Occitan phonology

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This article describes the phonology of the Occitan language.

Consonants[edit]

Below is an abstract consonant chart that covers multiple dialects. Where symbols for consonants occur in pairs, the left represents a voiceless consonant and the right represents a voiced consonant.

IPA chart Occitan consonants[1]
Labial Dental/
Alveolar
Palato-
alveolar
Palatal Dorsal
plain lab. velar uvular
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive p   b t   d k   ɡ
Affricate ts   (dz)  
Fricative f   (v)   β s   z   ð (ʃ)   (ʒ) ɣ
Approximant j ɥ w
Lateral l ʎ
Trill r (ʀ)
Flap ɾ
Notes
  • The phoneme /ʃ/ is mostly found in Southern Occitan (written (i)sh in Gascon, ch in Provençal, and (i)ss in Languedocien).
  • The distinction between /v/ v and /b/ b is general in Provençal, Vivaro-Alpine, Auvergnat and Limousin. However, in Languedocien and Gascon, the phonemes /b/ and /v/ are neutralized as /b/ (thus /v/ has disappeared).
  • In the Languedocien:
    • the phonemes /b, d, ɡ/ indicate three kinds of sounds, depending on what surrounds them:
      • a voiced plosive sound [b, d, ɡ] by default
      • devoiced to [p, t, k] phrase-finally or before a voiceless sound
      • a voiced fricative [β, ð, ɣ] when both preceded and followed by voiced continuants (i.e., vowels or [r, l, z]) within the same phrase.
    • the phonemes /ts/ and /dz/ and the sequences /p+s/, /k+s/ are neutralized as /ts/ (thus /dz/, /p+s/ and /k+s/ have disappeared).
  • In Auvergnat and Limousin, and locally in other dialects,
    • the phonemes /ts/ and /tʃ/ are neutralized as /ts/ (thus /tʃ/ has disappeared).
    • the phonemes /dz/ and /dʒ/ are neutralized as /dz/ (thus /dʒ/ has disappeared).
  • In Auvergnat, most of the consonants, except /r/, can have a palatalized sound before i and u. Consequently, the consonant phonemes have two kinds of sounds, one being not palatal (by default) and the other being palatal (before i and u): /p/ => [p, pj]; /b/ => [b, bj]; /t/ => [t, tj]; /d/ => [d, dj]; /k/ => [k, kj]; /ɡ/ => [ɡ, ɡj]; /f/ => [f, fj]; /v/ => [v, vj]; /s/ => [s, ʃ]; /z/ => [z, ʒ]; /ts/ => [ts, tʃ]; /dz/ => [dz, dʒ]; /m/ => [m, mj]; /n/ => [n, nj]; /l/ => [l, lj].
  • In one part (and only one part) of Limousin, a transphonologization has occurred:
    • The old phonemes /ts/, /dz/ have now become /s/, /z/.
    • The old phonemes /s/, /z/ have now become /ʃ/, /ʒ/.
  • In the Provençal in general, and partially in other dialects, the phonemes /j/ and /ʎ/ are neutralized as /j/ (thus /ʎ/ has disappeared).
  • The original rhotic consonants, /ɾ/ (tapped) and /r/ (trilled) have known important evolutions:
    • In Provençal and partially in other dialects, there is now an opposition between /ɾ/ (tapped) and /ʀ/ (uvular) (whereas /r/ has disappeared). This feature is shared with Portuguese. In the cases when the opposition is impossible between the two phonemes, the default realization is /ʀ/ (it was /r/ in the original pattern).
    • In most of Limousin, Auvergne, Vivarais and Niçard, the phonemes /ɾ/ and /r/ are neutralized as /r/ (or even /ʀ/).

Gascon consonants[edit]

  • Gascon shares some traits with Languedocien:
    • The phonemes /b, d, ɡ/ have the same realization as described above for Languedocien.
    • The phonemes /b/ and /v/ of the general pattern are neutralized as /b/. It seems possible, however, that the phoneme /v/ has never existed in Gascon.
  • Gascon and Southern Languedocien don't use the semivowel /ɥ/ and have the same distribution for the phonemes /dʒ/ (tg, tj) and /ʒ/ (j, g).
  • In one part of Gascon, the palatal affricates /tʃ/, /dʒ/ become plosive palatal consonants: /c/, /ɟ/.

