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Title: Carioca  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Rio de Janeiro, Portuguese dialects, Mineiro, Caipira dialect, T–V distinction
Collection: Demonyms, Portuguese Dialects, Rio De Janeiro (City)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Carioca (Portuguese pronunciation:  or ) is a Brazilian noun or substantive used to refer anything related to the city of Rio de Janeiro—capital of the homonymous state (Rio de Janeiro)—in Brazil. The original word, "kara'i oka", comes from the indigenous Tupi language meaning "white man's house". It is said that the first Portuguese dwellings in Rio de Janeiro were placed along a limpid stream, which was soon adapted into Portuguese as Carioca.

The demonym meaning for the state of Rio de Janeiro is fluminense, taken from the Latin word flumen, meaning "river". So, for instance, someone from Niterói is both fluminense and niteroiense, while someone from Rio de Janeiro is fluminense, and also carioca. While a "carioca" is someone who is from Rio de Janeiro, a "carioca da gema" (carioca from the yolk) means someone who was born in the central area of the city of Rio de Janeiro, mostly the neighbourhoods of "Zona Sul" (south zone) and "Centro" (downtown). The term was originally created out of prejudice [1] against the "cariocas" from distant and poor neighbourhoods. On the other hand, those same victims of prejudice adopted the term to refer to someone born in Rio de Janeiro, but whose parents were necessarily also "carioca". In the same way, it conveys a bias against descendants of immigrants, mostly from the northeast of Brazil.

Rio de Janeiro is an ethnically diverse city by the standards of Western global cities. The last PNAD (National Research for Sample of Domiciles) census numbers for Rio de Janeiro are: 8,576,000 White (53.6%), 5,376,000 Pardo (33.6%), 1,920,000 Black (12%) and 128,000 Asian or Indigenous (0.8%). The last PNAD census for the city of Rio de Janeiro is: 3,193,588 White (50.5%), 2,244,997 Pardo (35.5%), 809,463 Black (12,8%) and 75,887 Asian or Indigenous (1.2%).

Like other Brazilians, cariocas speak Portuguese. The carioca accent and sociolect (also simply called "carioca", see below) are the most famous of Brazil, in part because Rede Globo, the second largest television network in the world, is headquartered in Rio de Janeiro. Thus, a lot of Brazilian TV programs, from news and documentary to entertainment (such as the novelas), feature carioca acting and speaking talent.


  • Accomplishments and influence 1
  • Sociolect 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Bibliography 5

Accomplishments and influence

Carioca people have invented a few sports; the most famous is footvolley

Cariocas are credited with creating the bossa nova dance.

Famous cariocas in English language film include Brazilian "bombshell" Carmen Miranda (a Portuguese woman who grew up in Rio de Janeiro). An eponymous song from 1933, Carioca (song), has become a jazz standard.


The Portuguese spoken across the states of Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo, as well neighboring towns in Minas Gerais and in the city of Florianópolis, has similar features, little distinctive from each other, so that cities as Paraty, Resende, Campos dos Goytacazes, Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, Vila Velha and Linhares may be said to sport the same tone together with Rio de Janeiro, as they will hardly be perceived as strong regional variants by people from other parts of Brazil.

The Brazilian Portuguese variant spoken in the city of Rio de Janeiro (and metropolitan area) is called carioca, and it is called sotaque locally, a word literally translated as "accent". It can be said that Rio de Janeiro presents a sociolect inside the major fluminense-capixaba tone, as speakers inside the city may be easily recognizable more by their slang than the way the phonology of their speech, closer to the standard Brazilian Portuguese present in media than other variants. It is known for the first place of diffusion of several distinctive traits new to either variant (European or Brazilian) of the Portuguese language, most notably:

  1. (for Brazilians) Coda /s/ and /z/ can be pronounced as palato-alveolar [ʃ] and [ʒ], such as those of English, or alveolo-palatal [ɕ] and [ʑ], such as those of Catalan. This trait is inherited from European Portuguese, and carioca shares it only with florianopolitano and some other fluminense accents. In the northern tones of Brazilian Portuguese, not all coda /s/ and /z/ become postalveolar – rhymes do not, for example.
  2. (for Europeans) /ʁ/, as well what would be coda /ɾ/ (that is, when not pre-vocalic) in European Portuguese, may be realized as various voiceless and voiced guttural-like sounds, most often latter ones (unlike in other parts of Brazil), and many or most of them can be part of the phonetic repertory of a single speaker. Among them the velar and uvular fricative pairs, as well both glottal transitions, the voiceless pharyngeal fricative and the uvular trill i.e. [x], [ɣ] (between vowels), [χ], [ʁ], [h], [ɦ], [ħ] and [ʀ].[2][3] This diversity of allophones of a single rhotic phoneme is rare among not just Brazilian Portuguese, but also among major world languages.
  3. (for both) Originally probably from Tupi influence,[4] through the Portuguese post-creole that appeared in southeastern Brazil after the ban of língua geral paulista as a marker of Jesuit activity by the Marquis of Pombal (the Northeast had Nheengatu, another língua geral, too, but it had a greater native Portuguese speaker presence, had a greater contact with the colonial metropolis and was more densely populated), the consonants /t/ and /d/ before /i/ or final unstressed /ɛ ~ e/ ([], that in this position may be either raised to [i] or deleted) become affricates [ ~ ] and [ ~ ] (again, as those of English or Catalan, depending on speaker), respectively. This is now common place in Brazilian Portuguese, as it spread with the bandeiras paulistas, expansion of mineiros to the Center-West and mass media. It is not as universal in São Paulo, Espírito Santo and southern Brazil, even though those were populated mostly by the original bandeirantes (caboclos, formerly língua geral speakers) because the Europeans immigrants learning Portuguese and their descendants preferred more conservative registers of the language, perhaps as a mark of a separate social identity.
  4. (for both) Historical [ɫ] (/l/ in syllable coda), that merged with coda /ɾ/ ([ɻ]) in caipira, had gone labialization to [lʷ], and then vocalized to [];[5] Nevertheless, with the exception of [ʊ̯] be the one used in Southern Brazil and São Paulo instead of [u̯], both commonly transcribed as [w], this process is now nearly ubiquitous in Brazilian Portuguese, so that only some areas retain velarized lateral alveolar approximant (rural areas close to the frontier with Uruguay) or retroflex approximant (very few caipira areas at present day) as coda /l/.

