Project Number I


Unlike most of the major Western European languages ​​(English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian), dictionaries of Portuguese are quite flawed with respect to etymological data. Prefixal and suffixal derivation are frequently confused with etymology, as is word etymology with a term’s remote origin. Insufficient care has been taken with etyma of unwritten languages, ​​ much of the Arabic influence is still unknown, not to mention the abundance of fanciful etyma that have led to the mischaracterization of etymological study as an unscientific pursuit. The media and the Internet have contributed to the dissemination of fanciful solutions, disregarding the findings of academic studies in the field of Historical Linguistics and Philology. As with the Stylistics, scientific investigations in the area of etymology were very productive in Brazil, reaching their peak in the 1920s Subsequently, however, historical events and changes in scientific ideology resulted in many techniques and results being forgotten. Benefitting from a solid grounding in modern linguistic research methodologies and techniques, etymological studies have been enjoying something of a resurgence in Brazil since the 1990s and today the means are available to develop quality academic research, which promise to contribute to changing society’s view of the subject. To this end, NEHiLP’s ongoing research into dating the first occurrences of Portuguese words constitutes the first step towards creating a new etymological dictionary of the Portuguese language.


(1) Development of computer programs allowing the generation of lists of existing words in each text investigated while simultaneously associating list entries with some of their characteristics (e.g., author, page location, date of creation and publication of the work, etc.). Next, also by means of computer programs, automatic feedback of the first occurrences of words will be made, comparing this output with other very large lists (over 200,000 entries) obtained from information present in current etymological dictionaries, which are already available and prepared by GMHP – the Portuguese Historical Morphology Research Group (www.usp.br/gmhp);

(2) Formation of research groups specializing in:

(a) ancient Latin-based words or those associated with ancient substrates (old Hellenisms, Celtic, Iberian words, etc.) and Germanic superstrates;

(b) words of Amerindian origin;

(c) words of African origin;

(d) words of Arabic origin;

(e) words of Indian, Chinese and Japanese origin;

(f) words of unknown origin;

(g) European international words arising from the seventeenth century onwards from various sources (mainly Italian, Spanish, French, and English);

(3) Revision of the automatically generated dates, as described in item (1) by the group specified in item (2). Gathering contexts of use in analyzed texts (excerpts from the work in which the investigated word is mentioned, as well as indication of author, work, page). Studies on the diachronic course taken between the remote origin and the etymon. Analysis of existing etymological propositions with a view to their confirmation, refutation or an indication of need for further investigation;

(4) Creation of an online database with access restricted to NEHiLP researchers, which will be filled in by its members while research is in progress. The decision to incorporate external collaborations into the database will be evaluated by the specialized groups mentioned in item (2) before inclusion in the database. After this phase of research, entries considered ‘complete’ will be available to the public through the Internet;

(5) Study of the definitions of the same word involving independent dating, considerations about specific etyma, and insertions into the database described in item (4). This study will probably require further investigations in the future, but research can be started simultaneously with the aforementioned projects;

(6) Dissemination of research through books, papers, articles addressed to the extra-academic community, websites, workshops, meetings, congresses, conferences, lectures and courses offered by members of NEHiLP and guests from related research groups.


For over twenty years, researchers who have devoted themselves to historical and diachronic aspects of the Portuguese language, have acutely felt the lack of specialized research material comparable to the Oxford Etymological Dictionary of English, Le Robert for French, and the dictionaries of Cortellazzo & Zolli for Italian or of Corominas for Spanish. The most complete works available for Portuguese are the various publications of Antônio Geraldo da Cunha and the Houaiss &Villar dictionary (2001), which is not exactly an etymological dictionary (and also suffered a reduction in its etymological data in its second edition). The existing dates in these works, however, are of reasonable quality for the Middle Ages (in this regard, dates given by José Pedro Machado prior to the twelfth century and repeated by the Houaiss & Villar dictionary are good as well). However, from the sixteenth century on, the dates presented in these publications are very imperfect. Dating is either absent or very flawed, especially for the seventeenth, eighteenth and twentieth centuries. NEHiLP can count on researchers from several research areas capable of carrying out the high quality studies necessary to fill in these gaps: these include Arabists (Prof. Federico Corriente, Ph.D., Universidad de Zaragoza / Spain; Prof. Mamede M. Jarouche, Ph.D., Prof. Safa A. A. C. Jubran, Ph.D., Universidade de São Paulo), Africanists (Prof. Margaret M. T. Petter, Ph.D., USP, Prof. Dr. Francisco da Silva Xavier, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique / Sorbonne IV), Sanskritists and Indo-Europeanists (Prof. Daniel Kölligan, Ph.D., Universität zu Köln / Germany, Prof. Mário Ferreira, Ph.D., USP, Prof. José Marcos M. de Macedo, Ph.D., USP, Prof. Josenir Alcântara de Almeida, UFC), specialists in late Latin and Romance philology, especially in Ibero-Romance languages (Prof. Valéria G. Condé, Ph.D., USP; Prof. Artur Costrino, UFPel), linguists whose knowledge of many languages ​​and morphological/stylistic theories enables treatment of a large number of Portuguese words derived by suffixing and prefixing (Prof. Martin Becker, Ph.D., Universität zu Köln / Germany, Prof. Graça M. O. S. Rio-Torto, Ph.D., Universidade de Coimbra / Portugal, Prof. Bruno O. Maroneze, Ph.D., UFGD; Prof. Elis de A. C. Caretta, Ph.D., USP, Prof. Mário Eduardo Viaro, Ph.D., USP, Prof. Paulo Chagas de Souza, Ph.D., USP, Prof. Aldo L. Bizzocchi, Ph.D., USP, Prof. Andréa Lacotiz, FATEC/SP, Prof. Solange Peixe Pinheiro de Carvalho, Ph.D., USP), philologists and specialists in historical problems involving medieval texts and ancient Brazilian texts (Prof. Sílvio de A. Toledo Netto, Ph.D., Prof. Marcelo Modolo, Ph.D., Prof. Phablo M. R. Fachin, Ph.D., Prof. Thomas Finbow, Ph.D., and Prof. Manoel M. S. Almeida, Ph.D., USP; Prof. Nelson Papavero, Ph.D., Museum of Zoology-USP; Prof. Carlos Eduardo Mendes de Moraes, Ph.D., UNESP/Assis), specialists in digitalized corpora (Prof. Michael J. Ferreira, Ph.D., Georgetown University/USA www.corpusdoportugues.org; Prof. Clotilde de Almeida Azevedo Murakawa, Ph.D., and Prof. Mariana Giacomini Botta, Ph.D., UNESP/Araraquara, members of the Historical Dictionary of Brazilian Portuguese – DHPB, as well as Prof. Zwinglio de O. Guimarães-Filho, Ph.D., IF/USP, of the Research Group in Historical Morphology of the Portuguese www.usp.br/gmhp/), and experts in Computer Science (Prof. Marco Dimas Gubitoso, Ph.D., IME/USP). Many of these researchers work in two or more fields. Altogether, 48 people, including professors, undergraduate and graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers participate in investigations at the Center.
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