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July 9, 2012 | Portuguese

Portuguese Noun Endings and Other Observations

Portuguese feels familiar but is surprising nonetheless.

I have two books called Essential Portuguese Grammar. One of them, published in 1966 and written by Alexander da R. Prista, says something I really like in the introduction: “No self-study or academic course or series of courses is ever ideally suited to all students. You must rely on and be guided by your own rate of learning and your own requirements and interests.”

I Have All the Essentials!

I Have All the Essentials!

A few sentences later he continues: “Your objective is speaking, and you can learn to speak a language without learning its grammar. But because of its systematic approach, grammar is a short-cut to language learning for those who feel at home with it.”

Yes, yes, yes. That is exactly my point about English instruction, too. American students are not taught enough grammar in their native language. Most can’t explain English to themselves; they don’t understand its construction. They are not in command of it; they lack the control over it that is necessary to sophisticated writing.

I don’t mean that you have to be able to identify participles and gerunds in order to write well, though I think it is helpful if you can—but you do need to have a feeling for the language even when the specific rules of grammar fade from memory (which is natural and common). A good grammar education leaves behind a residue even when some of the technical grammatical terms are forgotten.

This book by Mr. da R. Prista is a good one so far. Early on there is a list of common spelling differences between Portuguese and English. The tion ending in English often becomes ção in Portuguese. “Nation,” for example, is nação.

Ity endings in English mutate into dade in Portuguese. So “nationality” in English becomes nacionalidade in Portuguese. “City” is cidade. And as I mentioned in a previous entry, that de is pronounced like the interjection “gee” in English. Si-DAH-jee, not Si-DAH-day, which is what I would have guessed 10 days ago.

Ellen's Stardust Diner, Midtown Today

Ellen’s Stardust Diner, Midtown Today

Another Ellen, Window of Ellen's Stardust Diner

Another Ellen, Window of Ellen’s Stardust Diner

Words overall are often similar to Spanish, but they don’t feel that similar at first. Take hermano and hermana, meaning “brother” and “sister” in Spanish. They are irmão and irmã in Portuguese. They sound like—and this is the best I can offer at this point, because I am not very confident than I am replicating what I am hearing—EAR-mow and EAR-ma, respectively.

That is similar but not amazingly similar to Spanish, and they look kind of weird. I am afraid of tildes on vowels. I am still afraid of nasal. I just checked Amazon.com and there are actually quite a few books with the word “nasalization” in the title, though, in case you are interested.

According to what I mentioned above, “nasalization” should be nasalização in Portuguese.

Bingo! (I just checked in Google Translate.)

Comments (2)

acutia • Posted on Tue, August 21, 2012 - 4:44 am EST

It seems to me some of the pronunciation confusion you’re experiencing wouldn’t be as great if you were working on European or African Portuguese. The things Brazilians make the letter ‘d’ do are quite a shock to one who is used to Continental Portuguese phonology.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Tue, August 21, 2012 - 7:32 pm EST

I feel comforted to know it is shocking to others out there. :)

I do think Brazilian Portuguese was the right decision, for various reasons, but it has been an adjustment! It is growing on me, though, and starting to feel more natural.

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