The phonology of Portuguese varies among dialects, in extreme cases leading to some difficulties in intelligibility. Portuguese is a pluricentric language and has some of the most diverse sound variations in any language. This article on phonology focuses on the pronunciations that are generally regarded as standard. Since Portuguese is a pluricentric language—and differences between European Portuguese (EP), Brazilian Portuguese (BP), and Angolan Portuguese (AP) can be considerable—varieties are distinguished whenever necessary.
One of the most salient differences between the European and Brazilian dialects is their prosody. European Portuguese is a stress-timed language, with reduction, devoicing or even deletion of unstressed vowels, and a general tolerance of syllable-final consonants. Brazilian Portuguese, on the other hand, is of mixed characteristics, and varies according to the speech rate, dialect, and gender of the speaker.
Brazilian Portuguese disallows some closed syllables: coda nasals are deleted with concomitant nasalization of the preceding vowel, even in learned words; coda /l/ becomes [w], except for conservative velarization at the extreme south and rhotacism in remote rural areas in the center of the country; the coda rhotic is usually deleted entirely when word-final, especially in verbs in the infinitive form; and /i/ can be epenthesized after almost all other coda-final consonants. This tends to produce words almost entirely composed of open syllables, e.g., magma [ˈmaɡimɐ]. In European Portuguese, similarly, epenthesis may occur with [ɨ], as in magma [ˈmaɣɨmɐ] and afta [ˈafɨtɐ].
The consonant inventory of Portuguese is fairly conservative. The medieval Galician-Portuguese system of seven sibilants (/ts dz/, /ʃ ʒ/, /tʃ/, and apicoalveolar /s̺ z̺/) is still distinguished in spelling (intervocalic c/ç z, x g/j, ch, ss -s- respectively), but is reduced to the four fricatives /s z ʃ ʒ/ by the merger of /tʃ/ into /ʃ/ and apicoalveolar /s̺ z̺/ into either /s z/ or /ʃ ʒ/ (depending on dialect and syllable position), except in parts of northern Portugal (most notably in the Trás-os-Montes region). These changes are known as deaffrication. Other than this, there have been no other significant changes to the consonant phonemes since Old Portuguese. However, several consonant phonemes have special allophones at syllable boundaries (often varying quite significantly between European and Brazilian Portuguese), and a few also undergo allophonic changes at word boundaries.
There is a variation in the pronunciation of the first consonant of certain clusters, most commonly C or P in cç, ct, pç and pt. These consonants may be variably elided or conserved. For some words, this variation may exist inside a country, sometimes in all of them; for others, the variation is dialectal, with the consonant being always pronounced in one country and always elided in the other. This variation affects 0.5% of the language's vocabulary, or 575 words out of 110,000. In most cases, Brazilians variably conserve the consonant while speakers elsewhere have invariably ceased to pronounce it (for example, detector in Brazil versus detetor in Portugal). The inverse situation is rarer, occurring in words such as fa(c)to and conta(c)to (consonants never pronounced in Brazil, pronounced elsewhere). Until 2009, this reality could not be apprehended from the spelling: while Brazilians did not write consonants that were no longer pronounced, the spelling of the other countries retained them in many words as silent letters, usually when there was still a vestige of their presence in the pronunciation of the preceding vowel. This could give the false impression that European Portuguese was phonologically more conservative in this aspect, when in fact it was Brazilian Portuguese that retained more consonants in pronunciation.
Syllables have the maximal structure of (C)(C)V(C). The only possible codas in European Portuguese are /ʃ/, /l/ and /ɾ/ and in Brazilian Portuguese /s/ and /ɾ~ʁ/.
The two rhotic phonemes /ʁ/ and /ɾ/ contrast only between oral vowels, similar to Spanish. Elsewhere, their occurrence is predictable by context, with dialectal variations in realization. The rhotic is "hard" (i.e., /ʁ/) in the following circumstances:
It is "soft" (i.e., /ɾ/) when it occurs in syllable onset clusters (e.g., atributo), and written as a single 'r' between vowels (e.g., dirigir 'to drive')
The realization of the "hard" rhotic /ʁ/ varies significantly across dialects.
This restricted variation has prompted several authors to postulate a single rhotic phoneme. Câmara (1953) and Mateus & d'Andrade (2000) see the soft as the unmarked realization and that instances of intervocalic [ʁ] result from gemination and a subsequent deletion rule (i.e., carro /ˈkaro/ > [ˈkaɾʁu] > [ˈkaʁu]). Similarly, Bonet & Mascaró (1997) argue that the hard is the unmarked realization.
In addition to the phonemic variation between /ʁ/ and /ɾ/ between vowels, up to four allophones of the "merged" phoneme /R/ are found in other positions:
The default hard allophone is some sort of voiceless fricative in most dialects, e.g., [χ] [h] [x], although other variants are also found. For example, a trill [r] is found in certain conservative dialects down São Paulo, of Italian-speaking, Spanish-speaking, Arabic-speaking, or Slavic-speaking influence. The other trill [ʀ] is found in areas of German-speaking, French-speaking, and Portuguese-descended influence throughout coastal Brazil down Espírito Santo, most prominently Rio de Janeiro.
The syllable-final allophone shows the greatest variation:
Throughout Brazil, deletion of the word-final rhotic is common, regardless of the "normal" pronunciation of the syllable-final allophone. This pronunciation is particularly common in lower registers, although found in most registers in some areas, e.g., Northeast Brazil, and in the more formal and standard sociolect. It occurs especially in verbs, which always end in R in their infinitive form; in words other than verbs, the deletion is rarer and seems not to occur in monosyllabic non-verb words, such as mar. Evidence of this allophone is often encountered in writing that attempts to approximate the speech of communities with this pronunciation, e.g., the rhymes in the popular poetry (cordel literature) of the Northeast and phonetic spellings (e.g., amá, sofrê in place of amar, sofrer) in Jorge Amado's novels (set in the Northeast) and Gianfrancesco Guarnieri's play Eles não usam black tie (about favela dwellers in Rio de Janeiro).
