Catalan Orthography
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Catalan Orthography

Catalan orthography encompasses the spelling and punctuation of the Catalan language.


The orthographic norms of Catalan were first defined officially in the First International Congress of the Catalan Language, held in Barcelona October 1906. Subsequently, the Philological Section of the Institut d'Estudis Catalans (IEC, founded in 1911) published the Normes ortogràfiques in 1913 under the direction of Antoni Maria Alcover and Pompeu Fabra. Despite some opposition, the spelling system was adopted immediately and became widespread enough that, in 1932, Valencian writers and intellectuals gathered in Castelló de la Plana to make a formal adoption of the so-called Normes de Castelló, a set of guidelines following Pompeu Fabra's Catalan language norms.[1]

In 1917, Fabra published an Orthographic Dictionary following the orthographic norms of the IEC. In 1931-32 the Diccionari General de la Llengua Catalana (General Dictionary of the Catalan language) appeared. In 1995, a new normative dictionary, the Dictionary of the Catalan Language of the Institute of Catalan Studies (DIEC), supposed a new milestone in the orthographic fixation of the language, in addition to the incorporation of neologisms and modern uses of the language.


Like those of many other Romance languages, the Catalan alphabet derives from the Latin alphabet and is largely based on the language's phonology.[2]

The Catalan alphabet consists of the 26 letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet:

Catalan alphabet
Upper case 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
Lower case 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

The following letter-diacritic combinations are used, but they do not constitute distinct letters in the alphabet: À, É, È, Í, Ï, Ó, Ò, Ú, Ü and Ç. K and W are used only in loanwords. Outside loanwords, the letters Q and Y appear only in the digraphs qu, and ny. However, Y was used until the official orthography was established in 1913, when it was replaced with I, except in the digraph ny and loanwords.[3]

The following table shows the letters and their names in Standard Catalan (IEC) and Standard Valencian (AVL):

Letter Catalan Valencian
Name (IEC) Pronunciation Name (AVL) Pronunciation
A a a /'a/ a /'a/
B b be, be alta /'be/, /'be 'alt?/ be /'be/
C c ce /'se/ ce /'se/
D d de /'de/ de /'de/
E e e /'e/ e /'e/
F f efa /'ef?/ efe, ef /'efe/, /'ef/
G g ge /'?e/ ge /'d?e/
H h hac /'ak/ hac /'ak/
I i i, i llatina /'i/, /'i 'tin?/ i, i llatina /'i/, /'i ?a'tina/
J j jota /'t?/ jota /'d?ota/
K k ca /'ka/ ca /'ka/
L l ela /'el?/ ele, el /'ele/, /'el/
M m ema /'em?/ eme, em /'eme/, /'em/
N n ena /'en?/ ene, en /'ene/, /'en/
O o o /'o/ o /'o/
P p pe /'pe/ pe /'pe/
Q q cu /'ku/ cu /'ku/
R r erra /'?r?/ erre, er /'ere/, /'e?/
S s essa /'es?/ esse, es /'ese/, /'es/
T t te /'te/ te /'te/
U u u /'u/ u /'u/
V v ve, ve baixa /'ve/, /'be 'ba/ ve /'ve/
W w ve doble /'ve 'dob:l?/, /'be 'dob:l?/ ve doble /'ve 'doble/
X x ics, xeix /'iks/, /'?e?/ ics, xeix /'iks/, /'?ej?/
Y y i grega /'i 'e/ i grega /'i 'e?a/
Z z zeta /'zet?/ zeta /'zeta/

The names be alta ("high B") and ve baixa ("low V") are used by speakers who do not distinguish the phonemes /b/ and /v/. Speakers that do distinguish them use the simple names be and ve.[]

The names efa, ela, ema, ena, erra, and essa can also be used in dialectal Valencian.[which?][]

Sound to spelling correspondences

Catalan is a pluricentric language; the pronunciation of some of the letters is different in Eastern Catalan (IEC) and Valencian (AVL). Apart from those variations, the pronunciation of most consonants is fairly straightforward and is similar to French, Occitan or Portuguese pronunciation.

