Fala rural

Here’s a link to the first in a series of pretty amusing cartoons concerning Tonin, a young rural mineiro who gets taken by ninjas to follow his destiny.


It is full of stereotypes, and young Tonin and his parents speak with strong mineiro accents. The subtitles are nice, reflecting the pronunciation, for example:

Noís tem doze fi! Se é pra iscoiê um, iscói o menorzim.

“We have twelve children. If you’re going to choose one, choose the youngest.”

This is chock full of ruralisms! Should you care I spotted (and I am sure a native speaker would pick more):

  • Noís for nós. This addition of an i prior to a syllable-final s is not just limited to mineiro speech; it is fairly common throughout Brazil. It is interesting that, in the audio track, the pronunciation of this is actually closer to “noysh”. This pronunciation of syllable-final s as sh is typical not just of the mineiro accent but also that of Rio de Janeiro. It can be represented orthographically — as noíx — but they have chosen not to. This tells us a little about which features of the speech are considered emphatically mineiro, and thus worth highlighting for humour, and those which are seen as just “ordinary” variations.
  • Tem here is the third person singular form of ter, “to have,” yet it is being applied to “we” (noís). This lack of agreement is one of the very distinctive features of vernacular speech, and one which looks very creolized (to reference the previous post).
  • Fi is impressive: it is a substantial reduction of filhos, “sons, children” (remember my gender/markedness post?). How one gets from filhos to fi is a combination of the mineiro tendency to drop unstressed vowels at the end of the word, the rural pronunciation of lh (usually pronounced as a palatal lateral, which doesn’t exist in English, but sounds to our ears more-or-less like ly) as the semi-vowel y and probably the fact that the singular filho would have been used anyway (lack of agreement again). That is:
    • for “standard” filhos (“feelyus”) the farmer would have said singular filho;
    • the lh is pronounced y, which merges with the preceding ee (=“fiyu”);
    • the word-teminal u is dropped (=“feey”)
  • Se é pra iscoiê um means, more-or-less, “If you are to choose one.” However the exact meaning is actually quite difficult for me to parse due to the non-standard grammar, compounded by the (perfectly standard) omission of a pronoun. The é (“is”) is, in standard terms, “wrong.” It could be that it applies to the ninjas, (that is, we would gloss the sentence as “If [you] are”), in which case it fails to agree, as per the tem above. However, it could also be just an existential “it is” — the sentence starts “If it is that”. Either way, after se (“if”) the standard grammar would expect the subjunctive (seja or sejam in the plural) — which you may recall in a previous post I noted was generally absent in the rural vernaculars, and so it is here.
  • Iscoiê and iscói are both renderings of the rural pronunciation of forms of the verb escolher, “to choose.” The initial e is raised to i (sounds which in English we would generally represent with eh and ee respectively) and, as for filhos above, the lh has become a semi-vowel i.
  • Finally, in menorzim, we see the characteristic addition of the diminutive zinho, with (as before) the equally distinctive deletion of the final vowel.

There’s plenty more, both in this episode and others. Worth a chuckle, possibly mainly for Portuguese-speakers though!

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  • Richard Ogden says:

    Great stuff… thank goodness for subtitles.

    I will never forget the way the veil lifted from my eyes once I realised that [shkudsh] was “escudos” and not, as I had imagined, [es-ku-dos] in the years before the euro. It’s a bit like Danish to a Swedish speaker: if you can imagine how to write it, you can guess what it means.

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