The soft realization is often maintained across word boundaries in close syntactic contexts (e.g., mar azul [ˈmaɾ aˈzuw] 'blue sea').
Portuguese has one of the richest vowel phonologies of all Romance languages, having both oral and nasal vowels, diphthongs, and triphthongs. A phonemic distinction is made between close-mid vowels /e o/ and the open-mid vowels /ɛ ɔ/, as in Italian, Catalan and French, though there is a certain amount of vowel alternation. European Portuguese has also two central vowels, one of which tends to be elided like the e caduc of French.
The central closed vowel [ɨ] only occurs in European Portuguese when e is unstressed, e.g. presidente [pɾɨziˈðẽtɨ], as well as in Angola; where unlike Portugal, it only occurs in final syllables, e.g. presidente [pɾeziˈdẽtɨ]. However, [ɨ] does not exist in Brazil, e.g. presidente [pɾeziˈdẽtʃɪ].
In Angola, /ɐ/ and /a/ merge to [a], and /ɐ/ appears only in final syllables rama /ˈʁamɐ/. The nasal /ɐ̃/ becomes open [ã].
In some cases, Portuguese uses vowel height to contrast stressed syllables with unstressed syllables:
See below for details. The dialects of Portugal are characterized by reducing vowels to a greater extent than others. Falling diphthongs are composed of a vowel followed by one of the high vowels /i/ or /u/; although rising diphthongs occur in the language as well, they can be interpreted as hiatuses.
European Portuguese possesses quite a wide range of vowel allophones:
Furthermore, Cruz-Ferreira gives voiceless allophones of /ɨ/, /u/, /ɐ/ in the unstressed word-final position.
The exact realization of the /ɐ/ varies somewhat amongst dialects. In Brazil, the vowel can be as high as [ə] in any environment. It is typically closer in stressed syllables before intervocalic nasals /m, n, ɲ/ than word-finally, reaching as open a position as [ɐ] in the latter case, and open-mid [ɜ] before nasals, where /ɐ/ can be nasalized. In European Portuguese, the general situation is similar, except that in some regions the two vowels form minimal pairs in some European dialects. In central European Portuguese this contrast occurs in a limited morphological context, namely in verbs conjugation between the first person plural present and past perfect indicative forms of verbs such as pensamos ('we think') and pensámos ('we thought'; spelled ⟨pensamos⟩ in Brazil). Spahr proposes that it is a kind of crasis rather than phonemic distinction of /a/ and /ɐ/. It means that in falamos 'we speak' there is the expected prenasal /a/-raising: [fɐˈlɐmuʃ], while in falámos 'we spoke' there are phonologically two /a/ in crasis: /faˈlaamos/ > [fɐˈlamuʃ] (but in Brazil both merge, falamos [faˈlɐ̃mus]). Close-mid vowels and open-mid vowels (/e ~ ɛ/ and /o ~ ɔ/) contrast only when they are stressed. In unstressed syllables, they occur in complementary distribution. In Brazilian Portuguese, they are raised to a close vowel ([i ~ ɪ] and [u ~ ʊ], respectively) after a stressed syllable, or in some accents and in general casual speech, also before it.
According to Mateus and d'Andrade (2000:19), in European Portuguese, the stressed /ɐ/ only occurs in the following three contexts:
English loanwords containing stressed /ʌ/ or /ɜːr/ are usually associated with pre-nasal ⟨a⟩ as in rush, or are influenced by orthography as in clube (club), or both, as in surf/surfe.
European Portuguese possesses a near-close near-back unrounded vowel, transcribed /ɨ/ in this article. It occurs in unstressed syllables such as in pegar /pɨˈɡaɾ/ ('to grip').
There are very few minimal pairs for this sound: some examples include pregar /pɾɨˈɡaɾ/ ('to nail') vs. pregar /pɾɛˈɡaɾ/ ('to preach'; the latter stemming from earlier preegar < Latin praedicāre), sê /ˈse/ ('be!') vs. sé /ˈsɛ/ ('see/cathedral') vs. se /sɨ/ ('if'), and pêlo /ˈpelu/ ('hair') vs. pélo /ˈpɛlu/ ('I peel off') vs. pelo /pɨlu/ ('for the'), after orthographic changes, all these three words are now spelled pelo.
Diphthongs are not considered independent phonemes in Portuguese, but knowing them can help with spelling and pronunciation.
|Diphthong||Usual spelling||Example||Meaning||Notes and variants|
|/aj/||ai, ái||pai||'father'||In Brazil, it may be realized as [a] before a post-alveolar fricative /ʃ, ʒ/, making baixo realized as [ˈbaʃʊ].|
|/ɐj/||ai, âi||plaina||'jointer'||In several Brazilian dialects; it occurs before nasal consonants and can be nasalised, as in plaina [ˈplɐ̃jnɐ].|
|ei, éi, êi||leite||'milk'||In Greater Lisbon (according to NUTS III, which does not include Setúbal) /e, ɛ/ can be centralized to [ɐ] before palatals /j, ɲ, ʃ, ʒ, ʎ/.; e.g. roupeiro [ʁowˈpejɾu - ʁoˈpɐjɾu], brenha [ˈbɾeɲɐ - ˈbɾɐ(j)ɲɐ], texto [ˈteʃtu - ˈtɐ(j)ʃtu], vejo [ˈveʒu - ˈvɐ(j)ʒu], coelho [kuˈeʎu - kuˈɐ(j)ʎu], anéis [ɐˈnɛjʃ - ɐˈnɐjʃ]. Before /j/, it is often a back vowel [ʌ]: [ɐˈnʌjʃ] etc.|
|/ej/||ei, êi||rei||'king'||In several vernacular dialects (most of Portugal, Brazil and Lusophone Africa), "ei" may be realized essentially as [e] in unstressed syllables. Words ending on either -eiro or -eira (like roupeiro [ʁoˈpeɾʊ], bandeira [bɐ̃ˈdeɾɐ], brasileiro [bɾaziˈleɾʊ], brasileira [bɾaziˈleɾɐ], etc.), when ei precedes a palatal sound (like queijo [ˈkeʒʊ], deixa [ˈdeʃɐ], etc.), or when ei precedes a consonant in general (like manteiga [mɐ̃ˈteɡɐ], beiço [ˈbesʊ]) are optionally monophthongized, depending on the speaker and region (comparable to Spanish ropero, bandera, brasilero, brasilera, queso, deja, manteca, bezo).
However, notice that when ei makes up part of a Greco-Latin loanword (like diarreico, anarreico, etc.), as well as nouns ending on -ei (like rei [ˈʁej], lei [ˈlej]) and seis, reino keep their palatal sound /ej/ (/ɛj/, in case of -eico ending nouns and adjectives). In most stressed syllables, the pronunciation is /ej/. There are very few minimal pairs for /ej/ and /ɛj/, all of which occur in oxytonic words.
In Greater Lisbon, however, it is always pronounced [ɐj].
|/ɛj/||ei, éi||geleia, anéis||'jelly', 'rings'||It only occurs in -el plurals like anéis (plural of anel 'ring').
In Greater Lisbon, however, it is always pronounced [ɐj].
|/ɔj/||oi, ói||dói, destrói||'hurts', 'destroys'||Pronounced as /ɔj/ mostly on -oi ending words like herói 'hero', as well as some verbal conjugations.|
|/uj/||ui||fui||'I went'||Usually stressed.|
|/ɐw/||au, âu||saudade, trauma||'to miss', 'trauma'||In EP, when unstressed. In Greater Lisbon (according to NUTS III, which does not include Setúbal) when unstressed, it may also become monophthongized [o], e.g. restaurante [ʁɨʃtɐwˈɾɐ̃tɨ - ʁʃtoˈɾɐ̃t], automóvel [ɐwtuˈmɔvɛl - otʷˈmɔvɛl].
In several Brazilian dialects; it occurs before nasal consonants and can be nasalised, as in trauma [ˈtɾɐ̃wmɐ].
|/ew/||eu, êu||seu||'your'/'yours'||There are very few minimal pairs for /eu/ and /ɛu/, all occurring in oxytonic words.|
|/iw/||iu||viu||'he saw'||Usually stressed.|
|/ow/||ou||ouro||'gold'||Merges optionally with /o/ in most of modern Portuguese dialects, excluding some regions in northern Portugal.|
There are also some words with two vowels occurring next to each other like in iate and sábio may be pronounced both as rising diphthongs or hiatus. In these and other cases, other diphthongs, diphthong-hiatus or hiatus-diphthong combinations might exist depending on speaker, such as [uw] or even [uw.wu] for suo ('I sweat') and [ij] or even [ij.ji] for fatie ('slice it').
[j] and [w] are non-syllabic counterparts of the vowels /i/ and /u/, respectively. At least in European Portuguese, the diphthongs [ɛj, aj, ɐj, ɔj, oj, uj, iw, ew, ɛw, aw] tend to have more central second elements [ɛɪ̯, aɪ̯, ʌɪ̯, ɔɪ̯, oɪ̯, uɪ̯, iʊ̯, eʊ̯, ɛʊ̯, aʊ̯] (as stated above, the starting point of /ɐi/ is typically back) – note that [ʊ̯] is also more weakly rounded than the [u] monophthong.
|Nasal vowel||Usual spelling||Example||Meaning|
|/ɐ̃/||ã, am, an||rã, canto||'frog', 'I sing' or 'corner'|
|/ẽ/||em, en||entro||'I enter'|
|/ĩ/||im, in||vim||'I came'|
|/õ/||õ, om, on||sombra||'shadow'|
Portuguese also has a series of nasalized vowels. Cruz-Ferreira (1995) analyzes European Portuguese with five monophthongs and five diphthongs, all phonemic: /ĩ ẽ ɐ̃ õ ũ ɐ̃j̃ õj̃ ũj̃ ɐ̃w̃ õw̃/. Nasal diphthongs occur mostly at the end of words (or followed by a final sibilant), and in a few compounds.
As in French, the nasal consonants represented by the letters ⟨m n⟩ are deleted in coda position, and in that case the preceding vowel becomes phonemically nasal, e.g. in genro /ˈʒẽʁʊ/ ('son-in-law'). But a nasal consonant subsists when it is followed by a plosive, e.g. in cantar [kɐ̃nˈtaɾ] ('to sing'). Vowel nasalization has also been observed non-phonemically as result of coarticulation, before heterosyllabic nasal consonants, e.g. in soma [ˈsõmɐ] ('sum'). Hence, there is a difference between phonemic nasal vowels and those that are allophonically nasalized. Additionally, a nasal monophthong /ɐ̃/ written ⟨ã⟩ exists independently of these processes, e.g. in romã /ʁoˈmɐ̃/ ('pomegranate'). Brazilian Portuguese is seen as being more nasal than European Portuguese due to the presence of these nasalized vowels. Some linguists[who?] consider them to be a result of external influences, including the common language spoken at Brazil's coast at time of discovery, Tupi.
