Catalan neutral vowel

We have already seen the sounds that catalan vowels can have in the previous lesson; in this we will focus on the sound of the neutral vowel.
The neutral vowel, called schwa in linguistic and represented with the symbol [Ә], is a mid-central not rounded vowel from the center of the vowel trapezium, unaccented and unstressed.
In standard catalan vowels a/e are pronounced with the sound of the neutral vowel if they are in an unstressed position, this sound is actually an brief sound halfway through the sound of the a and the sound of the e.
In some catalan dialects spoken in the balearic islands there can be some stressed neutral vowels.
The the neutral vowel sound, regadless if it’s represented by an a or an e, it’s always the same, for this reason the word pare (father) is pronounced as the sound para (stop).
This is why if we hear a word containing the neutral vowel, but that we don’t know, is hard to tell if it’s written with an a or with an e; to know how to write it the following rules can be useful.

  • Singular nouns and singular adjectives are written with an a at the end if they are masculine, and with an a if they are feminine; their plural form always ends in -es.
  • Examples: pare (father), home (man), dona (woman), homes (men), dones (women)
    Exceptions: alegre (cheerful), formidable (formidable), lliure (free), monarca (monarch), febre (fever), llebre (hare), torre (tower), etc.

  • Verbs ending with a neutral vowel are written with a, if they end with a neutral vowel followed by an s it means they are ending in -es.
  • Esempi: parla (speak / he/she/it speaks), parles (you speak), menja (eat / he/she/it eats), menjes (you eat)
    Exceptions: corre (run / he/she/it runs), obre (open / he/she/it opens), omple (fill / he/she/it fills), vine (come), perdre (to loose), prendre (to take), comprendre (to understand), moure (to move), etc.

  • If we have to write a noun containing an internal neutral vowel we will have to know another word of the same family containing the a/e in a stressed form, to know how to write it.
  • Examples: tauleta (little table), because it comes from the word taula (table)

  • If we have to write a verb containing an internal neutral vowel we will have to know how to write the third singular person, this one contains the a or the e in the stressed form, and we will keep the same vowel also in the unstressed forms.
  • Examples: pesem (we weight), because the third singular persona of the verb pesar is pesa
    Exceptions: trauràs (you will take out, you will get), the third singular person is treu, etc.

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