https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Vowel reduction in casual speech

I've seen some videos and heard some songs in Brazilian Portuguese and am hearing final unstressed O and E dropped in rapid, casual speech. Can anyone confirm this and explain it more? Obrigado : )

February 22, 2014

49 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jandreslami

I think I've heard in Tá Falado podcasts that Brazilian Portuguese often have a very weak last vocal. For example the word "cidade" is pronounced more like "cee dah tshh" (don't know if this way of writing pronounciation is correct, I'm not native) without the "e" sound.

February 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kevtodd

That's right, "d" and "t" can sometimes behave unexpectedly in Portuguese pronunciation.

In combination with most vowels - i.e. "a", "o", "u" - they behave normally. Nevertheless (in most of Brazil) "de" and "te" will change to "djee" and "tchee" in word final position, like "cidade" (every so often they will make that sound at the beginning of the word - like "devagar" - but that pronunciation is flexible). However, "di" and "ti" will always make "djee" and "tchee" sounds, independent of where they are located (e.g. "divino", "indigno", "aprendi").

For clarification, the "djee" and "tchee" sounds I am referring to are phonetically transcribed as [d͡ʒi] and [t͡ʃi]. The reduction phenomenon you observed (the missing "e") is separate from the appearance of the [d͡ʒ] sound, and is addressed in my response to Brando727 above.

February 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Yeah, they say cidade as cidad' with the final D still said as J. Watch a video called Conversinha Mineira and listen to how they're speaking. It's on Youtube. Watch the one on top with the old man shown and then the one that just has the writing and people speaking. It's a great example of the vowel reduction thing I'm talking about.

  • By the way, it's okay about the native thing. I'm not a native either
February 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

Indeed, our weak last vowels are barely said, and it's not uncommon to hear them merged into the next word.

That happens in English too, but sinc(e) ther'are very fewer words ending with vowels, it happens less.

February 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Muito obrigado. It's funny Spanish does a similar thing, but they don't say B, D, G, R, or S. You can't imagine how hard it is to understand it. I was listening to a Brazilian song when one of the lines contained 'jeito de avisar'. How would 'jeito de' be said? Jeit' de, jei' de, or even something else?

February 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

Normally "jeito djavisá".
But the options you typed are common too. "jei'djavisá"

February 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Thanks. Yeah, I knew the djavisá part I just wasn't sure if the T would be said or not. Thank God it's not jeit' djavisá, it's too hard saying the T in that sentence. How often is the chiado thing in casual speech?

February 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

In Rio, always.

There is "jeit'dj..." too :p

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lorraine.charity

danmoller I laughed at this comment because it's reminding me of how hard it was to understand Brazilians when I was first learning! I would sit there thinking, "There's no WAY he said all that in such few syllables." Brando727 it's so hard to understand natural speech without doing immersion at some point. If you can't go to Brazil try to listen to/watch as many movies, podcasts, music etc that you can and find a conversation buddy online or in your city. Vai conseguir!

February 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Oi, lorraine.charity. Como vai? I've been researching on the way people speak and what grammar rules and even verb tenses are omitted in Brazilian Portuguese in casual speech and writing. In Spanish, so many sounds are dropped it isn't even funny (las posibilidades - la' posi'ili'a'e'). Forget what you've learned in school because you can't understand squat. For me, natural Brazilian speech is much easier to understand (except for slang). I do plenty of immersion strategies. I listen to Brazilian music and even watch SNL Brasil (watch polícia 24hr01m, Dona Mirtes, or the Suzanna a Bipolar skits some time. They're hilarious). Até : )

February 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lorraine.charity

Ha, yeah I know that to ever be conversational in Spanish I'll need to do some sort of immersion because even though I can read and understand, whenever I open my mouth Portuguese just comes out. I haven't seen SNL Brasil... I'm actually in Brazil right now so I'll see if it's on haha. Sounds like you are well on your way to speaking Portuguese, I hope you get to visit soon if you haven't already!

February 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Really? How cool! Brazil seems like a really nice country to visit. I say I speak Spanish, understand Portuguese, and read French. Thing is, I can SPEAK Spanish. I can't understand it. I can read and write it too, but I wouldn't say Spanish is my second language. Heck, I'd rather Portuguese be my second language thsn Spanish. By the way, what was the syllable dropping thing that you were talking about? Like 'xô?

February 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

You're in Brazil?? Cool.

Which part of it??? I live in Rio.

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lorraine.charity

Acabei de começar um estágio em Araxá, MG. Cheguei só na quinta passada (depois de esperar pelo visto por 6 meses!). Eu fiz intercambio no Brasil por um ano e visitei o Rio duas vezes... adorei. To muito feliz estar no Brasil de novo :D

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

Nice!!! Minas Gerais is my heartland (not homeland, but I adopted it).

I lived there for a while. Love their accent, and their "pão de queijo".

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

Haha, you like the "minas quente", as we call it shortened in Rio.

MG is kind of a "captal of the cheese". They make many kinds of cheese and produce lots of milk. Queijo minas is just one of those.

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/spyglass398

danmoller and lorraine.charity I'm a big fan of "pão na chapa com queijo minas" or "pão com queijo minas na chapa" which I assume is popular in MG ("queijo minas") although I live near SP and this is popular breakfast food there.

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Cê tá em Brasil?! Que ótimo! Brazil seems like a really cool place to visit. What's it like in Brazil, anyway?

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Boa noite dos Estados Unidos. I was wondering something. Could quero be said as que'? And one more thing, are initial unstressed vowels also dropped (like entende becomes 'tend')?

February 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

Well, there are the laziest brazilians, they do fantastic stuff with words.

"Quero" cannot be said as "que", but "quer" can.
"Quer dizer" = "qué dizê". That has the same meaning as "quero dizer".

Initals are not dropped. But there are some specific words that might have the initials droped. Entender is one of those, tendeu?

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Thanks. So does that mean quero dizer could be said the same as quer dizer or not?

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

When it's used to correct or to complement a sentence like this:

Eu vou ao parque hoje, quero dizer, amanhã. = Eu vou ao parque hoje, quer dizer, amanhã.
(I'm goint to the park today, I mean, tomorrow)

Other cases must keep them different.

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Thanks. I was asking if quero dizer is ever said the same like quer dizer (homophonous). Also, I meant to ask this earlier, how often does the chaido (s = sh) occur in Brazil? Is final unstressed A ever silent, even if the next word begins with a consonant?

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Oi, danmoller. I was wondering if unstressed final I and U are ever dropped? I was wondering this because I wasn't sure if tu é would be said t'é or just tu é. Also, is unstressed A ever dropped if the next word begins with a consonant or no?

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

I and U don't make unstressed finals, unless there is an accent on another syllable.
I and U stress the ending.

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Yeah, that was a bit of a stupid question. I knew words ending in L, U, Z, I, or R have the last syllable stressed, I have no clue why in the world I asked that. I came across something earlier that said R after a consonant and before an unstressed vowel is dropped. Does this mean Brasil could be said B'asil?! It doesn't sound right though.

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

No, we don't drop when the other word begins with a vowel, we merge:

Quatroelefantes, and some say quatrelefantes.

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Oh. That's nice, thanks. On SNL Brasil, they're all Paulistanos (although Marcela Leal accidentally slips up her Caipira accent) and the accent pronounces all of the vowels (but I once heard quatro as quatr'). Back to what you said earlier, could quero dizer and quer dizer be said the same?

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kevtodd

It wasn't a dumb question, because even though words that end with the letters "i" and "u" have their last syllables stressed (unless there is a diacritical mark indicating stress on a different syllable, like danmoller said), there are many words that end with the sounds [i] and [u] that are not stressed, and these sounds are often reduced, or form diphthongs with following words that start with vowels. For example, the words "comi" and "come" both end with the sound [i], but the former's last syllable is stressed and the latter's first syllable is (oxítona and paroxítona).

As for your second question, the "r" rule you are looking for is a little complicated. The "r" is not dropped, but it does make different sounds based on its location. Why is the "r" in "livro" and "prato" different from the one in "honra", "genro", or "Israel"? When it follows the consonants "n", "l", or "s" in the interior of word and starts the syllable, then it will have an [h] sound. These words are pretty rare. More commonly you will see the "rr" make the [h] sound, in places between vowels (posição intervocálica), like in "carro". To contrast this, the word "caro", is pronounced with a single alveolar tap [ɾ]. The rules governing the "r" in word final position are different, and vary with regional accents.

February 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Thanks, but I'm sorry to say that I already knew that. You do a great job of explaining it, though, using the IPA and everything. I've been doing a lot of research on how people actually speak in Brazil, not how the books tell you how to write and speak Portuguese. Watch www.youtube.com/watch?v=HidlEZda2MA‎ and www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNnP3k1Wz_k‎. They're both about a video by Fernando Sabino called Conversinha Mineira. It shows greatly the vowel reduction I'm talking about, which in the video, it shows it mainly occurs in casual speech. The man with the briefcase reduces vowels less than the other two men. Interestingly, it might also show that your social class affects how you speak.

February 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

No way. We only drop unstressed things at the ends.

Like quatro. Some people stop in qua.
It's not that they drop, they try to speak, they make the consonant sound, but outsiders hardly notice them.

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Thanks. B'asil sounded pretty ridiculous anyway. I'm guessing it's said quat' when the next word begins with a vowel? If it is, I'm assuming it's the same thing for quero?

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

No, quer and quero are different. There is an answer above about it. Even if "o" gets dropped, the R sound is very distinct in both.

People on TV and communications professionals, artists, speakers and so on are trained to talk in a perfect way, they must talk perfectly.

All these droppings are lazyness about speaking everything perfectly.

