Tá Falado

January 4, 2007

Lesson 11: Pronunciation of Palatalization (alt), Cell Phones and Driving

Filed under: Pronunciation — @ 11:27 pm

In the previous lesson we learned all about palatalization, when words spelled with “ti” sound like “chee” and words with “di” sound like “jee.” This is pretty much true for people in live in the central regions of Brazil. However, in the far north and in the far south of Brazil, it is much less common. Today we introduce everyone to Alfredo Barros who is from Teresinha, Pernambuco. We’ll all get a chance to hear his dialect, from a region where people don’t have as much palatalization. It makes for a great comparison with the way that Valdo and Michelle talk.



  1. Wow, what a difference! I wondered if there is a “standard” pronunciation, so to speak. I’d like to take a course in Brazil in the summer, and wondered also if the teachers in Belem, for example, might teach a much different pronunciation than in other regions.

    Many thanks for the great podcast; I hang on every sound!


    Comment by Don Dean — January 8, 2007 @ 4:08 pm

  2. Hi Don,
    It really is amazing, isn’t it? The good news is that this is one of the biggest differences in regional pronunciations. So it won’t ever be more different than this. As to a “standard”, you’ll have to join the debate that goes on between people from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. If you listen to the news broadcasts on national TV, they used to sound more like São Paulo. However, there seems to be a shift towards a more Rio-like accent. That’s just a personal opinion and others may tell me that I’m totally wrong.
    BTW, folks in Belem will sound more like Alfredo as well. My advice would be to learn to speak like the people where you get your exposure. For the rest of your life you can make it a topic of discussion, “-You sound like you learned Portuguese in Belem. -Why yes, I studied in Belem way back in 2007…”

    Comment by Orlando Kelm — January 12, 2007 @ 9:32 am

  3. Orlando, I found this discussion extremely interesting. I especially liked your examples of how we sometimes do exactly the same thing in English! Which way am I likely to hear in Portugal?

    Comment by Judy Wright — February 13, 2007 @ 9:09 am

  4. Judy,
    Wow, for once a very easy question! There is NO palatalization in Portugal. That is to say, when in comes to “ti” and “di”, people in Portugal will sound more like Alfredo and less like Valdo & Michelle.

    Comment by orkelm — February 13, 2007 @ 9:25 am

  5. Hi. Thank you so much for your great program.

    I am curious whether palatalization is used in Curitiba.

    I am guessing that there is some historical influence that caused some regions to use palatization and other regions not to use it. Did one specific group of immigrants somehow influence the language?

    Comment by Tom Sandlin — February 15, 2007 @ 9:39 am

  6. Tom,
    You ask a very good question, and it’s a bit complicated. Here we go.
    In Curitiba, palatalization usually happens with “ti” and “di” in the middle of a word, but it doesn’t usually happen with “te” and “de” at the end of a word. So, the breakdown is as follows:
    Alfredo – no palatalization anywhere
    Valdo – palatalization everywhere
    Curitiba – palatalization with “ti” and “di” but not with word final “te” and “de”
    For example, in the phrase “cidade de Curitiba” we’d hear palatalization in the name “Curitiba”, but not in “cidade de”.
    Of course everything I just wrote is a generalization, but it is a good rule of thumb.

    Comment by orkelm — February 15, 2007 @ 10:27 am

  7. For those commenting on the issue of palatalazation, here’s a story. I speak European Portuguese (I have spent time in Lisbon and at the University of Lisbon), but my wife is from Curitiba. She speaks Brazilian Portuguese (BP) and I speak European Portuguese (EP). This means that our more punchy conversations usually sound something like this:

    EP – Meu amor, “aonde” é que tu vais? (EP – “aonde” –> “para onde” [awond.])

    BP – Eu vou para a cidade pra comprar tilápia (BP (Paraná) – cidade [cidádi] … “tilápia” [chilápya].

    EP – Olha, não sabia que houvesse um peixe com o nome de “chilápia”!

    BP – Que engraçado, seu li[sh]boeta… Que horas são?

    EP – Oração?! Já sabes que não rezo de dia… (and so on and so forth…)

    In any case, I am emphasizing here that EP has absolutely no palatalization, and in fact reduces many vowels, while BP from Paraná (and thus, Curitiba) tends only to palatalize before the strong vowel “i” and not the weaker atonic “a”. Also, the “s” is palatalized much like what you heard in Vivian’s speech from Rio, while in Paraná there no case that I know of where “s” turns to “sh” in any context. So, “Que horas são?” in EP sounds to an English speaker like [Kê orasháowng?]. To a speaker of EP, BP’s “Que horas são” sounds a lot like “que oração” due to the absence of palatalization of the “s” (w/ the exception of Rio, Brasília and regions of the Northeast, of course).

    I hope this helps.

    Comment by Robert Simon — February 22, 2007 @ 1:58 pm

  8. Good observations Rob, thanks. Everyone, Curitiba, BTW, is a fantastic city and I’d invite everyone to put it on your travel list.

    Comment by orkelm — February 22, 2007 @ 3:55 pm

  9. I have emmigrated to Brazil and now lives in the norteastern part of this wonderfull contry. I had always heard that the people in the northern part where speaking strange and that Cariocas (Rio citizens) had hard to understand the northern dialects. I myself doesn’t think the dialects do differs so much compared to the dialects used in Sweden where I was born but the right pronanciation is very important here. As a smoker I learnd that very fast when tried to buy a box of Marlboro. I pronanced it as we do in Sweden and no one understood me. I then pronanced it as I thought one should pronance it here and still no one understood me. In how many different ways can one proncance that brand? Not so many and I think that one at least should be able to guess what a person wants if one is working in a “banca” selling tobacos every day but not in Fortaleza. I have many similair examples and it seems like they aren’t used to dialects in this contry. Specially not in the northern part of Brazil. Maybe it’s due to the fact that many people never been outside the town they got born in?

