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The phonology of Catalan, a Romance language, has a certain degree of dialectal variation. Although there are two standard dialects, one based on Eastern Catalan and one based on Valencian, this article deals with features of all or most dialects, as well as regional pronunciation differences. Various studies have focused on different Catalan varieties; for example, Wheeler (1979) and Mascaró (1976) analyze Central Eastern varieties, the former focusing on the educated speech of Barcelona and the latter focusing more on the vernacular of Barcelona, and Recasens (1986) does a careful phonetic study of Central Eastern Catalan.
^3/n/, /l/, /?/ are apical front alveolar , , , but the first two are laminal denti-alveolar , before /t/, /d/. In addition, /n/ is postalveolar or alveolo-palatal before /?/, /?/, /t/, /d/, velar before /k/, /?/ and labiodental before /f/, (/v/), where it merges with /m/. It also merges with /m/ (to ) before /p/, /b/.
^5/t?s/, /d?z/ are apical alveolar [t?s?], [d?z?]. They may be somewhat fronted, so that the stop component is laminal denti-alveolar, while the fricative component is apical post-dental.
^6/?/, /?/ are laminal "front alveolo-palatal" , .
^7 There is some confusion in the literature about the precise phonetic characteristics of /?/, /?/, /t?/, and /d?/; while Recasens, Fontdevila & Pallarès (1995:288) and Recasens & Espinosa (2007:145) describe them as "back alveolo-palatal", implying that the characters ⟨? ? t? d?⟩ would be more accurate, they (and all literature on Catalan) use the characters for palato-alveolar affricates and fricatives while using ⟨? ?⟩ for alveolo-palatal sounds in examples in other languages like Polish or Chinese. Otherwise, sources, like Carbonell & Llisterri (1992:53) generally describe them as "postalveolar".
Voiced stops become lenited to approximants in syllable onsets, after continuants:/b/ -> , /d/ -> , /?/ -> . Exceptions include /d/ after lateral consonants and /b/ after /f/, e.g. ull de bou['u? d? 'w] ('oeil-de-boeuf'), bolígraf boníssim[bu'?iv bu'nisim] ('excellent ballpoint'). Additionally, /b/ remains unlenited in non-betacist dialects. In the coda position, these sounds are always realized as stops except in many Valencian dialects, where they are lenited.
In some Valencian dialects final /p, t, k/ can be lenited before a vowel: tot açò['t?oð a's?] ('all this').
In some dialects (e.g. many Valencian accents) initial /?/ can be lenited: gata['?at?a].
In many Catalan dialects (except Valencian), /b/ and /?/ may be geminated in certain environments (e.g. poble['p?b:] 'village', regla['re?:] 'rule').
In Majorcan varieties, /k/ and /?/ become and word-finally and before front vowels, in some of these dialects, this has extended to all environments except before liquids and back vowels; e.g. sang['sa?c] ('blood').
The phonemic status of affricates is dubious; after other consonants, affricates are in free variation with fricatives, e.g. clenxa['kt] ~ ['k] ('hair parting') and may be analyzed as either single phonemes or clusters of a stop and a fricative.
Alveolar affricates, and , occur the least of all affricates.
[dz] only occurs intervocalically: metzines[m?'dzin?s] ('toxic substances').
Instances of [ts] arise mostly from compounding; the few lexical instances arise from historical compounding. For instance, potser[pu'tse] ('maybe') comes from pot ('may') + ser ('be' inf). As such, [ts] does not occur word-initially; other than some rare words of foreign origin (e.g. tsar 'tsar',tsuga 'tsuga'), but it may occur word-finally and quite often in cases of heteromorphemic (i.e. across a morpheme boundary) plural endings: tots['tots] ('everybody').
In Standard Eastern Catalan, word-initial [t?] is found only in a few words of foreign origin (e.g. txec 'Czech',Txaikovski 'Tchaikovsky') while being found freely intervocalically (e.g. fletxa 'arrow') and word-finally: despatx[d?s'pat?] ('office').
