Portuguese L

4 de August de 2014

Hello friends! How are you? In today’s Dica we are going to understand the Portuguese L and its different sounds. In the Portuguese language, not always we will have a correspondence between letter (graphic representation) and phoneme (sound representation). The L can have different pronunciations depending on their placement in each word! So, for you to ace this class, pay attention and let’s learn more!

Portuguese L Sounds

When the letter L begins a word or a syllable, we pronounce it in the normal way. Let’s hear:

LΓ‘pisPencil
LembrarRemember
LençoHandkerchief
LΓ­nguaTongue
LagoaLagoon
LeiteMilk
AlunoStudent
AulaClass

However, when the letter L is at the end of a syllable or a word, something very special happens. The sound of L in Portuguese changes into the same sound as the letter U. 

How to Pronunciate Final L

Each Brazilian sotaque has its particularities, but the exchange between L and U is somewhat universal (The South region is the only one where this phenomenon doesn’t occur). And that is why, when speaking, there is no difference between mal/mau and alto/auto. It is more important to mention that despite this phenomenon occurring when we speak, in writing the difference continues! When we write “alto” and pronounce this word, we will say “auto”.

Our friend MoisΓ©s will explain the differences between L pronunciation further. It’s a good opportunity for you to repeat each word and test yourself! Don’t forget to go to our Youtube channel and watch more Dicas like this one. If you want to practice your pronunciation, you can do private classes with us and we’ll teach what you want and need.

You listened to some words in our video in which the letter L comes at the end of the syllable. Here they are:

SelmaSelma
SilviaSilvia
CalmaCalm
PapelPaper
AlmaSoul
RΓ©ptilReptile
FinalFinal
AzulBlue
TotalTotal
SinalSign

But It Was Always Like This?

The pronunciation of the final L with a L sound is still very common in some parts of southern Brazil, particularly in Rio Grande do Sul. But was it always like this? Has the south of the country always been an exception in terms of this pronunciation?
The answer is no! Originally, the final L was always marked by the phonetics of the L itself. This consonant-to-vowel exchange phenomenon even has a name: vowelization. And it usually happens in most languages: over time, speakers look for ways to simplify the pronunciation, and the truth is that the pronunciation of vowels is much easier than the pronunciation of consonants. That’s why Brazilians over the years began to change the L for the U.
Want to see an example of a time when this exchange was being made? In the famous song “MamΓ£e eu Quero” by Carmen Miranda, at one point she says “Eu tenho uma irmΓ£ que Γ© fenomenal. Ela Γ© da bossa e o marido Γ© um boΓ§al.” Being that fenomenal, she pronounces the final L with an original sound, and in boΓ§al, the final L has a U sound.

How to Pronounce LH in Portuguese

There is another variation of the Portuguese L. When we put the letters LH together, the sound is a little bit different. Pay attention and try to repeat, it’s very common that some foreign students find this difficult to pronounce. Let’s listen:

FilhoSon
GalhoBranch
CaralhoDick / Wow
MulherWoman
FalhaFailure
OrelhaEar
ColherSpoon
TrabalhoWork

Cool? Now we know the sound the Portuguese L. Can you pronounce all of them? Of course, yes!

Exercise for the Portuguese L Pronunciation

Here you have a list of 10 words with the Portuguese L, and below you have 3 examples with each type of L pronunciation. Connect the words, according to their correct pronunciation, compared to the example words underneath.

1. Lembrar
2. Filho
3. Alma
4. Colher
5. Aula
6. Caralho
7. Lagoa
8. Papel
9. Total
10. Aluno

a. LΓ­ngua b. Calma c. Falha

See you next time!
A huge hug to all of you!

Click on the links below to see more related Dicas
Plural of the words ending in L
Sounds of the vowels in Portuguese
How to pronounce the R in Portuguese
The sounds of the letter X

Answers

  1. (a)
  2. (c)
  3. (b)
  4. (c)
  5. (a)
  6. (c)
  7. (a)
  8. (b)
  9. (b)
  10. (a)