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  Wikipedia: Catalan language

Wikipedia: Catalan language
Catalan language
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Catalan (Català, Valencià) is a Romance language (see also Iberian Romance Languages) spoken in a territory populated by some 11 million people that spans the states of Spain, France, Andorra and Italy:

  • Catalonia (Catalunya, Spain), where it is coofficial with Spanish.
  • Balearic Islands (Illes Balears, Spain), where it is coofficial with Spanish.
  • Andorra, where it is the only official language.
  • Part of Valencia (País Valencià, Spain), where it is coofficial with Spanish and where the language is officially named Valencià (Valencian).
  • North Catalonia or Roussillon (Catalunya Nord, France), where Catalan has no official status.
  • An adjacent strip of Aragon, Spain (La Franja), in particular the comarques of Baixa Ribagorça, Llitera, Baix Cinca, and Matarranya, where it has no official status, but has gained some recognition by Aragonese laws since 1990.
  • The Sardinian city of l'Alguer (Alghero, Italia), where it is coofficial with Italian and Sardinian.
  • A small region in Murcia, known as el Carxe, where Catalan has no official status.

All these areas are informally called Països catalans (or Catalan countries), a denomination based originally on cultural affinity and common heritage, that has been later interpreted politically by some.

Total speakers: 5·106active speakers & 12·106 passive
Language codes
ISO 639-1: ca
ISO 639-2: cat

Estimates of the number of Catalan speakers vary from four million to 10.8 million. [1] [1] [1] [1]

Catalan developed by the 9th century from Vulgar Latin on both sides of the Pyrenees mountains (counties of Rosselló, Empuries, Besalú, Cerdanya, Urgell, Pallars and Ribagorça). It shares features with Gallo-romanic and Ibero-romanic, and it could be said to be in its beginnings no more than an eccentric dialect of Occitan (or of Western Romanic). The language was spread to the south by the Reconquista in several phases: Barcelona and Tarragona, Lleida and Tortosa, the ancient Kingdom of Valencia, and transplanted to the Balearic Islands and l'Alguer.

Catalan was exported in the 13th century to Balearic Islands and the newly created Valencian Kingdom by the Catalan and Aragonese invaders (note that the area of Catalan language still extends to part of what is now the region of Aragon). During this period, almost all of the Moslem population of the Balearic Islands were expelled, but many Moslem peasants remained in many rural areas of the Valencian Kingdom, as had happened before in the lower Ebre basin (or Catalunya Nova).

During 13th and 14th centuries Barcelona was the preeminent city and port of the confederation nominally ruled by the King of Aragon (Aragon, Catalonia, Roussillon, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, Sicily, and - later - Sardinia and Naples). All prose writers of this era used the name 'Catalan' for their common language (e.g. the Catalan Ramon Muntaner, the Majorcan Ramon Llull, etc.) The matter is more complicated among the poets, as they wrote in a sort of artificial Langue d'Oc in the tradition of the troubadors.

During the 15th and 16th centuries the city of Valencia gains preeminence in the confederation, due to several factors, including demographic changes and the fact that the royal court moved there. Presumably As a result of this shift in the balance of power within the confederation, in the 15th century the name 'Valencian' starts to be used by writers from Valencia to refer to their language.

In the 16th century the name 'Llemosí' (that is to say, "the Occitan dialect of Limoges") is first documented as being used to refer to this language. This attribution has no philological base, but it is explicable by the complex sociolinguistic frame of Catalan poetry of this era (Catalan versus troubadoresque Occitan). Ausias March himself was not sure what to call the language he was writing in (it is clearly closer to his contemporary Catalan or Valencian than to the archaic Occitan).

Then, during the 16th century, most of the Valencian elites switched languages to Castilian Spanish, as can be seen in the balance of languages of printed books in Valencia city: at the beginning of century Latin and Catalan (or Valencian if you prefer) are main languages of press, but by the end of the century Spanish is main language of press. Still, rural areas and urban working classes have continued to speak their vernacular language up to this day. Catalan and Valencian have undergone a major revival among urban elites in recent generations.