Standard Eastern Catalan also only allows [d?] in intervocalic position (e.g. metge 'medic', adjunt 'enclosed'). Phonemic analyses show word-final occurrences of /d?/ (e.g. raig esbiaixat['rad? ?z?i?'?at] 'skew ray'), but final devoicing eliminates this from the surface: raig['rat?] ('ray').
In various other dialects (as well as in emphatic speech),[t?] occurs word-initially and after another consonant to the exclusion of [?]. These instances of word-initial [t?] seem to correspond to [?] in other dialects, including the standard (on which the orthography is based): xinxa ('bedbug'), pronounced ['?i] in the standard, is ['t?i?t] in these varieties.
Similarly, in most of Valencian and southern Catalonia, most occurrences of [d?] correspond to the voiced fricative [?] in Standard Eastern Catalan: gel['d] ('ice').
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. Also, intervocalic affricates are predominantly long, especially those that are voiced or occurring immediately after a stressed syllable (e.g. metge['med.d] 'medic'). In modern Valencian [d?] and [dd?] have merged into /d?/.
/v/ occurs in Balearic, as well as in Alguerese, standard Valencian and some areas in southern Catalonia. Everywhere else, it has merged with historic /?/ so that [b] and [?] occur in complementary distribution. In Majorcan, [v] and [w] are in complementary distribution, with occurring before vowels (e.g. blava['b?av?] 'blue' f. vs. blau['b?aw] 'blue' m.). In other varieties that have both sounds, they are in contrast before vowels, with neutralization in favor of before consonants.
In some Valencian dialects, /s/ and /?/ are auditorily similar such that neutralization may occur in the future. That is the case of Northern Valencian where /?/ is depalatalized[clarification needed] to [js] or [js?] as in caixa ('box'). Central Valencian words like mig ('half') and lleig ('ugly') have been transcribed with [ts] rather than the expected [t?], and Southern Valencian /t?/ "has been reported to undergo depalatalization without merging with [ts]". 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/, /d?/ has merged with /t?/, with only voiceless realizations occurring) and /v/ has merged with the [b ~ ?] set.
While "dark (velarized) l", , may be a positional allophone of /l/ in most dialects (such as in the syllable coda; e.g. sòl['s] 'ground'),/l/ is dark irrespective of position in Eastern dialects like Majorcan and standard Eastern Catalan (e.g. tela['t]).
The distribution of the two rhotics /r/ and /?/ closely parallels that of Spanish. Between vowels, the two contrast (e.g. mirra['mir?] 'myrrh' vs. mira['mi] 'look'), but they are otherwise in complementary distribution. appears in the onset, except in word-initial position (ruc), after /l/, /n/, and /s/ (honra, Israel), and in compounds, where is used. Different dialects vary in regards to rhotics in the coda, with Western Catalan generally featuring and Central Catalan dialects like those of Barcelona or Girona featuring a weakly trilled unless it precedes a vowel-initial word in the same prosodic unit, in which case appears (per[pe?] in Western Catalan, [per] in Central Catalan). 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 , the latter being similar to English red: [r ~ ?]uc, hon[r ~ ?]a, Is[r ~ ?]ael.
In careful speech, /n/, /m/, and /l/ may be geminated (e.g. innecessari[in:?s?'sa?i] 'unnecessary'; emmagatzemar[?m:dz?'ma] 'to store'; il·lusió[i?:uzi'o] 'illusion'). A geminated // may also occur (e.g. ratlla['ra?:?] 'line').Wheeler (1979) analyzes intervocalic [r] as the result of gemination of a single rhotic phoneme: serra/'s?/ -> ['s?r?] 'saw, mountains' (this is similar to the common analysis of Spanish and Portuguese rhotics).
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 ~ ?], and further fronted and closed [a ~ æ] in Majorcan.
The mid-open vowels /?/ and /?/ are lower in Majorcan, Minorcan and Valencian, that is, in these dialects the phonetic realization of /?/ approaches , while /?/ is as low as .
