The Recife Accent

Lately, I’ve been wondering about what makes a Recife accent different from, let’s say, the wider “Northeastern” accent (of which the only two distinct ones are from Bahia and Pernambuco). The obvious telltale signs occur in the words ending in -de / -te, where the pronunciation of those sounds becomes “di” and “ti”, respectively (as opposed to the “gee” and “chee” sounds prevalent in other parts of the country).

Recently, there was a Youtube tag going around which had users record themselves saying various words and responding to questions. The one below, for about 30 seconds and starting at the 45-second mark, is a good example of the Recife accent.

Luckily, I also found a linguistic description (PT) for the “nerds” out there who might want a more exact understanding. See my translation below:

Characteristics of the Recife Accent

  • The palatalization of the /s/ at the end of a word and between consonants: in the northeastern subdialects, which Recife is a part of, the palatalization of the /s/ is always before the denti-alveolar consonants /t/e and /d/e in the final syllable.
  • “Wheezing” is an archaic tendency from the Portuguese of Northeastern Brazil and one of the most striking features of the Recife accent.
  • Non-palatalization: in the Pernambuco dialect, palatalization doesn’t occur in the /t/ and /d/ consonants before the /i/ vowel and the /j/ semi-vowel.
  • Vocal harmony: the use of mid-vowels in a pretonic position. This usage is especially present in the Recife dialect.
  • The opening of vowels can vary depending on the region according to the vocal harmony phenomenom. Pretonic mid-vowels are produced like low, mid or high vowels, resulting from the reduction process.
  • The monophthongization of “ei” and “ou” diphthongs when they occur on tonic syllables, usually before fricatives. The “ou” diphthong is also reduced at the end of words, which does not occur with “ei”, which is usually pronounced like the word “sei” [‘sej].
  • The vowel fracture of /a/, /e/, /o/ and /u/ in tonic syllables ending in /s/.

While I don’t pretend to understand all of it, I found the “wheezing” (ie, chiado, or “sshh” sound) to be interesting, as it’s heavily used by both Cariocas and the Portuguese people. Another interesting thing to note that I came across in my searches is the following: In the word ‘Diferentes’ it will sound like ‘Dsiferentes’, with a whistled S.

If anyone can “translate” the linguistic description above into specific examples, that’d be great.

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