|Majuscule Forms (also called uppercase or capital letters)|
|Minuscule Forms (also called lowercase or small letters)|
In addition, the following characters with diacritics are used: Áá, Ââ, Ãã, Àà, Çç, Éé, Êê, Íí, Óó, Ôô, Õõ, Úú. These are not, however, treated as independent letters in collation, nor do they have entries of their own in Portuguese dictionaries. When two words differ only in the presence or absence of a diacritic, the one without it is collated first. The trema on Ü was used in Brazilian Portuguese up to December 31, 2008. With the 1990 Portuguese Language Orthographic Agreement going into effect in Brazil on January 1, 2009, the diaeresis may only appear in borrowed words, in personal names, and in words derived from them.
Letter names and pronunciations
Only the most frequent sounds are given below, since a listing of all cases and exceptions would be too cumbersome. Portuguese is a pluricentric language, and the pronunciation of some of the letters is different in European Portuguese (EP) and Brazilian Portuguese (BP). Apart from these variations, the pronunciation of most consonants is fairly straightforward, and similar to French or Catalan pronunciation. Only the consonants r, s, x, z, the digraphs ch, lh, nh, rr, and the vowels may require special attention from English speakers.
Although many letters have more than one pronunciation, their phonetic value is often predictable from their position within a word; this is normally the case for the consonants (except x). Since only five letters are available to write the fourteen vowel sounds of Portuguese, the orthography of the vowels is more complex, but even in this case pronunciation is predictable to a degree. Knowing the main inflectional paradigms of Portuguese can be helpful in this regard.
In the following table and in the remainder of this article, the phrase "at the end of a syllable" can be understood as "before a consonant, or at the end of a word". For the letter r, "at the start of a syllable" means "at the beginning of a word, or after l, n, s". For letters with more than one common pronunciation, their most common phonetic values are given on the left side of the semicolon; sounds to the right of it occur only in a limited number of positions within a word. Sounds separated by "~" are allophones or dialectal variants.
The names of the letters are masculine.
Letter Name Phonetic
Spelling Pronunciation Aa á /a/ /a/, /ɐ/ nb 3 Bb bê /be/ /b/ Cc cê /se/ /k/; /s/ nb 1 Dd dê /de/ /d/ ~ [dʓ] nb 2 Ee é (BR or EP) or ê (some dialects of BP only) /ɛ/, /e/ /e/, /ɛ/, /i/ nb 3, /ɨ/, /ɐ/, /ɐi/ Ff éfe /ˈɛfi/ (BP), /ˈɛfɨ/ (EP) /f/ Gg gê (BP or EP) or guê (EP only) /ʒe/, /ɡe/ (EP) /ɡ/; /ʒ/ nb 1 Hh agá /ɐˈɣa/ natively silent, /ʁ/ in loanwords nb 4 Ii i /i/ /i/ nb 3 Jj jota /ˈʒɔtɐ/ /ʒ/ Kk cá (BP) or capa (EP) /ka/, /ˈkapɐ/ nb 5 Ll éle /ˈɛli/ (BP), /ˈɛlɨ/ (EP) /l/ ~ [ɫ ~ w] nb 6 Mm éme /ˈẽmi/ (BP), /ˈɛmɨ/ (EP) /m/ nb 7 Nn éne /ˈẽni/ (BP), /ˈɛnɨ/ (EP) /n/ nb 7 Oo ó (EP or BP) or ô (some dialects of BP only) /ɔ/, /o/ /o/, /ɔ/, /u/ nb 3 Pp pê /pe/ /p/ quê /ke/ /k/ Rr érre (EP and BP) or rê (mostly EP) /ˈɛʁi/ (BP), /ˈɛʁɨ/, /ˈʁe/ (EP) /ɾ/, /ʁ/ nb 8 Ss ésse /ˈɛsi/ (BP), /ˈɛsɨ/ (EP) /s/, /z/ nb 9, /ʃ/, /ʒ/ Tt tê /te/ /t/ ~ [tʆ] nb 2 Uu u /u/ /u/ nb 3 Vv vê /ve/ /v/ Ww dáblio (BP) or dâblio (EP) / duplo vê /ˈdaβʎu/ (BP), /ˈdɐβlju/ (EP) nb 5 Xx xis (BP) or chis (EP) /ʃiʃ ~ ʃis/ /ʃ/, /ks/, /z/, /s/, /S/ Yy ípsilon (BP or EP) or i grego (EP) /ˈipsilõ/ (BP), /ˈipsɨlɔn/ (EP) nb 5 Zz zê /ze/ /z/; /S/
Listen to the alphabet recited by a native speaker from Brazil. Note: The alphabet is spoken in a Brazilian dialect where the 'E' is pronounced as 'É'
|Problems playing this file? See media help.|
- ^ Before the letters e, i, y, or with the cedilla.
