Portuguese alphabet

Portuguese alphabet

The Portuguese alphabet consists of the following 23 Latin letters:


The digraph "ch" is pronounced as an English "sh". The digraphs "lh" and "nh", of Occitan origin, denote palatal consonants which do not exist in English, but can be approximated by "li", "ni" in words such as "million", "onion", pronounced quickly. The digraphs "rr" and "ss" are only used between vowels. The pronunciation of the digraph "rr" varies with dialect (see the note on the phoneme IPA|/ʁ/, above).

ilent letters

As in other languages of western Europe, the letter "u" is normally silent in the graphemes "gu" and "qu", when it comes before a front vowel:
* "gu" is pronounced IPA|/g/ before "e" or "i", and IPA|/gu/ elsewhere;
* "qu" is pronounced IPA|/k/ before "e" or "i", and IPA|/ku/ elsewhere.

There are, however, a few such words in which the vowel "u" is pronounced. These exceptions are indicated with a trema ("güe, güi, qüe, qüi") in the Brazilian spelling, but not in the European orthography. Most of them are learned latinisms, such as "freqüência/frequência" "frequency", "argüição/arguição" "questioning", "qüinqüelíngüe/quinquelingue" "in five languages" (conjectured to be the Portuguese word with the most diacritics).

As part of the Portuguese Language Orthographic Agreement (celebrated in 1990 in Lisbon, Portugal), the "trema" is to be completely retired and removed from every word in BP spelling.

The graphemes "sç" and "xs" are pronounced as one sound IPA|/s/ in BP, but as two sounds IPA|/ʃs/ in standard EP. In BP, the letter pairs "sc" and "xc" are also pronounced IPA|/s/ before "e" or "i". In standard EP, they are pronounced IPA|/ʃs/.

In the European orthography, the letters "c" and "p" are sometimes silent before "c", "ç", or "t", especially in Latinisms or hellenisms.


The vowels in the pairs IPA|/a, ɐ/, IPA|/e, ɛ/, IPA|/o, ɔ/ only contrast in stressed syllables. In unstressed syllables, each element of the pair occurs in complementary distribution with the other. Stressed IPA|/ɐ/ appears mostly before the nasal consonants "m", "n", "nh", followed by a vowel, and stressed IPA|/a/ elsewhere, although they have a limited number of minimal pairs in EP.


The pronunciation of the accented vowels is fairly stable, except that they become nasal in certain conditions. (See the section on Nasalization, for further information about this regular phenomenon.) In other cases, nasal vowels are marked with a tilde.


1 at the end of a syllable

2 at the end of a word

3 at the end of a syllable or word

4 before final "s", for example in the words "bens" and "parabéns"

The grapheme "-en-" is also pronounced as a nasal diphthong in a few compound words, such as "bendito" ("bem" + "dito"), "homenzinho" ("homem" + "zinho"), and "Benfica".

tatus of K, W, and Y

The letter "y" was never used consistently in medieval Portuguese. During the Renaissance, some authors reintroduced it in words of Latin or Greek origin, for etymology, or as a semivowel in falling diphthongs, like in Spanish. The Portuguese spelling reform of 1911, and the later spelling convention signed between Portugal and Brazil in 1931, however, abolished etymological spellings and decreed that semivowel "y" should be written "i", since it is an allophone of the vowel IPA|/i/.

The letters "k" and "w" were always uncommon in Portuguese spelling, although they appeared occasionally in some proper nouns. Nevertheless, the use of these three letters is allowed in hybrid words derived from foreign names, such as "keynesiano" and "newtoniano", listed even in the most authoritative Portuguese dictionaries. They are sorted as in English.

Personal names

Family names are exempt from the above restrictions. Thus, a foreigner who emigrates to a Portuguese speaking country and whose family name has one of these letters does not have to change its spelling.

In Brazil, these letters are also widely accepted for given names, in all official records and documents. In fact, those three letters are quite popular in made-up first and middle names, such as "Waldirci" and "Deyvide", or in the names of Japanese-Brazilians, such as "Satiko" and "Yojiro". Family names have often retained their pre-1940 spellings — in particular, final "y" was retained in many names of native (chiefly Tupi-Guarani) origin, such as "Guaracy".

However, the use of diacritics in personal names is generally restricted to the letter-diacritic combinations above, and often also by the applicable Portuguese spelling rules. So, for example, a Brazilian birth registrar may accept "Niccoló", "Schwartz", or "Agüeiro"; but he is likely to object to "Niccolò", "Nuñez", "Molière", or "Gödel", and possibly even to "Çambel" or "Qadi".

Portugal is more restrictive than Brazil in what concerns given names. They must be either Portuguese or adapted to the Portuguese orthography and sound, and should also be easily discerned as either a masculine or feminine name by a Portuguese speaker. There are lists of previously accepted names, and names not included therein must be subject to consultation of the national director of registries. [ [http://www.portaldocidadao.pt/PORTAL/pt/cidadao/situacoes+de+vida/nascimento+e+adopcao/escolher+o+nome/SER_atribuicao+do+nome+a+um+recem+nascido.htm Portal do Cidadão] (Portuguese)]

Keyboard layout

There are two QWERTY-based keyboard layouts used for Portuguese.

Additionally, there are two variants of the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard designed for Brazilian Portuguese.

Typewriters in Portuguese-speaking countries generally have a separate extra key for "Ç", and a dead key for each diacritic except the cedilla; so that "Á" is obtained by typing first the acute accent, then the letter "A". The same thing happens with computer keyboards, except when using an "English - International" keyboard layout, where to type "Ç" one should first type the acute accent and then the letter "C".

ee also

*Alphabets derived from the Latin
*Portuguese names
*Portuguese orthography, for further information on the spelling of Portuguese
*Portuguese phonology, for further information on the sounds of Portuguese
*The Vietnamese alphabet, partly based on the Portuguese alphabet, through the work of 16th century Catholic missionaries.




* Estrela, Edite "A questão ortográfica — Reforma e acordos da língua portuguesa" (1993) Editorial Notícias
* Full text of the [http://www.academia.org.br/abl/cgi/cgilua.exe/sys/start.htm?sid=20 Pequeno Vocabulário Ortográfico da Língua Portuguesa] ("Abridged Orthographic Vocabulary of the Portuguese Language") published by the [http://www.academia.org.br Brazilian Academy of Letters] in 1943.
* [http://www.academia.org.br/abl/cgi/cgilua.exe/sys/start.htm?infoid=2453&sid=19 Text of the decree] of the Brazilian government, in 1971, amending the orthography adopted in 1943 (no updated version of the PVOLP was published).
* [http://www.iilp-cplp.cv/pdf/iilp/acordoOrtografico.pdf IILP — Orthographic Agreement of 1990] (PDF - in Portuguese)

External links

* [http://www.omniglot.com/writing/portuguese.htm Omniglot's page on Portuguese] Includes a recording with the names of the letters and the most common pronunciation of all characters, by a Brazilian speaker.
* [http://www.incks.com/en/portuguese.html Online Keyboard for Portuguese]

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