The Role of Interpreters, or Linguas, in the Portuguese Empire During the 16th Century
By Dejanirah Couto
École Pratique des Hautes Études
Section des Sciences Historiques et Philologiques – Paris
This article analyses the different categories of interpreters (lingoas), the forms of their
recruitment and the strategies of their use in the Portuguese Empire in Asia in the first half of the
sixteenth century. The interpreters were as good as adventurers, convicts and natives, captives,
renegades and converted slaves recruited during expeditions and military operations. Besides the
social-economical status of these interpreters the article highlights the case of the territory of
Macao where the necessity to answer to imperial bureaucracy determines the creation of a corps
of interpreters (jurubaças) and perfectly organised family dynasties of "lingoas".

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