- ^ Allophonically affricated before the sound /i/ (spelled i, or sometimes e), in BP.
- ^ May become an approximant as a form of vowel reduction when unstressed before or after another vowel. Words such as bóia and proa are pronounced [ˈbɔj.jɐ] and [ˈpɾow.wɐ].
- ^ Silent at the start or at the end of a word. Also part of the digraphs ch, lh, nh. See below.
- ^ Not part of the official alphabet before 2009 (see above). Used only in foreign words, personal names, and hybrid words derived from them.
- ^ Velarized to [ɫ] in EP and conservative registers of southern BP. Vocalized to [u̯], [ʊ̯], or seldom [o̯] (as influence from Spanish or Japanese), at the end of syllables in most of Brazil.
- ^ Usually silent or voiceless at the end of syllables (word-final n is fully pronounced by some speakers in a few learned words). See also the section on Nasalization, below.
- ^ At the start of syllables (in all dialects) or at the end of syllables (in some dialects of BP), a single r is pronounced /ʁ/ (see the notes on the Consonants below, for variants of this sound). Elsewhere, it is pronounced /ɾ/. Word final rhotics may also be silent when the last syllables is stressed, in casual and vernacular speech, especially in Brazil (pervasive nationwide, though not in educated and some colloquial registers) and some African and Asian countries.
- ^ A single s is pronounced voiced /z/ between vowels.
- The phoneme transcribed here as /ʁ/ has various dialectal variants. It may include an alveolar trill [r] in Portugal, southern Brazil and in few European-descended communities or by Hispanic American immigrants elsewhere in Brazil, any kind of uvular pronunciation (including voiced and voiceless trills and fricatives) in Portugal, and any kind of possible velar or guttural fricative or trill in Brazil, including glottal transitions [h] and [ɦ] (presumably by the influence of the speech by natives of non-European languages) and the uvular trill in areas of greater Portuguese, Francophone or continental Germanic influence (excluding phenomena related to southern migration to Amazon, as far north as Rio de Janeiro, Espírito Santo and Federal District), depending entirely on individual and regional variation, though the most common is still voiceless velar [x]. For further information, see Guttural r: Portuguese.
- The opposition between the four sibilants /s/, /z/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/ is neutralized at the end of syllables, often branded as /S/. In that position, they are alveolar in parts of Brazil: [s] occurs before voiceless consonants or at the end of an utterance, while [z] occurs before voiced consonants: e.g. Páscoa /ˈpaskwɐ/, mesmo /ˈmezmu/. In most of Portugal, Africa, Asia and in the educated sociolect used in and around the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Florianópolis, syllable-final sibilants are postalveolar: voiceless postalveolar fricatives [ʃ ~ ʆ ~ s̻ʲ] occurs before a voiceless consonant or at the end of an utterance, while voiced postalveolar fricatives [ʒ ~ ʓ ~ z̻ʲ] occurs before a voiced consonant: Páscoa [ˈpaʃkwɐ], mesmo [ˈmeʒmu].
