Old Occitan > Phonology and Spelling
When reading the summary below keep in mind that the spelling of Old Occitan was never regularized, so the same word may vary in spelling even in the same line of text.
- a as in father
- e as in set
- i as in machine
- o as in note (pure as in Spanish, not the diphthong English uses)
- u like French u, German ü. When combined with other vowels, like English due.
In accented syllables e and o may have two pronunciations, open or closed. In Troubador texts these differences are not indicated, but they are in modern dictionaries and grammars, where a tail hanging off the vowel means "open" and a dot under the vowel means "closed." HTML isn't convenient for that notation, so I will follow modern Occitan and use è ò to indicate open accented syllables and é ó for closed. If I do not indicate the the quality of an accented vowel, assume closed.
- é, closed e, like French été, similar to English day but without the diphthong glide.
- è, open e like met
- ó, closed o, note
- ò, open o, like caught, or French botte.
Seemingly at random è and ò may become diphthongs, è becoming iè and ò becoming either uò or uè. So, better may be found as mèlhs or mièlhs.
Diphthongs. Ending in i: ai, éi, èi, ói, òi, ui. Ending in u: au, éu, èu, iu, óu, òu (note: in dipthongs u is like w).
The diphthongs with the open è and ò may undergo the change mentioned above, so that, for example, èu, I may also be found as ièu.
Consonants for the most part are pronounced like English, but note the following.
- c before a, o or u is like k
- c before e or i is like ts, or just s by the end of the 13th century
- g before a, o or u is like g in go
- g before e or i is like j in joy
- gu is always g as in go; so aguí ahg-EE "I had"
- g at the end of a word is ch in church. This is also spelled -ch or -ich.
- ch is like ch in church, though some suspect it is like simple c since it varies in spelling with that a lot (cantar/chantar)
- j is like joy; occasionally like y
- qu and q are always k, never kw (when may be spelled can, quan or even qan).
- lh is similar to li in million (palatal /l/). Written ll (or ill) in some manuscripts.
- nh is similar to ny in canyon (palatal /n/). Written gn in some manuscripts.
- h is silent everywhere except where it indicates the palatal quality of lh and nh. melhor is melYOHR not mel-hor.
- In some words n is prone to dropping out. In new grammars this n-mobile is indicated with a dot beneath it. In this HTML I'll use (n).
- r is a flap
- rr may have been trilled, but sometimes it is written as a single r, so that's not entirely clear
- s is pronounced like sing at the beginning and end of words
- s is pronounced like zing between vowels
- ss between vowels is like sing
- tj sometimes used for ch.
- z at the start and middle of words is like zing, sometimes dz
- z at the end of a word is ts, but often written -tz: avetz or avez
- y sometimes shows up for i, as in fui, fuy I was, ylh she.
Word accent. In general, words ending in vowels accent on the penult, next to the last, syllable. Words ending in a consonant often stress the final syllable.
However many words have an inherent accent outside of the rules above, and must be learned as they occur. Old Occitan dictionaries will indicate accents when they aren't predictable. In this HTML I'll indicate accent with accent marks. Keeping in mind that the open and closed o and e difference only occurs in accented syllables you know acò must accented on the last syllable.
The -s of the noun declensions does not cause the accent to move to the end of the word: dómna, dómnas.