Italian & Brazillian accents and an extra vowel sounds

Watching this season of Fargo, which partially focuses on Italian immigrants, I noticed that when the Italians speak English they tend to add “-a” to the end of words. I also find that I find this unremarkable as it is typically how Italians are portrayed as speaking in American media. You know, “It’s-a-me, Mario!” from our favorite Italian plumber and the way the Italian chef on The Simpsons speaks.

Also, on the show 90 Day Fiancé, two of the Brazillian fiancées add an “-ee” sound to the end of words, just as the Italians add an “-a”. The one (who is from Minas Gerais, Brazil) “famously” calls her boyfriend Colt “Coltee” but it’s not just a term of endearment. If you listen to her speak she’s adding what is “seemingly random-ee vowels at the end-ee of many wordsa.” The other fiancée speaks exactly the same way. The third Brazilian fiancée doesn’t really speak English so I don’t think we’ve heard her add these extra vowels.

Some Brazilians on Reddit have tried to explain where that extra -ee comes from, with the Brazilians. But I couldn’t quite follow their explanations. I don’t know if it’s just certain parts of Brazil, or all of Brazil, or all Portuguese or what.

Is the Italian accent/affectation true to life or just a movie trope? And if it’s true where does it come from? Is it similar to the Brazilians adding an -ee?

Most Italian nouns end with a vowel. In fact, the vast majority of the Italian words end with a vowel. So it’s weird for many Italians, who are learning to speak English, to omit the vowel sound at the end of the word. Also Italian nouns are gendered. A word that ends with an -o is normally masculine and a word that ends with an -a is normally feminine. This includes names, so Claudio, Marco are male names, and Claudia and Maria are female names.

And the other problem is the letter H. There are no native Italian words which start with H. They are all borrowed from other languages. My Italian coworker speaks English fairly well, and doesn’t put extra vowels on the end of words. But there are a lot of men who are referred to as “she”, just because it is a more natural sound for him.

There are a few actually, generally present tense for the verb “have” and its various conjugations: Ho, hai, ha, hanno, but the H is always silent when spoken, so that the respective pronunciations phonetically are “Oh”, “eye”, “ah”, “ahnno”.

I have been to Italy several times including a two-week trip to teach a class to Italians, and have a few Italian friends. The language has a certain rhythm that carries over into how many Italians speak English. The stereotypical Chico Marx accent that you hear is an exaggerated caricature version of the Naples accent. I’ve never heard anyone speak English like that.

I know a few Brazilians and never heard what you describe.

I think the Brazilian thing might be regional.

Here’s a video of one of the women, Larissa. At the beginning of the clip it’s not so pronounced but she says she “I don’t likee the housee because It’s small.” Then a couple seconds later “I like the housee…I thinkee thatee we move to a house with a pool. You know, more bigee.”

I can’t find any good clips of the other woman from Brazil, Jess, using the “-ee” sounds but I know I’ve heard it. I looked at some clips from early in her appearances on the show and she seems to be consciously clipping the ends of words that Larissa would add “-ee” to. I think as she gets more upset and frustrated with the stupid situation she’s gotten herself into with Colt (it’s a mess) she adds the “-ee” more. Or, really, when she spends more time with Larissa.

I just bought a Eureka grinder (made in Florence) and searched YouTube for an instruction video. The company pronounces its name “Ay Oh Ray Ka”. Italian spelling is almost phonetic, only 7 vowel sounds (one each for a, i and u; two each for e and o).

The Brazilian accent you describe matches fairly well how a Brazilian would pronounce many words. A native of Rio de Janeiro would likely pronounce the American name Colt as “COLTchee”, with the “t” pronounced with a “ch” sound.
A native of São Paulo would probably say the same, without the “ch” but still with the “ee” at the end.

One word that drives me crazy when I hear it in Portuguese is the word “ticket”–they use the English word but pronounce it in a totally Brazilian way, so it comes out “CHEEKitchee”. I just can’t force myself to butcher the word while speaking Portuguese, though it is the correct thing to do since it really is a valid Brazilian Portuguese word for “ticket”.

One more thing: Brazilians use diminutives everywhere, far more than Americans, and that also colors the language and perhaps affects how they speak English.

The last vowel in Italian words gets pronounced a variety of ways regionally, from ah to uh to ee to not at all. Brazil has many regional accents, a friend who spent many years there could pass as a native Brazilian without problem because her accent was assumed to be from somewhere else in Brazil. I didn’t notice the pronunciation noted in the OP while I was in Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas, but most of the people I was in contact with were from somewhere else in Brazil.

There are many languages and dialects around the world, which have their own rules about when a consonant can appear without a leading or trailing vowel sound. The rules will be different for each language.

English has an ability to stack several consonants together. But there are limits. And it matters what the consonants are.

Bengali, for example, has many blended consonants, but in many cases, a leading or trailing vowel is necessary.

For example, many native speakers of Bengali can’t pronounce “school” as [skul] it comes out as [iʃkul] or [sakul]. “Box” has been absorbed into Bengali as [bakʃo] or [basko].

Those of you who have spoken to native Italian speakers who are speaking English, do they in fact “talk-a like-a this?” Or is it just a movie trope?

Such accents occur when a particular language doesn’t have particular sounds that are used in another language, so people tend to substitute with the closest sound that is familiar to them. For example the sounds at the beginnings of “wish” and “this” don’t exist in German, but “v” and “z” sounds do, so “wish” and “this” might become “vish” and “zis.”

Now, can anyone explain that weird thing Australians do with hard "o"s? :wink:

This is not at all what the OP Ian asking about, as far as i can tell. strong text

I don’t recall anyone sounding much like the trope. I notice a change in the tempo of sentences and the unusual emphasis on syllables in some words. I think both of those are common among speakers of any second language.

Maybe an “a” here or there, but it’s more “strange word” “a” “next strange word”, so more of a filler word like “um”.

I have two Italian coworkers, one from the north and one from the South. They speak English very differently and even I can recognize that their Italian is also different. They speak Italian together, not their local dialects which they would use at home. If they did, they would have problems understanding each other.

The one from the north speaks English with a very Italian accent. He’s been told that everyone can tell he’s Italian when he’s speaking English, and it’s not just due to the waving arms. :slight_smile:

I have never talked to an Italian that sounds like that, although some do add a little vowel puff at the end of words that don’t have them. I think the people who learned English more formally tend not to do that.

The movies, especially old ones, tend to exaggerate it. The way you heard Chico Marx talk is what Americans used to think Neapolitan immigrants sounded like, and was exaggerated for comic effect. In the same way, Charlie Chan was a caricature of what Chinese people sounded like to Americans (and he was played by white guys).

Just making a guess here, but I think the stereotypical Chico Marx type accent was reflecting what people thought Italians sounded like while speaking Italian.

That’s kind of why I brought it up since I heard this trope in a recent show, Fargo. I would have thought that show would strive for a more accurate portrayal.