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First Preliminary Lesson

Pronunciation of Brazilian Portuguese

Learning Objectives- Objetivos da Lição

  • In the following discussion of the sounds of Brazilian Portuguese we will use phonetic symbols for the purpose of orientation and reference. In all other cases, however, your learning will proceed from the usual written form of the word. This makes for certain difficulties in learning Portuguese.
  • Ideally, spelling should always follow pronunciation in any language, since, after all, letters are merely a method of making a written record of the spoken word. But many languages fall short of this ideal. Spanish is very good in this respect: you can look at a word and almost without exception you know exactly how it is pronounced. English, on the other hand, is notoriously difficult, since it often spells the same sound in many ways (the vowel in datefreight, bait, say) and spells different sounds in the same way (though, through, coughhiccough).
  • In Portuguese there are some, though not many, of these same difficulties. As you will see in a moment, the traditional orthography does not indicate all the significant sounds with 100 per cent accuracy. You will see statements such as “Portuguese é is like the English e in bet.” This comparison is meant to be only a rough approximation to suggest the general nature of the Portuguese sound in question for your beginning stages. This does not by any means imply that the sound is the same in the two languages.
  • Dialectal variation in Brazilian Portuguese allows for varied pronunciations of both vowels and consonants, especially with regard to the sequences di/deti/te and s and z in syllable final position. The pronunciation presented below is a neutral Southeastern one, typical in states such as São Paulo or Minas Gerais.

Vowels- As vogais

Brazilian Portuguese has seven basic (oral) vowel sounds.

1.1 [a] the “front a,” the most common sound represented by the letter a. Similar to the of father.

há má
cá pá
lá vá
dá chá

[ɐ] the “central a,” which occurs in unstressed syllables. Similar to the English sound in money or some. Note the sound [ɐ] in the final syllable of the following words.

nada vaca cama
mala bala dama
fala casa fulana
dava sala manha

1.2 [i] the “high front” vowel, usually spelled i. Similar to English i in machine.

si tia
vi titia
ti ida
li fila
mimi fita

In unstressed final syllables (and occasionally elsewhere), this same sound [i] is also spelled e.

ide tive
bife desfile
disse limite

1.3 [u] the “high back” vowel, usually spelled u. Similar to English oo in too.

tu tutu
nu cru
lulu

In unstressed final syllables (and occasionally elsewhere), this same sound [u] is also spelled o. This means that all words, that end in unstressed o one of the most frequently endings in Portuguese, will be end with the [u] sound.

mudo luto
tudo suco
subo uso

1.4 [e] the “closed e,” sometimes spelled ê but more often e. Similar to English pronunciation of the second é in résumé.

dê bebê treze
lê crê você
vê que mês
sê ele sede [thirst]

1.5 [o] the “closed o,” sometimes spelled ô but more often simply o. Similar to English o in open.

 vovô dor ovo novo
sob bobo povo vôo
pôs fofo fogo moço
cor todo osso logo

1.6 [ɛ] the “open e,” sometimes spelled é but more often simply e. Similar to English e in beor the first é in résumé.

é Zé sete
pé café sede [headquarters]
fé neta ela

1.7 [ɔ] the “open o,” sometimes spelled ó but more often simply o. Similar to English aw in law.

dó só ova
nó avó nota
pó nós volta

Nasals- As vogais nasais

In Portuguese the vowels a, ei, o, u may also occur nasalized. The nasalization is indicated in one of three ways: by m or n after the vowel or by the til (˜) over it. The letter m is used at the end of a word and before p and b; n is used in other places.

2.1 [ɐ͂] nasalized “central a,” spelled am, an, or ã.

lã maçã
sã samba
fã tanta
cã cansa

2.2 [e͂] nasalized “close e,” spelled em or en.

penso cento
denso vendo
lenço tempo
senso dente
venço sempre
tensão lenha

2.3 [ĩ] nasalized “high front i,” spelled im or in.

fim assim cinta
sim latim cinza
mim pudim trinta
gim linda rim
vim limpa quindim

2.4 [õ] nasalized “closed o,” spelled om, on, or õ.

com tom fonte
dom batom conta
bom onze monte
som onça bombom

2.5 [ũ] nasalized “high back u,” spelled um or un.

um comum fundo
num nunca fungo
zunzum tumba assunto
algum junto bumbum

Diphthongs- Os ditongos

Oral diphthongs- Os ditongos orais

A diphthong is a combination of two vowel sounds. The follow vowel combinations constitute the 11 different pronunciations of the 8 oral diphthongs in Portuguese: ai, auei, eu, oi, ou, iu, and ui.

