Many Portuguese words end in -te. What vowel sound should I make when pronouncing these words, particularly with a Brazilian pronunciation?

Various online sources transcribe these words using different vowel sounds, so I'm sure there's some variation, but what is most widely used?

Examples:

  • este
  • garçonete
  • colete
  • mote

I've seen these transcribed (at least) the following ways:

  • [-t͡ʃɨ]
  • [-t͡ʃə]
  • [-t͡ʃy]
  • [-t͡ʃi]
  • [-t͡ʃe]

That's a lot of variation! It covers practically an entire quarter of the IPA vowel chart. Further, the use of /y/ seems odd to me, because I've never heard these words pronounced with a rounded vowel sound. /i/ and /ɨ/ seem the most like what I've heard. Is there anything like an actual consensus on which pronunciation is most common?

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    It depends a lot on the dialect and region. In Brazil, the general pronunciation is "ti", as in "children". But in other regions it is "ti" as in "teeth", and others as "te" as in "temp". – Bruno Lopes Jul 31 '15 at 20:38
  • 2
  • 1
    For writing precise phonetic transcriptions, one normally uses [brackets]. It’s broad phonemic transcriptions that come in /slashes/, and those won’t tell you something is actually said, conveying only the minimal information needed for a native speaker (who understands the language’s phonology) to be able to reproduce it in his own dialect. – tchrist Jul 31 '15 at 23:38
  • @tchrist: So are you saying that my markup is incorrect? Or that I'm reading the transcriptions incorrectly/too strictly to be meaningful? Or...? – Flimzy Jul 31 '15 at 23:39
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    It depends what you’re reading; some sources use symbols with less precision than others. If it were me, I would write them in brackets because I am referring to the distinct possible articulations (sounds) realizable for the same phonemic sequence. For the record, in Portugal those words don’t affricate (read: "become ch") at the end. Rather, the final vowel either disappears altogether or becomes one that resists agreed-upon IPA transcription: [ɨ], [ə], and [ɯ] are variously used. See Wikipedia’s Portuguese phonology article. – tchrist Jul 31 '15 at 23:48
up vote 8 down vote accepted

I made a separation by state/region and expanded the options a bit, ordering by my sense of most used forms by the people here in São Paulo in the day by day:

  • [-t͡ʃɨ]: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Goiás, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul;
  • [-t͡ʃi]: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Northern of Paraná, Goiás, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul;
  • [-ti]: Northeastern of Brazil (Bahia, Sergipe, Alagoas, Pernambuco, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte, Tocantins, Ceará, Maranhão, Piauí), some parts of Santa Catarina (Itajaí valley, Florianópolis city);
  • [-te]: The capital of Paraná State (Curitiba), Inner Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul.

These ones I've never heard before, at least in Brazil:

  • [-t͡ʃy]
  • [-t͡ʃe]
  • [-t͡ʃə]

Conclusion: there is not exactly a consensus in Brazil as a whole. There can exist a consensus by the region or state.

However, you can use any of the forms that you'll be understood in entire Brazil. Depending of the form, people will just realize you are a foreigner.

  • I feel certain that I've heard brazilians use [-t͡ʃ] without a vowel on the end. Is that thought of by speakers as being equal to the [-t͡ʃɨ] pronunciation? Or is that an alternate, optional pronunciation (shortening the word by choice, not by dialect)? Should this be a new question or is it part of this same question? – Dan Getz Aug 2 '15 at 2:21
  • I think it ts equal to ` [-t͡ʃɨ]`. It's a laziness of spoken language. Brazilian Portuguese is loose regarding the pronunciation. This can be part of this question. – Cigano Morrison Mendez Aug 2 '15 at 3:14
  • Not so straight like that! In Sao Paulo, cities like Piracicaba, Sorocaba among other ones will say dente like "temp". Famous joke, leite quente dá dor de dente. – user2060451 Aug 4 '15 at 3:31
  • @user2060451 That's why I mentioned "ordering by my sense of most used forms". ;) – Cigano Morrison Mendez Aug 4 '15 at 3:48

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