These traits (particularly the chiado, i.e. a palatalization process that creates a postalveolar pronunciation of coda «s» and «z», and affricate pronunciation of [ti] and [di] and «te» and «de» rhymes), as a whole and consistent among the vast majority of speakers, were once specifically characteristic of Rio de Janeiro speech, and distinguished particularly from the pronunciation of São Paulo and areas further south, which formerly had adapted none of these characteristics at large. The chiado of the coda sibilant is thought to date from the early 1800s occupation of the city by the Portuguese royal family (as European Portuguese had similar characteristic of use of the postalveolar codas).

More recently, however, all of these traits have spread throughout much of the country due to the cultural influence of the city, that diminished the social marker character the lack of palatalization once had (apart of assimilation of the caboclo minorities in most of South and Southeast Brazil). As said above, affrication is today widespread, if not nearly omnipresent among young Brazilians, while coda "guttural R" is also found nationwide (their presence in Brazil is a general heritage of Tupi speech too, though), although to a way lesser extent among speakers in the 5 southernmost states other than Rio de Janeiro, while if tone is a good social indicator, about half (c. 95-105 million Brazilians) have a tone that consistently palatalizes coda sibilant in some instances (but as in Rio de Janeiro, it is only a marker of adoption of foreign phonology at large in the tones of Florianópolis and Belém – palatalization, as in any other Romance language, is a very old process in Portuguese, and its lacking in some tones rather reflects a specific set of Galician, Spanish and Indigenous influences on their formation).

Another common characteristic of carioca speech is, in a stressed final rhyme, the addition of /j/ before coda /s/ (e.g. mas, dez may become [majʃ], [dɛjʃ], which can also be noted ambiguously as [mɐ̞ⁱʃ], [dɛⁱʃ]). This change may have originated in the Northeast, where pronunciations such as Jesus [ʒeˈzujs] have long been heard. Also from Northeastern Brazil and Spanish immigration comes debuccalization of coda sibilant e.g. mesmo [meɦmu]. Albeit it is assumed for many Brazilians that this is specific to Rio, in the Northeast debuccalization had long been a strong and advanced phonological process that may also affect onset sibilants /s/ and /z/, as well as other consonants, primarily [v].

There are some grammatical characteristics of this sociolect as well, an important one is the mixing of second person pronouns você and tu, even in the same speech. For instance, while normative Portuguese requires lhe as oblique for você, and te as oblique for tu, in carioca slang the once formal você (now widespread as informal pronoun in many Brazilian Portuguese varieties) is used for all cases. In informal speech, the pronoun tu is retained, but with the verb forms belonging to the form você: Tu foi na festa? (Did you go to the party?); so the verbal forms are the same for both você and tu.

Many cariocas, as well as many paulistas (from the coast, capital city or hinterland), will shorten "você", using "" instead: "Cê vai pra casa agora?" (Are you going home now?), this practice, however, is only on the spoken language, it is usually not written this way.

Slang words among youngsters from Rio de Janeiro include caraca! (gosh!) [now spread throughout Brazil], e aê? and qualé/quaé/coé? (literally 'which is [it]', carrying a meaning similar to 'What's up?'), and maneiro (cool, fine, interesting, amusing) and sinistro (in standard Portuguese, "sinister"; in slang, "awesome", "terrific", but also "terrible," "troublesome", "frightening", "weird"). Many of these slang words can be found in practically all of Brazil, due again to cultural influence from the city. Much slang from Rio de Janeiro spreads across Brazil and may be not known as originally from there, while those less culturally accepted elsewhere are sometimes used to shun not only the speech of a certain subculture, age group or social class, but the whole accent.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Barbosa, Plínio A. (2004), "Brazilian Portuguese", Journal of the International Phonetic Association 34 (2): 227–232
  3. ^
  4. ^ (Portuguese) Dialects of Brazil: the palatalization of the phonemes /t/ and /d/. Aside of using the term "alveopalatal" thoroughly, page 27 sets it clear that Brazilian alveolo-palatal affricates are similar to but different from Italian palato-alveolar ones.
  5. ^


  • Bisol, Leda (2005), "Introdução a estudos de fonologia do português brasileiro", editora EDIPUCRS (4th ed.) (Porto Alegre - Rio Grande do Sul),  

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