3.4.1 accents

Before talking about the use of accents in Portuguese it is perhaps useful to explain what it is. (Most of all because different languages understand by accents very different things.)

Remark: Nobody learns the pronunciation by learning abstract rules. People learn pronunciation by hearing the words again and again automatically and without any effort. That's why we introduced in this website several thousand of voice examples. However sometimes a little bit of background knowledge can be useful. At least one should know what is a acento circunflexo, an acento agudo, a til and a acento grave.

In French the accent indicates how a letter is pronounced, in other words o and ô are two different graphemes representing two different sounds. In notre (adjective possessive pronoun) it is pronounced as an open o in nôtre (sustantive possessive pronoun) it is pronounce closed.

In Spanish it is the other way round. An accent doesn't influence how a single letter is to be pronounced, but indicates which syllable is to be pronounced.

In Portuguese o acento agudo, this accent ´, and the tilde, the curve lined ~ on a, e, o and the acento circunflexo have two functions at the same time.

The acento circunflexo indicates that â, ê and ô are to be pronounced closed and the acento agudo indicates that é,á, ó are to be pronounced open. (For those who speak French: In French it is the other way round. The accent d'aigu ´indicates that it is a closed e.)

The tilde (til in Portuguese) indicates that a vowel has to be pronounced nasalized. (The function is therefore completely different than in Spanish, where the tilde indicates that is is a mouillé sound, niño = ~ ninio.) However the acento circunflexo, the acento agudo and the til indicate as well which syllable has to be pronounced stressed. Therefore they have a double function. They indicate how a letter is to be pronounced, they are therefore a graphem or a diacritical sign, and which syllable is to be stressed.

The acento grave however is a completely different thing in Portuguese. In opposite to the French accent grave the acento grave in Portuguese doesn't indicate how a letter is to be pronounced nor whether or not the syllable is stressed. The acento grave is used if the preposition encounters a a (for instance the article a or the pronoun a). A a mulher becomes à mulher (to the women). This phenomenon is called crase. We will discuss all kind of fusions later, see for instance 4.2.1. There is no need to memorise that, it will show up so many times in this website, that you will learn it automatically.

A syllable with an acento agudo, acento circunflexo or a tilde is always stressed. However that doesn't mean that the stressed syllable has always an accent. For instance words ending in a, e, o, -am, -em, -ens (and the plural forms of these words as, es, os) always have the accent on the penultimate syllable, there is no need for an accent. Only the exceptions have an accent. Words ending in consonant or i / u / nasale a have the accent on the last syllable. And only if that is not the case, theres is an accent.

There is no need to know these rules, because you will learn the pronunciation automatically by clicking on the speakers. But if you wonder whether there is a rule you now know that there is one.

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