Main letters, letters with diacritics and digraphs
Spelling Catalan Valencian
b /b/
c /k/, /s/[4]
ç /s/
d /d/
f /f/
g /?/, /?/[4] /?/, /d?/[4]
gu /?w/, /?u/, /?/[4]
h ?
ig[5] /t?/
ix[5] /?/, /i?/ /j?/, /i?/
j /?/ /d?/, /j/
k /k/
l /l/
ll /?/
?l /l(:)/ /l/
m /m/
n /n/
ny /?/
p /p/
q /k/
qu /kw/, /k/[4]
r /?/, /r/,[6] ? /?/, /r/[6]
rr /r/
s /s/, /z/
ss /s/
t /t/
tg /d?/[4]
tj /d?/
ts /ts/, /(t)s/
tx /t?/
tz /dz/ /dz/, /z/
v /b/ or /v/[7] /v/
w /b/ or /v/,[7]/w/ /v/, /w/
x /?/, /ks/, /?z/ /t?/, /?/, /ks/, /?z/
z /z/
Spelling Stressed Unstressed
Catalan Valencian Catalan Valencian
a /a/ /?/ /a/
à /a/
e /?/, /e/ /?/ /e/
è /?/ /?/, /e/
é /e/
i /i/, /j/[8]
í /i/
ï /i/
o /?/, /o/ /u/, /w/ /o/
ò /?/
ó /o/
u /u/, /w/[8]
ú /u/
ü /u/, /w/
y /i/, /j/[8]
Other letter combinations
Spelling Catalan Valencian
bb /b:/, /b/
bl /bl/, /b:l/ /bl/
bm /bm/ or /m:/
bs /ps/, /(p)s/
bt /pt/
bv /b:/ or /bv/ /bv/
cc /ks/[4]
ch* /k/, /x/, /?/
cn /?n/ or /n:/, /n/
cs /ks/
ct /kt/, /t/
cz /?z/ or /ks/
dd /d(:)/
dj /d?/
dq(u) /tk/ or /k:/
ds /ts/, /(t)s/
dv /db/ or /b:/ or /dv/ /dv/ (or */bv/)
ff /f/
gd /?d/
gg[9] /?(:)/ or /d?/,[4]/?(:)/ /d?/,[4]/?(:)/
gl /?l/, /?:l/ /?l/
gm /?m/ or /m:/
gn /?n/ or /n:/, /n/
igc /t?s/[4]
igd /id?d/, /i?d/
igg /d/, /id/
igj /id?/ or /i?(:)/ /id?/
igs / (t)jos /t?/ or /(d)?us/ /t?/ or /d?os/
(t)ja /(d)/ /d?a/
(t)ges /(d)s/ /d?es/
kh /x/, /k/
lc, lch* /lk/
ld /ld/, /l/ /ld/, /lt/
lds /ls/ /l(t)s/
lls //
lt /lt/, /l/ /lt/, /(l)t/
lts /ls/ /l(t)s/
mb /mb/, /m/, /m(b)/ /mb/, /mp/, /m(b)/
mbs /ms/ /m(p)s/
mm /m:/, /m/
mn /mn/, /n/
mp /mp/, /m/ /mp/
mps /ms/ /m(p)s/
nc, nch* /?k/
ncs /?ks/
nd /nd/, /n/ /nd/, /nt/
nds /ns/ /n(t)s/
ng //, /?(k)/
ngg /(:)/
ngs /?(k)s/
nm /m:/
nn /n:/, /n/
nt /nt/, /n/ /nt/
ntm /m:/ /ntm/ or /m:/
nts /ns/ /n(t)s/
nv /mb/ or /nv/ /nv/
nys //
pb /b:/, /b(:)/
pm /bm/ or /m:/
pn /bn/ or /n:/, /n/
pp /p(:)/, /p/
ps /ps/, /s/
pt /pt/, /t/
rc, rch* /?k/
rcs /?ks/
rd /?t/, /?(t)/ /?t/
rds /?(t)s/
rs /?s/, /s/ /?s/, /(?)s/
rt /?t/, /?(t)/ /?t/
rts /?(t)s/, /(?)ts/
sc, sch* /sk/, /?k/, /esk/, /s/,[4]/?/
sc(o)s /sk(u)s/ /sk(o)s/
sh /z/, /?/ /z/, /z/ or /s/, /?/
st /st/, /s(t)/, /(s)t/ /st/
st(o)s /st(u)s/ /st(o)s/
tb /db/ or /b:/
tl /dl/ or /l:/
tll (tl) /?:/ /l(:)/, /?/
tm /dm/ or /m:/, /m:/, /m/ /dm/ or /m:/, /m/, /m/
tn /dn/ or /n:/, /n:/ /dn/ or /n:/, /n(:)/
th /t/, /th/ or /t/, /?/
tsch /t?/
xc /(k)sk/, /ks/[4]
xh /?z/ /?z/ or /ks/
xs /ks/
xt /(k)st/
xt(o)s /(k)st(u)s/ /(k)st(o)s/


