The main dialects of Catalan[1][2][3]

The Catalan dialects feature a relative uniformity, especially when compared to other Romance languages;[4] both in terms of vocabulary, semantics, syntax, morphology, and phonology.[5] Mutual intelligibility between its dialects is very high,[6][7][8] estimates ranging from 90% to 95%.[9] The only exception is the isolated idiosyncratic Alguerese dialect.[4]


In 1861, linguist Manuel Milà i Fontanals split Catalan into two main dialects: Western and Eastern.[8][5] The most obvious phonetic difference lies in the treatment of unstressed a and e, which have merged to /ə/ in Eastern dialects, but remain distinct as /a/ and /e/ in Western dialects.[4][8] There are a few other differences in pronunciation, verbal morphology, and vocabulary.[6] Western Catalan comprises the two dialects of Northwestern Catalan and Valencian; the Eastern block comprises three to four dialects (depending on their classification): Central, Roussillonese (Northern Catalan), and Insular (Balearic and Alguerese).[8] Each dialect can be further subdivided into several subdialects.

There are two spoken standards for the language based on the Eastern and Western dialects respectively:

Valencians are only surpassed in number of Catalan-speakers by Catalans themselves, representing approximately a third of the whole Catalan-speaking population.[10] Therefore, in the context of linguistic conflict, recognition and respect towards the dual standard, as well as the dual Catalan–Valencian denomination,[11] pacifies the tense central–periphery relations between Catalonia and the Valencian community.

Main dialectal divisions of Catalan[8][12]
Dialect Northwestern Valencian Central Balearic Roussillonese (Northern) Alguerese
Area Spain, Andorra Spain France Italy
Andorra, Provinces of Lleida, western half of Tarragona, La Franja Autonomous community of Valencia, Carche Provinces of Barcelona, eastern half of Tarragona, most of Girona Balearic islands Roussillon/Northern Catalonia City of Alghero in Sardinia



Catalan has inherited the typical vowel system of Vulgar Latin, with seven stressed phonemes: /a ɛ e i ɔ o u/, a common feature in Western Romance, except Spanish, Asturian, and Aragonese.[13] Balearic has also instances of stressed /ə/.[14] Dialects differ in the different degrees of vowel reduction,[15] and the incidence of the pair e/.[16]

In Eastern Catalan (except Majorcan), unstressed vowels reduce to three: /a e ɛ/ [ə]; /o ɔ u/ [u]; /i/ remains distinct.[17] There are a few instances of unreduced [e], [o] in some words.[17] Alguerese has lowered [ə] to [a], similar to Eastern dialects spoken in the Barcelona metropolitan area (however, in the latter dialects the vowels are distinct as [ɐ] vs. [a]).

In Majorcan, unstressed vowels reduce to four: /a e ɛ/ follow the Eastern Catalan reduction pattern; however /o ɔ/ reduce to [o], with /u/ remaining distinct, as in Western Catalan.[18]

In Western Catalan, unstressed vowels reduce to five: /e ɛ/ [e]; /o ɔ/ [o]; /a u i/ remain distinct.[19][20] This reduction pattern, inherited from Proto-Romance, is also found in Italian and Portuguese.[19] Some Western dialects present further reduction or vowel harmony in some cases.[19][21]

Central, Western, and Balearic differ in the lexical incidence of stressed /e/ and /ɛ/.[16] Usually, words with /ɛ/ in central Catalan correspond to /ə/ in Balearic and /e/ in Western Catalan.[16] Words with /e/ in Balearic almost always have /e/ in central and western Catalan as well.[16] As a result, Western Catalan has a much higher incidence of /e/.[16]

Different incidence of stressed /e/, /ə/, /ɛ/[16]
Word Western Eastern
Majorcan Central Northern
set ("thirst") /ˈset/ /ˈsət/ /ˈsɛt/ /ˈset/
ven ("he sells") /ˈven/ /ˈvən/ /ˈbɛn/ /ˈven/
General differences in the pronunciation of unstressed vowels in different dialects[8][22]
Word Western Eastern
Northwestern Valencian Majorcan Central Northern
mare ("mother") /ˈmaɾe/ /ˈmaɾə/
cançó ("song") /kanˈso/ /kənˈso/ /kənˈsu/
posar ("to put") /poˈza(ɾ)/ /puˈza(ɾ)/
ferro ("iron") /ˈfɛro/ /ˈfɛru/
Detailed examples of vowel reduction processes in different dialects[23]
Word pairs:
the first with stressed root,
the second with unstressed root
Western Eastern
Majorcan Central Northern
gel ("ice")
gelat ("ice cream")
pera ("pear")
perera ("pear tree")
pedra ("stone")
pedrera ("quarry")
banya ("he bathes")
banyem ("we bathe")
Majorcan: banyam ("we bathe")
cosa ("thing")
coseta ("little thing")
tot ("everything")
total ("total")