The /e-ɛ/ and /o-ɔ/ distinction does not happen in nasal vowels; ⟨em om⟩ are pronounced as close-mid. In BP, the vowel /a/ (which the letter ⟨a⟩ otherwise represents) is sometimes phonemically raised to /ɐ/ when it is nasal, and also in stressed syllables before heterosyllabic nasal consonants (even if the speaker does not nasalize vowels in this position): compare for instance dama sã [ˈdɐmɐ ˈsɐ̃] (PT) or [ˈdɐ̃mɐ ˈsɐ̃] (BR) ('healthy lady') and dá maçã [ˈda mɐˈsɐ̃] (PT) or [ˈda maˈsɐ̃] (BR) ('it gives apples'). /a/ may also be raised slightly in word-final unstressed syllables.
Nasalization and height increase noticeably with time during the production of a single nasal vowel in BP in those cases that are written with nasal consonants ⟨m n⟩, so that /ˈʒẽʁu/ may be realized as [ˈʒẽj̃ʁʊ] or [ˈʒẽɰ̃ʁʊ]. This creates a significant difference between the realizations of ⟨am⟩ and ⟨ã⟩ for some speakers: compare for instance ranço real [ˈʁɐ̃su 'ʁjal] (PT) or [ˈʁɐ̃ɰ̃sʊ ʁeˈaw] (BR) ('royal rancidness') and rã surreal [ˈʁɐ̃ suˈʁjal] (PT) or [ˈʁɐ̃ suʁeˈaw] (BR) ('surreal frog'). (Here [ɰ̃] means a velar nasal approximant.) At the end of a word ⟨em⟩ is always pronounced [ẽj̃] with a clear nasal palatal approximant (see below). Whenever a nasal vowel is pronounced with a nasal coda (approximant or occlusive) the (phonetic) nasalization of the vowel itself is optional.
The following examples exhaustively demonstrate the general situation for BP.
It follows from these observations that the vowels of BP can be described simply in the following way.
With this description, the examples from before are simply /ʁoˈmɐ/, /ˈʒeNʁu/, /sej̃/, /kaNˈtaɾ/, /ˈkɐnu/, /ˈtomu/. But there is no commonly accepted transcription for Brazilian Portuguese phonology.
Vowel nasalization in some dialects of Brazilian Portuguese is very different from that of French, for example. In French, the nasalization extends uniformly through the entire vowel, whereas in the Southern-Southeastern dialects of Brazilian Portuguese, the nasalization begins almost imperceptibly and then becomes stronger toward the end of the vowel. In this respect it is more similar to the nasalization of Hindi-Urdu (see Anusvara). In some cases, the nasal archiphoneme even entails the insertion of a nasal consonant such as [m, n, ŋ, ȷ̃, w̃, ɰ̃] (compare Polish phonology § Open), as in the following examples:
|Nasal diphthong||Usual spelling||Example||Meaning||Notes and variants|
|/ɐ̃w̃/||am, ão||falam, mão||'they speak', 'hand'||The spelling am is used in unstressed syllables (falaram [fɐ.ˈla.ɾɐ̃w̃], 'they spoke'), whereas ão is for stressed syllables (falarão [fɐ.lɐ.'ɾɐ̃w̃], 'they will speak')|
|/ɐ̃j̃/||ãe, ãi||mãe, cãibra||'mom', 'cramp'||In Central and Southern Portugal, it is also the colloquial pronunciation of /ẽj/, which means mãe and bem rhyme.|
|/ẽj̃/||em||bem||'well'||In Greater Lisbon, it merges to [ɐ̃j], which means mãe and bem rhyme.|
|/õw̃ ~ õ/ ||om||bom||'good'||The diphthongation of such nasal vowel is controversial.|
|/ũj̃/||ui||muito||'very', 'much'||Only nasalized in words derived from muito (including mui).|
Most times nasal diphthongs occur at the end of the word. They are:
[j̃] and [w̃] are nasalized, non-syllabic counterparts of the vowels /i/ and /u/, respectively. In European Portuguese, they are normally not fully close, being closer to [ɪ̯̃ ʊ̯̃]. As with the oral [ʊ̯], the nasal [ʊ̯̃] is not only more central but also more weakly rounded than the [u] monophthong. This is not transcribed in this article.
The stressed relatively open vowels /a, ɛ, ɔ/ contrast with the stressed relatively close vowels /ɐ, e, o/ in several kinds of grammatically meaningful alternation:
There are also pairs of unrelated words that differ in the height of these vowels, such as besta /e/ ('beast') and besta /ɛ/ ('crossbow'); mexo /e/ ('I move') and mecho /ɛ/ ('I highlight [hair]'); molho /o/ ('sauce') and molho /ɔ/ ('bunch'); corte /ɔ/ ('cut') and corte /o/ ('court'); meta /e/ ('I put' subjunctive) and meta /ɛ/ ('goal'); and (especially in Portugal) para /ɐ/ ('for') and para /a/ ('he stops'); forma /o/ ('mold') and forma /ɔ/ ('shape').
There are several minimal pairs in which a clitic containing the vowel /ɐ/ contrasts with a monosyllabic stressed word containing /a/: da vs. dá, mas vs. más, a vs. à /a/, etc. In BP, however, these words may be pronounced with /a/ in some environments.