Acute and grave accents

Catalan also uses the acute and grave accents to mark stress or vowel quality. An acute on ⟨é ó⟩ indicates that the vowel is stressed and close-mid (/e o/), while grave on ⟨è ò⟩ indicates that the vowel is stressed and open-mid (/? ?/). Grave on ⟨à⟩ and acute on ⟨í ú⟩ simply indicates that the vowels are stressed. Thus, the acute is used on close or close-mid vowels, and the grave on open or open-mid vowels.[10] For example:

  • també [t?m'be] ('also')
  • interès [int?'s] ('interest')
  • córrer ['kor?] ('to run')
  • pròxim ['pksim] ('nearby')
  • ànima ['anim?] ('soul')
  • pastís [p?s'tis] ('pie')
  • pallús [p?'?us] ('fool')

Standard rules governing the presence of accents are based on word endings and the position of the stressed syllable. In particular, accents are expected for:

  • Oxytones ending in a syllabic vowel, a vowel + -⟨s⟩, or -⟨en⟩/⟨in⟩, examples:
    • parlà [p?r'?a] ('he spoke')
    • parlés [p?r'?es] ('that he spoke' past subjunctive)
    • entén [?n'ten] ('he understands')
This does not occur in words like parleu [p?r'w] ('you are speaking' plural), or parlem [p'm] ('we are speaking').
  • Paroxytones with any other ending, including non-syllabic -⟨i⟩, -⟨u⟩, examples:
    • parlàveu [p?r'?aw] ('you were speaking' plural)
    • parlàvem [p?r'?am] ('we were speaking')
This does not occur in words like parla ['pa] ('he is speaking'), parles ['pas] ('you are speaking' singular), or parlen ['parn] ('they are speaking').
  • Any proparoxytones, examples:
    • química ['kimik?] ('chemistry')
    • ciència [si'?nsi?] ('science')

Since there is no need to mark the stressed syllable of a monosyllabic word, most of them do not have an accent. Exceptions to this are those with a diacritical accent that differentiates some cases of words that would otherwise be homographic. Example: es [?s] ('it' impersonal) vs és ['es] ('is'), te [t?] ('you' clitic) vs ['te] ('s/he has'), mes ['m?s] ('month') vs més ['mes] ('more'), dona ['d?n?] ('woman') vs dóna ['don?] ('s/he gives'). In most cases, the word bearing no accent is either unstressed (as in the case of 'es' and 'te'), or the word without the accent is more common, usually a function word.

The different distribution of open e [?] vs closed e [e] between Eastern Catalan and Western Catalan is reflected in some orthographic divergences between standard Catalan and Valencian norms, example: anglès ['s] (Catalan) vs anglés [a?'es] (Valencian) ('English').


The diaeresis has two different uses: to mark hiatus over ⟨ï, ü⟩, and to mark that ⟨u⟩ is not silent in the groups ⟨gü, qü⟩.

If a diaeresis appears over an ⟨i⟩ or ⟨u⟩ that follows another vowel, it denotes a hiatus, examples:[11]

  • raïm [r?'im] ('grape')
  • taüt [t?'ut] ('coffin')

This diaeresis is not used over a stressed vowel that already should have an accent. Examples: suís [su'is] ('Swiss' masculine), but suïssa [su'is?] ('Swiss' feminine), suïs ['suis] ('that you sweat' subjunctive) (without the diaeresis, this last example would be pronounced ['sujs], i.e. as only one syllable, like reis ['rejs] 'kings').

Certain verb forms of verbs ending in -uir do not receive a diaeresis, although they are pronounced with separate syllables. This concerns the infinitive, gerund, future and conditional forms (for example traduir, traduint, traduiré and traduiria, all with bisyllabic [u.i]). All other forms of such verbs do receive a diaeresis on the ï according to the normal rules (e.g. traduïm, traduïa).

In addition to this, ⟨ü⟩ represents [w] between a velar consonant /?/ or /k/ and a front vowel (⟨gu⟩ and ⟨qu⟩ are used to represent a hard (i.e. velar) pronunciation before ⟨i⟩ or ⟨e⟩).[12]

  • ungüent [u?'?wen] ('ointment')
  • qüestió [kw?sti'o] ('topic')

The verb argüir represents a rare case of the sequence [?u.i], and the rules for [gu] and [ui] clash in this case. The ambiguity is resolved by an additional rule, which states that in cases where diaereses would appear on two consecutive letters, only the second receives one. This thus gives arguïm and arguïa, but argüir, argüint and argüiré as these forms don't receive a diaeresis on the i normally, according to the exception above.