    Comment by Hasse R — May 27, 2007 @ 11:20 am

  10. I am a Spanish speaker and have been learning Portuguese on my own for a few months now. My greatest obstacle is this subject: Palatalization.
    I know it is the lazy route, but would it be wrong to learn without it? I am constantly stopping myself before speaking and thinking “is the t or d followed by an e or an i?”. Also, and more importantly, would I be understood without it?

    Excellent podcast, I am hooked!

    Comment by Elizabeth — July 9, 2007 @ 3:17 pm

  11. Elizabeth,
    To answer your question, no it wouldn’t be ‘wrong’. Think of it this way. Suppose someone asked if it is OK to go to Spain and not pronounce the ‘th’ theta (caza, civilización, etc.). The answer of course is there would be no problem, even though the Spaniards around you would be pronouncing the “th” sound. In some ways your situation in Portuguese is similar. It wouldn’t be ‘wrong’ and my guess is that with time you’d start palatalizing naturally (depending on where you’d be).

    Comment by orkelm — July 9, 2007 @ 4:53 pm

  12. Adoro a Alfredo! Más pra ser honesta, prefiro a palatização.

    Comment by Kellsey K — October 11, 2007 @ 7:43 pm

  13. Nunca tinha ouvido a pronuncia sem palatizacao. Prefiro a palatizacao so porque para mim e o que faz o portugues tao divertido de falar e escutar.

    Comment by Monica Mitre — October 11, 2007 @ 9:39 pm

  14. A lengua, sem palatização, ela parece pedir uma qualidade musical. Sona quase mais como dialecto de Espanhol. Se eu não falavesse nenhuma lengua, as tomaria como uma na mesma.

    Comment by Justin — October 11, 2007 @ 10:52 pm

  15. Para mim, a paltização é o que faz a diferença na fala do espanhol e a fala de portugues. É o que ajuda mais para mim para fazer a transição de espanhol ao portugues porque é tão diferente – uma das diferenças mais óbvias.

    Comment by Amelia Crawford — October 11, 2007 @ 11:12 pm

  16. Nossa, a diferença é enorme. Acho que a pronunciação/paltização de Alfredo seria mais fácil para entender pelas pessoas que falam espanhol (quando começei minha aula de português, eu tive muitos problemas com a paltização), mas agora eu gosto muito da paltização.

    Comment by Matthew Johnson — July 5, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

  17. Entao, quando voce disse, “diante,” voce tem que dizer-lo assim, [ge] aman [che]?

    Comment by Kyle — October 4, 2008 @ 4:16 pm

  18. I love his accent and how “caipira” it seems to everyone else in the country

    Comment by Liana Depew — October 9, 2008 @ 11:49 am

  19. Eu fique notando outras diferencias: Alfredo e Valdo falam o ‘s’ como ‘sh’ e o ‘r’ final como, bom, ‘aspirado.’ Michele fala o ‘d’ e ‘t’ como Valdo, com sonido de ‘ch,’ mas o ‘s’ e o ‘r’ dela são muito fortes.

    Comment by Shannon Zamora — October 9, 2008 @ 7:26 pm

  20. Notei que, para mim, parece que também havia uma diferença com o sonido de ‘ou’ em ‘gostou’ nas tonadas de Valdo e Alfredo. Há diferenças assim das vogais entre as regiões de Brasil também?

    Comment by Elena Bessire — October 9, 2008 @ 11:42 pm

  21. The Pernambuco pronunciation must not make it to Brazilian TV that often.

    Comment by Carlos Barrera — June 14, 2009 @ 11:47 pm

  22. I agree with Carlos, I have never heard that pronunciation in the telenovelas 🙂 Thanks for providing regional variations to Brazilian Portuguese!

    Comment by Marina Potoplyak — June 19, 2009 @ 2:23 pm

  23. Thanks for covering these differences. This sound comes more ‘natural’ to me — because it exists in Spanish — but I think pronouncing ‘de’ and ‘te’ the other way (dji and chi) is better for me because it helps keep my mind in Portuguese-land. I’m sure that sounds silly — but it’s almost as if I have to trick my brain to not revert back to Spanish pronunciation when I’m reading Portuguese.

    Comment by Mary Slosar — June 22, 2009 @ 6:57 am

  24. It’s not silly, Mary! I feel the same way–the more differences I find between Spanish and Portuguese pronunciation, the easier it is for me to keep the languages separate in my head.

    Comment by Franklin Strong — June 29, 2009 @ 4:09 pm

  25. What a difference! Do Northern and Southern Brazilians misunderstand each other sometimes?

    Comment by Kanitra Fletcher — July 2, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

  26. falamos muito de “palatalization” em portugues, mas há outros sutakes/jeitos de falar que existem na portugues? Especialmente os que ouvimos no Brazil?

    Comment by Barbara Fox — March 2, 2010 @ 9:08 pm

  27. O dialeto de Pernamboco não segue os regras de pronúncia de e como [i] ?

    Comment by Swetha Nulu — March 3, 2010 @ 12:59 am

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