Some isolated vowels (meaning those that are neither nasal nor part of a diphthong) tend to change quality in a fairly predictable way when they become unstressed. In the examples below, the stressed syllable of each word is in boldface. The term "final" should be interpreted here as at the end of a word or before word-final -s.
|Spelling||Stressed||Unstressed, not final||Unstressed and final|
|a||/a/ or /ɐ/ (BR, EP)
pensamos /ɐ/ (BR, EP); /a/ (AP)
|/ɐ/ or /a/ (EP)
/a/ (AP, BP)
|partir * /a/ (BR, AP); /ɐ/ (EP)
|/ɐ/||pensa * /ɐ/|
|ai||/aj/ or /aj ~ ɐj/ (BR)
/aj/ (EP, AP)
plaina /aj ~ ɐj/ (BR); /aj/ (EP, AP)
|/aj/ (BR, AP)
|apaixonar * /aj/ (BR, AP); /ɐj/ (EP)||–||–|
|au||/aw/ or /aw ~ ɐw/ (BR)
/aw/ (EP, AP)
fauna /aw ~ ɐw/ (BR); /aw/ (EP, AP)
|/aw/ (BR, AP)
|automático * /aw/ (BR, AP); /ɐw/ (EP)||–||–|
|e||/e/ or /ɛ/||mover /e/
/ɨ/ or /ɛ/ (EP)
/e/ or /ɛ/ (AP)
|pregar * /e/ (BP, AP); /ɨ/ (EP) (to nail)
pregar * /e/ (BP); /ɛ/ (EP, AP) (to preach, to advocate)
/ɨ/ (EP, AP)
|move * /ɪ/ (BP); /ɨ/ (EP, AP)|
|ei||/ej ~ e/ or /ɛj/
|peixe /ej ~ e/; /ɐj/ (Lisbon)
anéis /ɛj/; /ɐj/ (Lisbon)
|/ej ~ e/
|eleição * /ej ~ e/; /ɐj/ (Lisbon)||/ej ~ e/
|possíveis * /ej ~ e/; /ɐj/ (Lisbon)|
|eu||/ew/ or /ɛw/||meu /ew/
|o||/o/ or /ɔ/||pôde /o/
/u/ or /ɔ/ (EP)
/o/ or /ɔ/ (AP)
|poder * /o/ (BP, AP); /u/ (EP)
você * /o/ (BP); /ɔ/ (EP, AP)
/u/ (EP, AP)
|pato * /ʊ/ (BP); /u/ (EP, AP)|
|oi||/oj/ or /ɔj/||coisa /oj/
|/oj/||oitavo * /oj/||–||–|
|ou||/ow ~ o/||ouro /ow ~ o/||/ow ~ o/||dourado * /ow ~ o/||–||–|
* N.E.: The bold syllable is the stressed, but the pronunciation indicated on the left is for the unstressed syllable – not bold.
With a few exceptions mentioned in the previous sections, the vowels /a/ and /ɐ/ occur in complementary distribution when stressed, the latter before nasal consonants followed by a vowel, and the former elsewhere.
In Brazilian Portuguese, the general pattern in the southern and western accents is that the stressed vowels /a, ɐ/, /e, ɛ/, /o, ɔ/ neutralize to /a/, /e/, /o/, respectively, in unstressed syllables, as is common in Romance languages. In final unstressed syllables, however, they are raised to /ɐ/, /i/, /u/. In casual BP (as well as in the fluminense dialect), unstressed /e/ and /o/ may be raised to /ɪ ~ i/, /ʊ ~ u/ on any unstressed syllable, as long as it has no coda. However, in the dialects of Northeastern Brazilian (as spoken in the states of Bahia and Pernambuco), non-final unstressed vowels are often open-mid /a/, /ɛ/, /ɔ/, independent of vowel harmony with surrounding lower vowels.
European Portuguese has taken this process one step further, raising /a, ɐ/, /e, ɛ/, /o, ɔ/ to /ɐ/, /ɨ/, /u/ in almost all unstressed syllables. The vowels /ɐ/ and /ɨ/ are also more centralized than their Brazilian counterparts. The three unstressed vowels /ɐ, ɨ, u/ are reduced and often voiceless or elided in fast speech.
However, Angolan Portuguese has been more conservative, raising /a/, /e, ɛ/, /o, ɔ/ to /a/, /e/, /o/ in unstressed syllables; and to /ɐ/, /ɨ/, /u/ in final unstressed syllables. Which makes it almost similar to Brazilian Portuguese (except by final /ɨ/, which is inherited from European Portuguese).
There are some exceptions to the rules above. For example, /i/ occurs instead of unstressed /e/ or /ɨ/, word-initially or before another vowel in hiatus (teatro, reúne, peão). /ɨ/ is often deleted entirely word-initially in the combination /ɨsC/ becoming [ʃC ~ ʒC]. Also, /a/, /ɛ/ or /ɔ/ appear in some unstressed syllables in EP, being marked in the lexicon, like espetáculo (spectacle) [ʃpɛˈtakulu]; these occur from deletion of the final consonant in a closed syllable and from crasis. And there is some dialectal variation in the unstressed sounds: the northern and eastern accents of BP have low vowels in unstressed syllables, /ɛ, ɔ/, instead of the high vowels /e, o/. However, the Brazilian media tends to prefer the southern pronunciation. In any event, the general paradigm is a useful guide for pronunciation and spelling.
Nasal vowels, vowels that belong to falling diphthongs, and the high vowels /i/ and /u/ are not affected by this process, nor is the vowel /o/ when written as the digraph ⟨ou⟩ (pronounced /ow/ in conservative EP).
In BP, an epenthetic vowel [i] is sometimes inserted between consonants, to break up consonant clusters that are not native to Portuguese, in learned words and in borrowings. This also happens at the ends of words after consonants that cannot occur word-finally (e.g., /d/, /k/, /f/). For example, psicologia ('psychology') may be pronounced [pisikoloˈʒiɐ]; adverso ('adverse') may be pronounced [adʒiˈvɛχsʊ]; McDonald's may be pronounced [mɛ̞kiˈdõnawdʒɪs]. In northern Portugal, an epenthetic [ɨ] may be used instead, [pɨsikuluˈʒiɐ], [ɐðɨˈβɛɾsu], but in southern Portugal there is often no epenthesis, [psikuluˈʒiɐ], [ɐdˈvɛɾsu]. Epenthesis at the end of a word does not normally occur in Portugal.
