Catalan phonology

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The phonology of Catalan, a Romance language, has a certain degree of dialectal variation. Although there are two standard varieties, one based on Central Eastern dialect and another one based on South-Western or Valencian dialect, this article deals with features of all or most dialects, as well as regional pronunciation differences.

Catalan is characterized by final-obstruent devoicing, lenition, and voicing assimilation; a set of 7 to 8 phonemic vowels, vowel assimilations (including vowel harmony), many phonetic diphthongs, and vowel reduction, whose precise details differ between dialects.


Consonants of Catalan[1][2]
Labial Dental/
Palatal Velar Uvular
Nasal m n3 ɲ6 (ŋ)
Plosive voiceless p t1 k2
voiced b d1 ɡ2
Affricate voiceless (t͡s)5 t͡ʃ7
voiced d͡z5 d͡ʒ7
Fricative voiceless f s4 ʃ7
voiced (v) z4 ʒ7 (ʁ)
Approximant central j w
lateral l3 ʎ6
Trill r4
Tap ɾ3

Phonetic notes:

  • ^1 /t/, /d/ are laminal denti-alveolar [], [].[3][4][5] After /s z/, they are laminal alveolar [], [].[6]
  • ^2 /k/, /ɡ/ are velar[4][7] but fronted to pre-velar position before front vowels.[6] In some Majorcan dialects, the situation is reversed; the main realization is palatal [c], [ɟ],[8] but before liquids and rounded back vowels they are velar [k], [ɡ].[8]
  • ^3 /n/, /l/, /ɾ/ are apical front alveolar [], [], [ɾ̺],[3][4][9] but the first two are laminal denti-alveolar [], [] before /t/, /d/.[6] In addition, /n/ is postalveolar [][6] or alveolo-palatal [ɲ̟][6] before /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /t͡ʃ/, /d͡ʒ/,[6] velar [ŋ] before /k/, /ɡ/ and labiodental [ɱ] before /f/, (/v/), where it merges with /m/. It also merges with /m/ (to [m]) before /p/, /b/.
  • ^4 /s/, /z/, /r/ are apical back alveolar [], [], [],[4][10] also described as postalveolar.[3]
  • ^5 /t͡s/, /d͡z/ are apical alveolar [t͡s̺], [d͡z̺].[11][12] They may be somewhat fronted, so that the stop component is laminal denti-alveolar,[11] while the fricative component is apical post-dental.[11] /t͡s/ is rare and may not be phonemic (see below).
  • ^6 /ʎ/, /ɲ/ are laminal "front alveolo-palatal" [ʎ̟], [ɲ̟].[3][4]
  • ^7 There is some confusion in the literature about the precise phonetic characteristics of /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/, and /dʒ/; while Recasens, Fontdevila & Pallarès and Recasens & Espinosa describe them as "back alveolo-palatal",[13][14] implying that the characters ɕ ʑ tɕ dʑ would be more accurate, they (and all literature on Catalan) use the characters for palato-alveolar affricates and fricatives while using ɕ ʑ for alveolo-palatal sounds in examples in other languages like Polish or Chinese.[15][16][14] Otherwise, sources, like Carbonell & Llisterri generally describe them as "postalveolar".[17]


Voiced obstruents undergo final-obstruent devoicing so that fred ('cold', m. s.) is pronounced with [t], while fredes ('cold', f. pl.) is pronounced with [ð].[18]


Voiced stops become lenited to fricatives or approximants in syllable onsets, after continuants:[8] /b/[β], /d/[ð], /ɡ/[ɣ].

  • Exceptions include /d/ after lateral consonants and /b/ after /f/, e.g. ull de bou [ˈuʎ ˈβɔw] (E) / [ˈuʎ de ˈβɔw] (W) ('oeil-de-boeuf'), bolígraf boníssim [buˈɫiɣɾəv‿buˈnisim] (E) / [boˈliɣɾav‿boˈnisim] (W) ('really good pen').
  • Additionally, /b/ remains unlenited in non-betacist dialects.
  • In the coda position, these sounds are always realized as stops;[19] except in many Valencian dialects, where they are lenited.[20]

In Catalan (not in Valencian), /b/ and /ɡ/ may be geminated in certain environments (e.g. poble [ˈpɔbːɫə] 'village', regla [ˈreɡːɫə] 'rule').[21][22]


The phonemic status of affricates is dubious; after other consonants, affricates are in free variation with fricatives, e.g. clenxa [ˈkɫɛnʃə] ~ [ˈkɫɛɲt͡ʃə] (E) / [ˈklɛɲt͡ʃa] (W) ('hair parting')[23] and may be analyzed as either single phonemes or clusters of a stop and a fricative.

  • Alveolar affricates, [t͡s] and [d͡z], occur the least of all affricates.[24]
    • [d͡z] only occurs intervocalically: metzines [məˈd͡zinəs] (E) / [meˈd͡zines] (W) ('toxic substances').[25]
    • Instances of [t͡s] arise mostly from compounding; the few lexical instances arise from historical compounding.[23] For instance, potser [putˈt͡se] (E) / [potˈt͡seɾ] (W) ('maybe') comes from pot ('may') + ser ('be' inf). As such, [t͡s] does not occur word-initially; other than some rare words of foreign origin (e.g. tsar 'tsar',[26] tsuga 'tsuga'[27]), but it may occur word-finally and quite often in cases of heteromorphemic (i.e. across a morpheme boundary) plural endings: tots [ˈtot͡s] ('everybody').[24] Several linguists claim [t͡s] is not a phoneme on its own, but a simple combination of [t] and [s], in the same way that the [ts] English 'cats' is not phonemic.[28]
  • The distribution of alveolo-palatal affricates, [t͡ʃ] and [d͡ʒ], depends on dialect:
    • In most of Valencian and southern Catalonia,[24][29] most occurrences of [d͡ʒ] correspond to the voiced fricative [ʒ] in Standard Eastern Catalan: gel [ˈd͡ʒɛɫ] ('ice').
    • In Standard Eastern Catalan, word-initial [t͡ʃ] is found only in a few words of foreign origin (e.g. txec 'Czech',[30] Txaikovski 'Tchaikovsky') while being found freely intervocalically (e.g. fletxa 'arrow') and word-finally: despatx [dəsˈpat͡ʃ] (E) / [desˈpat͡ʃ] (W) ('office').
    • Standard Eastern Catalan also only allows [d͡ʒ] in intervocalic position (e.g. metge 'medic', adjunt 'enclosed'). Phonemic analyses show word-final occurrences of /d͡ʒ/ (e.g. raig esbiaixat [ˈrad͡ʒ‿əzβiəˈʃat] (E) / [ˈrad͡ʒ‿ezbiajˈʃat] (W) 'skew ray'), but final devoicing eliminates this from the surface: raig [ˈrat͡ʃ] ('ray').
    • In various other dialects (as well as in emphatic speech),[17] [tʃ] occurs word-initially and after another consonant to the exclusion of [ʃ]. These instances of word-initial [t͡ʃ] seem to correspond to [ʃ] in other dialects, including the standard (on which the orthography is based): xinxa ('bedbug'), pronounced [ˈʃiɲʃə] in the standard, is [ˈt͡ʃiɲt͡ʃa] in these varieties.[25]

There is dialectal variation in regards to affricate length, with long affricates occurring in both Eastern and Western dialects such as in Majorca and few areas in Southern Valencia.[31] Also, intervocalic affricates are predominantly long, especially those that are voiced or occurring immediately after a stressed syllable (e.g. metge [ˈmed͡ːʒə] (E) / [ˈmed͡ːʒe] (W) 'medic').[32] In modern Valencian [d͡ʒ] and [d͡ːʒ] have merged into /d͡ʒ/.


/v/ occurs in Balearic,[17] as well as in Alguerese, Standard Valencian and some areas in southern Catalonia.[33] Everywhere else, it has merged with historic /β/ so that [b] and [β] occur in complementary distribution.[34]

  • In Majorcan, [v] and [w] are in complementary distribution, with [v] occurring before vowels (e.g. blava [ˈbɫavə] 'blue' f. vs. blau [ˈbɫaw] 'blue' m.).
  • In other varieties that have both sounds, they are in contrast before vowels, with neutralization in favor of [w] before consonants.[35]


While "dark (velarized) l", [ɫ], may be a positional allophone of /l/ in most dialects (such as in the syllable coda; e.g. l [ˈsɔɫ] 'ground'),[36] /l/ is dark irrespective of position in Eastern dialects like Majorcan[37] and standard Eastern Catalan (e.g. tela [ˈtɛɫə]).

The distribution of the two rhotics /r/ and /ɾ/ closely parallels that of Spanish.

  • Between vowels, the two contrast (e.g. mirra [ˈmirə] (E) / [ˈmira] (W) 'myrrh' vs. mira [ˈmiɾə] (E) / [ˈmiɾa] (W) 'look'), but they are otherwise in complementary distribution. [ɾ] appears in the onset, except in word-initial position (ruc), after /l/, /n/, and /s/ (folre, honra, Israel), and in compounds (infraroig), where [r] is used.
  • Different dialects vary in regards to rhotics in the coda, with Western Catalan generally featuring [ɾ] and Central Catalan dialects like those of Barcelona or Girona featuring a weakly trilled [r] unless it precedes a vowel-initial word in the same prosodic unit, in which case [ɾ] appears (per [peɾ] in Western Catalan, [pər] in Central Catalan).[38]
  • There is free variation in /r/ word-initially, after /l/, /n/, and /s/, and in compounds (if /r/ is preceded by consonant), wherein /r/ is pronounced [r] or [ɹ], the latter being similar to English red: ruc [ˈruk] ~ [ˈɹuk].

In careful speech, /n/, /m/, and /l/ may be geminated (e.g. innecessari [inːəsəˈsaɾi] (E) / [inːeseˈsaɾi] (W) 'unnecessary'; emmagatzemar [əmːəɣəd͡zəˈma] (E) / [emːaɣad͡zeˈma(ɾ)] (W) 'to store'; il·lusió [ilːuziˈo] 'illusion'). A geminated /ʎː/ may also occur (e.g. ratlla [ˈraʎːə] (E) / [ˈraʎːa] (W) 'line').[17] Wheeler analyzes intervocalic [r] as the result of gemination of a single rhotic phoneme:[39] serra /ˈsɛɾɾə/ [ˈsɛrə] (E) / /ˈsɛɾɾa/ [ˈsɛra] (W) 'saw, mountains' (this is similar to the common analysis of Spanish and Portuguese rhotics).[40]


Vowels of Catalan
Front Central Back
Close i u
Close-mid e (ə) o
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a

Phonetic notes:

  • The vowel /a/ is further back and open than the Castilian counterpart in North-Western and Central Catalan, slightly fronted and closed in Valencian and Ribagorçan [ä ~ ɐ], and further fronted and closed [a ~ æ] in Majorcan.[41]
  • The open-mid /ɛ/ and /ɔ/ are lower [æ, ɒ] in Majorcan, Minorcan and Valencian.[6][42][43]
  • In Northern Catalan and some places bordering the Spanish-speaking areas, open-mid and close-mid vowels may merge into mid vowels; [] and [].[44]
  • The close vowels /i, u/ are more open than in Castilian. Unstressed /i, u/ are centralized.[45]
    • In Valencian and most Balearic dialects /i, u/ are further open and centralized.[45]
  • Northern Catalan sometimes adds two loan rounded vowels, [y] and [ø̞], from French and Occitan (e.g. but [ˈbyt] 'aim', fulles [ˈfø̞jəs] 'leaves').[46]
  • The realization of the reduced vowel /ə/ varies from mid [ə] to near-open [ɐ], with the latter variant being the most usual in the Barcelona metropolitan area, where the distinction between /ə/ and /a/ is less pronounced than in other varieties that maintain the distinction.[6][47]
  • Phonetic nasalization occurs for vowels occurring between nasal consonants or when preceding a syllable-final nasal; e.g. diumenge [diwˈmẽɲʒə] (E) / [diwˈmẽɲd͡ʒe] (W) ('Sunday').[48]

Stressed vowels[edit]

Vowels of Standard Eastern Catalan[1]
Vowels of Valencian[49]

Most varieties of Catalan contrast seven stressed vowel phonemes.[50] However, some Balearic dialects have an additional stressed vowel phoneme (/ə/); e.g. sec /ˈsək/ ('dry, I sit').[51][20] The stressed schwa of these dialects corresponds to /ɛ/ in Central Catalan and /e/ in Western Catalan varieties (that is, Central and Western Catalan dialects differ in their incidence of /e/ and /ɛ/, with /e/ appearing more frequently in Western Catalan; e.g. Central Catalan sec /ˈsɛk/ vs. Western Catalan sec /ˈsek/ ('dry, I sit').[50]

Contrasting series of the main Catalan dialects:

Central Catalan[20]
[Eastern Catalan]
LS IPA Gloss
sac a 'bag'
sec ɛ 'dry'/'I sit'
séc e 'fold'
sic i 'sic'
soc ɔ 'clog'
sóc o 'I am'
suc u 'juice'
Other contrast
LS IPA Gloss
*set ɛ 'seven'
[Eastern Catalan]
LS IPA Gloss
sac a 'bag'
sec ə[51] 'dry'/'I sit'
séc e 'fold'
sic i 'sic'
soc ɔ 'clog'
sóc o 'I am'
suc u 'juice'
Other contrast
LS IPA Gloss
*set ɛ 'seven'
ə 'thirst'
Northern Catalan[52]
[Eastern Catalan]
LS IPA Gloss
sac a 'bag'
sec e 'dry'/'I sit'
séc 'fold'
sic i 'sic'
soc ɔ 'clog'
sóc u 'I am'
suc 'juice'
Other contrast
LS IPA Gloss
*set e 'seven'
Western Catalan[20] &
Modern Alguerese [Eastern Catalan][53]
LS IPA Gloss
sac a 'bag'
sec e 'dry'/'I sit'
séc 'fold'
sic i 'sic'
soc ɔ 'clog'
sóc o 'I am'
suc u 'juice'
Other contrast
LS IPA Gloss
*set ɛ 'seven'
e 'thirst'

Unstressed vowels[edit]

In Eastern Catalan, vowels in unstressed position reduce to three : /a/, /e/, /ɛ/ [ə] (phonetically [ɐ] in Barcelona); /o/, /ɔ/, /u/ [u]; /i/ remains unchanged. However there are some dialectal differences: Alguerese merges /a/, /e/ and /ɛ/ with /a/; and in most areas of Majorca, [o] can appear in unstressed position (that is, /o/ and /ɔ/ are usually reduced to [o]).[54]

In Western Catalan, vowels in unstressed position reduce to five: /e/, /ɛ/ [e]; /o/, /ɔ/ [o]; /a/, /u/, /i/ remain unchanged.[55] However, in some Western dialects reduced vowels tend to merge into different realizations in some cases:

  • Unstressed /e/ may merge with [a] before a nasal or sibilant consonant (e.g. enclusa [aŋˈkluza] 'anvil', eixam [ajˈʃam] 'swarm'), in some environments before any consonant (e.g. terròs [taˈrɔs] 'earthy'), and in monosyllabic clitics. This sounds almost the same as the Barcelonian open schwa [ɐ].[56] Likewise, unstressed /e/ may merge into [i] when in contact with palatal consonants (e.g. senyor [siˈɲo(ɾ)] 'lord').[57]
  • Unstressed /o/ may merge with [u] before a bilabial consonant (e.g. cobert [kuˈβɛɾt] 'covered'), before a stressed syllable with a high vowel (e.g. conill [kuˈniʎ] 'rabbit'), in contact with palatal consonants (e.g. Josep [d͡ʒuˈzɛp] 'Joseph'), and in monosyllabic clitics.[58]
Eastern Catalan[20]
Term IPA Gloss
parla ə[i][ii] 'speech'
rere 'back'
lliri i 'lily'
ferro u 'iron'
mutu 'mutual'
Majorcan Balearic[20]
[Eastern Catalan]
Term IPA Gloss
parla ə 'speech'
rere 'back'
lliri i 'lily'
ferro o 'iron'
mutu u 'mutual'
Term IPA Gloss
parla a 'speech'
rere e 'back'
lliri i 'lily'
ferro o 'iron'
mutu u 'mutual'
  1. ^ In Barcelona, it becomes near-open [ɐ].
  2. ^ In Alguerese, it becomes open [a].

Diphthongs and triphthongs[edit]

There are also a number of phonetic diphthongs and triphthongs, all of which begin and/or end in [j] or [w].[59]

Falling diphthongs
IPA word gloss IPA word gloss
[aj] aigua 'water' [aw] taula 'table'
[əj] (E)
[aj] (W)
mainada 'children' [əw] (E)
[aw] (W)
caurem 'we will fall'
[ɛj] remei 'remedy' [ɛw] peu 'foot'
[ej] rei 'king' [ew] seu 'his/her'
[əj] (E)
[ej] (W)
Eivissa 'Ibiza' [əw] (E)
[ew] (W)
eufemisme 'eufemism'
[iw] niu 'nest'
[ɔj] noi 'boy' [ɔw] nou 'new'
[uj] (E)
[oj] (W)
Moisès 'Moses' [ow] pou 'well'
[uj] avui 'today' [uw] duu 's/he is carrying'
Rising diphthongs
IPA word gloss IPA word gloss
[ja] iaia 'grandma' [wa] guant 'glove'
[jə] (E)
[ja] (W)
feia 's/he was doing' [wə] (E)
[wa] (W)
aquarel·la 'watercolour painting'
[jɛ] veiem 'we see' [wɛ] seqüència 'sequence'
[je] seient 'seat' [we] ungüent 'ointment'
[jə] (E)
[je] (W)
gràcies 'thank you' [wə] (E)
[we] (W)
qüestió, diuen 'question', 'they say'
[wi] pingüí 'penguin'
[jɔ] iode 'iodine' [wɔ] quota 'payment'
[ju] (E)
[jo] (W)
iogurt 'yoghurt' [wo] ses 'greasy'
[ju] iugoslau 'Yugoslav'

In Standard Eastern Catalan, rising diphthongs (that is, those starting with [j] or [w]) are only possible in the following contexts:[60]

  • [j] in word-initial position, e.g. iogurt ([juˈɣur]) ('yoghurt').
  • The semivowel ([j] or [w]) occurs between vowels as in feia ([ˈfɛjə] 'he/she was doing') or diuen ([ˈdiwən] 'they say').
  • In the sequences [ɡw] or [kw] plus vowel, e.g. guant ('glove'), quota ('quota'), qüestió ('question'), pingüí ('penguin'); these exceptional cases even lead some scholars[61] to hypothesize the existence of rare labiovelar phonemes /ɡʷ/ and /kʷ/.[62]


There are certain instances of compensatory diphthongization in Majorcan so that troncs /ˈtɾoncs/ ('logs') (in addition to deleting the palatal stop) develops a compensating palatal glide and surfaces as [ˈtɾojns] (and contrasts with the unpluralized [ˈtɾoɲc]). Diphthongization compensates for the loss of the palatal stop (segment loss compensation). There are other cases where diphthongization compensates for the loss of point of articulation features (property loss compensation) as in [ˈaɲ] ('year') vs. [ˈajns] ('years').[63]

The dialectal distribution of compensatory diphthongization is almost entirely dependent on the dorsal stop (/k~c/) and the extent of consonant assimilation (whether or not it is extended to palatals).[64]

Voiced affricates are devoiced after stressed vowels in dialects like Eastern Catalan where there may be a correlation between devoicing and lengthening (gemination) of voiced affricates: metge /ˈmed͡ːʒə/[ˈmet͡ːʃə] ('medic').[14] In Barcelona, voiced stops may be fortified (geminated and devoiced); e.g. poble [ˈpɔpːɫə] 'village').[17]


Nasal Lateral
word IPA gloss word IPA gloss
ínfim [ˈiɱfim] 'lowest'
anterior [ən̪təɾiˈo] (E)
[an̪teɾiˈoɾ] (W)
'previous' altes [ˈaɫ̪təs] (E)
[ˈaɫ̪tes] (W)
'tall' (f. pl.)
engegar [əɲʒəˈɣa] (E)
[eɲd͡ʒeˈɣa(ɾ)] (W)
'to start (up)' àlgid [ˈaʎʒit] (E)
[ˈaʎd͡ʒit] (W)
sang [saŋ] (E)
[saŋ(k)] (W)
sagna [ˈsaŋnə] ~ [ˈsaɡnə] (E)
[ˈsaŋna] ~ [ˈsaɡna] (W)
'he bleeds'
cotna [ˈkonːə] (E)
[ˈkonːa] (W)
'rind' atles [ˈaɫːəs] ~ [ˈadɫəs] (E)
[ˈaɫːes] ~ [ˈadɫes] (W)
sotmetent [sumːəˈten] (E)
[somːeˈten(t)] (W)
'submitting' ratllar [rəˈʎːa] (E)
[raˈʎ(ː)a(ɾ)] (W)
'to grate'

Catalan denti-alveolar stops can fully assimilate to the following consonant, producing gemination; this is particularly evident before nasal and lateral consonants: e.g. cotna ('rind'), motlle/motle ('spring'), and setmana ('week'). Learned words can alternate between featuring and not featuring such assimilation (e.g. atles [ˈadɫəs] ~ [ˈaɫːəs] (E) / [ˈadɫas] ~ [ˈaɫːas] (W) 'atlas', administrar [ədminisˈtɾa] ~ [əmːinisˈtɾa] (E) / [adminisˈtɾa(ɾ)] ~ [amːinisˈtɾa(ɾ)] (W) 'to administer').[65][66]

Central Valencian features simple elision in many of these cases (e.g cotna [ˈkona], setmana [seˈmana]) though learned words don't exhibit either assimilation or elision: atles [ˈadles] and administrar [adminisˈtɾaɾ].[67]



Stress most often occurs on any of the last three syllables of a word (e.g. brúixola [ˈbɾuʃuɫə] (E) / [ˈbɾujʃola] (W) 'compass', càstig [ˈkastik] 'punishment', pallús [pəˈʎus] (E) / [paˈʎus] (W) 'fool').

Compound words and adverbs formed with /ˈment/ may have a syllable with secondary stress (e.g. bonament [ˌbɔnəˈmen] (E) [ˌbɔnaˈmen(t)] (W) 'willingly'; parallamps [ˌpaɾəˈʎams] (E) [ˌpaɾaˈʎamps] (W) 'lightning conductor') but every lexical word has just one syllable with main stress.[68]


Any consonant, as well as [j] and [w] may be an onset. Clusters may consist of a consonant plus a semivowel (C[j], C[w]) or an obstruent plus a liquid. Some speakers may have one of these obstruent-plus-liquid clusters preceding a semivowel, e.g. síndria [ˈsin.dɾjə] ('watermelon'); for other speakers, this is pronounced [ˈsin.dɾi.ə] (i.e. the semivowel must be syllabic in this context).[69]

Word-medial codas are restricted to one consonant + [s] (extra [ˈɛks.tɾə] (E) / [ˈɛks.tɾa] (W)).[70] In the coda position, voice contrasts among obstruents are neutralized.[71] Although there are exceptions (such as futur [fuˈtuɾ] 'future'), syllable-final rhotics are often lost before a word boundary or before the plural morpheme of most words: color [kuˈɫo] (E) / [koˈɫo(ɾ)] (W) ('color') vs. coloraina [kuɫuˈɾajnə] (E) / [koɫoˈɾajna] (W) ('bright color').[17]

In Central Eastern (and North-Western Catalan), obstruents fail to surface word-finally when preceded by a homorganic consonant (e.g. /nt/ [n̪]). Complex codas simplify only if the loss of the segment doesn't result in the loss of place specification.[72]

Suffixation examples in Central Eastern and North-Western Catalan varieties
Final gloss Internal gloss
no cluster camp [ˈkam] 'field' camperol [kəmpəˈɾɔɫ] (CE)
[kampeˈɾɔɫ] (NW)
punt [ˈpun] 'point' punta [ˈpuntə] (CE)
[ˈpunta] (NW)
banc [ˈbaŋ] 'bank' banca [ˈbaŋkə] (CE)
[ˈbaŋka] (NW)
malalt [məˈɫaɫ̪] (CE)
[maˈlaɫ̪] (NW)
'ill' malaltia [məɫəɫˈti.ə] (CE)
[malaɫˈti.a] (NW)
hort [ˈɔr] 'orchard' hortalissa [urtəˈɫisə](CE)
[ortaˈlisa] (NW)
gust [ˈɡus] 'taste' gustar [ɡusˈta] 'to taste'
cluster serp [ˈserp] 'snake' serpentí [sərpənˈti] (CE)
[serpenˈti] (NW)
disc [ˈdisk] 'disk' disquet [disˈkɛt] (CE)
[disˈket] (NW)
remolc [rəˈmɔɫk] (CE)
[reˈmɔɫk] (NW)
'trailer' remolcar [rəmuɫˈka] (CE)
[remoɫˈka] (NW)
'to tow'

When the suffix -erol [əˈɾɔɫ] is added to camp [ˈkam] it makes [kəmpəˈɾɔɫ], indicating that the underlying representation is /ˈkamp/ (with subsequent cluster simplification), however when the copula [ˈes] is added it makes [ˈkam ˈes]. The resulting generalization is that this underlying /p/ will only surface in a morphologically complex word.[73] Despite this, word-final codas are not usually simplified in most of Balearic and Valencian (e.g. camp [ˈkamp]).[74]

Word-initial clusters from Graeco-Latin learned words tend to drop the first phoneme: pneumàtic [nəwˈmatik] (E) / [newˈmatik] (W) ('pneumatic'), pseudònim [səwˈðɔnim] (E) / [sewˈðɔnim] (W) ('pseudonym'), pterodàctil [təɾuˈðaktiɫ] (E) / [teɾoˈðaktil] (W) ('pterodactylus'), gnom [ˈnom] ('gnome').[75]

Word-final obstruents are devoiced; however, they assimilate voicing of the following consonant, e.g. cuc de seda [ˈkuɡ‿də ˈsɛðə] (E) / [ˈkuɡ‿de ˈsɛða] (W) ('silkworm'). In regular and fast speech, stops often assimilate the place of articulation of the following consonant producing phonetic gemination: tot [ˈtod‿ˈbe] [ˈtob‿ˈbe] ('all good').[76]

Word-final fricatives (except /f/) are voiced before a following vowel; e.g. bus enorme [ˈbuz‿əˈnormə] (E) / [ˈbuz‿eˈnorme] (W) ('huge bus').[77]

Dialectal variation[edit]

Dialectal Map of Catalan[78]
Eastern dialects: Western dialects:

The differences in the vocalic systems outlined above are the main criteria used to differentiate between the major dialects: Wheeler distinguishes two major dialect groups, western and eastern dialects; the latter of which only allow [i], [ə], and [u] to appear in unstressed syllables and include Northern Catalan, Central Catalan, Balearic, and Alguerese. Western dialects, which allow any vowel in unstressed syllables, include Valencian and North-Western Catalan.[79]

Regarding consonants, betacism and fricative–affricate alternations are the most prominent differences between dialects.

Other dialectal features are:

  • Vowel harmony with /ɔ/ and /ɛ/ in Valencian; this process is progressive (i.e. preceding vowels affect those pronounced afterwards) over the last unstressed vowel of a word; e.g. hora /ˈɔɾa/[ˈɔɾɔ]. However, there are cases where regressive metaphony occurs over pretonic vowels; e.g. tovallola /tovaˈʎɔla/[tɔvɔˈʎɔlɔ] ('towel'), afecta /aˈfɛkta/[ɛˈfɛktɛ] ('affects').[80]
  • In a number of dialects unstressed /i/ can merge with /ə/ (Eastern dialects) or /e, a/ (Western dialects) according to the previous or following vowel (i.e. through assimilation when these vowels are high or dissimilation when they are mid or low). This merger is especially common in words with the prefix in- or im-.[81]
  • In Southern Valencian subvarieties, especially in Alicante Valencian, the diphthong /ɔu/ (phonetically [ɒw] in Valencian) has become [ɑw]: bous [ˈbɑws] ('bulls').[82]
  • In regular speech in both Eastern and Western Catalan dialects, word-initial unstressed /o/[u] or [o]– may be diphthongized to [əw] (Eastern Catalan) or [aw] (Western Catalan): ofegar [əwfəˈɣa]~[awfeˈɣa(ɾ)] ('to drown, suffocate').[83]
  • In Aragonese Catalan (including Ribagorçan), /l/ is palatalized to [ʎ] in consonant clusters; e.g. plou [ˈpʎɔw] 'it rains'.[84]
  • In Alguerese and Ribagorçan word-final /ʎ/ and /ɲ/ are depalatized to [l] and [n], respectively; e.g. gall [ˈɡal] ('rooster'), any [ˈan] ('year').[85][86]
  • Varying degrees of L-velarization among dialects: /l/ is dark irrespective of position in Balearic and Central Catalan and might tend to vocalization in some cases. In Western varieties like Valencian, this dark l contrasts with a clear l in intervocalic and word-initial position; while in other dialects, like Alguerese or Northern Catalan, /l/ is never velarized in any instance.[36][87]
  • Iodització (also known as iesme històric "historic yeísmo"): in regular speech in most of Majorcan, Northern Catalan and in the historic comarca of Vallès (Barcelona), Latin-derived words that had intervocalic /l/ + yod (-LI-, -LE-) or velar + /l/ (-CVL-, -GVL-) developed [j] (e.g. palla [ˈpajə] ('straw') from Latin PALEA), rather than /ʎ/ as in the majority of other regions. Accents with traditional ieisme use /ʎ/ only in words where this sound developed from Latin initial L- (as in lluna [ˈʎunə] 'moon') or intervocalic -LL- (as in ella [ˈeʎə] 'she').[88]
  • The dorso-palatal [ʝ] may occur in complementary distribution with [ɟ], only in Majorcan varieties that have dorso-palatals rather than the velars found in most dialects: guerra [ˈɟɛrə] ('war') vs. sa guerra [sə ˈʝɛrə] ('the war').[89]
  • In northern and transitional Valencian, word-initial and postconsonantal /d͡ʒ/ (Eastern Catalan /ʒ/ and /d͡ʒ/) alternates with [jʒ] intervocalically; e.g. joc [ˈd͡ʒɔk] 'game', but pitjor [piˈʒo] 'worse', boja [ˈbɔjʒa] 'crazy' (standard Valencian /ˈd͡ʒɔk/, /piˈd͡ʒːoɾ/; /ˈbɔd͡ʒa/; standard Catalan /ˈʒɔk/, /piˈd͡ʒo/ and /ˈbɔʒə/).[90]
  • In northern Valencia and southern Catalonia /s/ has merged with realizations of /ʃ/ after a high front vocoid; e.g. terrissa [teˈriʃa] ('pottery'), insistisc [insiʃˈtiʃk] ('I insist') vs. pixar [piˈʃa ~ piˈʃaɾ] ('to pee'), deixar [deˈʃa ~ dejˈʃaɾ] ('to leave'). In these varieties /ʃ/ is not found after other voiced consonants, and merges with /t͡ʃ/ after consonants; e.g. punxa [ˈpuɲt͡ʃa] ('thorn').[91]
  • Intervocalic /d/ dropping (particularly participles) in regular speech in Valencian, with compensatory lengthening of vowel /a/; e.g. vesprada [vesˈpɾaː] ('evening').[92]
  • In northern Catalonia and in the town of Sóller (Majorca), a uvular trill [ʀ] or approximant [ʁ] can be heard instead of an alveolar trill; e.g. rrer [ˈkoʀə] ~ [ˈkoʁə] ('to run').[93]
  • In some Valencian dialects final /p, t, k/ can be lenited before a vowel: tot açò [ˈtoð‿aˈsɔ] ('all this').[94]
  • In some dialects (e.g. many Valencian accents) initial /ɡ/ can be lenited: gata [ˈɣatə] (EC) [ˈɣata] (WC).[95]
  • In Majorcan varieties, /k/ and /ɡ/ become [c] and [ɟ] word-finally and before front vowels,[20] in some of these dialects, this has extended to all environments except before liquids and back vowels; e.g. sang [ˈsaɲc] ('blood').[8]
  • In Majorcan and Minorcan Catalan, /f/ undergoes total assimilation to a following consonant (just as stops do): buf gros [ˈbuɡ‿ˈɡɾɔs] ('large puff').[35]
  • In some Valencian dialects (e.g. Northern Valencian), /s/ and /ʃ/ are auditorily similar such that neutralization may occur in the future.[96] That is the case of Northern Valencian where /ʃ/ is depalatalized[clarification needed] to [js̠ ~ jsʲ] as in caixa ('box'). Central Valencian words like mig ('half') and lleig ('ugly') have been transcribed with [t͡s] rather than the expected [t͡ʃ], and Southern Valencian /t͡ʃ/ "has been reported to undergo depalatalization without merging with [t͡s]".[97] as in passets ('small steps') versus passeig ('promenade')
  • In Aragon and Central Valencian (the so called apitxat), voiced fricatives and affricates are missing (i.e. /z/ has merged with /s/, /d͡ʒ/ has merged with /t͡ʃ/, with only voiceless realizations occurring) and /v/ has merged with the [b ~ β] set.[98]

Historical development[edit]

Catalan shares features with neighboring Romance languages (Occitan, Italian, Sardinian, French, Spanish).[99]

  • Marked contrast of the vowel pairs /ɛ/ ~ /e/ and /ɔ/ ~ /o/, as in other Western Romance languages, except Spanish and Sardinian.[100]
  • Lenition of voiced stops [b]→[β], [d]→[ð], [ɡ]→[ɣ] as in Galician and Spanish.[100]
  • Lack of diphthongization of Latin short ĕ, ŏ, as in Galician, Sardinian and Portuguese, and unlike French, Spanish and Italian.[100]
  • Abundance of diphthongs containing /w/, as in Galician and Portuguese.[100]
  • Abundance of /ʎ/ and /ɲ/ occurring at the end of words, as for instance moll ("wet") and any ("year"), unlike Spanish,[101] Portuguese or Italian.

In contrast with other Romance languages, Catalan has many monosyllabic words; and those ending in a wide variety of consonants and some consonant clusters.[100] Also, Catalan has final obstruent devoicing, thus featuring many couplets like amic ('male friend') vs. amiga ('female friend').[100]

Phonological sample[edit]

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1
Original Tots els éssers humans neixen/naixen lliures i iguals en dignitat i en drets.
Són dotats de raó i de consciència, i han de comportar-se fraternalment els uns amb els altres.
Old Catalan (Around the 13th century) IPA [ˈtodz̺‿əlz̺‿ˈes̺əɾz̺‿uˈmanz̺ ˈnəʃən ˈʎiwɾəz̺‿iːˈɣwalz̺‿ən digniˈtat‿j‿ən ˈdɾəts̺
s̺on dotats̺ ðə raˈo i ðə konˈs̺s̻jɛns̻ja, j‿an kompoɾˈtaɾs̺ə fɾatəɾnalˈment‿əlz̺‿ˈunz̺‿amb‿əlz̺‿altɾəs̺]
Balearic Catalan IPA [ˈtodz‿əlz‿ˈesəz‿uˈmanz ˈnəʃən ˈʎiwɾəz‿iːˈɣwalz‿ən diŋniˈdat‿j‿ən ˈdɾəts
son dotats ðə rəˈo i ðə konˈsjɛnsjə, j‿an kompoɾˈtasːə fɾətəɾnalˈment‿əlz‿ˈunz‿əmb‿əlz‿altɾəs]
Eastern Central Catalan IPA [ˈtodz‿əlz‿ˈesəz‿uˈmanz ˈnɛʃən ˈʎiwɾəz‿iːˈɣwalz‿ən diŋniˈtat‿j‿ən ˈdɾɛts
son dutats ðə rəˈo i ðə kunˈsjɛnsjə, j‿an kumpurˈtasə fɾətərnalˈmen‿əlz‿ˈunz‿əmb‿əlz‿altɾəs]
Northern Catalan IPA [ˈtudz‿əlz‿ˈe̞səz‿uˈmanz ˈne̞ʃən ˈʎiwɾəz‿iːˈgwalz‿ən diŋniˈtat‿j‿ən ˈdɾe̞ts
sun dutats rəˈu i kunˈsjensjə, j‿an kumpurˈtasə fɾətərnalˈme̞n‿əlz‿ˈunz‿əmb‿əlz‿altɾəs]
North-Western Catalan IPA [ˈtodz‿elz‿ˈesez‿uˈmanz ˈnajʃen ˈʎiwɾez‿iːˈɣwalz‿en diŋniˈtat‿j‿en ˈdɾets
son dotats ðe raˈo‿j ðe konˈsjɛnsja, j‿an de kompoɾˈtase fɾateɾnalˈmen‿elz‿ˈunz‿amb‿elz‿altɾes]
Valencian IPA [ˈtodz‿elz‿ˈeseɾz‿uˈmanz ˈnajʃen ˈʎiwɾez‿iːˈɣwalz‿en diŋniˈtat‿j‿en ˈdɾets
son dotats ðe raˈo‿j ðe konˈsjɛnsja, j‿an de kompoɾˈtaɾse fɾateɾnalˈment‿elz‿ˈunz‿amb‿elz‿atɾes]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Carbonell Costa & Llisterri Boix (1999:62)
  2. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:172)
  3. ^ a b c d Recasens Vives & Pallarès Ramon (2001:288)
  4. ^ a b c d e Wheeler (2005:10–11)
  5. ^ "Voiceless dental plosive – Central". Els sons del català.
    "Voiceless dental plosive – Nord Occidental". Els sons del català.
    "Voiceless dental plosive – Valencià". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced dental plosive – Central". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced dental plosive – Nord Occidental". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced dental plosive – Valencià". Els sons del català.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Rafel Fontanals (1999:14)
  7. ^ "Voiceless velar plosive – Central". Els sons del català.
    "Voiceless velar plosive – Nord Occidental". Els sons del català.
    "Voiceless velar plosive – Valencià". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Velar Plosive – Central". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Velar Plosive – Nord Occidental". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Velar Plosive – Valencià". Els sons del català.
  8. ^ a b c d Wheeler (2005:10)
  9. ^ "Voiced Alveolar Nasal – Central". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Alveolar Nasal – Nord Occidental". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Alveolar Nasal – Valencià". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Alveolar Lateral – Central". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Alveolar Lateral – Nord Occidental". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Alveolar Flap – Central". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Alveolar Flap – Nord Occidental". Els sons del català.
    "VOICED ALVEOLAR FLAP – Valencià". Els sons del català.
  10. ^ "Voiceless Alveolar Fricative – Central". Els sons del català.
    "Voiceless Alveolar Fricative – Nord Occidental". Els sons del català.
    "Voiceless Alveolar Fricative – Valencià". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Alveolar Fricative – Central". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Alveolar Fricative – Nord Occidental". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Alveolar Fricative – Valencià". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Alveolar Trill – Central". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Alveolar Trill – Nord Occidental". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Alveolar Trill – Valencià". Els sons del català.
  11. ^ a b c "Voiceless Alveolar Affricate – Central". Els sons del català.
    "Voiceless Alveolar Affricate – Nord-Occidental". Els sons del català.
    "Voiceless Alveolar Affricate – Valencià". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Alveolar Affricate – Central". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Alveolar Affricate – Nord-Occidental". Els sons del català.
    "Voiced Alveolar Affricate – Valencià". Els sons del català.
  12. ^ Wheeler (2005:11)
  13. ^ Recasens Vives, Fontdevila & Pallarès Ramon (1995:288)
  14. ^ a b c Recasens Vives & Espinosa (2007:145)
  15. ^ Recasens Vives (1993). Here Recasens labels these Catalan sounds as laminoalveolars palatalitzades 'palatalized lamino-alveolars'
  16. ^ Recasens Vives & Pallarès Ramon (2001). Here the authors label these Catalan sounds as "laminal postalveolar"
  17. ^ a b c d e f Carbonell Costa & Llisterri Boix (1992:53)
  18. ^ Lloret Romañach (2003:278)
  19. ^ Hualde (1992:368)
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i Recasens Vives & Espinosa (2005:1)
  21. ^ Carbonell Costa & Llisterri Boix (1992:53–55)
  22. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:190–191)
  23. ^ a b Wheeler (2005:11–12)
  24. ^ a b c Recasens Vives & Espinosa (2007:144)
  25. ^ a b Hualde (1992:370)
  26. ^ Institut d'Estudis Catalans. "tsar tsarina". Diccionari de la llengua catalana (in Catalan) (2nd ed.). Barcelona, Spain. Archived from the original on 14 August 2011.
  27. ^ Institut d'Estudis Catalans. "tsuga". Diccionari de la llengua catalana (in Catalan) (2nd ed.). Barcelona, Spain. Archived from the original on 14 August 2011.
  28. ^ Badia Cardús, Montserrat (1992–1993). EL PROBLEMA DEL CARACTER FONOLOGIC 0 NO DELS SONS AFRICATS [TS], [DZ], [TS] i [D3] -- Llengua i Literatura, No.5 (PDF) (in Catalan). Institut d'Estudis Catalans. pp. 307–351.
  29. ^ Wheeler (2005:13–14)
  30. ^ Institut d'Estudis Catalans. "txec -a". Diccionari de la llengua catalana (in Catalan) (2nd ed.). Barcelona, Spain. Archived from the original on 14 August 2011.
  31. ^ Recasens Vives & Espinosa (2007:148–149)
  32. ^ Wheeler (2005:12)
  33. ^ Veny Clar (2007:51)
  34. ^ Wheeler (2005:13)
  35. ^ a b Wheeler (2005:81)
  36. ^ a b Recasens Vives & Espinosa (2005:20)
  37. ^ Recasens Vives & Espinosa (2005:3)
  38. ^ Padgett (2009:432)
  39. ^ Wheeler (1979)
  40. ^ See Bonet Alsina & Mascaró Altimiras (1997) for more information.
  41. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:90–92)
  42. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:81)
  43. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:130–131)
  44. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:59)
  45. ^ a b Recasens Vives (1996:66, 141)
  46. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:69, 80–81)
  47. ^ Harrison (1997:2)
  48. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:70)
  49. ^ Saborit Vilar (2009:23)
  50. ^ a b Wheeler (2005:38)
  51. ^ a b Also represented as ê (/ə/) by some linguists (e.g. Antoni Febrer i Cardona).
  52. ^ Sebastià Bech: Apunts de fonètica catalana
  53. ^ Francesc Ballone: Sobre la Correcta Interpretació dels Fonemes Vocàlics en Alguerés: un Estudi Acústic
  54. ^ Wheeler (2005:54)
  55. ^ Carbonell Costa & Llisterri Boix (1992:54–55)
  56. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:75–76)
  57. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:128–129)
  58. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:138)
  59. ^ Carbonell Costa & Llisterri Boix (1992:54)
  60. ^ Institut d'Estudis Catalans (2009). "I.5 Els diftongs, els triftongs i els hiats". Gramàtica de la llengua catalana (PDF) (in Catalan) (Provisional draft ed.). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 January 2016.
  61. ^ e.g. Lleó Pujol (1970), Wheeler (1979)
  62. ^ Wheeler (2005:101)
  63. ^ Mascaró Altimiras (2001:580–581)
  64. ^ Mascaró Altimiras (2001:581)
  65. ^ Fabra Poch (2006:24)
  66. ^ Lacreu Cuesta (2002:53)
  67. ^ Wheeler (2005:36)
  68. ^ Carbonell Costa & Llisterri Boix (1999:63)
  69. ^ Wheeler (2005:78)
  70. ^ Wheeler (2005:166)
  71. ^ Wheeler (2005:145)
  72. ^ Herrick (2000:70)
  73. ^ Herrick (2000:72)
  74. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:192)
  75. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:175)
  76. ^ Badia i Margarit (1988:35)
  77. ^ Recasens Vives & Espinosa (2007)
  78. ^ Wheeler, Yates & Dols Salas (1999:xviii)
  79. ^ Wheeler (2005)
  80. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:99)
  81. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:68)
  82. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:131–132)
  83. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:138–139)
  84. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:311–312)
  85. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:266)
  86. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:321)
  87. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:307)
  88. ^ Wheeler (2005:34–35)
  89. ^ Wheeler (2005:22–23)
  90. ^ Wheeler (2005:15)
  91. ^ Wheeler (2005:22)
  92. ^ Recasens Vives (1996:91–92)
  93. ^ Wheeler (2005:24)
  94. ^ Saborit Vilar (2009:53)
  95. ^ Saborit Vilar (2009:57)
  96. ^ Rafel Fontanals (1981), cited in Recasens Vives & Espinosa (2007:147)
  97. ^ Recasens Vives & Espinosa (2007:147)
  98. ^ Wheeler (2005:23)
  99. ^ Wheeler (2005:1)
  100. ^ a b c d e f Ferrater Soler (1977:630)
  101. ^ Hall, Jacqueline (2001). Convivència in Catalonia: Languages Living Together. Barcelona, Spain: Fundació Jaume Bofill. p. 19.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]