Ce trencada (c-cedilla)

Catalan ce trencada (Ç ç), literally in English 'broken cee', is a modified ⟨c⟩ with a cedilla mark ( ¸ ). It is only used before ⟨a u o⟩ to indicate a "soft c" /s/, much like in Portuguese, Occitan or French (e.g. compare coça ['kos?] 'kick', coca ['kok?] 'cake' and cosa ['k?z?] 'thing'). In Catalan, ce trencada also appears as last letter of a word when preceded by any vowel (e.g. feliç [f?'?is] 'happy'), but then ⟨ç⟩ may be voiced to [z] before vowels and voiced consonants, e.g. feliçment [fiz'men] ('happily') and braç esquerre ['b?az ?s'k?r?] ('left arm').

Punt volat (middot)

The so-called punt volat or middot is only used in the group ⟨?l⟩ (called ela or el(e) geminada, 'geminate el') to represent a geminated sound /l:/, as ⟨ll⟩ is used to represent the palatal lateral /?/. This usage of the middot sign is a recent invention from the beginning of twentieth century (in medieval and modern Catalan, before Fabra's standardization, this symbol was sometimes used to note certain elisions, especially in poetry). The only (and improbable) case of ambiguity in the whole language that could arise is the pair ce?la ['s?] ('cell') vs cella ['s] ('eyebrow').


Catalan does not capitalize the days of the week, months, or national adjectives.[13]

dilluns, setembre, anglès
"Monday", "September", "English"


The Catalan punctuation rules are similar to English, with some minor differences.[14]

  • Guillemets (cometes baixes) « » are frequently used instead of double inverted commas. They are used to mark titles of works, or phrases used as proper names.[14]
  • In texts containing dialogue, quoted speech is usually set off with dashes, rather than inverted commas.[14]
-Què proposes, doncs?
-El que hauriem de fer-s'atreví a suggerir-és anar a...
'What do you propose, then?'
'What we should do' she ventured to suggest 'is go to and ...'
  • Questions are ended with ?, as in English.[14] Before 1993, questions could be enclosed with ¿...?, as in Spanish, but this is no longer recommended by the IEC.[14]

Other conventions

The distribution of the two rhotics /r/ and /?/ closely parallels that of Spanish. Between vowels, the two contrast but they are otherwise in complementary distribution: in the onset, an alveolar trill, [r], appears unless preceded by a consonant; different dialects vary in regards to rhotics in the coda with Western Catalan generally featuring an alveolar tap, [?], 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 [?] appears.[15]

In Eastern Catalan and North Western Catalan, most instances of word-final ⟨r⟩ are silent, but there are plenty of unpredictable exceptions (e.g. in Central Eastern Catalan por ['po] 'fear' but mar ['mar] 'sea'). In Central Eastern Catalan monosyllabic words with a pronounced final ⟨r⟩ get a reinforcement final consonant [t] when in absolute final position (e.g. final ⟨r⟩ of cor ('heart') in reina del meu cor ['rejn? ð 'mew 'k?rt] 'queen of my heart' vs el cor es mou [ 'k ?s 'm?w] 'the heart is moving').

In Valencian, most instances of word-final ⟨r⟩ are pronounced.

See also


  1. ^ Carreras, Joan Costa, ed. (2009). The Architect of Modern Catalan: Selected writings. Translated by Yates, Alan. John Benjamins Publishing. ISBN 9027289247.
  2. ^ Wheeler (2005:6)
  3. ^ Altarriba, Núria (2013-01-24). "Cent anys de les Normes Ortogràfiques de l'Institut d'Estudis Catalans". Biblioteca de Catalunya.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Before i or e.
  5. ^ a b At the end of a syllable only.
  6. ^ a b At the beginning of a word.
  7. ^ a b In many dialects (except Balearic, Alguerese and standard Valencian [see Carbonell & Llisterri (1992:53)]) /v/ has merged into /b/.
  8. ^ a b c After another vowel.
  9. ^ "Dictamen Llistat 27: Aplec -gg-" (PDF). La veu de les ones | Butlletí electrònic de la plataforma reSOLC-mitjansCAT. Laboratori de Tecnologies Lingüístiques, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  10. ^ Wheeler (2005:6)
  11. ^ Wheeler (2005:8)
  12. ^ Wheeler (2005:7-8)
  13. ^ Swan 2001, p. 97.
  14. ^ a b c d e Wheeler, Yates & Dols 1999, p. 620.
  15. ^ Padgett (2003:2)


  • Carbonell, Joan F.; Llisterri, Joaquim (1992). "Catalan". Journal of the International Phonetic Association. 22 (1-2): 53-56. doi:10.1017/S0025100300004618.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Padgett, Jaye (2003). Systemic contrast and Catalan rhotics. University of California, Santa Cruz.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Wheeler, Max W.; Yates, Alan; Dols, Nicolau (1999). Catalan: A Comprehensive Grammar. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-20777-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Wheeler, Max W. (2005). The Phonology Of Catalan. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-925814-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

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