Most varieties of Catalan contrast seven stressed vowel phonemes. However, some Balearic dialects have an additional stressed vowel phoneme ; e.g. sec/'s?k/ ('dry'). The stressed schwa of these dialects corresponds to /?/ in Central Catalan and /e/ in Western Catalan varieties (that is, Central and Western Catalan dialects differ in their incidence of /e/ and /?/, with /e/ appearing more frequently in Western Catalan; e.g. Central Catalansec/'s?k/ vs. Western Catalansec/'sek/ 'dry, I sit').
In Eastern Catalan, vowels in unstressed position reduce to three : /a/, /e/, /?/ -> [?]; /o/, /?/, /u/ -> [u]; /i/ remains unchanged. However there are some dialectal differences: Alguerese merges /a/, /e/, and /?/ with [a]; and in most areas of Majorca, [o] can appear in unstressed position (that is, /o/ and /?/ are usually reduced to [o]).
In Western Catalan, vowels in unstressed position reduce to five: /e/, /?/ -> [e]; /o/, /?/ -> [o]; /a/, /u/, /i/ remain unchanged. 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[a?'kluza] 'anvil', eixam[aj'?am] 'swarm'), in some environments before any consonant (e.g. terròs[ta'r?s] 'earthy'), and in monosyllabic clitics. Likewise, unstressed /e/ may merge into [i] when in contact with palatal consonants (e.g. senyor[si'?o(?)] 'lord').
Unstressed /o/ may merge with [u] before a bilabial consonant (e.g. cobert[ku't] 'covered'), before a stressed syllable with a high vowel (e.g. conill[ku'ni?] 'rabbit'), in contact with palatal consonants (e.g. Josep[(d)?u'z?p] 'Joseph'), and in monosyllabic clitics.
In the sequences [?w] or [kw] and vowel, e.g. guant, quota, qüestió, pingüí (these exceptional cases even lead some scholars to hypothesize the existence of rare labiovelar phonemes // and /k?/).
There are certain instances of compensatory diphthongization in Majorcan so that troncs/'t?oncs/ ('logs') (in addition to deleting the palatal stop) develops a compensating palatal glide and surfaces as ['t?ojns] (and contrasts with the unpluralized ['t?o?c]). 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 ['a?] ('year') vs. ['ajns] ('years').
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).
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/'medd/ -> ['mett] ('medic'). In Barcelona, voiced stops may be fortified (geminated and devoiced); e.g. poble['p?p:] 'village').
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['ads]~['a?:?s] 'atlas', administrar[?dminis't?a]~[?m:inis't?a] 'to administer').
Central Valencian features simple elision in many of these cases (e.g cotna['kona], setmana[se'mana]) though learned words don't exhibit either assimilation or elision: atles['adles] and administrar[adminis't?a?].
Stress most often occurs on any of the last three syllables of a word (e.g. brúixola['b?u?u] 'compass', càstig['kastik] 'punishment', pallús[p?'?us] 'fool').
Compound words and adverbs formed with /'ment/ may have a syllable with secondary stress (e.g. bonament[?b?n?'men] 'willingly'; parallamps[?pa'?ams] 'lightning conductor') but every lexical word has just one syllable with main stress.
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['sin.d?j?] ('watermelon'); for other speakers, this is pronounced ['sin.d?i.?] (i.e. the semivowel must be syllabic in this context).
Word-medial codas are restricted to one consonant + [s] (extra['?ks.t]). In the coda position, voice contrasts among obstruents are neutralized. Although there are exceptions (such as futur[fu'tur] 'future'), syllable-final rhotics are often lost before a word boundary or before the plural morpheme of most words: color[ku'?o] ('color') vs. coloraina[ku?u'?ajn?] ('bright color').
In Central Eastern Catalan, obstruents fail to surface word-finally when preceded by a homorganic consonant (e.g. /nt/ -> [n]). Complex codas simplify only if the loss of the segment doesn't result in the loss of place specification.
