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How are these Brazilian (Portuguese) names pronounced in (U.S.) English?

  • João Gilberto
  • Astrud Gilberto
  • Bebel Gilberto
  • Vinicius de Moraes
  • Antonio Carlos Jobim
  • Vivo Sonhando
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3  
In English, names are usually pronounced as close to their original language as possible. So, there is probably no one answer to this, depending on who's speaking. –  simchona Sep 23 '11 at 2:10
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Then how are they pronounced in Portuguese? –  jftuga Sep 23 '11 at 2:27
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@Simchona: 'as close to...as possible' makes it sound like foreign language speakers actually come pretty close. In general, if a local language person -reads- something foreign, even when educated, will tend to read the foreign words as though they are the written for the local language, of course butchering it as the original language. So the answer is most commonly 'literally', or in English 'Vee voh son hand oh' or 'joe ow jill bear toh'. –  Mitch Sep 23 '11 at 2:29
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@jftuga Ask someone who knows Portuguese. –  simchona Sep 23 '11 at 2:29
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@cindi I reopened it. It was ridiculous. Authoritative sources for pronunciations of proper names are hard but not impossible to find. –  nohat Oct 7 '11 at 15:43
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5 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It is rare for an native (first language) American English speaker to have any idea how the orthography for Brazilian names to work, so they will pronounce them with the rules of American orthography:

  • João Gilberto: dzhoh ow dzhill bear tow
  • Astrud Gilberto: ass truhd dzhill bear tow
  • Bebel Gilberto: bee buhl dzhill bear tow
  • Vinicius de Moraes: vin ee shee us duh muh ray ess
  • Antonio Carlos Jobim: an tow nyo car lohss dzhow beem
  • Vivo Sonhando: vee voh sun han doh

(yes, the transcription is in 'sound it out' English orthography; IPA would take forever)

It is obviously not expected that an AmE speaker would be able to pronounce the nasal, but even though they could pronounce the 'ny' in Brazilian 'nh' or the initial 'g' has glottal aspirate 'h', Portuguuese (Brazilian at that) orthography is pretty rare, and so could not be expected to be known at all. (Spanish is popular enough for AmE speakers, and even there the orthography is not so well known).

As to news- or sportscasters, often they are given a close enough approximation so that the names aren't agonizingly butchered.

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Quick comment about newscasters - if you think american newscasters butcher Brazilian names you have no idea of how much Brazilian newscasters butcher names from America and other countries. –  Otávio Décio Sep 23 '11 at 3:16
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Vinicius de Moraes is closer to "vin ee see us duh muh ray ess" –  Orion Sep 23 '11 at 6:27
    
@Null: My answers were somewhat both my expectation of other AmE speakers and my own uneducated pronunciation. If I were trying to pronounce them 'correctly' I would use some quasi-Spanish 'Hill bear toe' which I take is wrong. But that would also what most AmE speakers would be attuned to (most having little to no experience with Portuguese). –  Mitch Oct 7 '11 at 17:27
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by "rules of American orthography" what you mean is "letter-to-sound rules of the English spelling system", right? Also, you don't distinguish the pronunciation strategies of people who might know what they're talking about with people who have never seen the words before... Don't you think that these words would be most likely to be spoken by someone who has a clue what they mean, and therefore how they might be pronounced? –  nohat Oct 8 '11 at 18:59
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@Mitch I'm sorry I was a little testy, it was not meant to be directed at you; it was more based on the meta discussion of this question. I just meant to say that I think that what you wrote is how an American English speaker might guess how to pronounce those, it's not how they would pronounce them if they heard someone say them in Portuguese first, and the latter case is worth more consideration than you gave it. –  nohat Oct 9 '11 at 1:31
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This is not meant to replace anybody else’s answer, just supplement them. Parlty this is because I’d like to have both the English and the Portuguese (well, and/or Brazilian) versions in the same place. But it’s also because I’m going to give fairly narrow phonetic transcriptions, which are very important, especially for the Portuguese since few English speakers have any clue about Portuguese phonology.

For the English, I just do whatever my mouth would do for these words in English using only native English phonemes picking whichever is closest to the original in Portuguese. I don’t try to read the letters as though they were English letters, which is the fatal flaw that English announcers ignorant of Portuguese so often do. Don’t do that. Just remaps the sounds, not the letters. And don’t pronounce it as though it were Spanish, either!

I then also provide a few different phonetic transcriptions for the Portuguese, also fairly narrow. This should help you get an idea of some of the range of actual variation there can be in speakers depending on region, education, social context, and phrasal context. There are more possibilities than those I’ve shown here.