The issue of whether Catalan and Valencian constitute different languages or merely dialects has been the subject of political agitation several times after Franco era by extreme right wing parties in the area of the city of Valencia. Curiously, the people claiming Valencian as a separate language have often been Spanish monoglots or people unwilling to allow any public presence of the Valencian language.

Most current (21st century) Valencian speakers and writers use a consensus orthographical normative (Normes de Castelló, 1932) that allows for several diverse idiosyncrasies of Valencian, Balearic, Nordoccidental Catalan, and Oriental Catalan.

All universities teaching Romance languages, and virtually all linguists, consider these all to be linguistic variants of the same language (similarly to Canadian French vs. Metropolitan French). E.g. the web sites of the Valencian universities: Universitat Jaume I de Castelló or Universitat de València.

Differences do exist, the accent of a Valencian is recognisable, there are differences in subjunctive terminations, and there are diverse Valencian lexical items (word differences), but those differences are not any wider than among Nordoccidental Catalan and Oriental Catalan. In fact, Septentrional Valencian (spoken in the Castelló province and Matarranya valley, a strip of Aragon) is more similar to the Catalan of the lower Ebre basin (spoken in southern half of Tarragona province and another strip of Aragon) than to apitxat Valencian (spoken in the city of Horta, in the province of Valencia).

Several characteristic features of Catalan as a Romance language (SAMPA phonetic scheme used):

  • Like Occitan, losing of Latin final unstressed vowels, except -A; and then after some of the resulting consonantic groups a support vowel [ə] appears. eg. FAME > fam (hunger); BUCCA > boca (mouth); NOSTRU > nostre (ours, masc. sing.)
  • Loss of final -n after the demise of final unstressed vowels. eg. MANU > *man > mà (hand)
  • In Oriental dialects: Latin short E > closed [e], and Latin long E > neutral vowel [ə] and then later > open [E]; so the result of Latin short and long E is reversed in relation to other romances.
  • Unlike Occitan and other galic romances, Catalan preserves the three degrees for rounded back vowels /O, o, u/, and /u/ is not centralised to /y/.
  • Unlike Spanish and other Iberian Romance languages, betacism or loss of B/V distinction seems to be in Catalan an innovation since the modern era, although non-betacist dialects are still preserved in some areas.
  • Like Asturian, palatalization of Latin word initial L-; e.g. LUNA > lluna (moon); LUPU > llop (wolf)
  • Vocalization to [w] of final -d of diverse origins and the Latin verbal ending -TIS: PEDE > peu ['pEw] (foot); CREDIT > creu ['krEw] (he believes, present 3rd singular); MIRATIS > miratz > mirau > mireu [mi'rEw] (you watch, present 2nd plural)
  • Consonantic palatalizations, similar to most romances:
    • C+e,i,yod > *[ts] > [s]; e.g. CAELU > cel ['sEl] (sky, or heaven).
    • G+e,i,yod > *[dZ] > [Z]; e.g GELU > gel ['ZEl] (ice).
    • -Ly-,-LL-,-c'l-,-t'l- > ll [L]; e.g. MULIERE > muller (wife); CABALLU > cavall (horse), but confer other cases like VILLA > vila (town) where the geminate has been simplified; AURICULA > *oric'la > orella (ear); VETULUS > *vet'lu > vell (old man)
    • -Ny-,-GN-,-NN- > ny [J]; e.g. LIGNA > llenya (wood)
  • Consonantic lenition, similar to most of western romances:
    • intervocalic voiced oclusives become fricatives ones or are lost. E.g. CABALLU > cavall (horse), VOLEBAT > volia (wanted, imperfect 3rd sing.), PAVORE > pahor > por (awe).
    • intervocalic voiceless oclusives become voiced ones. E.g. VITA > vida (life).
    • intervocalic geminated voiceless oclusives are simplified, but intervocalic geminated voiceless fricatives are preserved. E.g. BUCCA > BOCA (mouth), PASSARE > passar (pass).