3.1 [ai] spelled ai. Similar to the English i in ice.

pai saiba passai
vai falai aipo
cai levai laico

3.2 [au] spelled au. Similar to the English ow in cow.

mau vau auto
pau pauta Macau
nau cauda causa

3.3 [ei] spelled ei. Similar to the English ai in faith.

meiga feira sei
teima hei dei
feito lei Madeira

3.4 [εi] spelled éi.

papéis hotéis tonéis
anéis pincéis cordéis

3.5 [eu] spelled eu.

eu seu museu
deu teu meu
leu temeu adeus

3.6 [εu] spelled éu.

céu chapéu
véu troféu
léu réu

3.7 [oi] spelled oi. Similar to the English oi in moist or hoist.

boi sois noivo
foi oito dois
pois doido foice

3.8 [ɔi] spelled ói.

mói sóis anzóis
dói jóia lençóis
dodói bóia faróis
herói espanhóis jibóia

3.9 [ou] spelled ou. For many speakers ou denotes merely a “closed o” [o] as in the English oh!

ou vou falou
dou outro levou
sou soube usou

3.10 [iu] spelled iu.

viu pediu
saiu subiu
caiu decidiu

3.11  [ui] spelled ui.

fui possui
uivo conclui
cuido azuis

Nasal diphthongs- Os ditongos nasais

There are five nasal diphthongs in Brazilian Portuguese. Nasalization is indicated by m after the vowel or by the til (˜) placed over the first vowel of the diphthong. Both elements of the diphthong are nasalized.

4.1   [ɐ̃ũ/ɐ̃w] spelled ão or am. In unstressed position, the intensity of the nasality is slightly reduced.

hão tão falam passam
não pão tocam sabão
são vão ficam fogão
dão cão levam mamão

4.2 [e͂ĩ] spelled em.

nem tem quem também
bem vem além refém
cem nuvem viagem sem

4.3 [ɐ̃ĩ] spelled ãe.

mãe capitães
cães alemães
pães

4.4 [õĩ] spelled õe. Similar to the oi in the English oink or boing.

põe botões
opõe melões
supõe balcões
compõe lições

4.5   [ũĩ] This nasal diphthong occurs only in one Portuguese word (muito) and its variations. Note that the spelling does not indicate nasalization.

muito muitos
muita muitas

4.6 Combinations of vowels other than those listed above do not constitute diphthongs in Portuguese.

dieta (di-e-ta) óleo (ó-le-o) teatro (te-a-tro)
Caetano (Ca-e-ta-no) Maria (Ma-ri-a) sueco (su-e-co)
miolo (mi-o-lo) diabo (di-a-bo) rua (ru-a)

Consonants- As consoantes

5.1 [p] voiceless bilabial stop, spelled p. Similar to English p in pine but without aspiration (extra air that accompanies initial voiceless stops (p, t, k) sounds in English).

papai piano
pampa palpita
limpo poupa

5.2 [b] voiced bilabial stop, spelled b. Similar to English b in bet.

baía bem-bom
bebê bomba
bife Bíblia

5.3 [t] voiceless dental stop, spelled t. Similar to English t in time.

tateia tanto
teto atento
testa Tóquio
total matuto

[t] before [i] spelled either i or e is pronounced by many Brazilians as a voiceless affricate [t∫], similar to the ch of the English word chief.

time tios parte
tigre nordeste ótimo
teatro presente contente

5.4 [d] voiced dental stop, spelled d. Similar to English d in date.

dali duelo poder
dedo desenho vender
domingo dólar morder

[d] before [i] spelled either i or e is pronounced by many Brazilians as [dʒ], similar to the j or the dg of the English word judge

dia Dinamarca verdade
diálogo disciplina pode
Diogo tarde de

5.5 [k] voiceless velar stop, spelled c,qu. Similar to English k.

cada classe quem
carioca aqui quer

5.5a   [ks] voiceless velar stop, spelled x. Similar to the x in the English taxi.

reflexo xi
xico complexo

5.6 [g] voiced velar stop, spelled ggu. Similar to English g in gate.

gato algum água
algo águia engana

5.7 [f] voiceless labio-dental fricative, spelled f. Similar to English f in fate.

fome afora
fogo foguete
fluido defendo

5.8 [v] voiced labio-dental fricative, spelled v. Similar to English v in vein.

vaca vovô
avendia vento
envolver você
envia vaivém

5.9 [m] voiced bilabial nasal (when syllable initial), spelled m. Similar to English m in mad. Remember when m is syllable final it indicates nasality in the vowel that precedes it.

mais mimoso
mamãe mim
moço manga

5.10 [n] voiced dental nasal (when syllable initial), spelled n. Similar to English n in not. Remember when n is syllable final it indicates nasality in the vowel that precedes it.

nono nena
ninguém nunca

5.11 [ɲ] voiced palatal nasal, spelled nh. Similar to English ni in onion.

banho minha
sonho manhã
tenho montanha
venho nenhum
ganhar vinho

5.12 [s] voiceless dental sibilant, spelled ssssc, and c (before ei), sc and ç (before oa, u), xc, x. Similar to English s in sat.

sala deo
cansa façamos
posso excesso
piscina trouxe
cinema ximo

5.13 [z] voiced dental sibilant, spelled z, s, x. Similar to English z in zoneZ is always pronounced this way. is pronounced this way when it appears between two vowels.

