Brazil is a large country with enormous cultural diversity. The official language is Portuguese, but that doesn’t mean that every region speaks the same way. From north to south, there’s an enormous number of linguistic variations with marked differences between them, which are the Brazilian dialects.
Linguistic variations are the result of a language’s ability to change based on different contexts. Linguistic variations can be regional, historical, sociocultural or stylistic. Dialects are regional variations that have specific characteristics — pronunciation, melody, vocabulary, grammar — in a certain region. For example, the words aipim, mandioca and macaxeira all refer to the same food — cassava — but the usage changes according to the region.
When it comes to linguistic variations, the dialects from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are the most common in the media. The linguistic variations from the northeast of Brazil as well as the Amazonian dialects make up the so-called north Brazilian Portuguese.
In this immense number of variations, let’s look at a few dialects to get to know the linguistic diversity of Brazil a bit better. Just to be clear, what we’re about to go through is by no means an exhaustive list. With Brazil’s size and diversity, we can’t touch on everything in this article. And to avoid generalizations, some of the examples given aren’t used by everyone who lives in the region we discuss. Sociolects, or social dialects, are variations of a language spoken by different social groups. For example, there is some variation according to age. Teenagers from a specific region use expressions that aren’t used by adults from that region or by teenagers from another region.
Dialects From Around Brazil
Also known as Baianês, Bahian was one of the first Brazilian dialects. If you think that the speakers only live in Bahia, you’d be surprised. Bahian is also spoken in Sergipe, in the far north of Minas Gerais and in the east of Goiás and Tocantins.
|English||Standard Brazilian Portuguese||Bahian|
|Hi, friend!||Olá, amigo!||E aê, meu rei!?|
|How are you?||Como vai você?||Colé de mêrmo?|
|Not at all!||Não mesmo!||Aooonde!|
|Are you pulling my leg?||Está me fazendo de bobo?||Tá me comediando é?|
|Mind your own business!||Fique na sua!||Se plante!|
This dialect, also known as Candango, is the result of the influx of people starting in 1955 with the construction of Brasilia, the current capital of Brazil. You can hear it in the capital and the metropolitan area, a combination of the Mineiro and Goiano dialects, with a few bits of northeast Brazilian.
|English||Standard Brazilian Portuguese||Brasiliense|
|Ave Maria||Ave Maria||Aff|
|I’m going by bike||Vou de bicicleta||Vou de camelo|
|I’m feeling lazy today||Hoje eu tô com uma preguiça||Hoje eu tô com uma lombra|
The Caipira dialect is spoken in the interior of São Paulo state; in the east of Mato Grosso; in the south of Minas Gerais and Goias; in the north of Paraná; and in the rural areas south of Rio de Janeiro. It’s characterized by its retroflex “r,” switching “lh” and “l,” and not conjugating verbs by number, instead always using the singular form. The indigenous language Tupi has had some influence on this dialect.
|English||Standard Brazilian Portuguese||Caipira|
|He’s a fool.||Ele é um bobo.||Ele é um coió.|
|we were||nós fomos||nóis fumo|
|the painkillers||os calmantes||us carmânti|
|I don’t remember.||Não me lembro.||Num mi alembro.|
Spoken in Rio de Janeiro and the neighboring areas, the Carioca dialect is known for its melody, which is quite similar to the Portuguese spoken in Portugal. Everyone quickly recognizes when someone is speaking Carioca by the rich “s” sound and the open vowels. The Brazilian dialects spoken by enslaved Africans and their descendants have also influenced this dialect.
|English||Standard Brazilian Portuguese||Carioca|
|I’m worried.||Tô preocupado.||Tô bolado.|
|What is it?||Qual é?||Coé?|
|That project worked.||Esse projeto deu certo.||Esse projeto fluiu.|
|great, fantastic||muito legal||maneiro|
|my brother||meu irmão||mermão|
Largely influenced by Spanish, and somewhat by Guarani and other indigenous languages, the Guasca or Gaúcho dialect is mainly spoken in Rio Grande do Sul, as well as in parts of Paraná and Santa Catarina.
|English||Standard Brazilian Portuguese||Gaúcho|
|Watch from the corner of your eyes.||Olhar atravessado.||Olhar de revesgueio.|
|The situation became complicated.||A coisa ficou complicada.||Preteou o olho da gateada.|
|Get out of my way.||Sai da minha frente.||Te some da minha frente.|
|great, fantastic||muito legal||tri afú|
|I believe it!||Segue em frente!||Toca ficha!|
The montanhés (highlander) dialect, mainly spoken in the central and eastern regions of Minas Gerais, emerged during the decline of the mining industry, when the state experienced a certain level of isolation. Nevertheless, this dialect was also influenced by the Caipira dialect from São Paulo.
