EP word the week (#108): esófago

Hello, everyone! I hope your summer (winter in the Southern hemisphere, for all my followers out there) is treating you well (:

Continuing a tour of the human body which started last week with [a] tiroide, today I’ll turn my attention to the digestive system – [o] sistema digestivo – with a new word, but showing a process I’ve discussed several times before.

The word is the Portuguese term for esophagus/oesophagus, the canal that links the pharynx to the stomach. It is named [o] esófago in EP but [o] esôfago in BP. This process – European Portuguese opening a vowel in comparison with Brazilian Portuguese in a word stressed on the third-to-last syllable – is similar to the one that gives us Mónica/Mônica and Arménia/Armênia; this case is special because it happens not before a nasal consonant (/n/ in the previous two cases), but before a fricative (/f/); this means that the number of words that follow this process aren’t necessarily all nasal (even though most are).

I should point out that there are many European Portuguese words that have a closed stressed vowel in this third-to-last position (and are therefore marked with â, ê, ô instead of á, é, ó) and vice-versa. For example, the word for stomach is the same in both variants: [o] estômago. A good thing is that at least in these cases the correct sound is always marked in writing by using one accent over the other – as long as you know how a word is spelled, you should have no problems in placing the appropriate sound in the stressed syllable.

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments! Have a nice week (:

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