Portuguese orthography is close to the Latin one, although not so close as French is. Written, it is very similar to Spanish. A text in Portuguese is easy to read, and the reader will have trouble only with the letters x, e and o. However, writing is more complicated and involves etimological rules, i. e., the spelling of some words are defined by Latin. The phoneme s, for instance, can be written in seven ways: s, c, ss, x, ç, sc or sç,
About the letters
- c represents the phoneme /s/ before the vowels e (é, ê) and i (í).
- c represents the phoneme /k/ in all other situations.
- g represents the phoneme /ʒ/ before the vowels e (é, ê) and i (í).
- g represents the phoneme /k/ in all other situations.
As h is never pronouced, it is written by etymological reasons or in digraphs.
In the beginning of the word1, h are sometimes written in words that also begin in h in Latin:
- haver (to have)
- honra (honor)
- homem (man)
- honesto (honest)
- hora (hour)
- horta (kitchen garden)
- harmonia (harmony)
Contrarely to Italian and French, but similar to Spanish, Portuguese does write the letter h in all the forms of the verb haver (to have / there be): hão, havia, houvera, há.
In the middle of the word, there is never a mute h and it is suppressed in compound words, except if hyphen is used:
- habilitar → reabilitar
- harmonia → desarmonia
- higiênico → anti-higiênico
In the end of the word, it is used just in a few number of interjections 2:
- assunto → /as&u#771to/
- conta → /kõta/
- impar → /ĩpaɾ/
- mentiroso → /mẽtiɾozu/
- sambar → /sãbaɾ/
As sign of nasalisation, we use m before p and b and n in the other cases.
r represents two phonemes.
- The r is pronouced strong - /ʁ/ - in the beginning of the word, after a consonant or when it is doubled, in the digraph rr.
- In all other situations, r is pronounced weak, /ɾ/.
x can be pronouced in five different ways. In the beginning of the word, x is generally pronouced /ʃ/.
- mexer → /meʃer/ (to stir)
- xarope → /ʃaɾopi/ (syrup)
- xeque-mate → /ʃekimati/ (checkmate)
- exceto → /esɛto/ (except)
- exportar → /espoɾtaɾ/ (to export)
- explodir → /esplodiɾ/ (to explode)
- ex-prefeito → /esprefeɪtu/(ex-mayor)
- óxido → /ɔksidu/
- tóxico → /tɔksiku/
Finally, it can be pronounced /z/, between two vowels.
- exato → /ezatu/
- exigência → /eziʒẽsia/
k, w, y
These letters are used only in loan words and international abbreviations:
- km (quilómetro)
- caçar - /kasaɾ/
- criança - /kriɐ̃sɐ/ (children)
- paço - /pasu
Note 1: In vocative, the interjection used is ó: Ergue-te, ó Radamés, ó meu vassalo (Luís Delfino).
Note 2: There is only one exception: the interjection ha! or hahaha!