This article is about the phonology and phonetics of the Galician language.


The vowel phonemes of Galician, from Regueira (1996:120)

Galician has seven vowel phonemes, which are represented by five letters in writing. Similar vowels are found under stress in standard Catalan and Italian. It is likely that this 7-vowel system was even more widespread in the early stages of Romance languages.

Phoneme (IPA) Grapheme Examples
/a/ a nada
/e/ e tres
/ɛ/ ferro
/i/ i min
/o/ o bonito
/ɔ/ home
/u/ u rúa

Some characteristics of the vocalic system:


Galician language possesses a large set of falling diphthongs:

Galician diphthongs
[aj] caixa 'box' [aw] autor 'author'
[ɛj] papeis 'papers' [ɛw] deu 'he/she gave'
[ej] queixo 'cheese' [ew] bateu 'he/she hit'
[ɔj] bocoi 'barrel'
[oj] loita 'fight' [ow] pouco 'little'

There are also a certain number of rising diphthongs, but they are not characteristic of the language and tend to be pronounced as hiatus.[10]


Consonant phonemes of Galician
Labial Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive/Affricate p b t d ɟ k ɡ
Fricative f θ s ʃ
Approximant w l j
Trill r
Flap ɾ
Phoneme (IPA) Main allophones[11][12] Graphemes Example
/b/ [b], [β̞] b, v bebo [ˈbeβ̞ʊ] '(I) drink', alba [ˈalβ̞ɐ] 'sunrise', vaca [ˈbakɐ] 'cow', cova [ˈkɔβ̞ɐ] 'cave'
/θ/ [θ] (dialectal [s]) z, c macio [ˈmaθjʊ] 'soft', cruz [ˈkɾuθ] 'cross'
/tʃ/ [tʃ] ch chamar [tʃaˈmaɾ] 'to call', achar [aˈtʃaɾ] 'to find'
/d/ [d], [ð̞] d vida [ˈbið̞ɐ] 'life', cadro [ˈkað̞ɾʊ] 'frame'
/f/ [f] f feltro [ˈfɛltɾʊ] 'filter', freixo [ˈfɾejʃʊ] 'ash-tree'
/ɡ/ [ɡ], [ɣ] (dialectal [ħ]) g, gu fungo [ˈfuŋɡʊ] 'fungus', guerra [ˈɡɛrɐ] 'war', o gato ˈɣatʊ] 'the cat'
/ɟ/ [ɟ], [ʝ˕], [ɟʝ] ll, i mollado [moˈɟað̞ʊ] 'wet'
/k/ [k] c, qu casa [ˈkasɐ] 'house', querer [keˈɾeɾ] 'to want'
/l/ [l] l lúa [ˈluɐ] 'moon', algo [ˈalɣʊ] 'something', mel [ˈmɛl] 'honey'
/m/ [m], [ŋ][13] m memoria [meˈmɔɾjɐ] 'memory', campo [ˈkampʊ] 'field', álbum [ˈalβuŋ]
/n/ [n], [m], [ŋ][13] n niño [ˈniɲʊ] 'nest', onte [ˈɔntɪ] 'yesterday', conversar [kombeɾˈsaɾ] 'to talk', irmán [iɾˈmaŋ] 'brother'
/ɲ/ [ɲ][13] ñ mañá [maˈɲa] 'morning'
/ŋ/ [ŋ][13] nh algunha [alˈɣuŋɐ] 'some'
/p/ [p] p carpa [ˈkaɾpɐ] 'carp'
/ɾ/ [ɾ] r hora [ˈɔɾɐ] 'hour', coller [koˈʎeɾ] 'to grab'
/r/ [r] r, rr rato [ˈratʊ] 'mouse', carro [ˈkarʊ] 'cart'
/s/ [s̺, z̺] (dialectal [s̻, z̻])[14] s selo [ˈs̺elʊ] 'seal, stamp', cousa [ˈkows̺ɐ] 'thing', mesmo [ˈmɛz̺mʊ] 'same'
/t/ [t] t trato [ˈtɾatʊ] 'deal'
/ʃ/ [ʃ] x[15] xente [ˈʃentɪ] 'people', muxica [muˈʃikɐ] 'ash-fly'

Voiced plosives (/ɡ/, /d/ and /b/) are lenited (weakened) to approximants or fricatives in all instances, except after a pause or a nasal consonant; e.g. un gato 'a cat' is pronounced [uŋ ˈɡatʊ], whilst o gato 'the cat' is pronounced ˈɣatʊ].

During the modern period, Galician consonants have undergone significant sound changes that closely parallel the evolution of Spanish consonants, including the following changes that neutralized the opposition of voiced fricatives / voiceless fricatives:

For a comparison, see Differences between Spanish and Portuguese: Sibilants. Additionally, during the 17th and 18th centuries the western and central dialects of Galician developed a voiceless fricative pronunciation of /ɡ/ (a phenomenon called gheada). This may be glottal [h], pharyngeal [ħ], uvular [χ], or velar [x].[16]

The distribution of the two rhotics /r/ and /ɾ/ closely parallels that of Spanish. Between vowels, the two contrast (e.g. mirra [ˈmirɐ] 'myrrh' vs. mira [ˈmiɾɐ] 'look'), but they are otherwise in complementary distribution. [ɾ] appears in the onset, except in word-initial position (rato), after /l/, /n/, and /s/ (honra, Israel), where [r] is used.

As in Spanish, /ɟ/ derives from historical /ʎ/ (yeísmo) and from syllable-initial /j/. In some dialects, it lenites to approximant [ʝ˕] in the same environments where /b, d, ɡ/ lenite. It may also be realized as [ɟʝ] where it derives from /j/. The realization [ʎ] remains in select older speakers in isolated regions.[12]


  1. ^ E.g. by Regueira (2010)
  2. ^ Regueira (2010:13–14, 21)
  3. ^ Freixeiro Mato (2006:112)
  4. ^ a b Freixeiro Mato (2006:94–98)
  5. ^ "Pautas para diferenciar as vogais abertas das pechadas". Manuel Antón Mosteiro. Retrieved 2019-02-19.
  6. ^ Freixeiro Mato (2006:72–73)
  7. ^ "Dicionario de pronuncia da lingua galega: á". Retrieved 2012-06-30.
  8. ^ Sampson (1999:207–214)
  9. ^ Freixeiro Mato (2006:87)
  10. ^ Freixeiro Mato (2006:123)
  11. ^ Freixeiro Mato (2006:136–188)
  12. ^ a b Martínez-Gil (2022), pp. 900–902.
  13. ^ a b c d The phonemes /m/, /n/, /ɲ/ and /ŋ/ coalesce in implosive position as the archiphoneme /N/, which, phonetically, is usually [ŋ]. Cf. Freixeiro Mato (2006:175–176)
  14. ^ Regueira (1996:82)
  15. ^ x can stand also for [ks]
  16. ^ Regueira (1996:120)