|English||Standard Brazilian Portuguese||Mineiro|
|Be quiet!||Fique quieto.||Quét’ s’criança!|
|What time is it?||Que horas são?||Conta Z’óra?|
|All the fruit is rotting.||Todas as frutas estão apodrecendo.||As’fruta ‘tão ‘pudrecen tud’.|
|sweater||blusa de frio||blusdifri|
|last Saturday||sábado passado||sa passado|
Spoken in Pernambuco, Sergipe, Alagoas, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte, part of Ceará, and in some regions in Bahia, Piauí, and Maranhão, this dialect has the highest number of speakers. It’s more than 53 million people and includes subdialects like the one in Zona da Mata, in the inner northeast and Meio Norte.
|English||Standard Brazilian Portuguese||Nordestino|
|Mom, look, he’s bothering me!||Mãe, olha ele me perturbando!||Mainha! Ó ele me arengando!|
|Get out of here.||Sai da frente.||Arreda.|
|Now imagine the size of the mess.||Agora, imagine o tamanho da encrenca.||Agora, avalie o tamanho da encrenca.|
|I’m going to tighten the screws well.||Vou apertar bem os parafusos.||Vou acochar bem os parafusos.|
|to be stubborn||caprichar||dar o grau|
Spoken by the majority of the people living in the Amazon basin (Acre, Amazonas, Roraima, Amapá and part of Pará, except for Carajás), the Amazonian dialects have been greatly influenced by European Portuguese. The most obvious characteristic is the use of tu in second-person conjugations.
|English||Standard Brazilian Protuguese||Nortista|
|distant place, euphemism for “hell”||local distante||baixa da égua|
|Stay calm.||Ficar tranquilo.||Ficar de bubuia.|
|No way!||De forma alguma!||Tá lá, cheiroso!|
|You’re crazy, right?||Você tá doido, é?||Tu é leso, é?|
Widely used in media, the Paulistano dialect is spoken in the enormous city of São Paulo (with the exception of a few areas where the Caipira dialect is spoken).
|English||Standard Brazilian Portuguese||Paulistano|
|Make a phone call.||Dar um telefonema.||Bater um fio.|
|Be quiet.||Fique quieto.||Fica na moral.|
|many times||muitas vezes||uma pá de vezes|
|Much corruption was discovered in the government of São Paulo.||Foi descoberta muita corrupção no governo de São Paulo.||Foi descoberta muita corrupa no governo de Sampa.|
The Recifense dialect is typical of the metropolitan region around Recife and the region of Mata Pernambucana, in Pernambucho state. It’s characterized by soft consonants and a special vocabulary.
|English||Standard Brazilian Portuguese||Recifense|
|stop fooling around||deixar de besteira||deixar de pantim|
|to feel passionate about someone||estar muito apaixonado por alguém||com os quatro pneus arriados|
|throw away||jogar fora||avoar no mato|
In addition to the above, another Recifense phrase is fi de rapariga, which is an insult that refers to the sexual conduct of the other person’s mother.
Sertanejo is spoken in the southeast, central-south and east of Mato Grosso; the northeast of Mato Grosso do Sul; the central-north of Goiás; and in small regions in the east of Minas Gerais. The dialect is an offshoot of another of the Brazilian dialects: Caipira. The way prayers are constructed in this dialect is a result of interaction with speakers of the Mineiro, Sulista and Nordestino dialects.
|English||Standard Brazilian Portuguese||Sertanejo|
|to run away||fugir correndo||dar pinote|
|She got all dressed up.||Ela se arrumou toda.||Ela se emperiquitou toda.|
Another Sertanejo phrase is Tchá por Deus, which is used to express annoyance or indifference.
This dialect, which has many particular characteristics, is mostly spoken in Paraná, almost the entire state of Santa Catarina, the northeast of Rio Grande do Sul, and in the far east of São Paulo state.
|English||Standard Brazilian Portuguese||Sulista|
|You’re drunk.||Você está bêbado.||Você está borracho.|
|I’m going to the bakery to buy a French bread.||Vou na padaria comprar um pão francês.||Vou na padaria comprar um cacetinho.|
Linguas, Dialetos And Idiomas
The ultimate goal of any language or dialect is communication. It’s through language that social interactions can happen. Knowing the difference between these three concepts in Portuguese helps better understand how each group of people creates its tools to communicate.
Língua: nothing less than an instrument for communicating. According to the definition from Oxford Languages, language is “a system of communication used by a particular country or community.”
Idioma: the language that identifies a nation, a people group’s own language. In Brazil, for example, the official language is Portuguese. There are also countries like Switzerland, for example, where there are four official languages: German, Italian, Romansh and French.
Dialeto: a particular type of language specific to a region or social group. Dialects are generally associated with specific regions (regional dialects), but can also be related to someone’s social environment (social dialect) or profession (professional dialect). While sometimes Brazilian dialects, or really any dialects, are treated as “lesser” than the standard form of Portuguese, this is not the case. Everyone speaks a dialect, and they’re all equally important to the cultures that use them.
This article was originally published on the Portuguese edition of Babbel Magazine.