català Musa for Catalan
Musa per a català

Catalan, or català, is also known as valencià, eivissenc, mallorquí and minorquí. It's spoken by about 9 million people in Catalonia, Pais Valencia, the Balearic Isles, the Franja of Aragón, Andorra, and Cerdanya and Roussillon in France. It's closely related to the Occitan of southern France (Languedoc, Gascon, Provençal, Limousin, Aranese, ...). This macrolanguage is the direct descendant of the Latin spoken as a second language by retired soldiers of the Roman Legions who were settled in the western Mediterranean; it is the mother language of French, Castillian Spanish, and Portuguese.

Phonologically, Catalan presents few surprises for those familiar with Italian, French or Castillian Spanish, with which it also shares much vocabulary and grammar. Catalan has more final consonants and falling diphthongs, and its vowels are reduced when unstressed.

The current spelling was standardized a century ago. It's quite phonetic, but suffers from some odd choices. It's too bad ly wasn't chosen as the standard spelling for the palatal lateral, like ny was for the palatal nasal, since that would have avoided both the interpunct l·l for geminated l and the awkward tll for geminated ll. It's also too bad that the digraph for the palatal sibilant sh includes a vowel, ix, since that causes some ambiguity: guix doesn't rhyme with fix even though the u is silent, and in fact it's not even possible to spell [giks] or [gush].


Not every dialect uses every sound.

mare nens any nin
barri dens metge gos
pare tens platja cos
estava casa boja
estafa massa baixa
làmpada llàmpada cara carro

In dialects and contexts where b d g    are softened after vowels and sonorants (as in Castillian), they're written with a curved top:   . In Eastern (standard) Catalan, where v has merged with b, it's always written with the letter .

When ts arises, as in potser or tots, it's written with a single letter: . Likewise with the very rare dz: .

In some dialects and contexts, the l is dark (velarized), as in Eastern sòl. In those cases, it's written with .

Geminated mm or tm, nn, l·l and tll are simply written as doubled: setmana  ratlla .

Vowels and Diphthongs

ími útu
été əel la ótot
ète òtoc

In Eastern (standard) Catalan, the neutral vowel ə only occurs in unstressed syllables.

Diphthongs in -i:

rei mainada
remei noi

Diphthongs in -u:

niu duu
seu caure jou
peu nou

Catalan has no tripthongs or rising diphthongs except in syllables beginning in or (the dieresis is omitted if followed by a or o), or in syllables with initial i, like iaia.

Allophonic Writing

Musa is allophonic, or phonetic: we write sounds as they're pronounced. In Catalan: words like fred and corb are pronounced fret and corp, and that's how they're written. In words like camp punt banc malalt hort gust, the final consonant isn't pronounced, and so it's not written.

Apostrophes and hyphens in compound words like digui'm or dona-li aren't pronounced, and so they're not written, either.


Now that you've learned the letters, why don't you try reading a sentence?

No temis caure en els llocs més difícils: viure és aprendre a aixecar-se.

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