Appendix:Catalan orthography

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Catalan orthography is based on the spelling of Latin. It has also developed some other idiosyncracies in the way certain combinations of sounds are spelled.

Accents[edit]

Catalan spelling requires that the placement of the stress be predictable from the written form. Accents are placed on vowel letters to indicate this. There are also rules that dictate where the stress should be placed by default. If the word follows these rules, no accent is written.

If no accent is written, then the stressed is placed as follows. The last vowel of a word is stressed, except:

  • When it's the last letter of a word
  • When it is followed by only -s.
  • When it is i or e followed by -n.

When any of those exceptions apply, the second-last vowel of the word is stressed. However, an i or u that occurs between two vowels doesn't count as a vowel itself, because it is pronounced as a consonant.

These rules have consequences for the inflection of verbs, nouns and adjectives as well. If a verb has a stem ending in -s or -n, then an accent will need to be placed on the last syllable when there is no ending, to indicate that it is to remain stressed. In nouns and adjectives, attaching an ending may cause the removal or addition of an accent.

Alternation of consonants depending on the following vowel[edit]

Consonants representing velar or palatal consonants have different pronunciations depending on the following vowel. Therefore, the spelling often changes when the following vowel does, to preserve the pronunciation.

Sound Before a, o, u Before e, i Examples
/s/ -ç- -c- començar/comences, vèncer/vençut
/k/ -c- -qu- trencar/trenques
/kw/ -qu- -qü- obliquar/obliqües
/ʒ/ -j- -g- envejar/enveges, fugir/fujo
/ɡ/ -g- -gu- pregar/pregues
/ɡw/ -gu- -gü- enaiguar/enaigües

Diaereses[edit]

A diaeresis is placed on a vowel, usually ï or ü, to indicate that it is pronounced separately and counts as a separate syllable for stress placement rules. Or to phrase it phonetically: it indicates that the letter is to be pronounced as a vowel /i/ or /u/ rather than a semivowel /j/ or /w/. For example, cloïa has three syllables, in which the penultimate is stressed: /klu.ˈi.ə/. Meanwhile, the similar form creia lacks a diaeresis, so it has only two syllables, with stress on the first: /ˈkrɛ.jə/.

In verbs, this typically affects the present subjunctive, which ends in -i. In verbs of the second and third conjugation, it also affects the imperfect (-ia) and in the third conjugation also some present tense endings. The diaeresis is used to prevent it from becoming a semivowel. If the stem of the verb itself already ends in a semivowel (as in esglaiar), then it is dropped altogether. The case of argüir is special, because it already has a diaeresis in the stem. In that case, the rule is that when two diaereses come together, the diaeresis is written only on the second vowel, so üï -> by this rule.

Ending in Example verbs Subjunctive or imperfect
-air agrair agraïa
-ear, eir crear, posseir creï, posseïa
-iar canviar canviï
-oar, -oir lloar, oir lloï, oïa
-uar, -uir, -üir atenuar, reduir, argüir atenuï, reduïa, arguïa
-aiar, -eiar, -oiar, -uiar esglaiar, remeiar esglaï, remeï

Restrictions on the placement of consonants[edit]

The following changes apply mostly to adjectives, and to the 2nd and 3rd person singular present tense forms of verbs in the second conjugation, and some in the third (the ones without the -eix- infix).

Voiced consonants (b, d, g) that follow a vowel cannot appear at the end of a word, so they are devoiced when they appear at the end of a word, or before a final voiceless consonant. There are no examples of verbs with stems ending in g, but many second conjugation verbs have a so-called "velar infix" -g- which appears in many of the forms as an extension of the base stem. If this infix appears in the first-person singular present indicative form (as it often does), it undergoes devoicing as well.

Stem-final letter With -s Word-finally Examples
-b- -ps -p rebre/rep
-d- -ts -t pudir/put
-g- -c prendre (preng- > prenc), amic/amiga

The sounds l and r can't stand between two consonants, or between a consonant and the end of a word. An extra -e- is inserted to ease pronunciation. (Here, C stands for any consonant. But note that while -rr- counts as two consonants, -ll- only counts as one.)

Stem-final letter With -s Word-finally Examples
-Cl- -Cles -Cle omplir/omple
-Cr- -Cres -Cre obrir/obre

The sound s cannot follow another s or an s-like sound (a sibilant). An extra vowel is inserted to compensate. This vowel is -e- in verbs, but it is usually -o- in masculine nouns.

In addition, ss and j can't stand at the end of a word, and are changed to s and ig.

Stem-final letter With -s Word-finally Examples
-s- -ses -s cosir/coses, francès/francesos
-ss- -sses -s tossir/tos, gos/gossos
-ç/c- -ces vèncer/vences, feliç/feliços/felices
-x- -xes -x cruixir/cruixes
-j/g- -ges -ig fugir/fuig, roig/roja