- Elsewhere in Brazil, those pronunciations described above may be in free variation. Some speakers palatalize more than others, but in general coda alveolars will appear before bilabial and velar consonants and at the end of a sentence, while coda postalveolars are dominant before postalveolar and alveolar consonants. Speakers native and resident to the state of Rio de Janeiro state palatalize the most while speakers native and resident to Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Mato Grosso do Sul, Mato Grosso and Rondônia palatalize the least. Free variation is prevalent in almost all of northern and northeastern Brazil. Debbucalization to [h] and [ɦ], and deletion to [∅] (zero), are pervasive in colloquial and vernacular speech registers in all of Brazil (though not to the extent found in e.g. Spanish), but never in the educated ones.
- The traditional pronunciation of the letter x between vowels is /ʃ/, but in loanwords from Latin or Greek it may represent other sounds: /ks/ (the most common), /z/ (in words that begin with ex- or hex- followed by a vowel, and in compounds made from such words), or /s/ (in a very small number of words, such as trouxe and próximo). It is always pronounced /ʃ/ at the beginning of words and after consonants.
- Loanwords with a /ʃ/ in their original languages receive the letter x to represent it when they are nativised i.e. xampu (shampoo). While the pronunciations of ch and x, like in French, merged long ago, some Galician-Portuguese dialects like the Galician language, the portunhol da pampa and the speech registers of northeastern Portugal still preserve the difference as ch /tʃ/ vs. x /ʃ/, as does other Iberian languages and Medieval Portuguese. When one wants to stress the sound difference in dialects where it merged the convention is to use tch e.g. tchau (ciao) and Brazilian Portuguese República Tcheca (Czech Republic), though in most loanwords, it mergers with /ʃ/ (or /t/ e.g. moti for mochi), just as originally [dʒ] most often merges with /ʒ/. Alveolar affricates [ts] and [dz], though, are more likely to be preserved (e.g. pizza, Zeitgeist, tsunami, kudzu, adzuki, etc.)
Diacritics and basic digraphs
Portuguese makes use of six diacritics to expand the Latin alphabet, one of which is the cedilla, placed below the letter c to indicate that it is pronounced /s/ before the vowels a, o, or u, because of a historical palatalization. Digraphs are pairs of letters which represent a single sound, different from the sum of their components. Neither letters with diacritics nor digraphs are included in the alphabet. They are always pronounced the same way.
The digraph ch is pronounced as an English sh by the overwhelmingly majority of speakers. The digraphs lh and nh, of Occitan origin, denote palatal consonants which do not exist in English. The digraphs rr and ss are only used between vowels. The pronunciation of the digraph rr varies with dialect (see the note on the phoneme /ʁ/, above).
- gu is pronounced /ɡ/ before e or i, and /ɡu/ elsewhere;
- qu is pronounced /k/ before e or i, and /ku/ elsewhere.
There are, however, a few such words in which the vowel u is pronounced. These exceptions used to be indicated with a trema (güe, güi, qüe, qüi) in the Brazilian spelling, but not in the European orthography. Most of them were learned latinisms, such as freqüência/frequência "frequency", argüição/arguição "questioning", qüinqüelíngüe/quinquelingue "in five languages" (conjectured to be the Portuguese word with the most diacritics). As part of the Portuguese Language Orthographic Agreement (celebrated in 1990 in Lisbon, Portugal), the trema was retired and removed from every vernacular word in BP spelling and only retained for personal names, borrowings or derivations from borrowings.
The graphemes sç and xs are pronounced as one sound /s/ in BP, but as two sounds /ʃs/ in much of standard EP (often reduced to /ʃ/ in casual speech). The letter pairs sc and xc are also pronounced /s ~ ʃs ~ ʃ/ before e or i.
The vowels in the pairs /a, ɐ/, /e, ɛ/, /o, ɔ/ only contrast in stressed syllables. In unstressed syllables, each element of the pair occurs in complementary distribution with the other. Stressed /ɐ/ appears mostly before the nasal consonants m, n, nh, followed by a vowel, and stressed /a/ elsewhere, although they have a limited number of minimal pairs in EP.