  • João Gilberto would most likely be [ʒəˈaʊ ʒɪɫˈbeɹtou] in English. There could also be a bit of rounding there, so [ʒʊ̈ˈaʊ] or [ʒuˈaʊ]. Portuguese versions include [ʒuˈɐ̃ũ ʒɨlˈbɛɾt̪u] or [ʒʊˈɐ̃ũ ʒiwˈbɛʁt̪o]. Other versions of ‹r› are certainly possible, including a full [r] on both sides of the Atlantic, or just in Brazil also [x], [h], or even [ʀ].

  • Astrud would be something like [əsˈtʃɹuːd] in English. It isn’t really a Portuguese name, but if you make your mouth behave in a more Portuguese way, it could be [ɐʃˈt̪ɾuð] or [ɐsˈt̪ɾud̪]. Those should be a dental ‹t› and ‹d› in Portuguese just like in Italian or Spanish, not the alveolar ones we use in English or German. The lenition of [d̪] to [ð] occurs in central and northern Portugal, as well as in all of Spain. It doesn’t happen in Brazil.

  • Bebel has the same problem of not being a common Portuguese name. I’d say [bɨˈbɛɫ] or [bəˈbɛɫ] in English. Portuguese could have [bəˈbɛl] or in some speakers [bɨˈbɛw], as though it’s spelt ‹bébéu›.

  • Vinicius de Moraes is another weird one because of the foreignness of the first word. They might try a four-syllable Latin-style pronunciation. I might try [vɨˈniːsi.ɵs deɪ mɵˈɹaɪs] or [vəˈniːsi.əs deɪ məˈɹaːɪs] in English. In Portuguese, it could be [vĩˈnisjʊʃ d̪ɯ̟ muˈɾajʃ] or [vɨˈnisjus d̪ɨ mʊˈɾajs].

  • Antônio Carlos Jobim in English would simply be [ɒnˈtʰoʊni.oʊ ˈkaɹloʊs ʒoʊˈbiːm] for me. Possible Portuguese versions include [ɐ̃ˈt̪ɔni.u ˈkaɾluʒ‿ʒuˈbĩ] and [ɐ̃ˈt̪oni.ʊ ˈkaʁlʊs ʒʊˈbĩ]. In Portugal it would be António with an "open o" spelt ‹ó› and said [ɔ], but in Brazil it’s Antônio with a “closed o” spelt ‹ô› and said [o]. A Portuguese person would still pronounce it with an open-o there, no matter how the Brazilians spell it. :)

  • Vivo Sonhando is a really funny “name”: it literally means I live dreaming. In English, I’d likely say [ˈviːvoʊ soʊnˈjandoʊ]. Portuguese pronunciations would probably be more like [ˈvivu suˈɲɐ̃d̪u] or [ˈvivʊ sʊˈɲɐ̃d̪ʊ].

People aren’t used to hearing the Portuguese palatalized syllable-final ‹s› in English, especially in the States, so I probably wouldn’t do that in English as I would in Portuguese. Interestingly, the BBC does do so, however, when pronouncing Portuguese names in English, trying to come as close to the Coimbra pronunciation as allowed for by English phonology.

I’ve chosen a [phonetic] transcription rather than a broad /phonemic/ one, because a native speaker of English unacquainted with Portuguese phonology would have no idea which allophones are possible, or likely, given a Portuguese phoneme. It takes some getting used to, and Spanish is no help here.

I find the IPA a lot easier to read in the literal font here. Otherwise my web browser screws up the narrow-transcription diacritics I’ve used.


Bibiliography

  • IPA
  • IPA for English
  • IPA for Portuguese and Galician
  • Portuguese phonology, in English and in Portuguese. Oddly, the English version is more detailed. Unsurprisingly, they do not use the same conventions, however. For example, the English version gives santo as the narrow [sɐ̃ⁿtʊ], whereas the Portuguese version gives entro as the broad /ˈɐ̃tɾu/.

Correction welcome as always.

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Wow, this is indeed a very good answer! +1. –  Otavio Macedo May 4 '12 at 9:16
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English speakers familiar with the bossa nova canon will know how to pronounce these names:

  • Gilberto /ʒɪlˈbɛrtuː/ or /ʒɪlˈbɛrtoʊ/
  • João - /ʒoʊˈaʊ/ or /dʒoʊˈaʊ/
  • Astrud - /æsˈtruːd/
  • Bebel - /ˈbɛbəl/
  • Vinicius de Moraes /viːˈniːsiːəs deɪ moʊˈrɑɪs/
  • Jobim - /ʒoʊˈbiːm/ or /dʒoʊˈbiːm/
  • Vivo Sonhando /ˈviːvoʊ soʊnˈjɑnduː/ or /soʊnˈjɑndoʊ/

Where there are two pronunciations, the first pronunciation is "closer" to Portuguese.

