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Using Chrome:

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Using Chrome:

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Portuguese Spelling Reform

In 1990, several Portuguese-speaking countries agreed on a spelling reform to create and maintain a cohesive, international standard across borders.

In Portugal, the spelling reform was enacted in 2009 followed by a 6-year transitional period where the old and new orthographies were officially co-existing. To this date, however, there’s a de facto spelling double standard in Portugal.

This double standard is partly due to a widespread lack of awareness of the new spelling rules and partly the fact that several journalists, authors, and a few publishers refuse to follow the new orthography (for reasons outside the scope of this article).

Seeing the same word spelled differently in different sources must be confusing for language learners (for instance, baptismo vs. batismo). Among other things, I’d like to clarify which spellings agree with the spelling reform*. Read on.

Lesson #83 Portuguese Spelling Reform - Portuguesepedia

* The spelling reform pertains exclusively to orthography, that is, it doesn’t have anything to do with phonology or lexicon. Brazilians, Portuguese, Angolans, and other native Portuguese speakers keep pronouncing the words as before as they keep using their local, culture-specific words and expressions. Learn where in the world Portuguese is spoken.

Silent consonants

Except for the letter h – which in Portuguese is always mute – we no longer write mute consonants such as silent c’s or p’s.

Here’re a few examples:

BeforeAfter
actoato
acçãoação
detectivedetetive
óptimoótimo
baptismobatismo
. . .

But! We keep the c’s and p’s when we pronounce them:

BeforeAfter
facto‘’
pacto‘’
Egípcio‘’
. . .

! A common misunderstanding

I often hear people talking against the spelling reform (and refusing to follow it) based on a widespread misunderstanding: they think that all those p’s and c’s mentioned above are – according to the reform –  gone, even when you are supposed to pronounce them, which is not true as illustrated by the table above. 

There are a few words subjected to alternative spellings. Those are cases where some pronounce the c’s and the p’s while others don’t. Then, either spelling is considered correct:

BeforeAfter
infeccioso‘’ or infecioso
sectorial‘’ or setorial
olfacto‘’ or olfato
. . .

Last but not least, in some words, these c’s and p’s are pronounced in the European standard but not in Brazilian. And vice-versa. 

In these cases, there is a double standard according to each variant of Portuguese:

European standardBrazilian standard
factofato
contactarcontatar
defetivodefectivo
conceçãoconcepção
corrupçãocorrução
receçãorecepção
. . . 

Learn more about how the European and Brazilian standards compare: European vs. Brazilian Portuguese – How Different Are They?

Diacritical marks

To accommodate differences in pronunciation between the European and Brazilian standards, some words are subject to different accent marks:

European PortugueseBrazilian Portuguese
académicoacadêmico
cénicocênico
bidébidê
. . .

The circumflex accent marks a more closed vowel sound. Learn more about Portuguese diacritics here: Portuguese Word Stress and Accent Marks

Before the reform, the 1-person plural in the preterite tense (Pretérito Perfeito) took an accent mark to graphically distinguish it from the present tense (same pronunciation and spelling otherwise)*.

After the reform, it became optional to use the accent mark:

BeforeAfter
Ontem ficámos em casa
Hoje ficamos em casa
Ontem ficámos/ficamos em casa
Hoje ficamos em casa
Ontem cozinhámos bacalhau
Hoje cozinhamos bacalhau
Ontem cozinhámos/cozinhamos bacalhau
Hoje cozinhamos bacalhau
. . .

* Only applies to regular verbs of the -ar conjugation group.

Before the reform, a few verbs of the second and third conjugation groups (-er, -ir) had a circumflex accent mark on the 3-person plural. That’s not the case any longer:

BeforeAfter
crêem (crer)creem
vêem (ver)veem
lêem (ler)leem
. . .

Before the spelling reform, the verb form para (verb Parar)  had an acute accent mark to denote a more open vowel sound compared to the preposition para

These days, the verb form and preposition are homographs (same spelling, different pronunciation):

BeforeAfter
pára (verb from) para (verb from) 
para (preposition)‘’

The diphthong oi no longer takes an accent mark (to denote an open vowel sound) unless it comprises the last syllable:

BeforeAfter
asteróideasteroide
jóiajoia
but
herói‘’
constrói‘’
. . .

