C also forms some special clusters, discussed in the following page ci


НазваниеC also forms some special clusters, discussed in the following page ci
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1.1
THE ALPHABET
AND THE BASIC SOUNDS






The modern Italian alphabet has less letters than the English one: J, K, W, X and Y do not occur in native terms. Nevertheless, these letters do appear in dictionaries, for archaic spellings, and for a few foreign and international terms used also in Italian.
The following table will therefore list these letters too, though showing them in deep green, to stress that they are only additional ones.
Each entry tells the pronounciation of the letter in Italian, trying to make the closest match with English sounds. All vowels have links to .WAV files, for an easier comprehension.
The last column on the right shows the "name" of the letters, i.e. how each single letter is called in Italian.
BASIC SOUND TABLE



SOUND


NAME


A

Always as a short English a, as in cat, fact, or like the o in how, cloud.
(

a

B

Always as English b.

bi

C

As English k, except when the following vowel is e or i, in which case it sounds as English ch in chest, chip.
Letter c also forms some special clusters, discussed in the following page.

ci

D

Always as English d.

di

E

Depending on the word, it may sound either as English a in hay, layer, may (this is called a narrow "e"), or as English e in jem, tent, hen (this one is called a wide "e").
Unlike in French language, accented vowels such as é (narrow "e", with acute accent) and è (wide "e", with grave accent) are used in very limited situations, so the exact sound is not usually spelled. But this only concerns spoken language, not written language; in any case, a word pronounced with an incorrect sound (for example a wide "e" in place of a narrow "e") would be understood all the same.

e
(narrow sound)


F

Always as English f in fame, knife, flute, but never like of.

effe

G

As English g in gravel, goblet, except in three cases:
when followed by vowels e and i, it sounds as English j in jelly, jigsaw; when followed by n, forming cluster gn (discussed in the following page); when followed by l, forming cluster gl (discussed in the following page).

gi

H

Always soundless; it is therefore used as a mere graphic spelling in very few words.
It also takes part to special clusters, discussed in the following page.
But letter h never sounds as in English house, hope.

acca

I

It always sounds as English y in yellow, troyan. A similar sound is that of English ee in fleet, seem, but the length of the Italian sound is shorter.

i

J

A few names have a letter j, always pronounced as English y in yell, lawyer; for further details about this letter, scroll down the page to the NOTES.

i lunga

K

In foreign or international words, it always sounds as English k.

kappa

L

Always as English l.

elle

M

Always as English m.

emme

N

Always as English n.

enne

O

Always as English o, in some case with a "narrow" sound as in blow, soul, row, or sometimes with a "wide" sound as in cloth, spot, dog.
The use of accented vowels ó (narrow) or ò (wide) is very limited, as explained for letter e above.

o
(wide sound)


P

Always as English p.

pi

Q

Always as English q, it is always followed by vowel u.

qu

R

The sound is always "rolled", like a Scottish r in Edinburgh, or a Spanish r in señor. It never sounds like an English r or a French r.

erre

S

As English s, sometimes strong as in strip, fuss, sometimes weak as in easy, abuse.
Letter s also belongs to some clusters, discussed in the following page.

esse
(strong sound)


T

Always as English t

ti

U

The sound is similar to English w in win, rowing, but obviously u is a vowel.

u

V

Always as English v.

vu
or
vi


W

In foreign or international words, it may either sound as a German w in würstel (i.e. like Italian v), or as English w in window (i.e. as the Italian vowel u).
When Italians are in doubt, they usually pronounce letter w in the German way, as suggested by the name given to the letter, which means double v.

doppia vu

X

In foreign or international words, it always sounds as English x.

ics

Y

In foreign or international words, it always sounds as English y, as the Italian vowel i.

i greca
or
ipsilon


Z

It usually sounds like an English cluster dz in godzilla, but when the letter is double (see paragraph 1.3), the sound is stronger, as English cluster tz or ts in lots, mats.

