The words louro/loura and loiro/loira are said to be equal variants, both meaning ‘blonde’. Are these variants interchangeable in all contexts? Are they associated with different dialects or sociolects? Do native speakers normally use only one of them?
I am not positive about this, but I believe the spelling of louro/loura with the “i” is a declining older spelling. And there are other similar (and quite related) cases: ouro/oiro (gold), dourado/doirado (golden). You can still hear the pronunciation with the “i”, possibly with the spelling too – I haven’t looked up the lyrics, in some of the older fados that were sung and recorded by late, great Amália Rodrigues.
Just like @pmfrancisco said, there are a few cases of words with double spelling, and this is just one of them. You can use both louro(a) and loiro(a); they’re the exact same word, minus the alternating vowel. From what I read, in most (but not all) of these cases, the spelling with ‘ou’ is the oldest (derived from the Latin ‘au’) and the other spelling was introduced later.
Each person’s choice will depend on what they grew up hearing the most, I suppose. People are usually consistent in their choice of spelling. Note that, by now, many of these double spellings have coexisted for a really long time; centuries, even. So, while there is some regional variation, I think it wouldn’t be easy to trace it accurately on a map.
In some cases, one of the spellings has fallen out of use. Between cousa and coisa (thing), only the latter is really in use today. In other cases, common usage has made one more common than the other. This is the case with dourado, which is used more than doirado (golden). Things are more even between louro/loiro or louça/loiça (dishes), for example.
Thank you, @pmfrancisco
Fado is new to me, but I will definitely listen to Amália Rodrigues from now on.
Thank you very much, @Joseph, for this excellent explanation. Linguistic variation is indeed fascinating!
You’re welcome, @Anna! Also, if you’d like to explore more European Portuguese music, we have an ongoing topic full of suggestions in different genres (What is the best European Portuguese music?). There’s also a growing Youtube and Spotify playlist based on it
Olá @Anna - As someone said in this or another recent thread, it’s a little cliché to reference Fado as the way to listen to the Portuguese language sung, but I do love it very much – especially by the more modern fadistas like Mariza, Ana Moura, and others.
Here are a couple of classic fados, with lyrics, by Amália:
- Coimbra – my fave of them all: https://youtu.be/nX7oQjRPeiI
- Uma Casa Portuguesa – perhaps the most classic (and cliché) of them all, but so fun - I remember listening to this as a child growing up. And perhaps more to the point, this one includes Amália singing of some ‘golden grapes’ or ‘uvas doiradas’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ys1aLTnhgPU
There are many-many great fados that she sang - certainly these are not close to her best, and most passionate ones, but they seem a good “entry” pair to try out… Diverte-se!
Wonderful, @Joseph! A really great initiative!
Muito obrigada, @pmfrancisco You just gave me one more reason to study European Portuguese! On the other hand, I think those singers express so much with their voices that you actually don’t need to understand every word of the lyrics. This will certainly be my first summer of fado!