The Portuguese Language

The Portuguese Language

The Portuguese language (português) is the official language of Portugal. The Portuguese language is spoken by almost all of the population of Portugal. In official situations, such as press releases and government office communications, an International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) version of the Portuguese language may be used instead.

Portuguese pronunciation differs from a few standard languages in that it is usually not indicated in spelling or writing except for words derived from other languages such as English (“if” “I” “am”). However, some phonological processes are indicated in writing; see below.

Portuguese has 7 vowels, 2 semivowels, and 21 consonants.
Portuguese also has nasal vowels, but they are not considered separate phonemes. These are formed when one of the 5 oral vowels is followed by an oral consonant (other than a nasal consonant) without any intervening vowel. The other oral vowels can be combined with up to two nasal consonants. For example:
The diphthongs in Portuguese are all falling diphthongs ending in /i/. They are considered single phonemes rather than sequences of two phonemes. Each diphthong is pronounced on its own, without any other phonemes.

A Portuguese language word can be broken into its component morphemes. For example, the English word “familia” (family) can be broken down to “fam” and “ilia”. The sequence of two phonemes /fi/ and /li/ is called a morpheme. In Portuguese, morphemes are placed in the middle of words; for example:
The pronunciation of Portuguese words that contain more than one morpheme must be memorized by the learner so that he or she can pronounce them correctly. For example, it is not possible to pronounce “educação” (education) correctly by reading it in English. It must be read as “eh-duh-kah-sjon” and the morpheme “ó”, written with a single accentuation mark under the letter “e”, must be pronounced separately: /o/ [or if a glottal stop is placed between the two vowels of each morpheme, as in English].

In Portuguese grammar, a word also can be broken down into its morphemes by removing the final vowel. For example, the word “amigas” breaks down to “amigo” and “gás”.

The following are the most common Portuguese verbs, their infinitive form and their English equivalents.

In Portuguese, there are eight different verb categories. These categories are represented below using a combination of symbols and pictures. The table is organized in the order that is presented in a typical textbook for the Portuguese language.

The following is a chart showing the Portuguese phonemes which are represented with the following symbols:

Some sounds in Portuguese may be represented in several ways. For example, the sound “r” is represented by two different letters, depending on how far back in the word it occurs. In words like “casa” or “sala”, it is usually written as “c”. However, it is sometimes written as a single letter pronounced either [k] or [sh], depending on regional preferences (which differ somewhat from country to country). Similarly, some other sounds can be represented by more than one symbol. For example, “v” can be written [ɐ], [ʊ], or double-rhotic spelling.

A Spanish speaker learning Portuguese is not likely to have problems with pronunciation, because the two languages’ phonological systems are fairly similar. The main differences are:

For the most part, European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese have the same dialectal features. However, there are some noticeable differences.
The two dialects are mutually intelligible. However, mutual intelligibility may depend on the speakers’ abilities in each dialect, and it is sometimes difficult for Brazilian Portuguese speakers to understand European Portuguese and vice versa. There are three main areas where differences occur:

In addition to this, most of the Brazilian dialects have an extra phoneme . This sound does not exist in European Portuguese, but it appears in some words that are loaned from indigenous languages or other non-Portuguese languages. For example, the Brazilian dialects have a phoneme that is used in words such as “tucano” (a kind of bird found mainly in Brazil). The European dialects do not use that sound.

The morphology of the written language is also different in some aspects, mainly due to influence from other languages. For example, if a word ending with “-o” is masculine and ends with a consonant (e.g. “cão”), it will not take an accent. Compare cão (“dog”) and rei (“king”). This is because the -o ending in Portuguese usually indicates a masculine noun. However, this is not true for every word ending with “-o”.

Hi I’m Amy — travel blogger, dog lover, digital marketer. I write mainly about Europe, Middle East and Southeast Asia. Getting into drones!

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