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This article deals with the non-final posttonic vowel subsystem of Brazilian Portuguese, specifically it questions if the high-mid vowels /e, o/ have undergone neutralization in this position. Three accounts have been provided so far to answer this question. Câmara Jr. (1999) proposes that the nonfinal posttonic subsystem is composed of four vowels /i, e, a, u/; Bisol (2003) advocates for a three-vowel subsystem /i, a, u/, and Ribeiro (2007) defends a five-vowel subsystem /i, e, a, o, u/. In this paper, I show that mid-vowel alternation in nonfinal posttonic context is the key to defining what the vowel subsystem is, which must be composed of five vowels /i, e, a, o, u/; however, differently to what has been proposed by Ribeiro (2007) for whom mid-vowel alternation is a case of lexical diffusion, I show that a rule-based approach is more explanatory of the phenomena.

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