Crase - Portuguese


Further information: pt:Crase

In the evolution of the Portuguese language, several words lost some of its vowels in orthographic reforms that were also influenced by a phonological change. Examples:

  • door (Old Portuguese) > dor (pain, grief, sorrow, ache, sore, suffering);
  • noo (Old Portuguese) > (node, knot, tie, joint, hitch);
  • seer (Old Portuguese) > ser (to be, to exist);
  • veer (Old Portuguese) > ver (to look, to eye, to see, to admit);
  • rãa (Old Portuguese) > (frog, paddock);

In Portuguese, the most frequently observed crasis today is the contraction of the preposition a ("to" or "at") with the feminine singular definite article a ("the"), indicated in writing with a grave accent, or masculine singular definite article o (also "the"). For example, instead of *Vou a a praia ("I go to the beach"), one says Vou à praia ("I go to-the beach"). This contraction turns the clitic a into the stressed word à. Meanwhile, I person going to a bank, to a supermarket or to a market-place would say Vou ao banco, Vou ao supermercado and Vou à feira, respectively.

Crasis also occurs between the preposition a and demonstratives: for instance, when this preposition precedes aquele(s), aquela(s) (meaning "that", "those", in different genders), they contract to àquele(s), àquela(s). In this case, the accent marks a secondary stress in European Portuguese and a primary stress in Brazilian Portuguese.

In addition, the crasis à is pronounced lower as /a/ than the article or preposition a, as /ɐ/, in these examples in standard European Portuguese, though this qualitative distinction is not made by most speakers in Brazilian Portuguese (whilst some dialects, as Rio de Janeiro's fluminense, are exceptions).

The crasis is very important and can completely change the meaning of a sentence, for example:

  • Exposta, a polícia - The police is exposed
  • Exposta à polícia - She is exposed to the police
  • Glória, a rainha - Glória the queen
  • Glória à rainha - Glory to the queen
  • a mulher - Give the woman
  • à mulher - Give to the woman

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