In Western Catalan, the 1st person present indicative ending for verbs is -e ( in verbs of the 2nd and 3rd conjugation), or -o. For example, parle, tem, sent (Valencian); parlo, temo, sento (North-Western). In Eastern Catalan, the 1st person present indicative ending for verbs is -o, -i or in all conjugations. For example, parlo (Central), parl (Balearic), parli (Northern); all meaning "I speak".

First person singular present indicative endings in different dialects
Eastern Catalan Western Catalan Gloss
Central Northern Balearic Valencian North-Western
First parlo parli parl parle parlo "I speak"
Second temo temi tem tem temo "I fear"
Third sento senti sent sent sento "I feel"/"I hear"

In Western Catalan, the inchoative desinences for verbs are -isc/-ixo, -ix, -ixen, -isca. In Eastern Catalan, the inchoative desinences for verbs are -eixo, -eix, -eixen, -eixi.

In Western Catalan, the /n/ of medieval plurals in proparoxytone nouns and adjectives is maintained. For example, hòmens 'men', jóvens 'youth'. In Eastern Catalan, the /n/ of medieval plurals in proparoxytone nouns and adjectives is lost. For example, homes 'men', joves 'youth'.


Despite its relative lexical unity, the two dialectal blocks of Catalan (Eastern and Western) show some differences in word choices.[24] Any lexical divergence within any of the two groups can be explained as an archaism. Also, usually Central Catalan acts as an innovative element.[24]

Selection of different words between Western and Eastern Catalan
Gloss "mirror" "boy" "broom" "navel" "to exit"
Eastern Catalan mirall noi escombra llombrígol sortir
Western Catalan espill xiquet granera melic eixir

Insular Catalan

Insular Catalan may refer to:

Continental Catalan

Continental Catalan[25][26][27] may refer to:


  1. ^ Feldhausen 2010, p. 6.
  2. ^ Wheeler 2005, p. 2.
  3. ^ Costa Carreras & Yates 2009, p. 4.
  4. ^ a b c Moll 2006, p. 47.
  5. ^ a b Enciclopèdia Catalana, pp. 634–635.
  6. ^ a b Wheeler 2005, p. 1.
  7. ^ Costa Carreras & Yates 2009, p. 5.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Feldhausen 2010, p. 5.
  9. ^ Central Catalan has 90% to 95% inherent intelligibility for speakers of Valencian (1989 R. Hall, Jr.), cited on Ethnologue.
  10. ^ a b Xarxa Cruscat de l'Institut d'Estudis Catalans
  11. ^ Acord de l'Acadèmia Valenciana de la Llengua (AVL), adoptat en la reunió plenària del 9 de febrer del 2005, pel qual s'aprova el dictamen sobre els principis i criteris per a la defensa de la denominació i l'entitat del valencià (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2014 – via
  12. ^ Wheeler 2005, pp. 2–3.
  13. ^ Enciclopèdia Catalana, p. 630.
  14. ^ Wheeler 2005, pp. 37, 53–54.
  15. ^ Wheeler 2005, p. 37.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Wheeler 2005, p. 38.
  17. ^ a b Wheeler 2005, p. 54.
  18. ^ Wheeler 2005, pp. 53–54.
  19. ^ a b c Wheeler 2005, p. 53.
  20. ^ Carbonell & Llisterri 1999, pp. 54–55.
  21. ^ Recasens 1996, pp. 75–76, 128–129.
  22. ^ Melchor & Branchadell 2002, p. 71.
  23. ^ Wheeler 2005, pp. 53–55.
  24. ^ a b Enciclopèdia Catalana, p. 632.
  25. ^ «Català peninsular» o millor «català continental»?
  26. ^ Iodització i apitxament al Vallès. Lídia Pons i Griera
  27. ^ El català continental distingeix els fonemes vocàlics accentuats è oberta de mots com "mel", i é tancada de mots com "vent". Diccionari català-valencià-balear.