Rules for pronunciation of final 'S' in European Portuguese

Discussion in 'Português (Portuguese)' started by pcolag, Jun 14, 2013.

  1. pcolag Banned

    English - Canada
    Hello All,

    I have been eagerly learning Portuguese for the past few months (both the European and Brazilian varieties), and have some confusion with regards to the pronunciation of the letter 'S' when it occurs at the end of a Word.

    From several sources that I have checked on Internet, I have found that the general rule is as follows:

    s sounds like "s" in sing
    - unless it's between two vowels where it sounds like "z" in zebra
    - unless it comes before a voiced consonant, where it sounds like the "s" in pleasure
    - unless it comes before a voiceless consonant, or at the end of a word, where it sounds like the "sh" in she

    The above rule is taken specifically from the internet site 'Portuguese Online: Pronouncing European Portuguese'. However, there are many other sites on Internet stating the same rules. The Portuguese course guide I am using «Take Off In Portuguese» (Oxford), also indicates the same rules.

    The confusion I am having, is that I seem to have run into a number of exceptions for the above rules (via audio recordings I have of native Portuguese speakers, within the Oxford course mentioned above as well as within the Assimil Portuguese course).

    Are there really exceptions to the above rules, or is it just that I don't understand the rules correctly? Here are a few examples I have come across where there seems to be an exception to the rule (unless I have misunderstood the rule) :

    1. In the word «bancos», the final 'S' sounds to me like an 's' and not like a 'sh' ( IPA: Sounds like /s/, and not like /ʃ/ )
    This seems to contradict the rule above, since the final 's' is at the end of a word.

    2. In the phrase «Duas garrafas de cerveja», the final 's' in the word 'garrafas' sounds to me like a 'sh' and not like an 's' ( ( IPA: Sounds like /ʃ/, and not like /s/ )
    This seems to contradict the rule above, since the final 's' in 'garrafas' comes before a 'd', which is a voiced consonant

    Could someone please help me clarify, are the above really exceptions? If so, is there a pattern to these exceptions or do they just have to be learned one by one?

  2. englishmania

    englishmania Senior Member

    European Portuguese
    The rules are OK.

    Perhaps you listened to Brazilian Portuguese... ? The final "s" is pronounced /s/ in Brazilian PT.

    In Portugal:

    1. bancos /ʃ/
    2. Duas garrafas de should sound like a /ʒ/ (or /ʃ/ , but never /s/)
  3. LuizLeitao

    LuizLeitao Senior Member

    São Paulo, Brazil
    The final S is pronounced "S" in Brazilian PT, but not in some regions, especially in Rio de Janeiro (city and State), where its sounds like "sh".
  4. pcolag Banned

    English - Canada
    Thanks englishmania and LuizLeitao for your replies.

    The audio examples I am referring to are definitely in European Portuguese. I am including in attachment an mp3 file which is a recording of the phrase 'Desculpe, a que horas abrem os bancos'.

    To me, the final S really sounds like an 'S' and not a 'sh' (/ʃ/). I would really like to hear back from you native speakers of European Portuguese to confirm whether or not I am hearing things correctly.

    Attached Files:

  5. englishmania

    englishmania Senior Member

    European Portuguese
    I've listened to it. The man pronounces os /ʒ/* bancos /ʃ/. It's clear, in my opinion.;)

    * Because b is a voiced consonant.
  6. Alandria Senior Member

    Brasil - São Paulo
    In North and parts of Northeast Brazil is the same...

    /ʒ/, /ʃ/
  7. pcolag Banned

    English - Canada
    Thanks so much for the replies and feedback. I guess I will need to train my ears better for Portuguese!
  8. englishmania

    englishmania Senior Member

    European Portuguese
    You're welcome. Keep practising! ;)
  9. xiskxisk Senior Member

    Lisbon - PORTUGAL
    European Portuguese
    The IPA transcription of that sentence (as pronounced in that clip is):

    dʃ'kulpɨ, ɐ kj 'ɔɾɐz 'abɾɐ̃j uʒ 'bɐ̃kuʃ
  10. xiskxisk Senior Member

    Lisbon - PORTUGAL
    European Portuguese
    You can type here any text in Portuguese to get the idea of the IPA transcription. =)

    Just try with any combination:
    um mais um
    um mais dois
    um mais três
  11. mahlomar

    mahlomar New Member

    English — USA
    Hello all — I, too, am an eager speaker of European Portuguese. Does anyone here know where the palatalized S comes from in European Portuguese? There's a lot of information out there on the lisboeta influence on the Carioca accent, but I haven't been able to find material explaining the initial development of the 's' in European Portuguese, which, in my understanding, wouldn't have been palatalized at writing of Os Lusíadas. I wonder if it has anything to do with the 's̺' that's so prevalent in Castilian Spanish — a more broadly Iberian phenomenon, perhaps? Thanks!

    EDIT: when I say 'where it comes from,' I mean to ask, Did this originate at certain locations, or within certain strata? When did the change take place? I would think the shift had to have been completed by sometime in the 1800s, as it spread to Brazil during that period, but after the completion of The Lusiads, in 1572.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2016
  12. Vanda

    Vanda Moderesa de Beagá

    Belo Horizonte, BRASIL
    Português/ Brasil
    Difficult question. Probably Castilian influence as the history says:
    Galiza (Espanha) quer aumentar acesso da população à língua portuguesa
  13. metaphrastes

    metaphrastes Senior Member

    Portuguese - Portugal
    Mahlomar, my guess (and nothing but a guess) is that vowel reduction in final non-stressed vowels simply makes the palatalized S (sh) easier to pronounce than plain S. I just tried saying "s" after closed, reduced vowels and - at least to my tongue, it is simply uneasy. I cannot answer for anyone whose local accent uses always "s" (as in Minas Gerais) how easy or uneasy it is - but as for me, it is "creepy" even to the ears.

    After a consonant - say, after a "n" in "bens" or "armazéns" - saying a plain S with no palatalization seems me kinda heroic, that is, wholly unnatural.

    Most if not all of these phenomena of vowel reduction or consonantal palatalization are wholly intuitive (most people do not realize they are not reading the written sound) and have to do with easiness or commodity when speaking.

    Now, most of final "S" are used to make the plural form and mostly in paroxyton words. Then, we have the issue of final palatalized "S" after stressed vowels, some of them very opened - such as in "más" (plural of "má", feminine of "mau" [evil, bad]), "pés", "cós", &c... Now, so that this hypothesis could seem true, we would have consider some kind of contagion from the "s" after reduced, unstressed vowels, which would have been "naturally", "spontaneously" palatalized.

    Now, to find scientific evidence for that is surely beyond my pay grade ... :)

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