This thesis examines the difficulties that beginning and advanced American learners of Portuguese have correctly perceiving and producing the Portuguese mid-vowels {o} and {e}. The beginning learners were enrolled in their second semester of Portuguese and had rudimentary knowledge of Portuguese. The advanced learners had all lived in Brazil for nearly two years and were enrolled in a more advanced Portuguese course.

To test for production, informants were asked to read a group of sentences that contained one hundred occurrences of the Portuguese mid-vowels. Each production occurrence was evaluated as being correct or incorrect by linguistically trained native Brazilians. To test for perception, informants were evaluated on their ability to distinguish between tokens (individual vowel sounds) spoken in context by native Brazilian speakers. These tokens used to test perception were recorded in a professional recording studio in Brazil.

The study found that beginning and advanced learners had difficulty perceiving and correctly producing the Portuguese mid-vowels. In the perception study, beginners scored 70% on the {o} section and 68% on the {e} section, for a combined score of 69%. The advanced learners scored 78% on the {o} section and 78% on {e} section, for an average score of 78%. In the production study, the advanced learners scored an average of 42% on the open vowels and 84% on the closed vowels. The beginners scored 23% on the open vowels and 97% on the closed vowels. The most striking finding in the study was that advanced learners scored lower on the closed vowel production section than did the beginners. This was due to a hypercorrection phenomenon in the advanced learners. The advanced learners, once they learned that open vowels exist in Portuguese, seemed to produce them sporadically in their speech. They tended to open many vowels that should have been closed. Beginners, however, rarely used any open vowels in their speech. Beginners showed a strong correlation between perception and production capabilities. Advanced learners, however, did not demonstrate a strong perception-production correlation.

The author of this thesis can be contacted at richard@medlar.com



College and Department

Humanities; Spanish and Portuguese



Date Submitted


Document Type





portuguese, portugues, vowel, vowels, vogal, vogais, perception, percepcao, production, producao, open, closed, brazil, brasil, language, acquisition, L1, L2, phonetics, linguistics