The native Portuguese consonant clusters, where there is not epenthesis, are sequences of a non-sibilant oral consonant followed by the liquids /ɾ/ or /l/, and the complex consonants /ks, kw, ɡw/. Some examples: flagrante /flɐˈɡɾɐ̃tɨ/, complexo /kõˈplɛksu/, fixo /ˈfiksu/ (but not ficção /fikˈsɐ̃w/), latex /latɛks/, quatro /ˈkʷatɾu/, guaxinim /ɡʷɐʃiˈnĩ/, /ɡʷaʃiˈnĩ/
When two words belonging to the same phrase are pronounced together, or two morphemes are joined in a word, the last sound in the first may be affected by the first sound of the next (sandhi), either coalescing with it, or becoming shorter (a semivowel), or being deleted. This affects especially the sibilant consonants /s/, /z/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, and the unstressed final vowels /ɐ/, /i, ɨ/, /u/.
As was mentioned above, the dialects of Portuguese can be divided into two groups, according to whether syllable-final sibilants are pronounced as postalveolar consonants /ʃ/, /ʒ/ or as alveolar /s/, /z/. At the end of words, the default pronunciation for a sibilant is voiceless, /ʃ, s/, but in connected speech the sibilant is treated as though it were within a word (assimilation):
When two identical sibilants appear in sequence within a word, they reduce to a single consonant. For example, nascer, desço, excesso, exsudar are pronounced with [s] by speakers who use alveolar sibilants at the end of syllables, and disjuntor is pronounced with [ʒ] by speakers who use postalveolars. But if the two sibilants are different they may be pronounced separately, depending on the dialect. Thus, the former speakers will pronounce the last example with [zʒ], whereas the latter speakers will pronounce the first examples with [s] if they are from Brazil or [ʃs] if from Portugal (although in relaxed pronunciation the first sibilant in each pair may be dropped). This applies also to words that are pronounced together in connected speech:
Normally, only the three vowels /ɐ/, /i/ (in BP) or /ɨ/ (in EP), and /u/ occur in unstressed final position. If the next word begins with a similar vowel, they merge with it in connected speech, producing a single vowel, possibly long (crasis). Here, "similar" means that nasalization can be disregarded, and that the two central vowels /a, ɐ/ can be identified with each other. Thus,
If the next word begins with a dissimilar vowel, then /i/ and /u/ become approximants in Brazilian Portuguese (synaeresis):
In careful speech and in with certain function words, or in some phrase stress conditions (see Mateus and d'Andrade, for details), European Portuguese has a similar process:
But in other prosodic conditions, and in relaxed pronunciation, EP simply drops final unstressed /ɨ/ and /u/ (elision)(significant dialectal variation):
Aside from historical set contractions formed by prepositions plus determiners or pronouns, like à/dà, ao/do, nesse, dele, etc., on one hand and combined clitic pronouns such as mo/ma/mos/mas (it/him/her/them to/for me), and so on, on the other, Portuguese spelling does not reflect vowel sandhi. In poetry, however, an apostrophe may be used to show elision such as in d'água.
Primary stress may fall on any of the three final syllables of a word, but mostly on the last two. There is a partial correlation between the position of the stress and the final vowel; for example, the final syllable is usually stressed when it contains a nasal phoneme, a diphthong, or a close vowel. The orthography of Portuguese takes advantage of this correlation to minimize the number of diacritics.
Practically, for the main stress pattern, words that end with: "a(s)", "e(s)", "o(s)", "em(ens)" and "am" are stressed in the penultimate syllable, and those that don't carry these endings are stressed in the last syllable. In the case a word doesn't follow this pattern, it takes an accent according to Portuguese's accentuation rules (these rules might not be followed everytime when concerning personal names and non-integrated loanwords).
Because of the phonetic changes that often affect unstressed vowels, pure lexical stress is less common in Portuguese than in related languages, but there is still a significant number of examples of it:
Tone is not lexically significant in Portuguese, but phrase- and sentence-level tones are important. As in most Romance languages, interrogation on yes-no questions is expressed mainly by sharply raising the tone at the end of the sentence. An exception to this is the word oi that is subject to meaning changes: an exclamation tone means 'hi/hello', and in an interrogative tone it means 'I didn't understand'.
