BR-Portuguese: peculiarities of pronunciation

My PT is still very far from being perfect, but when it comes to "closed systems" like grammar and especially phonology, I move faster. So what I notice in real speech of Brazilians makes me wonder why it is still omitted in any popular course:

  1. Diphtongoid IE instead of I in stressed position in distinct speech, so that "vida" sounds like "víeda",

  2. In word-ending position, unstressed A is further narrowed to something like shwa, merging with E in the same position in European Portuguese, so that "vira" in pt-br sounds like "vire" in eu-br,

  3. In some dialects, stressed nasalized A is not only rised, but also strongly fronted, so that "morango" sounds like "morengo" if not like "moringo",

  4. Some dialects, or maybe even individual manners of speech, especially among males, involve some obvious lowering of larynx throughout all the phrase,

  5. In distinct speech (TV and radio commercials, for example) the voice onset of each vowel following a consonant is somewhat delayed, as if people, especially males, tried to weaken the consonants in order to "boost" the vowels.

Has anyone noticed the same?

August 17, 2017


Regarding number 2), that’s right! Actually, that happens not only with “a”, but also with virtually all unstressed final vowels. Vowel weakening and reduction is a widespread phenomenon in Portuguese, and it’s much stronger in European Portuguese. Generally, unstressed final vowels are elided in European Portuguese, somewhat like in French.

August 21, 2017

As for the vowels O and E, it is well-known and taught in books, while the case with A I've noticed independently, as well as all the other points ;) I just google and don't find anything substantial about all what I've mentioned here..

August 21, 2017

Since I'm a native, I'm not very acquainted with books on Portuguese as a second language, but you have a great ear, good work =] I'm not 100% sure on those, but I think you are also right about numbers 4) and 5). Numbers 1) and 3) sound unnatural to me, but perhaps they apply to some varieties and dialects. Did you have a particular variety in mind when you thought of them?

August 26, 2017

Number 3 = maybe Nordestino, I hear it sometimes. Some people, especially women pronounce the stressed ã, like -an- before a consonant, very fronted, I even wonder how they would distinguish it from -en- (at least),

Number 1 = very common in TV commercials, where distinct speech is applied. Hear it every day from various sources :)

BTW, number 4 is very noticeable at Luciano Huck's speech :)

(my native is Russian, I am in SC)

August 27, 2017

Thanks for the insights! To be honest, I actually thought you had a Northwestern variety in mind when thinking about number 1), since most local dialects there extend stressed vowels. Regarding number 3), now I can see what you mean =]. I think that happens because of the same phenomenon I mentioned. As they extend the sound, and as women generally have higher pitches than men, they may rise and front the vowel as they do so. I think I may have found those two observations unnatural because of how the examples were spelt. For the standards of those first educated in Portuguese, those spellings look weird at first, though they may be familiar for those that are native in other languages. In IPA, I probably would have a much clearer idea of your thoughts, though I get why you did not use it. getting IPA values exactly right from first hand experience is hard and, besides, not everyone knows them. There is also the effect of over-familiarity on my part, I think! For me, their pronunciation would probably not sound like "morengo" at all, but, although I'm familiar enough with the pronunciation not to notice it, the actual phoneme may be an intermediary between the more common pronunciations for a and e. In any case, Portuguese phonology is a very interesting topic.

I also thought a lot about number 4 since my response, and I think I have the impression this phenomenon may be more common in more nasalized varieties. I may be wrong, though, for I also feel I have listened to many similar examples in European Portuguese, which is known to be less nasalized than Brazilian varieties. Do you feel there is a significant difference between both groups regarding this?

August 29, 2017

Fernando, agradeço! Certainly, #1 is not Nordestino, I hear in every day on TV ;)

Nordestino is #3, probably. The 1st time I head it was in 2006 in a bus from Rio to Fortaleza CE. Two senior ladyes were going to Sobral, one of them said "em que hora estEmos?" ... The example with "morengo" I heard in Floripa from a shop-maid..

As for the larynx lowering, it is especially noticeable on oral vowels :) But more common among males (and lesbie women as well). Even 10-year-old boys here apply this very pattern, unlike girls. It looks like it is not very common among gaúchos. Sometimes, you know, appear some practices of "additional gender differentiating".

Also, I noticed that so-called "R caipira" is very popular among Floripa's youth. Looks like 99% of teens here speak this way. But try to google this - no result ;)

August 29, 2017

Wow, it seems you have a very attentive ear!

Yes, I live in Goiás and also have noticed #1 in the "carioca" accent. They also seem to add an "a" after a stressed "é" - "galera" then becomes something like "galéara".

I don't know about the European Portuguese accent, but the Brazilian part of #2 is surely true.

I've never noticed #3 or #5 in anyone's speech (maybe it's some accent I've never or just barely heard), nor heard about lowering of larynx (I googled it but still don't understand what it is :P ).

August 29, 2017

Oh! I even did not hear the #1 with low vowels :) European PT reduces the E the same way as Brazilian PT treats the A in this position, so that "onze" pronounced in European PT sounds closer to "onza" pronounced by a Brazilian... Maybe it is just my perception.. As for the 5, have you ever noticed, especially in TV and radio commercials, the vowels being pronounced with somewhat increasing loudness each? Like "im-p'eEr-d'iI-v'eEl!". Listen to the spots of a Globo's soap opera "PEGAPEGA": this manner, exactly! And it's really very common ;) BTW, can we add audio here?

August 29, 2017
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