As a side note to those who are wondering who and what all these names are: the first five are all people who have Wikipedia entries and are extremely famous musicians, known world-wide as being the central figures of the bossa nova musical movement (except maybe Bebel, but she's João's daughter). The main airport in Rio de Janeiro is even named after Jobim! The song "Vivo Sonhando" is one of the most famous songs (in the top 15, at least) of the bossa nova canon. There are nearly a hundred recordings of the song for sale at the iTunes Store, and it is listed on Jobim's article under "notable compositions".

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This is even better. Thanks. But <nh> in Portuguese is the same as <ñ> in Spanish. Both are /ɲ/, you know. See here. –  tchrist May 3 '12 at 14:27
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Not being a phoneme of English, /ɲ/ becomes /nj/ in English words. –  nohat May 3 '12 at 15:31
    
♦ yes, I know. I was confused about whether you were was attempting a English or a Brazilian version. –  tchrist May 3 '12 at 17:05
    
I thought about my previous statement and I realized it's not quite right. Spanish and Portuguese /ɲ/ sometimes becomes /nj/ in English words (as in canyon and caipirinha) and sometimes it becomes just plain /n/ (as in Montana and piranha). In any case, yes, I was attempting English pronunciations here, as the original questioner asked for. –  nohat May 3 '12 at 17:09
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Good point about the schwa in Moraes. It is corrected now. As for unstressed /æ/, what about Algeria, asbestos, and magnetic? Those all have unstressed /æ/ for me, in the same way I pronounce Astrud. –  nohat May 3 '12 at 17:22
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@nohat's transcription is pretty close. But being a Brazilian Portuguese speaker myself, I can assure you that the native pronunciation is more like:

  • Gilberto /ʒilˈbɛrtʊ/
  • João - /ʒuˈãʊ/
  • Astrud - /asˈtrudʒi/
  • Bebel - /be'bɛl/
  • Vinicius de Moraes /viˈnisjus dʒi moˈrajs/
  • Jobim - /ʒoˈbĩ/
  • Vivo Sonhando /ˈvivu so'ɲãdʊ/

Added after the OP's edit:

  • Toquinho - /to'kiɲʊ/
  • Manhã de Carnaval - /ma'ɲã dʒi karna'vaw/
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2  
Thanks, these are indeed to the best of my knowledge, how they are pronounced in Brazilian Portuguese, and my answer is approximately how they are pronounced by American English speakers with more than a passing knowledge of the subjects. –  nohat Oct 8 '11 at 4:38
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This is much better. –  tchrist May 3 '12 at 14:21
    
hey, Otávio! you're the man, dude! great to see a fella also spending time at StackExchange. :D –  elias Jun 22 '12 at 3:07
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With these names, as with most foreign words in general, it will very depending on the speaker and how much they know about the words' pronunciation in their original language. But as a general rule, a sufficiently educated speaker will pronounce foreign names using the closest approximation to their original pronunciation that's possible using sounds available in English.

João, for instance, is generally pronounced in Portuguese as /ʒuˈɐ̃w̃/ (at least in Iberian Portuguese; I don't know how different it is in Brazilian Portuguese) but this last diphthong doesn't occur in English, so it would become something like /ʒuˈaʊ/ ("zhoo-ow").

However, Portuguese tends to suffer on the way a bit more than most languages, since it looks (to English-speaking eyes) very similar to Spanish, whose pronunciation is completely different but (at least in the US) much better-known. So João may often end up butchered as /həʊˈaʊ/ ("hoe-ow").

With this in mind, the names you give would usually end up in English as something like:

  • João: somewhere between "zhwow", "zhoo-ow" and "hoe-ow";
  • Gilberto: somewhere among "heel-bare-toe", "zheel-bare-toe", "geel-bare-toe"; or possibly "gill-bert-oh".
  • Astrud: between "ass-trood" and "ah-struth" (with the vowel of "hood" in the second syllable);
  • Bebel: between "beh-bel" and "bay-bel"
  • Vinicius: "vee-nee-see-ous" (with the "ee" vowels fairly short), or possibly with a soft "th" for the c;
  • de Moraes: between "deh mo-rice" and "day muh-rye-ess";
  • Antonio Carlos: both of these, as well-known names in English, tend to get pretty completely Anglicised;
  • Jobim: between "zho-veem" and "hoe-beem";
  • Vivo: "vee-voe" and "vee-vuh";
  • Sonhando: between "suhn-yahn-duh" and "sohn-yan-doh".

I'm very aware these aren't the correct pronunciations that the artists themselves would use; I don't know nearly enough about Portuguese pronunciation to answer that. But this is (I'm pretty confident in asserting) how they'll generally be rendered by moderately well-educated U.S. English-speakers.

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