Calunga, an Afro-Brazilian speech of the Triângulo Mineiro: its grammar and history
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Calunga is an Afro-Brazilian “secret language” spoken mainly in and around Patrocínio, a rural city located in the region of the Triângulo Mineiro in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. Labeled linguistically as a falar africano (‘Afro-Brazilian speech’), the sociolinguistic origins of Calunga are not clear, not even to its speakers, though some theories trace the speech to the 18th century quilombos (‘maroon slave communities’) of the Triângulo Mineiro or to the Afro-Brazilian tropeiros (‘cowboys’) of the sertão mineiro (‘outback of Minas Gerais’). Today, this speech community exists in a moribund state with generally older speakers that number in the hundreds, located mostly in or around the city of Patrocínio, though the language has been reported to exist elsewhere in and around the region. Even though its origins and evolution is unclear, Calunga speech has shifted grammatically in the direction of the regional variety of Brazilian Portuguese Vernacular – popularly termed caipira (‘bumpkin’) Portuguese – demonstrating a stage toward language change, language attrition, or even language death. Its current lexicon, however, points to three possible Bantu languages from the Congo/Angola region of West Africa: Kimbundu, Umbundu, and Kikongo. The purpose of this dissertation, therefore, is to discuss the linguistic origins of Calunga; to describe its linguistic patterns; and finally to analyze its linguistic relation to the local contemporary variety of Brazilian Portuguese Vernacular in search of any possible African linguistic influences on the regional Portuguese.