Final Jeopardy! category: WORLD LANGUAGES (25-10-2012)
FJ! Clue: Of the Romance languages, it has the greatest number of native speakers in a single country
The gist: But, of course, not where it was born. There are currently about 200 million people in Brazil, nearly all of whom speak one of many local dialects of Portuguese – that’s about twenty times as many as in Portugal. While the Portuguese language has been evolving since the Romans brought Latin to the Iberian Peninsula in 218 BCE during the Second Punic War, Brazilian Portuguese was born in the middle of the 16th century, when large numbers of Portuguese moved to Brazil for the first time, attracted by lucrative trade opportunities in brazilwood, sugar, and slaves. Before then, transactions between the Portuguese and indigenous Brazilians had mostly been confined to the Jesuit missionaries who attempted to convert them to Catholicism, which they did mainly in two simplified versions of indigenous languages known today as Lingua Geral. The population of Brazil surged over the following centuries, with large numbers of free immigrants coming from Portugal and elsewhere, along with the massive importation of millions(!) of African slaves. While Portuguese had been the language of administration and commerce in Brazil since the late 16th century, the Portuguese crown took a serious interest in spreading the use of Portuguese throughout its territory beginning in the 18th century. Treaties with Spain stated that land would be ceded to the country that effectively occupied them, and if everyone spoke Portuguese it would be difficult for the Spaniards to argue that the territory belonged to them. The Marquis of Pombal, the foremost Portuguese statesman of the latter half of the 18th century, instituted strict policies to promote the language, including expelling all Brazil’s Jesuits, who had been teaching Lingua Geral, and forbidding the use of Nheengatu, a popular indigenous Tupi language. From then on, Portuguese had the staying power to absorb the waves of non-Portuguese European immigration that came into the country in the 19th and 20th centuries, who tended to adopt the local language quite quickly. Nonetheless, immigration has always had an effect on the Brazilian vocabulary, with amny loanwords from indigenous, African, and other European languages being commonly used. Today, Portuguese is spoken by over 99% of Brazil’s population.
The clue: Based on the weasel-y way the clue is written (plus the fact that it’s a FJ! clue), you should realize quickly that this isn’t going to be a straightforward sort of clue, since that would be too simple – that is, it’s not just asking which Romance language has the most populous home country. Instead, you’ll need to think a little outside the box. First, what are the commonly-spoken Romance languages? Spanish probably comes to mind first, but the Spanish-speaking world is divided into just too many countries for that to be correct. French is spoken in a few countries outside Europe too, but all of them are pretty small. Once you start thinking of big countries that speak Romance languages, you’ll hopefully land on Brazil pretty quickly, as the only really big country in the world that speaks one. Or, you could also go the other way: think of big countries first, and then find the one that speaks a Romance language.
In Jeopardy!: “Portuguese,” naturally, is in almost 300 clues in the J!Archive, and we won’t go into them all here. “Portuguese” and “Brazil” returns a much more manageable 20 regular and two FJ! clues. 11 of them are about Portuguese the language, while the rest are about “the Portuguese” as colonizers, rulers, etc. When it’s about the language, it’s either about it being an official language of Brazil or just of there being a lot of Portuguese speakers there, like this. So, South America and Portuguese means Brazil. But you knew that already, probably.