See also specific articles on: Alguerese, Balearic, Ribagorçan, Valencian

A summary of the phonemes of contemporary Catalan, their graphemes and sounds (SAMPA phonetic scheme used):


Plosives in final position become voiceless.

  • /p/ 'p'
  • /b/ 'b','v' (see /v/ below), articulated as fricative [B] between vowels or liquides; [p] in final position
  • /t/ 't'
  • /d/ 'd', articulated as fricative [D] between vowels or liquides; [t] in final position
  • /k/ 'c' before 'a,o,u'; 'qu' before 'e,i', 'qu' for /kw/ before 'a,o,u'; 'qü' for /kw/ before 'e,i'
  • /g/ 'g' before 'a,o,u'; 'gu' before 'e,i', 'gu' for /gw/ before 'a,o,u'; 'gü' for /gw/ before 'e,i', articulated as fricative [G] between vowels or liquides, [k] in final position


Affricates in final position become voiceless. Word final /ts,tS/ followed by a vowel become voiced (liaison).

  • /ts/ 'ts' (not considered a separate phoneme but t+s, by most authors).
  • /dz/ 'tz' (not considered a separate phoneme but t+z, by most authors). In Ribagorçan and Apitxat Valencian (comarques around Valencia city), /dz/ has merged with voiceless /ts/.
  • /tS/ 'tx'; sometimes 'ig' in word final position; many exceptions.
  • /dZ/ 'tj' before 'a,o,u'; 'tg' before 'e,i'; many exceptions. In Ribagorçan and Apitxat Valencian (comarques around Valencia city), /dZ/ has merged with voiceless /tS/.


Fricatives in final position become voiceless. Word final /s,S/ followed by a vowel become voiced (liaison).

  • /f/ 'f'
  • /v/ 'v'. In most modern Catalan dialects /v/ has merged with bilabial plosive /b/. /v/ is still a separate phoneme in Balearic, Alguerese, Valencian (except the comarques around Valencia city), and the comarques around Tarragona city.
  • /s/ 's'; 'ss' between vowels; also 'c' before 'e,i' and 'ç' elsewhere.
  • /z/ 'z'; 's' between vowels. In Ribagorçan and Apitxat Valencian (comarques around Valencia city), /z/ has merged with voiceless /s/.
  • /S/ 'x'; 'ix' after vowel or in word final position. In Occidental variants (Lleida, Valencian), the written form -ix- is pronounced [jS] or [js]. In Barcelona city, /S/ in initial position or after nasals is pronounced as affricate [tS].
  • /Z/ 'j' before 'a,o,u'; 'g' before 'e,i'; many exceptions. In Barcelona city, /Z/ in initial position or after nasals is pronounced as affricate [dZ]. Some 'j' from standard correspond to [j] in Pallarese or Ribagorçan, and then the rest of 'j' from standard correspond to [tS] in Ribagorçan. Most 'j' of standard correspond to [dZ] in Valencian, and then in Apitxat Valencian (comarques around Valencia city) /dZ/ has merged with voiceless /tS/.


Nasals in final position retain distinct point or articulation, unlike in Spanish or French.

  • /m/ \'m'
  • /n/ 'n'
  • /J/ 'ny', palatal nasal, as in Hungarian
  • velar nasal [N], which is written as 'nc' or 'ng' in final position, is not considered a separate phoneme, but n+k or n+g, by most authors


  • /l/ 'l', 'l·l' (this is 'ele geminada', a Catalan characteristic grapheme). Catalan /l/ has a distinctive velar resonance, unlike Spanish or French ones.
  • /L/ 'll', palatal lateral. Standard Catalan /L/ has not merged with /j/, unlike Spanish or French ones. Some 'll' from standard correspond to [j] or to nothing at all in Balearic; e.g. VETULA > 'vella' (old woman), Balearic 'vea'


  • /r/ Simple alveolar flap. 'r' in all positions but word initial.
  • /rr/ Multiple alveolar trill. Word initial 'r'; 'rr' between vowels.