zanga preciso
azul exame
zia exemplo
casa êxito

5.14 [] voiceless palatal sibilant, spelled ch or x. Similar to English sh in show.

chamo roxo
acho xamã
xícara chave
deixa lixo
abacaxi chuva

5.15 [ʒ] voiced palatal sibilant, spelled j, g (before ei) Similar to English s in treasure.

gente hoje igreja
gelo janela Tejo
giro jardim feijão

5.16 [l] voiced dental lateral, spelled l. At the beginning of a syllable, l is a sound like English l in leap.

lado leite
alemão limão
belo logo

***At the end of a syllable, l is like English w at the end of a word, a semi-vowel, as in the words caw, few, mow.

mal mel sol
Portugal Brasil calvo
anel fácil azul
filme calmo Anselmo

5.17 [ʎ] voiced palatal lateral, spelled lh. Similar to English ll in million.

velho olho
bilhete toalha
filho valho

5.18 [ɾ] voiced dental flap, spelled r. Similar to English d in heeding or the t in heating. R is pronounced this way between vowels or as part of a consonant cluster (cr, trgr, etc.).

agora criança
caro escreve
embora frente
geral obrigado
treze gravata

7.19  [h] voiceless glottal fricative* spelled rrr. R is pronounced this way when it is rr between vowels, or word initial.

rio bairro
rapaz sorriso
rua honra
Raquel correr
arroz forró

*** When syllable or word final, either [ɾ] or [h] are possible pronunciations, depending on dialect. Portuguese allows for still other dialect variants.

aberto mulher correr
dorme melhor morar
irmão dançar morrer

Summary of the consonants of the Portuguese alphabet and their sound values in Brazilian Portuguese- Resumo das consoantes do alfabeto português e seus valores sonoros em português brasileiro

b [b] bobo
c 1) [s]  Before ei. cinema
2) [k] 

a) Before aou.

b) Before another consonant.

cada

classe

ç [s]  Found only before aou. faço
ch [∫] cheio
d [dʒ] Before [i]. dia, tarde
[d] Elsewhere. dado
f [f] fofo
g 1) [ʒ] Before ei. gente
2) [g] Elsewhere. gato, glória
gu [g] Before ei. águia
[gw]  Before aou. guardar
h [Ø] Found only at beginning of words and represents no sound. hora
j [ʒ] jardim
l 1) [l]  Word, syllable initial. lado
2) [w]  Syllable final. fel
lh [ʎ]  bilhete
m 1) [m]  At beginning of syllable. mimoso
2) [˜]  At end of syllable indicates nasalization of preceding vowel. gim, samba
n 1) [n]  At beginning of syllable.  nono
2) [˜]  At end of syllable indicates nasalization of preceding vowel. onze
nh [ɲ] tenho
p [p]  pipa
qu 1) [k]   Before ei. quem
2) [kw]   Before ao. quatro
r 1) [ɾ]

a) Between vowels.

b) Following another consonant at the beginning of a syllable.

c) Final.

agora

pronto

2) [h] 

a) Word initial.

b) After nl.

c) Preceding another consonant.

d) Final.

rio

honra, melro

aberto

falar

rr [h]   arroz
s [s] 

a) Word initial.

b) After another consonant.

c) Final.

 sala

cansa

flores

[z] 

a) Between two vowels.

b) Before voiced consonants.

 casa

desde

sc [s]  Before ei.  desce
[s]  Before aou. deo
ss [s]  Found only between vowels. professor
t [t∫] Before [i]. titio
[t] Elsewhere. tanto
v [v] vaca
x 1) [∫]

a) Initial.

b) Before voiceless consonants.*

c) After another consonant.

d) Often between vowels (This is the most common

pronunciation of x between vowels).

xícara

sexto

enxuga

roxo

2) [s]

a) Between two vowels in a few words.

b) Before voiceless consonants.*

próximo, máximo

sexto

3) [z]  In initial ex plus vowels. exame, exército
4) [ks]  Between two vowels, mainly in words of foreign or Greek origin. xi, tórax, complexo
xc [s]  excesso
z [z]  zanga, azul, voz

*Either of these pronunciations of are appropriate in this particular context, either as a palatal sibilant or an alveolar sibilant. Individual Brazilian use either or both in their speech.

Practice i.1- Prática i.1

Pronounce the following words:

  • adeus
  • bom
  • Brasil
  • caro
  • carro
  • casa
  • cinema
  • chapéu
  • dente
  • dia
  • disse
  • é
  • feira
  • fui
  • grande
  • gelo
  • herói
  • igreja
  • jardim
  • mãe
  • maio
  • muito
  • não
  • olho
  • pau
  • pão
  • pediu
  • Portugal
  • quem
  • Rio
  • roxo
  • sim
  • tigre
  • tudo
  • um
  • você
  • xícara
  • zanga

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