Resolution on the Portuguese language, presented by the Portuguese PEN Centre and the T&LRC

The Assembly of Delegates of PEN International, meeting at its 81st World Congress in Québec City, Canada 13-16 October 2015

States that since 2012 the enforced implementation of the so-called “Orthographic Agreement of 1990” (OA 1990) has caused serious damages to the European Portuguese, which is spoken and written by the peoples of Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe and East Timor. Yet none of these countries (except Portugal) has officially “adopted” the deep changes in the written language, which mean the elimination of most Greek and Latin roots and therefore a growing distance from other European languages.


Further we state that Brazil has gone through a similar process since the decade of 1950, according to an intention of simplifying their Portuguese variant and reduce a high quote of analphabetism. Yet the spelling reform that is being imposed since 2011-2012 to the Portuguese people at the administration and the school system has nothing to do with the Brazilian reform, which we fully respect, because what is at stake is the difference of the spoken and written language by two deeply distinct  peoples with merely 300 years of common (colonial) history.


We repeatedly stress that there has never been problems in understanding each other, and that the imposed pseudo-approach by the OA 1990 merely produces spelling chaos with serious consequences for the pronunciation and the learning process of further European languages in which those Greek and Latin roots have not been cut in the name of alleged “unifications” or “simplifications”. Since 2012, Portuguese PEN has organized or co-organized Forums on this issue and presented each year resolutions or open letters at the International or national PEN Assemblies. Such texts have always been, after approval by the PEN membership,, sent to the Government and several authorities, as well as to the media.


PEN has reached the status of an authority in this issue, also confirmed by the majority of Portuguese writers who keep choosing European Portuguese as their common vehicle of expression. Portuguese PEN keeps defending their liberty to choose this option and regards with deep concern any imposition by publishers, who do not always respect the expressed will of a writer to take his or her spelling option. We also regard as a grievous fallacy the pseudo-argument according to which so much money has been spent on such a “reform” that it would be useless to “go back” to the 1945 reform, that is, to European Portuguese.


A movement towards a referendum on this issue is now running, and in this election year (for a new Parliament), as well as for a new president at the beginning of 2016. We shall not fail to ask all candidates about their position on such an important issue. We are willing to use all democratic allowed means to question such an irrational “diktat”.


Therefore, Portuguese PEN and PEN International appeal to the Portuguese authorities to face the serious damages caused by such a “reform” to the written and spoken language of ten million people and to have the courage to recognize that there are ways to stop those damages by suspending such an imposition and allowing an independent commission lo analyze the consequences.