Hyphenation

The hyphen drops

We no longer use a hyphen in compound words with prefixes such as anti-, re-,  co-, extra-, intra-, pro-, multi-, pluri-, contra-, among others:

BeforeAfter
co-dependentecodependente
re-equilíbrioreequilíbrio
contra-indicaçãocontraindicação
neo-impressionismoneoimpresionismo
auto-avaliaçãoautoavaliação
geo-estratégicogeoestratégico
multi-colormulticolor
pluri-anualplurianual
. . .

Also, we don’t use the hyphen in compound words where the first part ends in a vowel and the remainder starts with r or s

However, we do have to duplicate the s and r so that the spelling agrees with Portuguese spelling-pronunciation patterns*. 

BeforeAfter
contra-regracontrarregra
anti-semitaantissemita
auto-rádioautorrádio
. . .

* Learn more about Portuguese spelling pronunciation patterns here: European Portuguese Pronunciation – Complete Guide to Portuguese Phonology and Spelling-Sound Patterns

We don’t hyphenate compound words with the prefix mal- unless the suffix starts with a vowel or h :

BeforeAfter
mal-falantemalfalante
mal-criadomalcriado
but
mal-amado‘’
mal-estar‘’
mal-humorado‘’
. . .

We no longer use a hyphen between Haver’s verb forms and de:

BeforeAfter
hei-de ir ao Japãohei de ir ao Japão
hás-de me entenderhás de me entender
. . .

Learn more about Haver: The Portuguese Verb “Haver” and All the Things You Say with It.

The hyphen is kept

We hyphenate compound words to be consistent with Portuguese spelling-pronunciation patterns.

Except for prefixes re– and co-, we hyphenate compound nouns in which the prefix ends in a vowel and the suffix starts with the same vowel:

BeforeAfter
contraataque‘’
microondas‘’
autoobservação‘’
. . . but
cooperaçãocooperação
coordenaçãocoordenação
reescreverreescrever
. . .

Also, we use the hyphen in compound words with prefixes ending with an –r – such as hiper-, inter-, or super- – and suffixes starting with the same letter:

BeforeAfter
hiperresistente‘’
superreacionário‘’
. . .

We hyphenate compound words denoting plants and animals:

BeforeAfter
couve-flor‘’
erva-doce‘’
bicho-da-seda‘’
. . .

We hyphenate compound words with prefixes ending in –m (nasal sound) such as bem-, além-, aquém-, and recém- 

BeforeAfter
bem-vindo‘’
além-mar‘’
recém-nascido‘’
sem-abrigo‘’
. . .

We hyphenate compound words that take the prefixes ex-, vice-, pré-, pós- och pró-:

BeforeAfter
ex-marido‘’
vice-presidente‘’
pré-história‘’
pró-democracia‘’
pós-parto‘’
. . .

Lower- or uppercase?

According to the spelling reform, weekdays, months, and seasons are no longer capitalized:

BeforeAfter
Terça-feiraterça-feira
Marçomarço
Primaveraprimavera
. . .

Concerning titles and headings, only the first word is capitalized:

BeforeAfter
O Crime do Padre AmaroO crime do padre Amaro
Crime e CastigoCrime e castigo
E Tudo o Vento LevouE tudo o vento levou
. . .

Moreover, forms of address are no longer capitalized:

BeforeAfter
Senhor Doutor
Sr. Dr. 
senhor doutor
sr. dr.
Senhora Engenheira 
Sra. Eng.
senhora engenheira 
sra. eng.
Excelentíssimo  Senhor
Exmo. Sr.
excelentíssimo senhor
exmo. sr.
. . .

You get to choose whether or not you capitalize religious scriptures, saints and other sacred figures, subjects of knowledge, monuments, streets, and public places:

BeforeAfter
Nossa Senhora‘’ or nossa senhora 
Bíblia‘’ or bíblia
Igreja da Misericórdia‘’ or igreja da misericórdia
Matemática‘’ or matemática
Avenida da Liberdade ‘’ or avenida da liberdade 
. . .

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