Both were simplified versions of languages spoken by the Tupi people. Portuguese colonizers arrived in Brazil in the 16th century and, faced with an indigenous population which spoke many languages, sought a means to establish effective communication among the many groups. The two languages were used in the Jesuit missions in Brazil and by early colonists; and came to be used by black slaves and other Indian groups.
Now known as nheengatu (also nhengatu, nyengatú, língua geral, geral, yeral), it is still spoken along the Rio Negro in northern Brazil (as well as in neighboring Colombia and Venezuela). There are perhaps around 8,000 speakers according to The Ethnologue (2005) (Rohter (2005) gives a much larger number); the language has recently regained some recognition and prominence after having been suppressed for many years. It is closely related to Guarani.
The língua geral paulista (São Paulo general language), or tupi austral (Southern Tupi) was based on the language of the Tupi of São Vicente, São Paulo, and the upper Tietê River. In the 17th century it was widely spoken in São Paulo and spread to neighboring regions. It subsequently lost ground to Portuguese, however, and eventually became extinct.