Episode 21: Matheus Freitas, part 1, on the vowels of Brazilian Portuguese

In this episode, Lisa returns after a time away, just in time to talk to Matheus Freitas of the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais about the vowels of Brazilian Portuguese, how they work, how they are unique, and how they are changing.


  • apocope, what it is, how it is occurring in Brazilian Portuguese
  • basic vowels, diphthongs, and nasalization
  • sound change, what it is, the processes seen with sound change in Brazilian Portuguese
  • vowel reduction, how vowels are weakened in their pronunciation
  • vowel quality, the differences in how vowels are pronounced, the important role of tongue position in distinguishing vowels in Brazilian Portuguese
  • vowel length, long versus short vowel pronunciations and the contrasts this yields
  • tonic vowels, what they are, the importance of stressed (tonic) vowels
  • morphology, how adding prefixes and suffixes affect vowel quality
  • orthography & diacritics, what this means, how vowels and their variation are represented in writing
  • vowel nasalization, what it is, how it functions in Brazilian Portuguese
  • nasalisation and liaison


  • Plural morpheme loss – Apocope of /S/, os meninos -> os menino∅, [uzmiˈnĩnʊs] -> [uzmiˈnĩnʊ], the boys
  • Mid-high/Mid-low vowel contrast, avô – avó; pê – pé; poço – posso, [aˈvo] – [aˈvɔ]; [ˈpe] – [ˈpɛ]; [ˈpo.sʊ] – [ˈpɔ.sʊ], grandfather – grandmother; P – foot; water well – (I) can
  • Mid-high/Mid-low vowel contrast + vowel weakening, pode por pó?, [ˈpɔʤɪ ˈpo ˈpɔ] -> [ˈpɔˈpoˈpɔ], can I add (coffee) powder?
  • Pretonic mid-high/mid-low vowel alternation, relógio; colégio, [hɛˈlɔ.ʒjʊ] ~ [heˈlɔ.ʒjʊ]; [kɔˈlɛ.ʒjʊ] ~ [koˈlɛ.ʒjʊ], clock; school
  • Pretonic mid-high/mid-low vowel contrast, coco -> coquinho; coque -> coquinho, [ˈko.kʊ] -> [koˈkĩ.ɲʊ]; [ˈkɔ.kɪ] -> [kɔˈkĩ.ɲʊ], coconut -> little coconut; bun -> little bun
  • Vowels with diacritics that are not accented, órgão; àquele, [ˈɔɦ.ɡãʊ̯]; [aˈke.lɪ], organ; to that
  • Diphthongs, eu; sal; céu; mil; pai; seis; moita, [ˈew]; [ˈsaw]; [ˈsɛw]; [ˈmiw]; [ˈpaj]; [ˈsejs]; [ˈmoj.tɐ], salt; sky; thousand; father; six; bush
  • Nasal vowels: contrastive, meta – menta; prato – pranto, [ˈmɛ.tɐ] – [ˈmẽ.tɐ]; [ˈpɾa.tʊ] – [ˈpɾã.tʊ], goal – mint; plate – sob
  • Nasalized vowels, cama – cana – capa – caça; caneta, [ˈkã.mɐ] – [ˈkã.nɐ] – [ˈka.pɐ] – [ˈka.sɐ]; [kaˈne.tɐ] ~ [kãˈne.tɐ], bed – sugarcane – cape – hunt; pen
  • Emergence of nasal consonant: diachrony, leão -> leonino, [leˈãw] -> [le.oˈnĩnʊ], lion -> leonine
  • Abscence of liasion, com quem – com ela, [kõ ˈke͂j]  – [kõ ˈɛ.lɐ], with whom – with her


  • Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais : https://ufmg.br
  • McElhinny, Bonnie. “More on the Third Dialect of English: Linguistic Constraints on the Use of Three Phonological Variables in Pittsburgh.” Language Variation and Change 11, no. 2 (1999): 171–95. doi:10.1017/S0954394599112031. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954394599112031
  • Labov, William. 1991. “The three dialects of English”. In P. Eckert (ed.), Quantitative Analyses of Sound Change. New York: Academic Press. P. 1-44
  • 11:55 find list of resources

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *