World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Western Catalan


Western Catalan

"Catala" redirects here. For the ship, see SS Catala.

Pronunciation [kətəˈɫa] (EC) ~ [kataˈɫa] (WC)
Native to Andorra, France, Italy, Spain
Region See Catalan Countries, Geographical distribution
Ethnicity Catalan people
Native speakers 7.2 million  (2010)Template:Infobox language/ref
5 million L2 speakers (1994)
Language family
Early forms
Old Catalan
  • Catalan
Standard forms
Catalan (regulated by the IEC)
Valencian (regulated by the AVL)
Writing system Latin (Catalan alphabet)
Catalan Braille
Official status
Official language in

 Latin Union

 Balearic Islands
 Valencian Community
Recognised minority language in


recognized in the department of the Pyrénées-Orientales


co-official in the comune of Alghero in Sardinia


Regulated by Institut d'Estudis Catalans
Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua
Language codes
ISO 639-1 ca
ISO 639-2 cat
ISO 639-3 cat
Linguist List Template:Infobox language/linguistlist
  Template:Infobox language/linguistlist
  Template:Infobox language/linguistlist
  Template:Infobox language/linguistlist
  Template:Infobox language/linguistlist
  Template:Infobox language/linguistlist
Linguasphere 51-AAA-e
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Template:Catalan language

Catalan (/ˈkætəlæn/;[2] autonym: català [kətəˈɫa] or [kataˈɫa]) is a Romance language named for its origins in Catalonia, in what is nowadays northeastern Spain and adjoining parts of France. It is the national and only official language of Andorra,[3] and a co-official language of the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, and the Valencian Community (as Valencian, with its own standard). It also has semi-official status in the city of Alghero on the Italian island of Sardinia. It is also spoken with no official recognition in parts of the Spanish autonomous communities of Aragon (La Franja) and Murcia (Carche), and in the historic French region of Roussillon/Northern Catalonia, roughly equivalent to the department of Pyrénées-Orientales.[4]

Catalan evolved from common Latin around the eastern Pyrenees in the 9th century.[5] During the Low Middle Ages it saw a golden age as the literary and dominant language of the Crown of Aragon, and was widely used all over the Mediterranean.[5][6] The union of Aragon with the other territories of Spain in 1479 marked the start of the decline of the language.[5][6] In 1659 Spain ceded Northern Catalonia to France, and Catalan was banned in both states in the early 18th century.[6] 19th-century Spain saw a Catalan literary revival,[6][5] which culminated in the 1913 orthographic standardization, and the officialization of the language during the Second Spanish Republic (1931–39). However, the Francoist dictatorship (1939–75) banned the language again.[6]

Since the Spanish transition to democracy (1975–1982), Catalan has been recognized as an official language, language of education, and language of mass media, all of which have contributed to its increased prestige.[7] There is no parallel in Europe of such a large, bilingual, non-state speech community.[7]

Compared to other Romance languages, Catalan dialects feature relative uniformity,[8][9] and are mutually intelligible.[4][10][11][12] They are divided into two blocks, Eastern and Western, differing mostly in pronunciation.[8][9] The terms "Catalan" and "Valencian" (respectively used in Catalonia and the Valencian Community) are two names for the same language.[13] Standard Catalan, a variety accepted by virtually all speakers,[7] is regulated by the Institute of Catalan Studies (IEC).

Catalan shares many traits with its neighboring Romance languages.[4] However, despite being mostly situated in the Iberian Peninsula, Catalan shows greater differences with Ibero-Romance (Spanish, Portuguese) in terms of vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar than it does with Gallo-Romance (French, Italian, Occitan, etc.).[14][15][16][8][17][18][19] These similarities are most notable with Occitan.[17][18][19]

Catalan has an inflectional grammar, with two genders (masculine, feminine), and two numbers (singular, plural). Pronouns also inflected for case, animacy and politeness, and can be combined in very complex ways. Verbs are split in several paradigms and are inflected for person, number, tense, aspect, mood, and gender. In terms of pronunciation, Catalan has many words ending in a wide variety consonants and some consonant clusters, in contrast with many other Romance languages.[20]

Etymology and pronunciation

Main article: Etymology of Catalonia

The word Catalan derives from the territory of Catalonia, itself of disputed etymology. The main theory suggests that Catalunya (Latin Gathia Launia) derives from the name Gothia or Gauthia ("Land of the Goths"), since the origins of the Catalan counts, lords and people were found in the March of Gothia, whence GothlandGothlandia > Gothalania > Catalonia theoretically derived.[21][22]

In English, the term referring to a person first appears in mid 14th century as Catelaner, followed in the 15th century as Catellain (from French). It is first attested a language name by 1792. The term Catalonian is first attested in 1707. Catalan can be pronounced as /ˈkætəlæn/, /kætəˈlæn/ or /ˈkætələn/.[2]

The endonym is pronounced /kə.təˈɫa/ in the Eastern Catalan dialects, and /ka.taˈɫa/ in the Western dialects. In the Valencian Community, the term valencià (/va.len.siˈa/) is frequently used instead. The names "Catalan" and "Valencian" are two names for the same language.[23][24] See also status of Valencian below.


Further information: History of Catalan

Middle Ages

Further information: Old Catalan and Phonological history of Catalan

By the 9th century, Catalan had evolved from Vulgar Latin on both sides of the eastern end of the Pyrenees, as well as the territories of the Roman province of Tarraconensis to the south.[5] From the 8th century onwards the Catalan counts extended their territory southwards and westwards at the expense of the Muslims, bringing their language with them.[5] This process was given definitive impetus with the separation of the County of Barcelona from the Carolingian Empire in 988.[5]

In the 11th century, documents written in macaronic Latin begin to show Catalan elements,[27] with texts written almost completely in Romance appearing by 1080.[27] Old Catalan shared many features with Gallo-Romance, diverging from Old Occitan between the 11th and 14th centuries.[28]

During the 11th and 12th centuries the Catalan rulers expanded up to north of the Ebro river,[5] and in the 13th century they conquered the Land of Valencia and the Balearic Islands.[5] The city of Alghero in Sardinia was repopulated with Catalan speakers in the 14th century. The language also reached Murcia, which became Spanish-speaking in the 15th century.[29]

In the Low Middle Ages, Catalan lived a golden age, reaching a peak of maturity and cultural plenitude.[5] Examples include the work of Majorcan polymath Ramon Llull (1232–1315), the Four Great Chronicles (13th-14th centuries), and the Valencian school of poetry culminating in Ausiàs March (1397–1459).[5] By the 15th century, the city of Valencia had become the sociocultural center of the Crown of Aragon, and Catalan was present all over the Mediterranean world.[5] During this period, the Royal Chancery propagated a highly standardized language.[5] Catalan was widely used as an official language in Sicily until the 15th century, and in Sardinia until the 17th.[29] During this period, the language was what Costa Carreras terms "one of the 'great languages' of medieval Europe".[5]

Martorell's outstanding[5] novel of chivalry Tirant lo Blanc (1490) shows a transition from Medieval to Renaissance values, something than can also be seen in Metge's work.[5] The first book produced with movable type in the Iberian Peninsula was printed in Catalan.[30][5]

Start of the modern era

With the union of the crowns of Castille and Aragon (1479), the use of Spanish gradually became more prestigious.[29] Starting in the 16th century, Catalan literature experienced a decline, the language came under the influence Spanish, and the urban and literary classes became bilingual.[29]

French state: 18th to 20th centuries

With the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659), Spain ceded the northern part of Catalonia to France, and soon thereafter the local Catalan varieties came under the influence of French, which in 1700 became the sole official language of the region.[3][31]

Shortly after the French Revolution (1789), the French First Republic prohibited official use of, and enacted discriminating policies against, the nonstandard languages of France (patois), such as Catalan, Breton, Occitan, Flemish, and Basque.

Following the French capture of Algeria (1833), the region saw several waves of Catalan-speaking settlers. People from the Spanish Alacant province settled around Oran, while Algiers saw immigrantion from Northern Catalonia and Minorca. Their speech was known as patuet. By 1911, the number of Catalan speakers was around 100,000. After the declaration of independence of Algeria in 1962, almost all the Catalan speakers fled the country to Northern Catalonia (as Pieds-Noirs), or to Alacant.[32]

Nowadays, France only recognizes French as an official language. Nevertheless, on 10 December 2007, the General Council of the Pyrénées-Orientales officially recognized Catalan as one of the languages of the department[33] and seek to further promote it in public life and education.

Spanish state: 18th to 20th centuries

The decline of Catalan continued in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Catalan defeat in the War of Spanish Succession (1714) iniciated a series of measures imposing the use of Spanish in all spheres of public life.[3] These included preaching, theater, courts, education, legal documents, and on the telephone.[3] In the 20th century these measures were mostly repealed and supplemented by others, like the prohibition of teaching Catalan, or sanctions for refusing to use Spanish.[3]

In parallel, however, the 19th century saw a Catalan literary revival (Renaixença), which has continued up to the present day.[3] This period starts with Aribau's Ode to the Homeland (1833); followed in the second half of the 19th century, and the early 20th by the work of Verdaguer (poetry), Oller (realist novel), and Guimerà (drama).[34]

In the 19th century, the region of Carche, in the province of Murcia was repopulated with Catalan speakers from the Land of Valencia.[4]

The Second Spanish Republic (1931-1939) saw a brief period of tolerance, with most restrictions against Catalan being lifted.[3] However, the establishment of the Francoist dictatorship lead to a total ban on the language in 1940.[3] Despite some gradual relaxations allowing the publication of some books and magazines, Catalan was excluded from all public institutions until the adoption of the 1978 constitution.[3]

Present day

Since the Spanish transition to democracy (1975–1982), Catalan has been institutionalizated as an official language, language of education, and language of mass media; all of which have contributed to its increased prestige.[7] In Catalonia, there is no parallel of a large, bilingual, European, non-state speech community.[7] The teaching of Catalan is mandatory in all schools.[3] There is also some intergenerational shift towards Catalan.[3]

In Andorra, Catalan has always been the sole official language.[3] Since the promulgation of the 1993 constitution, several Andorranization policies have been enforced, like Catalan medium education.[3]

On the other hand, there are several language shift processes currently taking place. In Northern Catalonia, Catalan has followed the same trend as the other minority languages of France, with most of its native speakers being 60 or older (as of 2004).[3] Catalan is studied as a foreign language by 30% of the primary education estudents, and by 15% of the secondary.[3] The cultural associacion La Bressola promotes a network of community-run schools engaged in Catalan language immersion programs.

In the Alicante province Catalan is being replaced by Spanish, and in Alghero by Italian.[7] There are also well ingrained diglossic attitudes against Catalan in the Valencian Community, Ibiza, and to a lesser extent, in the rest of the Balearic islands.[3]

Classification and relationship with other Romance languages

The ascription of Catalan to the Occitano-Romance branch of Gallo-Romance languages is not shared by all linguists, particularly those from the Castillian sphere, like Menéndez Pidal.

According to Pèire Bèc, its specific classification is as follows:

Catalan bears varying degrees of similarity to the linguistic varieties subsumed under the cover term Occitan language (see also differences between Occitan and Catalan and Gallo-Romance languages). Thus, as it should be expected from closely related languages, Catalan today shares many traits with other Romance languages.

Relationship with other Western Romance languages

Catalan shares many traits with the other neighboring Romance languages (Italian, Sardinian, Occitan, and Spanish).[4] However, despite being mostly situated in the Iberian Peninsula, Catalan has marked differences with the Ibero-Romance group (Spanish and Portuguese) in terms of pronunciation, grammatical, and especially vocabulary; showing instead general affinity towards Gallo-Romance (French, Italian, Occitan, etc.).[14][15][16][8][17][18][19] These similarities are most notable with Occitan.[17][18][19]

According to Ethnologue, the lexical similarity between Catalan and other Romance languages is 87% with Italian, 85% with Portuguese and Spanish, 76% with Ladin, 75% with Sardinian, and 73% with Romanian.[36]

Lexical comparison of 24 words among Western Romance languages:
14 affinities with Gallo-Romance, 5 affinities with Ibero-Romance, 5 unique terms.
Gloss Catalan Italian French Spanish Portuguese
"cousin" cosí cugino cousin primo primo
"brother" germà fratello frère hermano irmão
"nephew" nebot nipote neveu sobrino sobrinho
"summer" estiu estate été verano verão
"evening" vespre sera soir tarde tarde
"morning" matí mattino matin mañana manhã
"frying pan" paella padella poêle sartén frigideira
"bed" llit letto lit cama cama
"bird" ocell uccello oiseau ave, pájaro ave, pássaro
"dog" gos cane chien perro cão
"plum" pruna prugna prune ciruela ameixa
"butter" mantega burro beurre manteca manteiga
Gloss Catalan Italian French Spanish Portuguese
"piece" tros pezzo pièce pedazo[38] pedaço
"gray" gris grigio gris pardo[39] pardo
"hot" calent caldo chaud caliente quente
"too much" massa troppo trop demasiado demais
"to want" voler volere vouloir querer querer
"to take" prendre prendere prendre tomar tomar
"to pray" pregar pregare prier rezar rezar
"to ask" preguntar domandare demander preguntar 'perguntar
"to search" buscar cercare chercher buscar buscar
"to arrive" arribar arrivare arriver llegar chegar
"to speak" parlar parlare parler hablar falar
"to eat" menjar mangiare manger comer comer
Catalan and Spanish cognates with different meanings[8]
Latin Catalan Spanish
accostare acostar "to bring closer" acostar "to put to bed"
levare llevar "to remove"
"to wake up"
llevar "to take"
trahere traure "to remove" traer "to bring"
circare cercar "to search" cercar "to fence"
collocare colgar "to bury" colgar "to hang"
muliere muller "wife" mujer "woman"

During much of its history, and especially during the Francoist dictatorship (1939-1975), the Catalan language has often been degraded as a mere dialect of Spanish.[18][19] This view, based on political and ideological considerations, has no linguistic validity.[18][19] Spanish and Catalan have important differences in the sound system, lexicon, and other less grammatical aspects, which puts the former many times closer to Occitan (and French).[18] [19]

There is evidence that at least from the 2nd century AD that the vocabulary and phonology of Roman Tarraconensis was different from the rest of Roman Hispania.[17] It has been generally Spanish, with its archaisms (Spanish hervir vs. Catalan bullir, "to boil") and innovations (Spanish novillo vs. Catalan vedell, "young bull") that has caused differentiation.[40][17]

The Germanic superstrate has had different outcomes in Spanish and Catalan. For example, Catalan fang ("mud") and rostir ("to roast"), of Germanic origin, contrast with Spanish lodo and asar, of Latin origin; whereas Catalan filosa ("spinning wheel") and pols ("temple"), of Latin origin, contrast with Spanish rueca and sien.[17]

The same happens with Arabic loanwords. Thus, Catalan alfàbia ("large earthware jar") and rajola ("tile"), of Arabic origin, contrast with Spanish tinaja and ladrillo, of Latin origin; whereas Catalan oli ("oil") and oliva ("olive"), of Latin origin, contrast with Spanish aceite and aceituna.[17] However, the Arabic element in Spanish is generally much more prevalent.[17]

Situated between two large linguistic blocks (Iberic and Gallic), Catalan has many unique lexical choices, such as enyorar ("to miss somebody"), apaivagar ("to calm down somebody"), or rebutjar ("reject").[17]

Geographic distribution

Catalan-speaking territories

Main article: Catalan Countries
Territories where Catalan is spoken[4]
State Territory Catalan Name Notes
Catalan-speaking territories in dark gray
Andorra Andorra Andorra Andorra A sovereign state where Catalan is the national and the sole official language. The Andorrans speak a Western Catalan variety.
France CataloniaNorthern Catalonia Catalunya Nord Roughly corresponding to the département of département of Pyrénées-Orientales.[4]
Spain CataloniaCatalonia Catalunya Excluding the Occitan-Speaking Aran Valley in the North-West.[4]
Valencian CommunityValencian Community Comunitat Valenciana Excepting some regions in the west and south which have been Aragonese/Spanish-speaking since at least the 18th century.[4] The Western Catalan variety spoken there receives the denomination of "Valencian".
AragonLa Franja La Franja An part of the Autonomous Community of Aragon, in particular the adjacent strip bordering Western Catalonia. It comprises the comarques of Ribagorça, Llitera, Baix Cinca, and Matarranya.
Balearic IslandsBalearic Islands Illes Balears It comprises the islands of Mallorca, Menorca, Eivissa and Formentera.
Region of MurciaCarche El Carxe A small region of Autonomous Community of Murcia, settled in the 19th century.[4]
Italy Alghero L'Alguer A city in Province of Sassari, in the island of Sardinia, where the peculiar Alguerese dialect is spoken.

These territories are sometimes referred to as the Països Catalans (Catalan Countries), a denomination based on cultural affinity and common heritage, that has also had a subsequent political interpretation but no official status. Various interpretations of the term may include some or all of these regions.

Number of speakers

The number of persons known to be fluent in Catalan varies depending on the sources used. A 2004 language study did not indicate the total number of speakers, but showed a total estimate of 9–9.5 million, by matching the percentage of speakers to the population of each area where Catalan is spoken.[41] The web site of the Generalitat de Catalunya estimated that as of 2004 there were 9,118,882 speakers of Catalan.[42] These figures only reflect potential speakers; today it is the native language of only 35.6% of the Catalan population.[43] According to Ethnologue: Languages of the World, ed. 17, Catalan had a total of 7.2 million native speakers in 2010, and 5 million second-language speakers in 1994.[36]

Territory State Understand 1[44] Can speak 2[44]
 Catalonia Spain 6,502,880 5,698,400
 Valencian Community Spain 3,448,780 2,407,951
 Balearic Islands Spain 852,780 706,065
Catalonia Roussillon France 203,121 125,621
 Andorra Andorra 75,407 61,975
Aragon La Franja (Aragon) Spain 47,250 45,000
Sardinia) Italy 20,000 17,625
Region of Murcia Carche (Murcia) Spain No data No data
Total Catalan-speaking territories 11,150,218 9,062,637
Rest of World No data 350,000
Total 11,150,218 9,412,637
1.^ The number of people who understand Catalan includes those who can speak it.
2.^ Figures relate to all self-declared capable speakers, not just native speakers.


Main article: Catalan phonology

The Catalan phonology varies depending on the dialect. Notable features include:[20]

In contrast with other Romance languages, Catalan has many monosyllabic words; and those ending in a wide variety consonants and some consonant clusters.[20] Also, Catalan has final obstruent devoicing, thus featuring many couplets like amic "(male friend") vs. amiga ("female friend").[20]

Central Catalan is considered the standard pronunciation of the language.[11] The descriptions below are mostly for this variety.[45] For the differences in pronunciation of the different dialects, see the section pronunciation of dialects in this article.


Catalan has inherited the typical vowel system of Vulgar Latin, with seven stressed phonemes: /a ɛ e i ɔ o u/, a common feature in Western Romance, except Spanish.[20] Balearic has also instances of stressed /ə/.[47] Dialects differ in the different degrees of vowel reduction,[48] and the incidence of the pair /ɛ e/.[49]

In Central Catalan, unstressed vowels reduce to three: /a e ɛ/ > [ə]; /o ɔ u/ > [u]; /i/ remains distinct.[50] The other dialects have different vowel reduction processes (see the section pronunciation of dialects in this article).

Examples of vowel reduction processes in Central Catalan[51]
The root is stressed in the first word and unstressed in the second
Front vowels Back vowels
gel ("ice")
gelat ("ice cream")
pedra ("stone")
pedrera ("quarry")
banya ("he bathes")
banyem ("we bath")
cosa ("thing")
coseta ("little thing")
tot ("everything")
total ("total")


Catalan consonants[52]
Bilabial Labio-
Palatal Velar
Nasal Template:IPA link/core Template:IPA link/core Template:IPA link/core Template:IPA link/core
Plosive voiceless Template:IPA link/core Template:IPA link/core (Template:IPA link/core) ~ Template:IPA link/core
voiced Template:IPA link/core Template:IPA link/core (Template:IPA link/core) ~ Template:IPA link/core
Affricate voiceless Template:IPA link/core Template:IPA link/core
voiced Template:IPA link/core Template:IPA link/core
Fricative voiceless Template:IPA link/core Template:IPA link/core Template:IPA link/core
voiced (Template:IPA link/core) Template:IPA link/core Template:IPA link/core
Trill Template:IPA link/core
Tap Template:IPA link/core
Approximant Template:IPA link/core Template:IPA link/core
Lateral Template:IPA link/core Template:IPA link/core

The consonant system of Catalan is rather conservative, shared with most modern Western Romance languages.

  • /l/ has a velarized an allophone in syllable coda position in most dialects.[53] However, /l/ is velar irrespective of position in Eastern dialects like Majorcan[54] and standard Eastern Catalan.
  • /v/ occurs in Balearic,[55] Alguerese, standard Valencian and some areas in southern Catalonia.[56] It has merged with /β/ elsewhere.[57]
  • Voiced obstruents undergo final-obstruent devoicing: /b/ > [p], /d/ > [t], /ɡ/ > [k].[58]
  • Voiced stops become lenited to approximants in syllable onsets, after continuants: /b/ >], /d/ > ], /ɡ/ > ].[59] Exceptions include /d/ after lateral consonants, and /b/ after /f/. In coda position, these sounds are realized as stops,[60] except in some Valencian dialects where they are lenited.[61]
  • There is some confusion in the literature about the precise phonetic characteristics of /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/, /dʒ/. Some sources[62] describe them as "postalveolar." Others[63][64] as "back alveolo-palatal", implying that the characters Template:Angle bracket would be more accurate. However, in all literature only the characters for palato-alveolar affricates and fricatives are used, even when the same sources use Template:Angle bracket for other languages like Polish and Chinese.[65][66][67]
  • The distribution of the two rhotics /r/ and /ɾ/ closely parallels that of Spanish. Between vowels, the two contrast, but they are otherwise in complementary distribution: in the onset, ] appears unless preceded by a consonant. Dialects vary in regards to rhotics in the coda with Western Catalan generally featuring ] and Central Catalan dialects featuring a weakly trilled ] unless it precedes a vowel-initial word in the same prosodic unit, in which case ] appears.[68]
  • In careful speech, /n/, /m/, /l/ may be geminated. Geminated /ʎ/ may also occur.[62] Some[69] analyze intervocalic [r] as the result of gemination of a single rhotic phoneme. This is similar to the common analysis of Spanish and Portuguese rhotics.[70]

Phonological evolution

Main article: Latin-to-Catalan sound changes


Main article: Catalan dialects


The dialects of the Catalan language feature a relative uniformity, especially when compared to other Romance languages;[8] both in terms of vocabulary, semantics, syntax, morphology, and phonology.[9] Mutual intelligibility between dialects is very high,[4][10][11] estimates ranging from 90% to 95%.[12] The only exception is the isolated idiosyncratic Alguerese dialect.[8]

Catalan is split in two major dialectal blocks: Eastern Catalan, and Western Catalan.[11][9] The main difference lies in the treatment of unstressed a and e; which have merged to /ə/ in Eastern dialects, but which remain distinct as /a/ and /e/ in Western dialects.[8][11] There are a few other differences in pronunciation, verbal morphology, and vocabulary.[4]

Western Catalan comprises the two dialects of North-Western Catalan and Valecian; the Eastern block comprises four dialects: Central Catalan, Balearic, Rossellonese, and Alguerese.[11] Each dialect can be further subdivided in several subdialects.

Central Catalan is considered the standard pronunciation of the language and has the highest number of speakers.[11] It is spoken in the densely populated regions of the Barcelona province, the eastern half of the province of Tarragona, and most of the province of Girona.[11]

Main dialectal divisions of Catalan[11][74]
Dialect North-Western Valencian Central Balearic Northern/Rossellonese Alguerese
Area Spanish state French state Italian state
Provinces of Lleida, eastern half of Tarragona, La Franja Autonomous community of Valencia Provinces of Barcelona, western half of Tarragona, most of Girona Balearic islands Roussillon/Northern Catalonia City of Alghero in Sardinia



Catalan has inherited the typical vowel system of Vulgar Latin, with seven stressed phonemes: /a ɛ e i ɔ o u/, a common feature in Western Romance, except Spanish.[20] Balearic has also instances of stressed /ə/.[47] Dialects differ in the different degrees of vowel reduction,[48] and the incidence of the pair /ɛ e/.[49]

In Eastern Catalan (except Majorcan), unstressed vowels reduce to three: /a e ɛ/ > [ə]; /o ɔ u/ > [u]; /i/ remains distinct.[50] There are a few instances of unreduced [e], [o] in some words.[50] Alguerese has lowered [ə] to [a].

In Majorcan, unstressed vowels reduce to four: /a e ɛ/ follow the Eastern Catalan reduction pattern; however /o ɔ/ reduce to [o], with /u/ remaining distinct, as in Western Catalan.[75]

In Western Catalan, unstressed vowels reduce to five: /e ɛ/ > [e]; /o ɔ/ > [o]; /a u i/ remain distinct.[76][77] This reduction pattern, inherited from Proto-Romance, is also found in Italian and Portuguese.[76] Some Western dialects present further reduction or vowel harmony in some cases.[76][78]

Central, Western, and Balearic differ in the lexical incidence of stressed /e/ and /ɛ/.[49] Usually, words with /ɛ/ in central Catalan correspond to /ə/ in Balearic and /e/ in Western Catalan.[49] Words with /e/ in Balearic almost always have /e/ in central and western Catalan as well.[49] As a result, Central Catalan has a much higher incidence of /e/.[49]

Different incidence of stressed /e/, /ə/, /ɛ/[49]
Word Western Majorcan Eastern
except Majorcan
set ("thirst") /'set/ /'sət/ /'sɛt/
ven ("he sells") /'ven/ /'vən/ /'bɛn/
General differences in the pronunciation of unstressed vowels in different dialects[11][79]
Word Western Catalan Eastern Catalan
North-Western Valencian Majorcan Central Northern
mare ("mother") mar[e] mar[ə]
cançó ("song") c[a]nçó c[ə]nçó
posar ("to put") p[o]sar p[u]sar
ferro ("iron") ferr[o] ferr[u]
Detailed Examples of vowel reduction processes in different dialects[51]
Word pairs:
the first with stressed root,
the second with unstressed root
Western Majorcan Central
gel ("ice")
gelat ("ice cream")
pera ("pear")
perera ("pear tree")
pedra ("stone")
pedrera ("quarry")
banya ("he bathes")
banyem("we bathe")
Majorcan: banyam("we bathe")
cosa ("thing")
coseta ("little thing")
tot ("everything")
total ("total")




In verbs, 1st person present indicative desinence is -e (∅ in verbs of the 2nd and 3rd conjugation), or -o.
E.g., parle, tem, sent (Valencian); parlo, temo, sento (North-Western). In verbs, 1st person present indicative desinence is -o, -i or ∅ in all conjugations.
E.g., parlo (Central), parl (Balearic), parli (Northern), ('I speak').

First person singular present indicative desinences in different dialects
Eastern Catalan Western Catalan Gloss
Central Northern Balearic Valencian North-Western
First parlo parli parl parle or parlo parlo "I speak"
Second temo temi tem tem temo "I fear"
Third sento senti sent sent sento "I feel"/"I hear"

In verbs, the inchoative desinences are -isc/-ixo, -ix, -ixen, -isca. In verbs, the inchoative desinences are -eixo, -eix, -eixen, -eixi.

In nouns and adjectives, maintenance of /n/ of medieval plurals in proparoxytone words.
E.g.,hòmens 'men', jóvens 'youth'. In nouns and adjectives, loss of /n/ of medieval plurals in proparoxytone words.
E.g.,homes 'men', joves 'youth'.


Despite its relative lexical unity, the two dialectal blocks of Catalan (Eastern and Western) show some differences in word choices.[17] Any lexical divergence within any of the two groups can be explained as an archaism. Also, usually Central Catalan acts as an innovative element.[17]

Selection of different words between Western and Eastern Catalan
Gloss "mirror" "boy" "broom" "navel" "to exit"
Eastern Catalan mirall noi escombra melic sortir
Western Catalan espill xiquet granera llombrígol eixir


Written varieties
Catalan (IEC) Valencian (AVL) gloss
anglès anglés English
conèixer conéixer to know
treure traure take out
néixer nàixer to be born
càntir cànter pitcher
rodó redó round
meva meua my, mine
ametlla ametla almond
estrella:' estrela star
cop colp hit
llagosta llangosta lobster
homes hòmens men
servei servici service

Standard Catalan, virtually accepted by all speakers,[7] is mostly based on Eastern Catalan,[11][80] which is the most widely used dialect. Nevertheless, the standards of Valencia and the Balearics admit alternative forms, mostly traditional ones, which are not current in eastern Catalonia.[80]

The most notable difference between both standards is some tonic Template:Angle bracket accentuation, for instance: francès, anglès (IEC) – francés, anglés (AVL). Nevertheless, AVL's standard keeps the grave accent Template:Angle bracket, without pronouncing this Template:Angle bracket as /ɛ/, in some words like: què ('what'), or València. Other divergences include the use of Template:Angle bracket (AVL) in some words instead of Template:Angle bracket like in ametla/ametlla ('almond'), espatla/espatlla ('back'), the use of elided demonstratives (este 'this', eixe 'that') in the same level as reinforced ones (aquest, aqueix) or the use of many verbal forms common in Valencian, and some of these common in the rest of Western Catalan too, like subjunctive mood or inchoative conjugation in -ix- at the same level as -eix- or the priority use of -e morpheme in 1st person singular in present indicative (-ar verbs): jo compre instead of jo compro ('I buy').

In the Balearic Islands, IEC's standard is used but adapted for the Balearic dialect by the University of the Balearic Islands's philological section. In this way, for instance, IEC says it is correct writing cantam as much as cantem ('we sing') but the University says that the priority form in the Balearic Islands must be "cantam" in all fields. Another feature of the Balearic standard is the non-ending in the 1st person singular present indicative: jo compr ('I buy'), jo tem ('I fear'), jo dorm ('I sleep').

In Alghero, the IEC has adapted its standard to the Alguerese dialect. In this standard one can find, among other features: the definite article lo instead of el, special possessive pronouns and determinants la mia ('mine'), lo sou/la sua ('his/her'), lo tou/la tua ('yours'), and so on, the use of -v- /v/ in the imperfect tense in all conjugations: cantava, creixiva, llegiva; the use of many archaic words, usual words in Alguerese: manco instead of menys ('less'), calqui u instead of algú ('someone'), qual/quala instead of quin/quina ('which'), and so on; and the adaptation of weak pronouns.

In 2011, the Aragonese government passed a decree for the establishment of a new language regulator of Catalan in La Franja (the so-called Catalan-speaking areas of Aragon). The new entity, designated as Acadèmia Aragonesa del Català, shall allow a facultative education in Catalan and a standardization of the Catalan language in La Franja.

Status of Valencian

Main articles: Valencian, Valencian language controversy, Blaverism and Anti-Catalanism

The vast majority of linguists hold that Catalan and Valencian are the same language, a position that is also shared by the majority of Valencian scholars.[81] The official regulating body of the language of the Valencian Community, the Academy of the Valencian Language (Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua, AVL) also declares the linguistic unity between Valencian and Catalan.[24][82]

[T]he historical patrimonial language of the Valencian people, from a philological standpoint, is the same shared by the autonomous communinites of Catalonia and Balearic islands, and Principality of Andorra. Additionally, it is the patrimonial historical language of other territories of the ancient Crown of Aragon [...] The different varieties of these territories constitute a language, that is, a "linguistical system" [...] From this group of varieties, Valencian has the same hierarchy and dignity as any other dialectal modality of the linguistic system [...]

Ruling of the Valencian Language Academy of 9 February 2005, extract of point 1.[83][84]

Valencian is classified as a Western dialect, along with the North-Western varieties spoken in Western Catalonia (provinces of Lleida and most of Tarragona).[11][74] The various forms of Catalan and Valencian are mutually intelligible (ranging from 90% to 95%)[12]

The AVL, created by the Valencian government, is in charge of dictating the official rules governing the use of Valencian, and its standard is based on that of the Institute of Catalan Studies (Institut d'Estudis Catalans, IEC).[85] Currently, the majority of people who write in Valencian use this standard.[86]

Despite the position of the official organizations, which is also shared with the residents of Catalonia, the majority of Valencian speakers consider their language unique and different from Catalan.[87] This position is promoted by people who do not use Valencian regularly.[7] There is a minority of scholars who defend the position of the Royal Academy of Valencian Culture (Acadèmia de Cultura Valenciana, RACV), which uses for Valencian an independent standard from Catalan.[87]

This clash of opinions has sparked much controversy. For example, during the drafting of the European Constitution in 2004, the Spanish government supplied the EU with translations of the text into Basque, Galician, Catalan, and Valencian, but the former two were identical.[88]


Word choices

Despite its relative lexical unity, the two dialectal blocks of Catalan (Eastern and Western) show some differences in word choices.[17] Any lexical divergence within any of the two groups can be explained as an archaism. Also, usually Central Catalan acts as an innovative element.[17]

Literary Catalan allows the use of words from different dialects, except those of very restricted use.[17] However, from the 19th century onwards, there is a tendency of favoring words of Northern dialects in detriment of others, even though nowadays there is a greater freedom of choice.[17]

Latin and Greek learned words

Like other languages, Catalan has a large list of learned words from Greek and Latin. This process started very early, and one can find such examples in Ramon Llull's work.[17] On the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries Catalan had a number of Greco-Latin learned words much superior to other Romance languages, as it can be attested for example in Roís de Corella's writings.[17]

Word formation

The process of word derivation in Catalan follows the same principles as the other Romance languages,[89] where agglutination is common. Many times, several affixes are appended to a preexisting lexeme, and some sound alternations can occur, for example elèctric [ə'lɛktrik] ("electrical") vs. electricitat [ələktrisi'tat]. Prefixes are usually appended to verbs, for as in preveure ("foresee").[89]

There is greater regularity in the process of word-compouding, where one can find compounded words as much as in English.[89]

common types of word compounds in Catalan[89]
Type Example Gloss
two nouns, the second assimilated to the first paper moneda "banknote paper"
noun delimited by an adjective estat major "military staff"
noun delimited by another noun and a preposition màquina d'escriure "typewriter"
verb radical with a nominal object paracaigudes "parachute"
noun delimited by an adjective, with adjectival value pit-roig "robin" (bird)

Writing system

Main article: Catalan alphabet
Main forms A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Modified Forms À Ç È É Í L·L Ò Ó Ú

Catalan uses the Roman alphabet, with some added symbols and digraphs.[90] The Catalan orthography is systematic and largely phonologically based.[90]