Vowels[edit]

Vowels
IPA Examples English equivalent
a quatre sack
e fetge say (without the y sound)
ɛ mètge sect
i vitz cease
ɔ escòla cause
u Tolosa soup
y luna as in French rue and German Blüte
Diphthongs
IPA Examples English
equivalent
aj maire tie
ej rei bay
ɛj glèisa
ɔj jòia boy
ɔw plòure
aw pausa now
ew Euròpa
ɛw benlèu
ja embestiar yard
je oriental yes
fr
lc yawn
ju accion you
iw viure beware
uj soi you yawned
wa qüadragenari wag
we bilingüe wait
st wet
ɥɛ flha
ds war
wi Ls weed
ɥi ambigüitat
Triphthongs
IPA Examples English
equivalent
jaw suau
jej fieiral
jɛj fièira
jew ieu
jɛw camaièu
jɔw buòu
ɥɛj puèi

Please note:

  • The grapheme -a, when in final position and after the word's stress, is pronounced /ɔ/ in general (locally: /a/, /ə/).
  • The grapheme á is pronounced /ɔ/ in general (locally: /e/, /ɛ/).

General ablaut[edit]

In an unstressed position, some vowels cannot be realized and become more closed vowels:

  • The stressed vowel /ɛ/ (è) becomes the unstressed vowel /e/ (e). For instance (stress underlined): tèrra /ˈtɛrrɔ/ > terrassa /teˈrrasɔ/.
  • The stressed vowel /ɔ/ (ò) becomes the unstressed vowel /u/ (o). For instance (stress underlined): còde /ˈkɔde/ > codificar /kudifiˈka/.
  • In some local dialects, especially in the Languedocien variety of Guyenne, the stressed vowel /a/ (a) becomes the unstressed vowel /ɔ/ (a). For instance (stress underlined): bala /ˈbalɔ/ > balon /bɔˈlu/.
    • Please note- Also in Guyenne, the vowel a, when stressed, is pronounced /ɔ/ when followed by a nasal consonant such as /n, m, ɲ/ (n, m, nh) or a final -n that is not heard: montanha, pan /munˈtɔɲɔ, ˈpɔ/ (instead of /munˈtaɲɔ, ˈpa/).
  • In Limousin, Auvernhat, Vivaro-Alpine and in most of Provençal (though not in Niçard), the stressed diphthong /aw/ (au) becomes the unstressed diphthong /ɔw/ (au). For instance (stress underlined): sauta /ˈsawtɔ/ > sautar /sɔwˈta/.
  • In Limousin, Auvernhat, Vivaro-Alpine and in most of Provençal (though not in Niçard), the stressed diphthong /aj/ (ai) becomes the unstressed diphthong /ej/ (ai). For instance (stress underlined): laissa /ˈlajsɔ/ > laissar /lejˈsa/.

The ablaut in Auvergnat[edit]

One typical characteristic of Auvergnat (also a feature of some neighbouring dialects of Vivaro-Alpine) is the transformation of the following phonemes:

  • The old phoneme /ɛ/ has become /e/.
  • The old phoneme /e/ has become /ə/ or /ɪ/.

In an unstressed position, some vowels cannot be realized and become more closed vowels:

  • The stressed vowel /e/ (è) becomes the unstressed vowel /ə (ɪ)/ (e). For instance (stress underlined): tèrra /ˈterɔ/ > terrassa /təˈrasɔ/.
  • The stressed vowel /ɔ/ (ò) becomes the unstressed vowel /u/ (o). For instance (stress underlined): còde /ˈkɔdə/ > codificar /kudifiˈka/.
  • In the northern part of Auvergne, the stressed vowel /a/ (a) (unrounded) becomes the unstressed vowel /ɒ/ (a) (rounded). For instance (stress underlined): bala /ˈbalɔ/ > balon /bɒˈlu/.
  • The stressed diphthong /aw/ (au) becomes the unstressed diphthong /ɔw (u, œ)/ (au). For instance (stress underlined): sauta /ˈsawtɔ/ > sautar /sɔwˈta/.
  • The stressed diphthong /aj/ (ai) becomes the unstressed diphthong /ej (i)/ (ai). For instance (stress underlined): laissa /ˈlajsɔ/ > laissar /lejˈsa/.

