government's proposal.

But some leading writers and other public figures in Portugal have strongly opposed the agreement, saying it is an unnecessary capitulation to Brazilian influence. More than 33,000 people signed a petition urging lawmakers to vote against the proposal.

Portuguese is the official language of some 230 million people worldwide.

In addition to Portugal, there are seven other Portuguese-speaking countries. Brazil, which accounts for around 190 million Portuguese speakers; the Cape Verde Islands; and São Tomé and Príncipe already have ratified the standardization.

Under the agreement, the spelling will more closely match the way words are pronounced by removing silent consonants, as in Brazil. The alphabet also expands to 26 letters with the introduction of k, w and y, and there are new rules on the use of hyphens and accents.

For example, the removal of silent consonants turns "optimo" (great) into "otimo" and "accao" (action) into "acao." The new rules on hyphens and accents change "auto-estrada" (highway) to "autoestrada."

The changes would take place over six years to allow publishers time to reprint books and ease public adoption of the alterations.

Advocates say the benefits include easier Internet searches in Portuguese and uniform legal jargon for international contracts.

Officials also hope the agreement can help advance an old ambition of getting Portuguese adopted as an official language at the United Nations, which currently has six: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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