zeta


NOTES


letter J - in some Italian words, as ieri (= yesterday), gioiello (= jewel), and a few others, vowel i is followed by another vowel which belongs to the same syllable. This i will therefore have a rather "swift" sound, more or less like letter y would be pronounced in English words like yellow or coyote: no more than 60 years ago, this i would have been spelled j, to show this particular sound due to the following vowel. The Italian name for j is long i.
Nowadays, this spelling has become totally obsolete, and j only occurs in a few christian names and surnames.

letter Y - it is a reminiscence of the Greek alphabet, as suggested by the name ^ Greek i given to it. But while this letter in Greek sounds like German ü, in Italian it sounds exactly like vowel i, and has therefore been dropped because redundant.
Some consonants change sound when they come together forming one syllable (monosyllabic clusters).

CLUSTER

SOUND

^ CE, CI

CIA, CIE,

CIO, CIU


While ca, co and cu are pronounced like in English, ce and ci have a soft sound, like in English che and chi.

When cluster ci is followed by a further vowel, the sound of i is dropped, becoming merely graphic (only to show that c has to be pronounced as English "ch").



CHE, CHI

A letter h between c and e or between c and i gives the cluster a hard sound:
che sounds like an English ke, while chi sounds like an English ki.



GE, GI

GIA, GIE,

GIO, GIU


The clusters ga, go and gu are pronounced like in English, but ge and gi have a "soft" sound, like English je and jy.

Also in this case, when cluster gi is followed by a further vowel, i becomes mute, and the sound of English "j" is followed by the second vowel.


GHE, GHI

In the same way explained above, an h inserted between g and vowel e or i gives the cluster a hard sound:
ghe sounds like an English gue in guest , while ghi sounds like an English gui in guild.



GLI

GLIA, GLIE,

GLIO, GLIU


When gl is followed by vowel i, it has the same sound as ll would have in Spanish words like caballo, lluvia, etc.
This sound does not exist in English, although a very similar combination is obtained in expressions such as "I will call you", where the "ll" cluster is followed by "y" + another vowel.
To get even closer to the Italian sound, while pronouncing this cluster you should press the back of your tongue against your rear teeth and your palate.

When gli is followed by vowels a, e, o and u it gives the vowel the Spanish "ll" sound: glia sounds like Spanish "lla", glie like Spanish "lle", glio like Spanish "llo", and gliu like Spanish "llu".
Instead, when gl (without an i) is followed by vowels a, e, o and u, it is simply pronounced as in English, in words like glass, glove etc.



GN

It is pronounced exactly as a Spanish ñ, in señor, mañana.
The gn cluster is always followed by a vowel.


SCE, SCI

SCIA, SCIE,

SCIO, SCIU


Cluster sc only has a special sound when followed by vowels e and i, in which case it sounds like the English sh in sheriff, fashion.
In any other case (sca, sco, scu) the pronounciation is like English sk.

When a further vowel follows cluster sci (scia, scie, scio, sciu), the sound of i is omitted (this vowel only acts as a phonetic part of the cluster, needed to produce the "sh" sound).




These concepts are summarized in the following table, showing the Italian clusters with the English sound in italics (the few marked [*] refer to Spanish sounds):

SPECIAL CLUSTERS SOUNDS


ca · ca

co · co

cu · cu

ce · che

ci · chi

-

-

-

che · ke

chi · ki

cia · cha

cio · cho

ciu · chu

-

-


ga · ga

go · go

gu · gu

ge · je

gi · ji

-

-

-

ghe · gue

ghi · gui

gia · ja

gio · jo

giu · ju

-

-


gla · gla

glo · glo

glu · glu

gle · gle

gli · lli [*]

glia · lla [*]

glio · llo [*]

gliu · llu [*]

glie · lle [*]

-


gna · ña [*]

gno · ño [*]

gnu · ñu [*]

gne · ñe [*]

gni · ñi [*]


sca · sca

sco · sco

scu · scu

sce · she

sci · shi

[*] = as in Spanish words
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