The ablaut in Limousin[edit]

A strong characteristic of Limousin (also a feature of some neighbouring dialects of Vivaro-Alpine) is the neutralization of the phonemes /e/ and /ɛ/ in one single phoneme /e/, that can have various degrees of opening.

In words of popular formation, the sequences as, es, is, òs, os, us, ues [as, es, is, ɔs, us, ys, œs], when at the end of a syllable, first became [ah, eh, ih, ɔh, uh, yh, œh] and have now become long vowels, [aː, (ej), iː, ɔː, uː, yː, œː], which tends to create new phonemes with a relevant opposition between short vowels and long vowels. The same phenomenon exists in one part of Vivarais.

In an unstressed position, some vowels cannot be realized and become more closed vowels:

  • The stressed vowel /ɔ/ (ò) becomes the unstressed vowel /u/ (o). For instance (stress underlined): còde /ˈkɔde/ > codificar /kudifiˈka/.
  • The stressed vowel /a/ (a) (unrounded) becomes the unstressed vowel /ɒ/ (a) (rounded). For instance (stress underlined): bala /ˈbalɔ/ > balon /bɒˈlu/.
  • The stressed diphthong /aw/ (au) becomes the unstressed diphthong /ɔw/ (au). For instance (stress underlined): sauta /ˈsawtɔ/ > sautar /sɔwˈta/.
  • The stressed diphthong /aj/ (ai) becomes the unstressed diphthong /ej/ (ai). For instance (stress underlined): laissa /ˈlajsɔ/ > laissar /lejˈsa/.

Regional variation[edit]

IPA Examples English equivalent
Auvergnat
v vent valid
ʃ servici shoe
dz gente ads
ts chabra cats
œ fuelha blur
pòrta war
ɥi ajuidar French lui
wi boisson we
œj nueit French accueil
IPA Examples English equivalent
Gascon
ʒ joença measure
h hemna high
ʃ Foish shoe
yw cuu
wew ueu
IPA Examples English equivalent
Limousin
v vent valid
dz gente ads
ts chabra cats
œ fuelha blur
o còsta between spoke and sport
ɥi ajuidar French lui
wej boisson away
IPA Examples English equivalent
Provençal
v vent valid
ʒ age measure
œ fuelha blur
bòna war
ʀ rra French rue
IPA Examples English equivalent
Vivaro-Alpine
v vent valid
  • In Limousin and Auvergnat, final consonants, except for -nh and -m, are generally muted when not directly followed by a word with a vocalic initial: filh [fi], potz [pu], fach [fa], limon [liˈmu] but estelum [ejteˈlun], estanh [ejˈtan], un fach ancian [yn fats ɔnˈsja].
  • In Limousin and Auvergnat, when a diphthong starts in o or u, it is always the following vowel that receives precedence: boisson [bwiˈsu] (Auvergnat) and [bwejˈsu] (Limousin) versus [bujˈsu] (Languedocien) or [bujˈsun] (Provençal).
  • In all dialects but Languedocien, final -l is heavily velarized (dark l) and therefore usually spelled -u: especial [espeˈsjal] / especiau [espeˈsjaw] but especiala [espeˈsjalɔ] in the feminine (except in Gascon where it stays as especiau).

Word stress[edit]

Word stress has limited mobility. It can only fall on:

  • the last syllable (oxytones or mots aguts "acute words")
  • the penultimate syllable (paroxytones or mots plans "plain words").
  • However, in Niçard, and less commonly in the Cisaupenc dialect of the Occitan Valleys, the stress can also fall on the antepenultimate (third from last) syllable (proparoxytones or mots esdrúchols "slip words"). These proparoxytones are equivalent to paroxytones in all other dialects. For instance (stress underlined):
general pattern
(no proparoxytones)
Cisaupenc
(some proparoxytones)
Niçard
(many proparoxytones)
pagina pàgina pàgina
arma, anma ànima, anma ànima
dimenge diamenja diménegue
manja, marga mània mànega

Historical development[edit]

As a Romance language, Occitan developed from Vulgar Latin. Old Occitan (around the eighth through the fourteenth centuries) had a similar pronunciation to present-day Occitan; the major differences were:

  • Before the 13th century, c had softened before front vowels to [t͡s],[2] not yet to [s].[3]
  • In the early Middle Ages, z between vowels represented the affricate [d͡z],[4] not yet /z/.
  • In early Old Occitan, z represented [t͡s] in final position.[5]
  • In the late Middle Ages, the letter a went from [a] to [ɑ] in unaccented position and in stressed syllables followed by a nasal consonant.[6]
  • When not part of a diphthong, the vowel spelled o was probably pronounced as [ʊ],[7] not yet [u].
  • Between vowels, the letter i or j represented, for most speech in Occitania, [j]. However, this could become [ʒ], especially down south:[8] it later became [d͡ʒ], which, in turn, would locally depalatalize to [d͡z] in Middle Occitan.
  • In words where /ɾ/ was preceded by a diphthong whose second element was [j], it was sometimes palatalized to [rʲ].[9]
  • In earlier times, some dialects used [ç] instead of the more common [ʃ]: despite their similarity, this often led to contrasting spellings (laishar or laischar [lajˈʃaɾ] vs. laichar [lajˈçaɾ]; fois or foish [fʊjʃ] vs. foih [fʊiç]) before it became [s] commonly across the language (laissar [lajˈsaɾ], Fois [fujs]).[9][10]
  • In the pre-literary period of early Old Occitan /u/ had not been fronted to [y], although strong doubts exist as to when the change actually happened.[2]
  • When between vowels, /d/ lenited to [ð], though this is still true for only Gascon and Languedocien dialects; elsewhere, it eventually turned to [z] or was deleted.[11]
  • In Gascon, there was one voiced labial phoneme that was [b] in the beginning of a word and [β] between vowels.[12] This still happens today and has spread to the neighbouring Languedocien dialect.
  • The phoneme lh was exclusively pronounced [ʎ] (it is now [j] in intervocalic or final position in some dialects).[13]

Old Occitan phonology[edit]

Consonants
IPA Examples English
approximation
b beutatz beauty
ç Foih German ich
d domna doll
ð foudatz this
f fol fool
ɡ gay garage
jorn raging
chansó match
k cansó neglect
l lauzeta laundry
m amors marine
n benanansa natural
p perduda captain
ɾ vestidura Italian mare
r(r) rossinhols Spanish rápido
s sospir last
ʃ laishar shoe
t tuih fact
v Ventadorn valid
ks amix box
z roza amazing
ts amanz cats
Full vowels
IPA Examples English
approximation
a quar sack
e fetz say (without the y sound)
ɛ melhs sect
i vida cease
ɔ midons cause
u Tholoza soup
y negús French lunette
Diphthongs
IPA Examples English
approximation
aj esmai tie
ej mezeis bay
ɛj gleiza
ɔj enoyós boy
ɔw mou
aw lauzengiers now
ew Deus
ɛw leu
ja chastiar yard
je nien yes
quier
huoills yawn
ju jauzion you
iw chaitiu beware
uj cui you yawned
wa aquatic wag
oest wet
ɥɛ fuelha
wi Ls weed
Triphtongs
IPA Examples English
approximation
jaw suau
jej fieyral
jɛj fieyra
jew yeu
jɔw buou
ɥɛj pueys

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Wheeler (1997:248)
  2. ^ a b Grandgent (1905:4)
  3. ^ McGee, Timothy James, Rigg, A. G. and Klausner, David N. 1996. Singing Early Music: The Pronunciation of European Languages in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, Volume 1, p. 104:

    The confusion of spellings, such as se for ce, voluntat for volontat, indicate the accomplishment of a phonetic evolution (here [t͡s] > [s] and atonic [o] > [u]).

  4. ^ Grandgent (1905:4)
  5. ^ McGee, Timothy James, Rigg, A. G. and Klausner, David N. 1996. Singing Early Music: The Pronunciation of European Languages in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, Volume 1, p. 110:

    Although z originally denoted the voiced affricate [dʒ], it simplified to [z], as [t͡s] simplified to [s], but at an earlier date. The spellings s and z alternate even in the earlier troubadours, indicating the pronunciation [z] in such words as cortesia/cortezia, rosa/roza, gilosa/giloza. In final position -z is pronounced [t͡s], also spelled -tz: toz/totz, maritz, amanz, parlatz, tertz.