In Brazilian Portuguese, both nasal and unstressed vowel phonemes that only contrast when stressed tend to a mid height, though [a] may be often heard in unstressed position (especially when singing or speaking emphatically). In pre-20th century European Portuguese, those tended to be raised to [ə], [i] (now [ɯ̽] except when close to another vowel) and [u]. This still is the case of most Brazilian dialects, where the word elogio may be variously pronounced as [iluˈʒiu], [e̞lo̞ˈʒiu], [e̞luˈʒiu], etc. Some dialects, such as those of Northeastern and Southern Brazil, tend to do less pre-vocalic vowel reduction and in general the unstressed vowel sounds adhere to that of one of the stressed vowel pair, namely [ɛ, ɔ] and [e, o] respectively.
In the educated speech used in Rio de Janeiro, most often accepted as standard or close to it, vowel reduction is used less often than in colloquial and vernacular speech, though still more than the more distant dialects, and in general mid vowels are dominant over close-mid ones and especially open-mid ones in unstressed environments when those are in free variation (that is, sozinho is always [sɔˈzĩɲu], even in Portugal, while elogio is almost certainly [e̞lo̞ˈʒi.u]). Mid vowels are also used as choice for stressed nasal vowels in both Portugal and Rio de Janeiro, though not in São Paulo and southern Brazil, while in Bahia, Sergipe and neighboring areas mid nasal vowels supposedly are close-mid, like those of French. Veneno can thus vary as EP [vɯ̽ˈne̞nu], RJ [vẽ̞ˈnẽ̞nu], SP [veˈnenʊ] and BA [vɛˈnɛ̃nu] according to the dialect. /ɐ̃/ also got significant dialectal variation, respectively in the same of the last sentence, banana [bəˈnɐnə], [bə̃ˈnɜ̃nə], [bɜˈnənə] and [bɜ̃ˈnɜ̃nɐ]. By assimilation of nasality it varies the most, but while stressed and not followed by a nasal consonant /ɐ̃/ is generally [ɜ̯ɜ̃ɰ̃] in Brazil.
Vowel reduction of unstressed nasal vowels is extremely pervasive nationwide in Brazil, in vernacular, colloquial and even most educated speech registers e.g. então [ĩˈtɐ̃w], camondongo [kɐmũˈdõgu]. This is slightly more resisted, though also present, in Portugal.
The pronunciation of the accented vowels is fairly stable, except that they become nasal in certain conditions. See the section on Nasalization, for further information about this regular phenomenon. In other cases, nasal vowels are marked with a tilde.
The pronunciation of each diphthong is also fairly predictable, but one must know how to distinguish true diphthongs from adjacent vowels in hiatus, which belong to separate syllables. For example, in the word saio /ˈsaiu/ ([ˈsaj.ju]), the i forms a clearer diphthong with the previous vowel (though a slight yod also in the next syllable is generally present), but in saiu /sɐˈiu/ ([sɐˈiw]), it forms a diphthong with the next vowel. As in Spanish, a hiatus may be indicated with an acute accent, distinguishing homographs such as saia /ˈsaiɐ/ ([ˈsaj.jɐ]) and saía /sɐˈiɐ/.
Oral Grapheme Pronunciation Grapheme Pronunciation ai, ái [ai ~ ɐi] au, áu [au ~ ɐu] ei, êi [ei ~ eː], [əi]1 eu, êu [eu] éi [ɛi], [əi]1 éu [ɛu] oi [oi] ou [ou ~ oː] ói [ɔi] óu [ɔu] ui [ui] iu [iu] Nasal Grapheme Pronunciation Grapheme Pronunciation ãe, ãi [ɐ̃ĩ] ão [ɐ̃ũ] õe [õĩ] -
1 In central Portugal.
When a syllable ends with m or n, this consonant is not fully pronounced, but merely indicates the nasalization of the vowel which precedes it. At the end of words, this sometimes produces a nasal diphthong.
