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Thomas Bandy, Oberlin Conservatory

I suoni dellitaliano (The Sounds of Italian)

Major characteristics of the language:
Native speakers use more energy, enthusiasm, and
gesticulation than English speakers tend to
Like all Romance languages, tends to favor open
syllables (those that end in a vowel)
Few choices for vowels, and those are always clear
and individual, especially when unstressed
Does not use aspirated sounds (b, p, t) as in English
or German; pronounced gently
Double consonants are emphasized
Above all, the language is legato; it flows

GliAccenti: Accent marks
To indicate that the final vowel is stressed: Gi
already, torner s/he will return, perch
because, amer I will love
To distinguish between monosyllabic homonyms: che
which vs. ch because, di of vs. d day, e and
vs. is, si if vs. s yes, la the vs. l there

How words change their forms
Contraction: omitting letters in the middle; cuore
core heart, egli ei he, belli bei beautiful,
quali quai what
Elision: omission of a final vowel with an
apostrophe; unopera (una) an opera, onestuomo
(onesto) honest man
Compound words: gentiluomo [gentile]
Truncation: common in libretti and poetry! Must
end in l, m, n, r; Dove son? (sono) where are they?,
una gran festa (grande) a grand festival, cor/cuor
(core/cuore) heart

Word stress: stress means length
4% on the final syllable (parola tronca): piet pity,
Signor (Signore) sir, fer wounded
50% on the penultimate (parola piana plain word):
pizza, insalata, immagineremmo we would imagine
10% on the antepenultimate (parola sdrucciola slid
word): camera room, medico doctor, opera,
baritono, -issimo/-evole/-abile, some 3ppl verbs
Rarely on the fourth-from-last (parola bisdrucciola
twice-slid word): esaminano they examine
The rest are single-syllable, very common words

English vowels that are never used: [] aside, [] cat, []
cup, [] turn, [] bit, [] push

Only seven vowel sounds: [a], [], [e], [i], [], [o], [u]
Stressed e/o can be open (, ) OR closed (, )
look it up and write it in!
Unstressed e/o can only be closed (up for debate)
[j] and [w] are semivowels, glides of [i] and [u]:
piano [pja:no], gioia [o:ja], guerra [gwr:ra], uomo
[w:mo], quieto [kwj:to], BUT riamare [riama:re]

Many common words look like glides but ARENT:
io, lui, tuo, suo, addio, il desio, natio, loblio, la bugia
falsehood, fantasia, la follia, la via, pria

soft hard
+ i/e + a/o/u
c k
g g
sc sk

iand h are your tools to switch softness and hardness:
ci [i] here vs. chi [ki] who
giro [i:ro] turn vs. ghiro [gi:ro] dormouse
scema [e:ma] lesson vs. schema [ske:ma] scheme

Geminated (double) consonants:
la casa [ka:za] house vs. la cassa [kas:sa] case, chest
leco [:ko] echovs. ecco [k:ko] here/there it is
il papa [pa:pa] pope vs. la pappa [pap:pa] baby food
sce/sci [:] when intervocalic la scena [la::na]
gli [:] aglio e olio garlic and oil [a:o e :ljo]
gn [:] lasagna [laza:a], ogni every [o:i]

BUT: another kind of n-hook is not doubled:
n+ k/g [] ancora again [ako:ra], sangue [sagwe]

r: flipped when single/intervocalic; rolled everywhere else!
s before a voiced consonant, or intervocalic, is [z]
la casa house [ka:za] (not Spanish)
cos thus, thats how [kozi:]
lo sbaglio mistake [zba:o]
sleale disloyal [zlea:le]
la sventura same [zventu:ra]
z can be voiced [dz] or unvoiced [ts]: you MUST look it up!
mezzo middle [md:dzo]
mezzo rotten, spoiled [met:tso]
la grandezza size [grandet:tsa]
la romanza romance, song [romandza]

Linking words:
After l/m/n/r, you can link/geminate consonants
amiam per sempre, con lei, il giovane, con noi (no
shadow vowels the dreadest Pavarottitis!)
Cons-vowel links: NEVER use glottals: fatal errore,
non ha, in amore, or ora, andiam insiem
Vowel-vowel links: synalepha. Two or three vowels
on one note you MUST choose one to get most of
the length! prende ogni, che il mondo, foglia e fiori