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Yeah, thanks. Even people in the media here try to speak perfectly. The way I speak is a prime example of the 'laziness'. Out of curiosity, could tempo ever be said without the p and o?

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

The worst case of droppinga vowel in the last syllable would still mantain a trace of the last consonant.

Tem(p). Even if P is not clear, there is a trace of it. Different from tem.

Again, if there is a next word, it merges.

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Thanks. I just wanted to make sure. I didn't wanna show up in Brazil speaking Portuguese and no one understand what I'm saying. I plan on visiting or even moving to Rio one day. Speaking of which, what's life like in Rio?

February 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kevtodd

In Brazilian Portuguese the sounds [e], [a], and [o] in word final position reduce to [i], [ɐ], and [u]. Therefore, "vive" will sound like [ˈvivi] (stress on the first syllable). Sometimes the final vowel will be reduced so much as to become voiceless - [ˈvivi̥]. Luckily, speakers are not usually "dropping" the vowel entirely, just reducing it drastically (or else "vive" and "vivo" would be indistinguishable from one another).

February 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/cskidz99

Could you clarify a bit, please? What is the upside-down "a" thing, and what exactly do you mean by voiceless?

February 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kevtodd

I am using some symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet in order to try and accurately represent the sounds produced. The [ɐ] represents a sound that is slightly less open than [a], and slightly more open than [ə] (the schwa sound that we use in English). You can listen to the difference using the following vowel chart:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPA_vowel_chart_with_audio

"Voiceless" means the sound is being produced without the vocal chords vibrating, and its opposite is "voiced". Try making a prolonged [s] (hiss like a snake), but then switch to a [z] (like a bee buzzing). The only difference between the two is that the first is voiceless and the second is voiced.

February 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

It's like 'a't in English but different. In Portuguese, it's reduced to 'uh'.

February 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

But one can probably understand this only by hearing experience.

Try these. People put the portuguese subtitles in the comments for the videos.

https://www.duolingo.com/comment/1869192

February 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Thanks. It's very helpful. I wasn't sure on this, but is unstressed A ever dropped? Or is it only dropped if the next word begins with a vowel?

February 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

It's the same kind of dropping of the others, as kevtodd said very well.

It gets very weak, but somehow it's there and a trained person can identify it.
The a is a clearer than the others, indeed.

The e is very clear in some cases, because it's the one that turns TE into TCH and DE into DJ.

February 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

So then in this case, the final vowel is never dropped in casual speech, even final unstressed E and O?

February 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

I suggest you listen a lot. I can't explain it. There are no rules. It's just easyness.

The clear sound of them is not there, but they leave a trace.

Like in "gi'm'a good reason" or "Lik'I said". (Give me a) and (Like I).

Or "that is what I lik'". It's quite the same behavior.

February 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kevtodd

There are actually rules that govern many aspects of pronunciation: when open vowel sounds can be used, which ones can be nasalized, palatalization, vocal assimilation, etc. It is just that native speakers know the rules instinctively, but not how to verbalize them. Many of these rules have parallels in English that Americans are not aware of. Like why does the "s" in "cats" make a [s] sound while in "dogs" it makes a [z] sound? Most Americans would not be able to tell you why, but all of us do it instinctively.

February 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Yeah. I'm starting to learn 'just speak and before you know it, you'll drop letters yourself'. By the way, just for a tip, in 'gimme a', the final E is said. The silent E in like is standard pronunciation. You wanna hear real natural spoken English?

  • I want to go to the movies, but he already told me that I had to wait. I don't feel like waiting, though.
  • I wa"a go "a the movies, bu" 'e alrea"y tol" me tha" I ha" "a wai'. I do"' feel like wai"ing, tough.

That's basically how I speak. By the way, " means like an R in Portuguese (like pára) and ' means a glottal stop (like how the final T in 'it' is never said. However, 'he' is just shortened to 'e. No glottal stop there), however, if, let's say, the word 'it' is followed by a vowel, the T becomes a rolled R (like pára). Also, the way I speak, N is also said like a rolled R. Trust me, I'm not the best person to be teaching English to a foreigner. Heck, not even natives can understand what I'm saying sometimes. I speak to fast and talk the way I showed above. By the, N like a rolled R isn't often. I'm probably the only one that does that. Confusing, huh?

February 24, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Danmoller

It's not that exact.

Many people do things that other don't. There are people who really drop some syllables, some say them clearly.

All of them are understood, some might be considered bad.

February 25, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Brando727

Obrigado pra tudos. Everything you've told me has been very helpful. I was just watching some polícia 24h01m skits on SNL Brasil. It's a perfect way to get used to the different ways people speak. The people who talk and have subtitles under them really drop last syllables. It'll be a lot of practice, but I'll get the hang of it. The dropping syllables thing is somewhat nice because "tem' de sair" is much easier to say than "temp' de sair". The police officers in the skit don't drop syllables but the others do. Check it out sometime. The skits are really funny, too : )

February 25, 2014
Learn Portuguese in just 5 minutes a day. For free.