Italian/Pronunciation and alphabet

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Italian Alphabet and Sounds[edit]

Italian alphabet is identical to the English one but the sound of certain letters is different. There are double letter which sound differently from single ones and vowels are crucial and a lot more stressed than what they are in english. Every letter or sound is represented in one unique way, every letter is always read in the same way, you will never see ph for f or other tricks present in French and English, for instance.

Letter Pronunciation Name in italian
a Like in "Father" A
b Like in "But" Bi (English: Bee)
c Like in "Chess" if the following letter is e/i, otherwise it's like in "Cake" Ci (English: Chee)
c + h Always pronounced like a "K" CH
d Like in "Diamond" Di (English: Dee)
e Like in "Elephant" E
f Like in "Father" Effe (English: EffE)
g Like in "General" if the following letter is e/i, otherwise it's like in "Gun" Gi (English: Gee)
g + h Always pronounced like in "Gate" GH
h never pronounced, but if between c (or g) and e/i, it changes their sound (look c,g) Acca
i Like the double "E" sound in "Street", never as "Island", never as "Kid" I (English: Ee)
j ... Jay/ ilunga
k ... Kappa
l Like in "Left" Elle
m Like in "Metal" Emme
n Like in "Never" Enne
o Like in "hOt" O
p Like in "People" Pi (English: Pee)
q always followed by U, it's like in "Quarterback" Qu (English Ku)
r Like in "Rock" but the sound is a bit different: italians pronounce it by making the tip of the tongue tremble closer to the front teeth Erre
s Like in "Sing" Esse
t Like in "Time" Ti (English: Tea)
u Like in "Boot" U (English: oo)
v Like in "Volleyball" Vi/Vu (English Vee)
w ... Doppia Vi/ Doppia Vu
x ... Ics
y ... Ypsilon
z Like in "Zen" however the exact pronounce is usually more stressed, "dura" in italian, even to the point of sounding like "Cats" Zeta

  • Since j, k, w, x, y are not "italian" letters, that is to say they are only used for foreign words, they are pronounced exactly like in English. X is a common letter in Sicilian language words derived from Greek. Thus when certain toponyms and family names are rendered in Italian they conserve the X. Examples include Bettino Craxi, or Sant'Angelo Muxaro. In this examples the X is pronounced similar to English KS.

Particular phonemes[edit]

There are, however, digraphs/trigraphs that have their own particular phonemes:

Letters Pronunciation tools Words in Italian
gli called "laterale palatale" [ʎ], it's very close to the sound of "Yes" or "Yiddish" or the Spanish "LL". Paglia (straw), Aglio (garlic)
gn called "nasale palatale" [ɲ], this sound is made by sticking your tongue on your palate while pronouncing a sort of N; as a result the sound will be nasal. In Spanish this sound is represented by the letter ñ, in English it could be rendered, for example, in a mispronounced "onion" ['ʌɲjən]

Another way that it could be rendered is the same as the word "Poignant," as the sound of the "gn" is identical to what it sounds like in Italian.

Gnocchi, Bolognese
sce/sci the sound of the digraph SC (normally that of "Sky), when followed immediately by E or I, becomes that of "Shame". Coherently, the word "Schermo" (screen), is to be pronounced like skermo, not like scermo, because of the letter h immediately after the digraph. Scienza (science), Scegliere (to choose)