Minderico: From secret language to everyday language to endangered language

“Minderico: From secret language to everyday language to endangered language” is the title of the talk Vera Ferreira, together with Rita Pedro, will give on the 20th of March at the University of Oxford (UK) in the framework of the XVIth Forum for Iberian Studies – Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in the Iberian Peninsula.


From the 16th century on, the blankets of Minde became famous all over the country. Due to this popularity and the consequent increase in textile activity, the wool carders and merchants of Minde started to visit several markets all over Portugal where they began to use Minderico in order to protect and defend their products from “intruders” and to earn more profit in their commercialization. It allowed them to negotiate among each other the prices in front of strangers and/or customers in an unintelligible way. Later, this secret language extended to all social and professional groups in Minde and became the main means of communication in the village. During this process, Minderico turned into a full-fledged language with a very characteristic intonation and a complex morphosyntax.

Today Minderico risks becoming extinct, more than ever before in its history. With the growing influence of mass media and the collateral effects of globalization, minority varieties such as Minderico, confined to small and closed communities, under the continuous pressure of an official language and not recognized at an official level, tend to be abandoned. Due to economic, social and educational reasons, the number of speakers declined drastically during the last 50 years.

This paper aims at presenting Minderico – describing its history, evolution and actual situation, focusing on the linguistic peculiarities that depart it from Portuguese – and the documentation work done during the DoBeS project financed by the Volkswagen Foundation and currently at CIDLeS (Interdisciplinary Centre for Social and Language Documentation).

For more information: Forum for Iberian Studies

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