Pronunciation of Catalan special characters and digraphs (Central Catalan)[91]
Pronunciation Examples[91]
ç /s/ feliç [fə'lis] ("happy")
gu /g/ ([g]~[ɣ]) before i and e guerra ['gɛrə] ("war")
/gw/ elsewhere guant ['gwan] ("glove")
ig [tʃ] in final position raig ['ratʃ] ("trickle")
ix /ʃ/ ([jʃ] in some dialects) caixa ['kaʃə] ("box")
l·l Normatively /ll/, but usually /l/ novel·la [nu'βɛlə] ("novel")
ny /ɲ/ Catalunya [kətəˈɫuɲə] ("Catalonia").
qu /k/ before i and e qui ['ki] ("who")
/kw/ before other vowels quatre ['kwatrə] ("four").
ss /s/
Intervocallic s is pronounced /z/
grossa ['gɾɔsə] ("big-femenine)"
casa ['kazə] ("house")
tg, tj [ddʒ] ['feddʒə] ("liver"), mitjó [mid'dʒo] ("sock").
tx [tʃ] despatx [dəs'patʃ] ("office").
tz [ddz] dotze ['doddʒə] ("twelve").
Letters and digraphs with contextually conditioned pronunciations (Central Catalan)[91]
Notes Examples[91]
c /s/ before i and e
corresponds to ç in other contexts
feliç ("happy-masculine-singular") - felices ("happy-feminine-plural")
caço ("I hunt") - caces ("you hunt")
g /ʒ/ before e and i
corresponds to j in other positions
envejar ("to envy") - envegen ("they envy")
final g + stressed i, and final ig before other vowels,
are pronounced [tʃ]
corresponds to j~g or tj~tg in other positions
boig ['bɔtʃ] ("mad-masculine") - boja ['bɔʒə] ("mad-feminine") - boges ['bɔʒəs] ("mad-feminine plural")
desig [də'zitʃ] ("wish") - desitjar ("to wish") - desitgem ("we wish")
gu /g/ before e and i
corresponds to g in other positions
botiga ("shop") - botigues ("shops")
/gw/ before e and i
corresponds to gu in other positions
llengua ("language") - llengües ("languages")
qu /k/ before e and i
corresponds to q in other positions
vaca ("cow") - vaques ("cows")
/kw/ before e and i
corresponds to qu in other positions
obliqua ("oblique-feminine") - obliqües ("oblique-feminine plural")
x [ʃ]~[tʃ] initially and in onsets after a consonant
[ʃ] after i
otherwise, [gz] before stress, [ks] after
xarxa ['ʃarxə] ("net")
guix ['giʃ] ("chalk)
exacte [əg'zaktə] ("exact"), fax ['faks] ("fax")


Main article: Catalan grammar

The grammar of Catalan is similar to other Romance languages. Features include:[92]

Gender and number inflection

Regular noun with definite article: el gat ("the cat")
masculine feminine
singular el gat la gata
plural els gats les gates
Adjective with 4 forms:
verd ("green")
masculine feminine
singular verd verda
plural verds verdes
Adjective with 3 forms:
feliç ("happy")
masculine feminine
singular feliç
plural feliços felices
Adjective with 2 forms:
indiferent ("indifferent")
masculine feminine
singular indiferent
plural indiferents

In gender inflection, the most notable feature is (compared to Portuguese, Spanish or Italian), the disapparition of the typical masculine suffix -o. Thus, the alternance of -o/-a, has been replaced by ø/-a.[20] There are only a few exceptions, like minso/minsa ("scarce").[20] Many not completely predictable morphological alternations may occur, like:[20]

  • Affrication: boig/boja ("insane") vs. lleig/lletja ("ugly")
  • Loss of n: pla/plana ("flat") vs. segon/segona ("second")
  • Final obstruent devoicing: sentit/sentida ("felt") vs. dit/dita ("said")

Catalan has few suppletive couplets, like Italian and Spanish, and unlike French. Thus, Catalan has noi/noia ("boy"/"girl") and gall/gallina ("cock"/"hen"), whereas French has garçon/fille and coq/poule.[20]

There is a tendency to abandon traditionally gender-invariable adjectives in favour of marked ones, something prevalent in Occitan and French. Thus, one can find bullent/bullenta ("boiling") in constrast with traditional bullent/bullent.[20]

Like in the other Western Romance languages, the main plural expression is the suffix -s, which may create morphological alternations akin the ones found in gender inflection, albeit more rarely.[20] The most important one is the addition of -o- before certain consonant groups, a phonetic phenomenon that does not affect feminine forms: el pols/els polsos ("the pulse"/"the pulses") vs. la pols/les pols ("the dust"/"the dusts").[93]


Definite article in Standard Catalan
(elided forms in brackets)[94]
masculine feminine
singular el (l') la (l')
plural els les
Contractions of the definite article
a de per
article el al (a l') del (de l') pel (per l')
els als dels pels
Indefinite article
masculine feminine
singular un una
plural uns unes

The inflection of determinatives is complex, specially because of the high number of elisions, but is similar to the neighboring languages.[89] Catalan has more contractions of preposition + article than Spanish, like dels ("of + the [plural]"), but not as many as Italian (which has sul, col, nel, etc.).[89]

Central Catalan has abandoned almost completely unstressed possessives (mon, etc.) in favour of constructions of article + stressed forms (el meu, etc.), a feature shared with Italian.[89]

Personal pronouns

Catalan stressed pronouns[95]
  singular plural
1st person jo, mi nosaltres
2nd person informal tu vosaltres
formal vostè vostès
respectful (vós)[96]
3rd person masculine ell ells
feminine ella elles

The morphology of Catalan personal pronouns is complex, specially in unstressed forms, which are numerous (13 distinct forms, compared to 11 in Spanish or 9 in Italian; French has such a different system that comparisons are not feasible). [89] Features include the neuter gender (ho) and the great degree of freedom when combining different unstressed pronouns (65 combinations).[89]

The Catalan pronouns exhibit T–V distinction, like all other Romance languages (and most European languages, but not English). This feature implies the use of a different set of second person pronouns for formality.

This flexibility allows Catalan to use extraposition extensively, much more than French or Spanish. Thus, Catalan can have m'hi recomanaren ("they recommended me to him"), whereas in French one must say ils m'ont recommandé à lui, and Spanish me recomendaron a él.[89] This allows the placement of almost any nominal term as a sentence topic, without having to use so often the passive voice (as in French or English), or identifying the direct object with a preposition (as in Spanish).[89]


Simple forms of a regular verb of the first conjugation: portar ("to bring") [97]
Non-finite Form
Infinitive portar
Gerund portant
Past participle portat (portat, portada, portats, portades)
Indicative jo tu ell / ella
nosaltres vosaltres
ells / elles
Present porto portes porta portem porteu porten
Imperfect portava portaves portava portàvem portàveu portaven
Preterite (archaic) portí portares portà portàrem portàreu portaren
Future portaré portaràs portarà portarem portareu portaran
Conditional portaría portaries portaria portaríem portaríeu portarien
Subjunctive jo tu ell / ella
nosaltres vosaltres
ells / elles
Present porti portis porti portem porteu portin
Imperfect portés portéssis portés portéssim portéssiu portessin
Imperative jo tu ell / ella
nosaltres vosaltres
ells / elles
 -  - porta porti portem porteu portin