When the suffix -erol[?'] is added to camp['kam] it makes [k?mp?'], indicating that the underlying representation is /'kamp/ (with subsequent cluster simplification), however when the copula ['es] is added it makes ['kam 'es]. The resulting generalization is that this underlying /p/ will only surface in a morphologically complex word. Despite this, word-final codas are not usually simplified in most of Balearic and Valencian (e.g. camp['kamp]).
Word-initial clusters from Graeco-Latin learned words tend to drop the first phoneme: pneumàtic[n?w'matik] ('pneumatic'), pseudònim[s?w'ð?nim] ('pseudonym'), pterodàctil[tu'ðakti?] ('pterodactylus'), gnom['nom] ('gnome').
Word-final obstruents are devoiced; however, they assimilate voicing of the following consonant, e.g. cuc de seda['ku? d? 's?ð?] ('silkworm'). In regular and fast speech, stops often assimilate the place of articulation of the following consonant producing phonetic gemination: tot bé['tod 'be] -> ['tob 'be] ('all good').
Word-final fricatives (except /f/) are voiced before a following vowel; e.g. bus enorme['buz ?'norm?] ('huge bus').
In Majorcan and Minorcan Catalan, /f/ undergoes total assimilation to a following consonant (just as stops do): buf gros['bu? 's] ('large puff').
Regarding consonants, betacism and fricative-affricate alternations are the most prominent differences between dialects.
Other dialectal features are:
Vowel harmony with /?/ and /?/ 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/'a/ -> [']. However, there are cases where regressive metaphony occurs over pretonic vowels; e.g. tovallola/tova'la/ -> [t?v?'l?] ('towel'), afecta/a'f?kta/ -> [?'f?kt?] ('affects').
In a number of dialects unstressed /i/ can merge with /?/ (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.
In Southern Valencian subvarieties, especially in Alicante Valencian, the diphthong /?u/ (phonetically [?w] in Valencian) has become [?w]: bous['b?ws] ('bulls').
In regular speech in both Eastern and Western Catalan dialects, word-initial unstressed /o/ -[u] or [o]- may be diphthongized to [?w] (Eastern Catalan) or [aw] (Western Catalan): ofegar[?wf?'?a]~[awfe'?a(?)] ('to drown, suffocate').
In Alguerese and Ribagorçan word-final /?/ and /?/ are depalatized to and , respectively; e.g. gall['?al] ('rooster'), any['an] ('year').
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.
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): /?/ merges with [j] in some Latin-derived words with intervocalic L-palatalization (intervocalic /l/ + yod (-LI-, -LE-), -LL-, -CVL-, and -GVL-); e.g. palla['paj?] ('straw'). An exception to this rule is initial L-palatalization; e.g. lluna['?un?] ('moon').
The dorso-palatal may occur in complementary distribution with , only in Majorcan varieties that have dorso-palatals rather than the velars found in most dialects: guerra['r?] ('war') vs. sa guerra[s? 'r?] ('the war').
In northern and transitional Valencian, word-initial and postconsonantal /d?/ (Eastern Catalan /?/ and /d? ~ ?/) alternates with [(j)?] intervocalically; e.g. joc['dk] 'game', but pitjor[pi'?o] 'worse', boja['b?j?a] 'crazy' (standard Valencian /'dk/, /pi'd?o?/; /'b?d?a/; standard Catalan /'k/, /pi'd?o/ and /'b/).
In northern Valencia and southern Catalonia /s/ has merged with realizations of /?/ after a high front vocoid; e.g. terrissa[te'ri?a] ('pottery'), insistisc[insi?'ti?k] ('I insist') vs. pixar[pi'?a(?)] ('to pee'), deixar[dej'?a(?)] ('to leave'). In these varieties /?/ is not found after other vocoids, and merges with /t?/ after consonants; e.g. punxa['pu?t?a] ('thorn').
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