The Standard vocalic system has seven different vowels in stressed position /A,E,e,i,O,o,u/, but only [ə,i,u] can appear in unstressed positions. In most of Balearics, /ə/ (written 'e','è') can be a distinct phoneme as well in stressed position. In Valencian and Nordoccidental Catalan [e,o] can appear as well in unstressed positions.

In fact these differences in the vocalic systems are one the main criteria used to diferentiate between the major dialects:

  • Central (Girona province, Barcelona province, Tarragona province but the Ebre bassin)
  • Septentrional (Roussillon)
  • Balearic (Balearic Islands)
  • Alguerese (L'Alguer)
  • Nordoccidental (Andorra, Lleida province, Ribagorça, Ebre bassin of Tarragona province)
  • Valencian (Eastern half of País Valencià, and Carxe in the Murcia province)

  • /A/ 'a'; 'à'. Catalan /A/ is tenser and more open than the Spanish or French ones. Only in stressed position. When unstresssed coalesces to [ə], but not in Occidental variants (Lleida, Valencian).
  • /E/ 'e'; 'è'. Only in stressed position. When unstresssed coalesces to [ə], but in Occidental variants (Lleida, Valencian) to [e].
  • /e/ 'e'; 'é'. Only in stressed position. When unstresssed coalesces to [ə], but not in Occidental variants (Lleida, Valencian).
  • /i/ 'i'; 'í'; 'ï'.
  • /O/ 'o'; 'ò'. Only in stressed position. When unstresssed coalesces to [u], but in Occidental variants (Lleida, Valencian) and Majorca to [o].
  • /o/ 'o'; 'ó'. Only in stressed position. When unstresssed coalesces to [u], but not in Occidental variants (Lleida, Valencian) and Majorca.
  • /u/ 'u'; 'ú'; 'ü'.

Unlike Spanish or French, contiguous vowels normally form 'decreasing' diphthongs and not 'increasing' ones. Examples:
  • mai (never) ['mAj] (1 syllable)
  • noi (boy) ['nOj] (1 syllable)
  • rei (king) ['rej] (1 syllable)
  • vuit (eight) ['bujt] (1 syllable)
  • pau (peace) ['pAw] (1 syllable)
  • bou (ox) ['bOw] (1 syllable)
  • neu (snow) ['new] (1 syllable)
  • diu (he says) ['diw] (1 syllable)
  • dia (day) ['di ə] (2 syllables)
  • cua (tail) ['ku ə] (2 syllables)
  • deia (he said) ['dE jə] (2 syllables)
  • diuen (they say) ['di wən] (2 syllables)

Some common phrases

  • Catalan: Català /kətə'lA/
  • hello: hola /'Olə/
  • good-bye: adéu /ə'DEw/
  • please: si us plau /sis'plAw/
  • thank you: gràcies /'grAsiəs/; merci /'mErsi/
  • sorry: perdó /pər'Do/
  • that one: aquest /ə'kEt/ (masc.); aquesta /ə'kEstə/ (fem.)
  • how much?: quant val? /'kwAm'bAl/; quant és? /'kwAn'tes/
  • yes: /'si/
  • no: no /'no/
  • I don't understand: No ho entenc /'no wən'teŋ/
  • where's the bathroom?: on és el bany? /'on'ezəl'BaJ/; on és el lavabo? /'on'ezəl'lə'BABu/
  • generic toast: salut! /sə'lut/;
  • Do you speak English?: Que parla anglès? /kə 'parlə ən'glEs/
  • Do you speak Catalan?: Que parla català? /kə 'parlə kətə'lA/

See also

Bibliography to learn Catalan

  • Digui, digui... Curs de català per a estrangers. A catalan Handbook .-- Alan Yates and Toni Ibarz .-- Generalitat de Catalunya. Departament de Cultura, 1993 .-- ISBN 84-393-2579-7.
  • Teach Yourself Catalan .-- McGraw-Hill, 1993 .-- ISBN 0844237558.

External links

There is a Catalan Wikipedia.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
Modified by Geona