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nmsky2007 Jun 24th, 2007 09:22 AM

Portuguese language question
I'm studying language tapes for my trip to Portugal in July and August. On the tapes I'm hearing some different pronunciations for very basic words:

1. Senhor- sometimes I hear /Senhor/, like in Spanish. Sometimes I hear /Senhoreh/, like in Italian. What's up? Is it regional?

2. As I understand it, the "nh" is pronounced /ny/ as in Senhor, but ofter my tapes pronounce "vinho" as /vino/. Am I just hearing it wrong?

kenderina Jun 24th, 2007 09:34 AM

/Senhor/ is the singular and /Senhorez/ is the plural form :) Both are like in Spanish. And yes, nh is pronounced as /ny/.

nmsky2007 Jun 24th, 2007 09:45 AM

Thanks for the quick reply.

Sher Jun 24th, 2007 09:55 AM

I wish you lots of luck.

We found Portuguese to be very difficult. That does not mean you will.

Let us know how you make out.

NEDSIRELAND Jun 25th, 2007 01:45 AM

Words ending in 'o,' the 'o' is silent. For example, when MetroLisboa is approaching Rossio, an announcement comes across as 'Rossi.'

An exception to that rule may be Vinho, pronounced Vinyo.

A high percentage of young Portuguese people speak English, and I found them very anxious to try out their English language skills. If your Portuguese fails, try English (i.e., NOT Spanish)

hanl Jun 25th, 2007 02:16 AM

Final "o" isn't really silent, it's pronounced as "u". However, as unstressed syllables are often barely pronounced in spoken Portuguese it's often hard to hear.

lobo_mau Jun 25th, 2007 03:21 AM

hanl is right, in Rossio the final "o" is pronounced but hardly noticed by an untrained listener. Rossio ends like the English word "you".
Back to the original post, "Senhor", is pronounced like "señor" in Spanish, but with a lesser stress in the first syllabe, almost like "s'ñor".
Senhora (Senhoreh) is feminine. The final "a" is very weak, like the Arabic Ta' Marbuta, being the main sign of a feminine word.
No "vino" unless you speak Latin ("in vino veritas").

lobo_mau Jun 25th, 2007 03:51 AM

replying to myself:
To those less sensitive to phonetic subtleties, I usualy recommend learning Brazilian Portuguese. The writen form is basicaly the same, but the difference lyes in the pronunciation. In Portuguese Portuguese, non-essential vowels are "swallowed", while in Brazilian Portuguese, all and every vowels are to be pronounced.
Nmsky, don't be discouraged by my words, if you already started learning European Portuguese, go ahead with it.
Do you, by any chance plan to be in Upper Alentejo around 12 or 13th August. If you do, please contact me. Anyway, if you need suggestions on that part of the country, please let me know.

nmsky2007 Jun 26th, 2007 12:04 AM

Thanks again everyone. Lobo Mau, thanks for the tip about Brazilian Portuguese. I'll go with that. It does sound easier. Unfortunately, I'll only be in Portugal until the 7th of August. Starting out in Porto on July 24th. I'll be in Evora 2 or 3 days July 30th, 31st and probably in Marvao on Aug 1. Then to Lisbon till I leave the 7th. I am trying to figure out if I can get to Marvao and Castelo de Vide without a car (see post-Transport to Marvao) I'll probably have some more questions later. Thanks again everyone.

Nikki Jun 26th, 2007 03:14 AM

But Lobo, if a person learns Brazilian Portuguese and travels to Portugal, won't it be difficult to understand when one is expecting to hear all the syllables and instead hears the Portuguese shortcut version? It seems to me it would be better to listen to recordings of people speaking the language as it will be spoken in Portugal.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to figure out when s is pronounced s and when it is pronounced sh. And a few other things. Portuguese pronunciation seems very counterintuitive to me.

hanl Jun 26th, 2007 03:24 AM

For anyone learning non-Brazilian Portuguese, I can thoroughly recommend the website of the Instituto Camões (the body which promotes the Portuguese language).

The "virtual" language learning section of the site is full of great resources, including grammar exercises, word games and listening exercises.

When it comes to mastering Portuguese pronunciation (something I'm far from achieving!!), I have found the exercises where you have to listen and piece together a text to be very useful:

lobo_mau Jun 26th, 2007 03:40 AM

Nikki, I got your point, and I've thought about it. That's why I told nms to more forwards if he(she) has already started learning European Portuguese tapes.
As in everything there are pros and cons in both options. Learning Brazilian Portuguese, entitles one person to read writen instructions and to interact with Portuguese speakers who tend to speak a Brazilian like version when they notice the counterpart is not a native Portuguese speaker.
Another good reason to learn Brazian Portuguese is the dictatorship of majority. There are 10 million (15 including expats) around the world and 200 million Brazilians. Brazil is already a major economic power and it's more likely that nms will in the future be in contact or have business with a Brazilian that with a Portuguese. In contact with restaurant and bar attendants in Portugal, it's very likely that they are Brazilian citizens anyway.
The only think I can find against the learning of Brazilian Portuguese is some difficulty is understanding the anouncements in a train station or a airport, but there is always the possibility of turning to the next person and asking "what the h*** did she say?".