|Letter||15th–16th century Portuguese||Portugal in general||Lisbon||Caipira region
(São Paulo, Minas Gerais)
(Paraná, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul)
|Rio de Janeiro||Northeast Brasil
(Bahia, Pernambuco, Maranhão)
|a (stressed)||[a] or [ɐ]|
|a (unstressed)||[ɐ] or [a]||[a]|
|a (unstressed and final)||[ɐ]|
|e (stressed)||[e] or [ɛ]|
|e (unstressed)||[e] or [ɛ]||[e ~ ɨ] or [ɛ]||[e]||[e]||[e ~ i] or [e]||[ɛ]||[e]|
|e (unstressed and final)||[e]||[ɨ]||[ɪ]||[ɪ]||[ɨ]|
|o (stressed)||[o] or [ɔ]|
|o (unstressed)||[o] or [ɔ]||[u] or [ɔ]||[o]||[o]||[o ~ u] or [o]||[ɔ]||[o]|
|o (unstressed and final)||[o]||[u]||[ʊ]||[ʊ]||[u]|
|ei||[ej] or [ɛj]||[ej ~ e] or [ɛj]||[ɐj]||[ej ~ e] or [ɛj]|
|ou||[ow]||[ow ~ o]||[o]|
|am, âm, an, ân||[ɐ̃ ~ ɐ̃w̃]|
|em, êm, en, ên||[ẽ]||[ẽ ~ ẽj̃]||[ẽ]|
|em, ém (final)||[ẽj̃]||[ɐ̃j̃]||[ẽj̃]|
|êm (final)||[ẽj̃ ~ ẽj̃ẽj̃]||[ɐ̃j̃ ~ ɐ̃j̃ɐ̃j̃]|
|en, em (unstressed and initial, like in "entender, embargo")||[ẽ]||[ĩ ~ ẽj̃]||[ẽ]|
|õem (like in "põem")||[õẽj̃]||[õj̃ẽj̃ ~ õẽj̃]||[õj̃ɐ̃j̃]||[õj̃ẽj̃ ~ õj̃]||[õj̃ẽj̃]|
|om, ôm, on, ôn||[õ]||[õ ~ õw̃]||[õ]||[õ]|
|b||[b]||[b ~ β]||[b]|
|d||[d]||[d ~ ð]||[d]|
|strong g||[g]||[g ~ ɣ]||[g]|
[b ~ β] Northern Portugal
|di||[di]||[dʒi ~ di] ||[dʒi] ||[di ~ dʒi] ||[di]|
|ti||[ti]||[tʃi ~ ti] ||[tʃi] ||[ti ~ tʃi] ||[ti]|
|s + /di/ (like in "estes dias")||[z̺di]||[z̺ ~ ʒdi]||[zdʒi ~ zdi] ||[ʒdʒi ~ ʒːi] ||[zdʒi ~ zdi ~ ʒdʒi ~ ʒːi] ||[ʒdi]|
|s + /ti/ (like in "estilo")||[s̺ti]||[s̺ ~ ʃti]||[stʃi ~ sti] ||[ʃtʃi ~ ʃːi] ||[stʃi ~ sti ~ ʃtʃi ~ ʃːi] ||[ʃti]|
|/dɨ/ + s (like in "pode ser")||[des̺]||[dɨs ~ ds]||[dʒis ~ dis ~ ds] ||[dʒis] ||[dis ~ dʒis ~ ds] ||[dɨs ~ ds]|
|/tɨ/ + s (like in "paciente sério")||[tes̺]||[tɨs ~ ts]||[tʃis ~ tis ~ ts] ||[tʃis] ||[tis ~ tʃis ~ ts] ||[tɨs ~ ts]|
|li||[ɫi]||[ɫi ~ li ~ lʲi ~ ʎi] ||[ɫi]|
|ni||[ni]||[ni ~ nʲi ~ ɲi] ||[ni]|
|l (in closed syllables and final)||[ɫ]||[w ~ ɽ ~ ɻ ~ ɾ ~ ɹ]||[w]||[ɫ]|
|r-, rr||[r]||[r ~ ʁ]||[ʀ ~ ʁ]||[h]||[h ~ χ ~ x]||[r ~ ʀ ~ ʁ ~ χ]|
|r (in closed syllables)||[r ~ ɾ]||[ɾ]||[ɽ ~ ɻ ~ ɾ ~ ɹ]||[h ~ χ ~ x]||[ɾ]|
|r (final)||[ɽ ~ ɻ ~ ɾ ~ ɹ ~ ∅]||[h ~ x ~ χ ~ ∅]||[ɾ ~ ∅]|
|soft c, ç||[s̻]|
|sc, sç (like in "nascer")
xc (like in "excelente")
xs (like in "exsudar")
|[s̺s̻]||[ʃs ~ s]||[ʃs ~ ʃ]||[s]||[s ~ js]||[s]|
|s (in closed syllables,
not before vowels)
|[s̺]||[ʃ]||[ʃ]||[s ~ ʃ]||[ʃ]|
|es, ex (like in "esperar", "extremo")||[es̺ ~ eʃ]||[ɨʃ ~ ʃ]||[es ~ is]||[eʃ ~ iʃ]||[es ~ is ~ eʃ ~ iʃ]||[ɨʃ ~ ʃ]|
|s (final)||[s̺]||[ʃ]||[s]||[ʃ]||[s ~ ʃ]||[ʃ]|