Like all the Romance languages, Catalan verbal inflection is more complex than the nominal. Suffixation is omnipresent, whereas morphological alternations play a secondary role.[89] Vowel alternances are active, as well as infixation and suppletion. However, these are not as productive as in Spanish, and are mostly restricted to irregular verbs.[89]

The Catalan verbal system is basically common to all Western Romance, except that most dialects have replaced the analytic indicative perfect with a periphrastic form of anar ("to go") + infinitive.[89]

Catalan verbs are traditionally divided into three conjugations, with vowel themes -a-, -e-, -i-, the last two being split into two subtypes. However, this division is mostly theoretical.[89] Only the first conjugation is nowadays productive (with about 3500 common verbs), whereas the third (the subtype of servir, with about 700 common verbs) is semiproductive. The verbs of the second conjugation are fewer than 100, and it is not possible to create new ones, except by compounding.[89]


The grammar of Catalan follows the general pattern of Western Romance languages. The primary word order is SVO (subject–verb–object).[98]

Catalan names

Main article: Catalan names

In the Spanish state (as in Portugal), every person has officially two surnames, one of which is the father's first surname and the other is the mother's first surname.[99] The law contemplates the possibility of joining both surnames with the Catalan conjunction i ("and").[99][100]

Sample text

Selected text[101] from Manuel de Pedrolo's 1970 novel Un amor fora ciutat ("A love affair outside the city").

Original Word-for-word translation[101] Free translation
Tenia prop de divuit anys quan vaig conèxier I was having almost eighteen years, when I go [past auxiliary] know (=I met) I was almost eighteen years old when I met
en Raül, a l'estació de Manresa. the Raül, at the station of (=in) Manresa. Raül, at the Manresa train station.
El meu pare havia mort, inesperadament i encara jove, The my father had died, unexpectedly and still young, My father had died, unexpectedly and still young,
un parell d'anys abans, i d'aquells temps a couple of years before, and of those times a couple of years before; and from that period
conservo un record de punyent solitud. I keep a memory of acute loneliness I keep memories of poignant loneliness.
Les meves relacions amb la mare The my relations with the mother My relationship with my mother
no havien pas millorat, tot el contrari, not had at all improved, all the contrary, had not improved at all, on the contrary,
potser fins i tot empitjoraven perhaps even they were worsening perhaps it was getting even worse
a mesura que em feia gran. at step that (=in proportion as) myself I was making big (=I was growing up). as I kept growing up.
No existia, no existí mai entre nosaltres, Not it was existing, not it existed never between us, We did never have
una comunitat d'interessos, d'afeccions. a community of interests, of affections. interests in common, shared affection.
Cal creure que cercava... una persona It is necessary to believe that I was seeking... a person I guess I was seeking... a person
en qui centrar la meva vida afectiva. in whom to center the my life affective. in whom I could center my emotional life.

Catalan loanwords in the English language

English word Catalan word Catalan meaning Notes
aubergine albergínia[102] "aubergine" / "eggplant" Through French.
barracks barraca "improvised hut" Through French baraque.[103]
barracoon barracó or barracot "improvised hut" Through Spanish barracón.[103]
surge sorgir "to arise" Through Middle French[102]
paella paella "small cooking pot" Through Old French paele, ultimately from Latin patella (small dish).[102]
cul-de-sac cul-de-sac "with no exit" Word shared with French and Occitan.[102]
cucumber cogombre "fruit used in salads" Through Old French cocombre, word shared with Occitan.[102]

See also


  1. Land of Valencia: Statistical data from 2001 census, from Institut Valencià d'Estadística, Generalitat Valenciana [3].
  2. Land of Valencia: Statistical data from 2001 census, from Institut Valencià d'Estadística, Generalitat Valenciana [4].
  3. Balearic Islands: Statistical data from 2001 census, from Institut Balear d'Estadística, Govern de les Illes Balears [5].
  4. Northern Catalonia: Media Pluriel Survey commissioned by Prefecture of [6].
  5. Andorra: Sociolinguistic data from Andorran Government, 1999.
  6. Aragon: Sociolinguistic data from Euromosaic [7].
  7. Alguer: Sociolinguistic data from Euromosaic [8].
  8. Rest of World: Estimate for 1999 by the Federació d'Entitats Catalanes outside the Catalan Countries.


External links


  • Consorci per a la Normalització Lingüística
  • Institut d'Estudis Catalans
  • Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua
  • Secretaria de Política Lingüística de la Generalitat de Catalunya

About the Catalan language

  • Gramàtica de la Llengua Catalana (Catalan grammar)
  • (Catalan verb conjugations with online trainers)
  • Catalan and its dialects

Monolingual dictionaries

  • Diccionari de la Llengua Catalana, from the Institut d'Estudis Catalans
  • Gran Diccionari de la Llengua Catalana, from Enciclopèdia Catalana
  • Diccionari Català-Valencià-Balear d'Alcover i Moll
  • Diccionari Valencià online
  • Diccionari Invers de la Llengua Catalana (dictionary of Catalan words spelled backwards)

Bilingual and multilingual dictionaries

  • Diccionari de la Llengua Catalana Multilingüe from Enciclopèdia Catalana (Catalan ↔ English, French, German and Spanish)
  • DACCO open source, collaborative dictionary (Catalan–English)
  • The Rosetta Edition (Catalan–English)
  • Optimot: Catalan language consults, dictionary and thesaurus of Generalitat of Catalonia

Automated translation systems

  • Traductor automated, online translations of text and web pages (Catalan ↔ English, French and Spanish)
  • SisHiTra automated, online translations of text and web pages (Catalan–Spanish)
  • Occitan, Portuguese and Spanish
  • online translations Catalan <> English & several languages


  • Catalan phrasebook on
  • Basic Catalan phrases (with audio)

Learning resources

Catalan-language online encyclopedia

  • Enciclopèdia Catalana

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.