According to the Ethnologue, its specific classification is a member of the East Iberian branch of the Ibero-Romance branch of the Gallo-Iberian branch of the Western sub complex of the Italo-Western complex of the Romance group of the Italic branch of the Indo-European language family. It shares many features with both Spanish and French, and is the language nearest to Occitan, and is often thought of as a sort of "transitional" language between the Iberian and Gallic languages when comparing the modern descendants of Latin.
In 1861, Manuel Milà i Fontanals proposed a division of Catalan into two major dialect blocks: Eastern Catalan and Western Catalan.
There is no precise linguistic border between one dialect and another because there is nearly always a transition zone of some size between pairs of geographically separated dialects, (except for dialects specific to an island). The main differences between the two blocks are:
Western Catalan (Bloc o Branca del Català Occidental):
Eastern Catalan (Bloc o Branca del Català Oriental):
- Unstressed vowels: [a] [e] [i] [o] [u]. Distinctions between e and a and o and u.
- Initial or post-consonantal x is affricate /t?/. Between vowels or when final and preceded by i, it is /j?/.
- 1st person present indicative is -e or -o.
- Inchoative in -ix, -ixen, -isca
- Maintenance of medieval nasal plural in Proparoxytone words: hòmens, jóvens
- Specific Vocabulary: espill, xiquet, granera, melic...
Catalan is spoken in:
- Unstressed vowels [?] [i] [u]. The unstressed vowels e and a become /?/ and o and u become /u/.
- Initial or post-consonantal x is the fricative /?/. Between vowels or final preceded by i it is also /?/.
- 1st person present indicative is -o, -i or ø.
- Inchoative in -eix, -eixen, -eixi.
- The -n- of medieval nasal plural is dropped in Proparoxytone words: homes, joves.
- Specific Vocabulary: mirall, noi, escombra, llombrígol...
- Catalonia in Spain.
- An adjacent strip of Aragon, Spain, in particular the comarques of Baixa Ribagorça, Llitera, Baix Cinca, and Matarranya.
- Balearic Islands in Spain.
- Northern Catalonia in France.
- The city of Alghero (l'Alguer) on Sardinia, an island in Italy.
- A small region in Murcia, Spain, known as el Carche in Castilian and el Carxe in Catalan.