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Portuguese phonology


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Spoken Brazilian Portuguese
Portuguese phonology is similar to those of languages such as French (especially that of Quebec), the Gallo-Italic languages, Occitan, Catalan and Franco-Provençal, unlike that of Spanish, which is similar to those of Sardinian and the Southern Italian dialects. Some would describe the phonology of Portuguese as a blend of Spanish, Gallo-Romance (e.g. French) and the languages of northern Italy (especially Genoese), but with a deeper Celtic influence.[108]

There is a maximum of 9 oral vowels, 2 semivowels and 21 consonants; though some varieties of the language have fewer phonemes. There are also five nasal vowels, which some linguists regard as allophones of the oral vowels.


Chart of monophthongs of the Portuguese of Lisbon, with its /ɐ, ɐ̃/ in central schwa position.
Like Catalan and German, Portuguese uses vowel quality to contrast stressed syllables with unstressed syllables. Unstressed isolated vowels tend to be raised and sometimes centralized.

Phonetic notes

Semivowels contrast with unstressed high vowels in verbal conjugation, as in (eu) rio /ˈʁi.u/ and (ele) riu /ˈʁiw/.[113] Phonologists discuss whether their nature is vowel or consonant.[114]
In most of Brazil and Angola, the consonant hereafter denoted as /ɲ/ is realized as a nasal palatal approximant [j̃], which nasalizes the vowel that precedes it: [ˈnĩj̃u].[115][116]

Bisol (2005:122) proposes that Portuguese possesses labio-velar stops /kʷ/ and /ɡʷ/ as additional phonemes rather than sequences of a velar stop and /w/.[112]

The consonant hereafter denoted as /ʁ/ has a variety of realizations depending on dialect. In Europe, it is typically a uvular trill [ʀ]; however, a pronunciation as a voiced uvular fricative [ʁ] may be becoming dominant in urban areas. There is also a realization as a voiceless uvular fricative [χ], and the original pronunciation as an alveolar trill [r] also remains very common in various dialects.[117] A common realization of the word-initial /r/ in the Lisbon accent is a voiced uvular trill fricative [ʀ̝].[118] In Brazil, /ʁ/ can be velar, uvular, or glottal and may be voiceless unless between voiced sounds.[119] It is usually pronounced as a voiceless velar fricative [x], a voiceless glottal fricative [h] or voiceless uvular fricative [χ]. See also Guttural R in Portuguese.

/s/ and /z/ are normally lamino-alveolar, as in English. However, a number of dialects in northern Portugal pronounce /s/ and /z/ as apico-alveolar sibilants (sounding somewhat like a soft [ʃ] or [ʒ]), as in the Romance languages of northern Iberia. A very few northeastern Portugal dialects still maintain the medieval distinction between apical and laminal sibilants (written s/ss and c/ç/z, respectively).
As a phoneme, /tʃ/ occurs only in loanwords, with a tendency for speakers to substitute in /ʃ/. However, [tʃ] is an allophone of /t/ before /i/ in a number of Brazilian dialects. Similarly, [dʒ] is an allophone of /d/ in the same contexts.

In northern and central Portugal, the voiced stops (/b/, /d/, and /ɡ/)are usually lenited to fricatives [β], [ð], and [ɣ], respectively, except at the beginning of words or after nasal vowels.[120][121] A similar process occurs in Spanish.


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