In catalan the five vowels (a, e, i, o, u,) are used to represent eight different vocalic sounds, a, open e, close e, neutral vocal, i, open o, close o, u.
Vowel a, when it’s not the neutral vowel, sounds a little closer than a in father, this happens in stressed syllables.
Example: mà (hand)
Vowel e in catalan, when it’s in a stressed sillable, can be open or closed.
Open e has the same sound of the e in the english word bet, close e has the same sound, just a little bit closer. If open e has an accent it will be a grave accent (è), if it is a close e it will be an acute accent (é).
Examples of open e: cafè (coffee), deu (ten), pera (pear), mel (honey)
Examples of closed e: bé (well), déu (god), Pere (Peter)
The neutral vowel
The neutral vowel has a sound half way through the sound of the vowel e and the sound of the vowel a; you have to pronounce this vowel every time that vowels a and e are in an unstressed position.
Examples: palet (stick), melós (honeyed, sweet), cosa (thing), febre (fever)
We will see more about the neutral vowel sound and use in the next lesson.
Vowel i has the same sound of the ee in the word feed.
Example: camí (way, path)
Like vowel e, also the o can be open or closed. Open o sounds like the o in the english word “lot”, the close of sounds like the o in the english word “vote”.
Examples of open o: son (sleep), dols (you hurt), coll (neck)
Examples of close o: són (they are), dolç (sweet), cançó (song)
When the o is in an unstressed position sounds like the vowel u.
Examples: posar (put, set), pomera (apple tree), colom (dove, pidgeon)
U is pronounced roughly like English oo in food in both stressed and unstressed positions.
Examples: ungla (nail)
It is soundless in the combinations gue, gui, que, qui, unless there is a diaeresis on it ü.