Monophthongs Diphthongs Grapheme Pronunciation Grapheme Pronunciation -an, -am, -ân, -âm1 /ɐ̃/ -am2 /ɐ̃ũ/ -en, -em, -ên, -êm1 /ẽ/ -em, -ém2 /ẽĩ/ ([ɐ̃ĩ]) -in, -im, -ín, -ím3 /ĩ/ -en-, -én-4 -on, -om, -ôn, -ôm3 /õ/ -êm2 /ẽĩ/ ([ɐ̃ĩ]) -un, -um, -ún, -úm3 /ũ/
1 at the end of a syllable
2 at the end of a word
3 at the end of a syllable or word
4 before final s, for example in the words bens and parabéns
The grapheme -en- is also pronounced as a nasal diphthong in a few compound words, such as bendito (bem + dito), homenzinho (homem + zinho), and Benfica.
The use of diacritics in personal names is generally restricted to the letter-diacritic combinations above, and often also by the applicable Portuguese spelling rules.
Portugal is more restrictive than Brazil in what concerns given names. They must be either Portuguese or adapted to the Portuguese orthography and sound, and should also be easily discerned as either a masculine or feminine name by a Portuguese speaker. There are lists of previously accepted names, and names not included therein must be subject to consultation of the national director of registries. Brazilian birth registrars, on the other hand, are likely to accept names containing any (Latin) letters or diacritics, limited only to the availability of such characters in their typesetting facility.
- Latin-derived alphabet
- Portuguese names
- Portuguese orthography, for further information on the spelling of Portuguese
- Portuguese phonology, for further information on the sounds of Portuguese
- The Vietnamese alphabet, partly based on the Portuguese alphabet, through the work of 16th century Catholic missionaries.
- Ministro da Cultura quer Acordo vigorando antes de janeiro de 2010 [Minister of Culture wants Agreement enforced before January 2010] (in Portuguese), Portugal: Sapo. In Brazil, the Orthographic Agreement went into legal effect since January 1, 2009.
- (Portuguese) Delta: Documentation of studies on theoric and applied Linguistics – Problems in the tense variant of carioca speech.
- (Portuguese) The process of Norm change for the good pronunciation of the Portuguese language in chant and dramatics in Brazil during 1938, 1858 and 2007. Page 34.
- (Italian) Accenti romanze: Portogallo e Brasile (portoghese) – The influence of foreign accents on Italian language acquisition. Pages 175, 178 and 179. Other sources by the same author put Brazilian Portuguese and Catalan sibilants together among "palatalized postalveolar" i.e. laminal alveolo-palatal and different from "pre-palatal" i.e. dorsal alveolo-palatal sounds, found in Japanese and Mandarin.
- (Portuguese) Carioca accent is the standard – The so-called "supremacy of the carioca speech", an issue of norm
- (Portuguese) Dialects of Brazil: the palatalization of the phonemes /t/ and /d/. Aside of using the term "alveopalatal" thoroughly, page 27 sets it clear that Brazilian laminal alveolo-palatal affricates are similar to but different from Italian palato-alveolar ones.
- (Portuguese) Pará Federal University – The pronunciation of /s/ and its variations accross Bragança municipality's Portuguese
- (Portuguese) Rio de Janeiro Federal University – The variation of post-vocallic /S/ in the speech of Petrópolis, Itaperuna and Paraty
- (Italian) Accenti romanze: Portogallo e Brasile (portoghese) – The influence of foreign accents on Italian language acquisition.
- Some facts about Brazilian Portuguese nasal vowels – Prof. Rui Rothe-Neves, Phonetics Laboratory of FALE-UFMG
- Portal do Cidadão (Portuguese)
- Estrela, Edite (1993), A questão ortográfica — Reforma e acordos da língua portuguesa (in Portuguese), Editorial Notícias.
- Pequeno Vocabulário Ortográfico da Língua Portuguesa [Abridged Orthographic Vocabulary of the Portuguese Language] (full text), São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, RJ, BR: Brazilian Academy of Letters, 1943.
- (decree), the Brazilian government, 1971 http://www.academia.org.br/abl/cgi/cgilua.exe/sys/start.htm?infoid=2453&sid=19 Missing or empty
|title=(help) amending the orthography adopted in 1943 (no updated version of the PVOLP was published).
- Acordo Ortográfico [IILP — Orthographic Agreement] (PDF) (in Portuguese), CV: CPLP, 1990