Portuguese Phonology - Consonants


The consonant inventory of Portuguese is fairly conservative. The medieval affricates /ts/, /dz/, /tʃ/, /dʒ/ merged with the fricatives /s/, /z/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, respectively, but not with each other, and there were no other significant changes to the consonant phonemes since then. However, several consonant phonemes have special allophones at syllable boundaries, and a few also undergo allophonic changes at word boundaries. Henceforward, the phrase "at the end of a syllable" can be understood as "before a consonant or at the end of a word".

Consonant phonemes of Portuguese
Bilabial Labio-
Palatal Velar2 Uvular
Nasal m n ɲ1
Stop p b t d k ɡ
Fricative f v s z ʃ ʒ ʁ3
Lateral l ʎ
Flap ɾ

Phonetic notes

  1. In most of Brazil and Angola, the consonant hereafter denoted as /ɲ/ is realized as a nasal palatal approximant, which nasalizes the vowel that precedes it: .
  2. 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/.
  3. The consonant hereafter denoted as /ʁ/ has a variety of realizations depending on dialect. In Europe, it is typically a uvular trill ; however, a pronunciation as a voiced uvular fricative may be becoming dominant in the Lisbon area. There is also a realization as a voiceless uvular fricative, and the original pronunciation as an alveolar trill also remains common in various dialects. In Brazil, /ʁ/ can be velar, uvular, or glottal and may be voiceless unless between voiced sounds; it is usually pronounced as a voiceless velar fricative, a voiceless glottal fricative or voiceless uvular fricative . See also Guttural R in Portuguese.
  4. /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 or ), 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).

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