  6. ^ McGee, Timothy James, Rigg, A. G. and Klausner, David N. 1996. Singing Early Music: The Pronunciation of European Languages in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, Volume 1, p. 104:

    When we note that tonic -a followed by unstable n does not rhyme with regular tonic -a, we have confirmation of two a-phonemes, the normal [a] (anterior a) and the posterior [ɑ], as well as confirmation that Old Occitan does not nasalize vowels followed by nasal consonants, as Old French does.

  7. ^ Anglade (1921:20)
  8. ^ Anglade (1921:22):

    Les manuscrits ne distinguaient pas i intervocalique de j: on hésite donc sur la prononciation des mots suivants: veraia, aia, raia, saia, etc. Lienig, se fondant sur le témoignage et sur la graphie des Leys [d'Amor], admet comme vraisemblable une prononciation de i voyelle ou semi-consonne dans le Nord de l'Occitanie, et de j dans le Sud. La prononciation -aja (comme dans fr. âge) serait rare dans les rimes des troubadours.

  9. ^ a b Grandgent (1905:5)
  10. ^ Société pour l'Étude des Langues Romanes, Revue des langues romanes, 1877, p. 17:

    ...plusieurs dialectes de l'ancienne langue, y compris le limousin, comme le prouvent des textes de Limoges et de Périgueux, changeaient souvent l's dure suivant i, particulièrement i engagé dans une diphthongue, en une consonne probablement identique au ch français, et qu'on figurait sch, sh ou ch. Sur sh, voyez un passage des Leys d'amors, I, 62, qui prouve clairement que cette combinaison n'avait pas la valeur d'une s simple. Les trois notations, ou seulement deux d'entre elles, sont quelquefois employées concurremment dans les mêmes textes, ce qui démontre leur équivalence. Ainsi les Coutumes de Limoges ont ayschí, punischen, mais plus souvent, par ch, laychen, poicha, etc.

  11. ^ Grandgent (1905:8)
  12. ^ Grandgent (1905:7)
  13. ^ McGee, Timothy James, Rigg, A. G. and Klausner, David N. 1996. Singing Early Music: The Pronunciation of European Languages in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, Volume 1, p. 105:

    The Italian notation gl and the Catalanized ll, both indicating [ʎ], give evidence of the palatalized pronunciation of Occitan lh. Likewise, the transcription of Occitan words in non-Latin alphabets such as Hebrew or Greek may confirm their pronunciation with more precision.

References[edit]

  • Anglade, Joseph (1921), Grammaire de l'Ancien Provençal ou Ancienne Langue d'Oc, Paris: Librarie C.Klincksieck 
  • Balaguer, Claudi & Patrici Pojada: Diccionari Català - Occità / Occitan - Catalan
  • Fettuciari, Jòrgi, Guiu Martin & Jaume Pietri: Diccionari Provençau - Francés
  • Grandgent, C.H. (1905), An Outline of the Phonology and Morphology of Old Provençal, Heath's modern language series, Boston: Heath 
  • Wheeler, Max (1997), "Occitan", in Harris, Martin; Vincent, Nigel, The Romance Languages, Routledge Language Family Descriptions, Routledge, pp. 246–278, ISBN 0-415-16417-6 
  • Bèc, Pèire. (1973). Manuel pratique d’occitan moderne, coll. Connaissance des langues, Paris: Picard.
  • Bianchi, Andriu & Alan Viaut. (1995). Fiches de grammaire d’occitan gascon normé, vol. 1. Bordeaux: Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux
  • Romieu, Maurici & Andriu Bianchi. (2005). Gramatica de l’occitan gascon contemporanèu, Bordèu: Presses Universitaires de Bordeaux.
  • Ronjat, Juli. (1930–1941). Grammaire istorique [sic] des parlers provençaux modernes, 4 vol. [reprint, 1980, Marselha: Laffitte Reprints, 2 vol.].

Further reading[edit]

  • Lavalade, Yves. Dictionnaire Occitan - Français
  • Omelhièr, Cristian. Petiòt diccionari Occitan d'Auvèrnhe - Francés