[tʃ] Northern Portugal
|nh||[ɲ]||[ɲ ~ ◌̃j̃]|
|lh||[ʎ]||[ʎ ~ j]||[ʎ]|
|Letter||15th–16th century Portuguese||Portugal in general||Lisbon||Caipira region
(São Paulo, Minas Gerais)
(Paraná, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul)
|Rio de Janeiro||Northeast Brasil
(Bahia, Pernambuco, Maranhão)
Os Lusíadas, Luís de Camões (I, 33)
|Original||IPA (15th – 16th century period)||IPA (Coimbra)||IPA (Lisbon)||IPA (Rio de Janeiro)||IPA (São Paulo)||IPA (Luanda)|
|Sustentava contra ele Vénus bela,||s̺us̺tẽˈtavɐ ˈkõtɾɐ ˈeɫe ˈvɛnuz̺ ˈbɛɫɐ||suʃtẽˈtavɐ ˈkõtɾɐ ˈeɫɨ ˈvɛnuʒ ˈbɛɫɐ||suʃtẽˈtavɐ ˈkõtɾɐ ˈeɫɨ ˈvɛnuʒ ˈbɛɫɐ||suʃtẽˈtavɐ ˈkõtɾɐ ˈeʎɪ ˈvẽnuʒ ˈbɛɫɐ||sustẽj̃ˈtavɐ ˈkõtɾɐ ˈeʎɪ ˈvẽnuz ˈbɛɫɐ||suʃtẽˈtavɐ ˈkõtɾɐ ˈeɫɨ ˈvɛnuʒ ˈbɛɫɐ|
|Afeiçoada à gente Lusitana,||ɐfejˈs̻oadɐ a ˈʒẽte ɫuz̺iˈtɐnɐ||ɐfejˈsuaðɐ a ˈʒẽtɨ ɫuziˈtɐnɐ||ɐfɐjˈsuaðɐ a ˈʒẽtɨ ɫuziˈtɐnɐ||afejˈsoadɐ a ˈʒẽtʃɪ ɫuziˈtɐ̃nɐ||afejˈsoadɐ a ˈʒẽj̃tʃɪ ɫuziˈtɐ̃nɐ||afejˈsoadɐ a ˈʒẽtɨ ɫuziˈtanɐ|
|Por quantas qualidades via nela||por ˈkʷɐ̃tɐs̺ kwɐɫiˈdadez̺ ˈviɐ ˈnɛɫɐ||puɾ ˈkʷɐ̃tɐʃ kwɐɫiˈðaðɨʒ ˈviɐ ˈnɛɫɐ||puɾ ˈkʷɐ̃tɐʃ kwɐɫiˈðaðɨʒ ˈviɐ ˈnɛɫɐ||pʊχ ˈkʷɐ̃tɐʃ kwaʎiˈdadʒɪʒ ˈviɐ ˈnɛɫɐ||pʊɾ ˈkʷɐ̃tɐs kwaʎiˈdadʒɪz ˈviɐ ˈnɛɫɐ||puɾ ˈkʷãtɐʃ kwaɫiˈdadɨʒ ˈviɐ ˈnɛɫɐ|
|Da antiga tão amada sua Romana;||dɐ ɐ̃ˈtiɡɐ ˈtɐ̃w̃ ɐˈmadɐ ˈs̺uɐ roˈmɐnɐ||dɐ ɐ̃ˈtiɣɐ ˈtɐ̃w̃ ɐˈmaðɐ ˈsuɐ ʁuˈmɐnɐ||dɐ ɐ̃ˈtiɣɐ ˈtɐ̃w̃ ɐˈmaðɐ ˈsuɐ ʁuˈmɐnɐ||dɐ ɐ̃ˈtʃiɡɐ ˈtɐ̃w̃ aˈmadɐ ˈsuɐ hoˈmɐ̃nɐ||dɐ ɐ̃ˈtʃiɡɐ ˈtɐ̃w̃ aˈmadɐ ˈsuɐ hoˈmɐ̃nɐ||dɐ ãˈtiɡɐ ˈtãw̃ aˈmadɐ ˈsuɐ ʁoˈmanɐ|
|Nos fortes corações,
na grande estrela,
|nos̺ ˈfɔrtes̺ koɾɐˈs̻õj̃s̺
nɐ ˈgɾɐ̃de es̺ˈtɾeɫɐ
|nuʃ ˈfɔɾtɨʃ kuɾɐˈsõj̃ʃ
|nuʃ ˈfɔɾtɨʃ kuɾɐˈsõj̃ʃ
|nʊʃ ˈfɔχtʃɪʃ koɾaˈsõj̃ʃ
|nʊs ˈfɔɾtʃɪs koɾaˈsõj̃s
|nuʃ ˈfɔɾtɨʃ koɾaˈsõj̃ʃ|
|Que mostraram na terra Tingitana,||ke mos̺ˈtɾaɾɐ̃w̃ nɐ ˈtɛrɐ tĩʒiˈtɐnɐ||kɨ muʃˈtɾaɾɐ̃w̃ nɐ ˈtɛʁɐ tĩʒɨˈtɐnɐ||kɨ muʃˈtɾaɾɐ̃w̃ nɐ ˈtɛʁɐ tĩʒɨˈtɐnɐ||kɪ mʊʃˈtɾaɾɐ̃w̃ nɐ ˈtɛhɐ tʃĩʒiˈtɐ̃nɐ||ki mosˈtɾaɾɐ̃w̃ nɐ ˈtɛhɐ tʃĩʒiˈtɐ̃nɐ||kɨ moʃˈtɾaɾãw̃ nɐ ˈtɛʁɐ tĩʒiˈtanɐ|
|E na língua, na qual quando imagina,||e nɐ ˈɫĩɡʷɐ nɐ ˈkʷaɫ ˈkʷɐ̃do imɐˈʒinɐ||ɨ nɐ ˈɫĩɡʷɐ nɐ ˈkʷaɫ ˈkʷɐ̃dwimɐˈʒinɐ||ɨ nɐ ˈɫĩɡʷɐ nɐ ˈkʷaɫ ˈkʷɐ̃dwimɐˈʒinɐ||ɪ nɐ ˈʎĩgʷɐ nɐ ˈkʷaw ˈkʷɐ̃dwimaˈʒĩnɐ||ɪ nɐ ˈʎĩɡʷɐ nɐ ˈkʷaw ˈkʷɐ̃dwimaˈʒĩnɐ||ɨ nɐ ˈɫĩɡʷɐ nɐ ˈkʷaɫ ˈkʷãdwimaˈʒinɐ|
|Com pouca corrupção crê que é a Latina.||kõ ˈpowkɐ korupˈs̻ɐ̃w̃ ˈkɾe ke ˈɛ ɐ ɫɐˈtinɐ||kõ ˈpowkɐ kuʁupˈsɐ̃w̃ ˈkɾe ˈkjɛ ɐ ɫɐˈtinɐ||kõ ˈpokɐ kuʁupˈsɐ̃w̃ ˈkɾe ˈkjɛ ɐ ɫɐˈtinɐ||kõ ˈpokɐ kohupiˈsɐ̃w̃ ˈkɾe ˈkjɛ ɐ ɫaˈtʃĩnɐ||kõ ˈpokɐ kohupiˈsɐ̃w̃ ˈkɾe ˈkjɛ ɐ ɫaˈtʃĩnɐ||kõ ˈpokɐ koʁupˈsãw̃ ˈkɾe ˈkjɛ ɐ ɫaˈtinɐ|