lobo_mau Jun 26th, 2007 04:28 AM

Nikki, I disagree with you (nothing personal) about the counterintuitivity.
If you know the rules, Portuguese is a very phonetic language. I'd say that a 5 minutes lesson is enough for anybody to learn to say correctly, let's say, 90% of Portuguese words.
"S" sounds like "sh" in the end of the word.
It sounds like "s" when is doubled "ss" (massa), in the begining of the word (sal), or between a consonant and a vowel (penso).
It sounds like "z" between vowels (casa).
The tricky point is that vowels may sound different when they are placed in strong or weak syllabs. The general rule is that: "in a word without accent the strong syllab is always the 2nd from the end".
As an example, in "casa" referred above, the 1st and the 2nd "a" sound differently. The 1st "a" is very opened and the 2nd almost disappears. The "c" is like "k" and the "s" like "zzzz". Not that difficult.
IMHO the most beautiful of Portuguese words are found 14th century poem.
"Senhora, partem tão tristes, meus olhos por vós meu bem / que nunca tão tristes vistes outros nenhuns por ninguém" - A lot of "shh" sounds :-)
It's a good chalenge for a foreigner to decypher this poem. Whenever you have a clue, I must say your command of the language is quite good :-)
It's a love poem writen by Joao Roriz Castelo-Branco. By some reason, all the great names of Portuguese history are named Joao :-)
My favourite is John the 1st. From a background as an illegitimate son of a deceased king, he challenged the powers of his time, married Philipa of Lancaster, the daughter of England's John of Gaunt, was the father of prince Henry the Navigator and eventualy one of the big names of Portuguese history. For a visitor of Lisbon, he is the guy in the horse statue of Praça da Figueira (the square next to Rossio). I am very impressed by people who succeed against the odds.

Nikki Jun 26th, 2007 06:18 AM

OK, Lobo, I'm taking your challenge. I'll spend five minutes studying those "simple" phonetic rules and see how intuitive Portuguese pronunciation becomes.

The problem, however, is that my intuition stupidly sees Portuguese and reverts first to French, then Italian, and then Spanish (not that I am really sure of that either) pronunciation, so by the time I get to Portuguese I am fighting my intuition at every step.

It may be that I will need more than five minutes. Maybe by August I'll be pronouncing your name (and that of all the greats of Portuguese history) so it doesn't rhyme with wow.

And I'd be very happy to hear your pronunciation of that poem. Tristes seems to be a recurring word (theme) in poetry and song, yes? And the first s is pronounced sh, I think? That isn't covered by your five minute rules.

But you can read poetry to me any time.

lobo_mau Jun 26th, 2007 07:24 AM

You are a bad student!!! No first s is pronounced sh. To have a begining of word pronounced sh you need a X (xadrez, xarope, xaile) or a CH (chapéu, chá).

Christina Jun 26th, 2007 07:38 AM

That's just like Spanish, I believe (when you'd pronounce sh at the beginning), so doesn't seem unusual to me. I think what Nikki is calling intuition isn't really intuition, but learned rules of another language. Having studied both French and Spanish, the rules you give for s make sense to me and don't seem that unusual. In fact, they seem just like French rules, except that they don't have an "sh" when an s is at the end of a word, but other than that, they seem the same.

Nikki Jun 26th, 2007 07:49 AM

Lobo, I was referring to the first s in tristes, not the initial s in a word. At least I think I have heard it that way.

And Christina, I thought that the s was pronounced as sh in other situations, not just the end of the words. According to the pronunciation guide in one of my books, it becomes sh before a "t" or a "c". As in tristes above. That's the part that trips me up.

lobo_mau Jun 26th, 2007 08:12 AM

You got me :-)
Yes. the 1st S in "tristes" sounds like sh.
Comparing to French "tristes" has subtle differences. The R is not rolled. The 1st S is like sh (good point) and the final S sounds like sh again.
After all you are a very good student :-) (As I've always known).

Try to say: "três tristes tigres" (Three sad tigres). I should congratulate you if you succeed because, I think that no Portuguese can say it in full speed speach.

Once again Portuguese "tigres" are close to French relatives, with subtle differences.
Portuguese "tigres" unroll the R and pronounce the final S like SH.

hanl Jun 26th, 2007 08:18 AM

Christina, I can't think of any Spanish words that have a "sh" sound in them!

kenderina Jun 26th, 2007 11:52 AM

Right, the sound "sh" doesn't exist in Spanish :) I use to say (joking, of course) that portuguese and spaniards would be able to understand each other quite well if it wasn't for the shh thing :)

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