The Italian alphabet is a variant of the Latin alphabet used by the Italian language.
|Letter||Name||International Phonetic Alphabet||Diacritics|
|C, c||ci||/k/ or /tʃ/|
|E, e||e||/e/ or /ɛ/||è, é|
|G, g||gi||/ɡ/ or /dʒ/|
|H, h||acca||∅ silent|
|I, i||i||/i/ or /j/||ì, í, î|
|O, o||o||/o/ or /ɔ/||ò, ó|
|S, s||esse||/s/ or /z/|
|U, u||u||/u/ or /w/||ù, ú|
|V, v||vi or vu||/v/|
|Z, z||zeta||/ts/ or /dz/|
The Italian alphabet has five vowel letters, a e i o u. Of those, only a represents one sound value while each of the others has two. In addition, e and i indicate a different pronunciation of a preceding c or g.
Normally, c and g represent the plosives /k/ and /ɡ/, respectively, unless they precede a front vowel (i or e) when they represent the affricates /tʃ/ (like English ch) and /dʒ/ (like English j).
The letter i may also function merely as an indicator that the preceding c or g is soft, e.g. cia (/tʃa/), ciu (/tʃu/). When the hard pronunciation occurs before a front vowel, digraphs ch and gh are used, so that che represents /ke/ or /kɛ/ and chi represents /ki/. In the evolution of the Latin language, the postalveolar affricates /tʃ/ and /dʒ/ were contextual variants of the velar consonants /k/ and /ɡ/. They eventually came to be full phonemes, and the said orthographic practice was introduced to distinguish them. The phonemicity of the affricates can be demonstrated with the minimal pairs:
|Anywhere but before i e||c||caramella /karaˈmɛlla/
|g||gallo /ˈɡallo/||gi||giallo /ˈdʒallo/|
|Before i e||ch||china /ˈkina/||c||Cina /ˈtʃina/|
|gh||ghiro /ˈɡiro/||g||giro /ˈdʒiro/|
The trigraphs cch and ggh are used to indicate geminated /k/ and /ɡ/, respectively, when they occur before i or e; e.g. occhi /okːi/ (‘eyes’), agghindare /aɡːindare/ (to dress up).
G is also used to mark that a following l or n is soft (this is not always true in loanwords from other languages). With l, a following i is also necessary, though this may be stressed or unstressed: famiglia /famiʎʎa/ (‘family’).
The digraph sc is used before e and i to represent /ʃ/; before other vowels, sci is used. Otherwise, sc represents /sk/, the c of which follows the normal orthographic rules explained above.
|Anywhere but before i e||sc||scalo /ˈskalo/
|Before i e||sch||scherno /ˈskerno/||sc||scerno /ˈʃɛrno/|
In addition to being used to indicate a hard c or g before front vowels, h is also used to distinguish ho, hai, ha, hanno (present indicative of avere, ‘to have’) from o (‘or’), ai (‘to the’), a (‘to’), anno (‘year’); since h is always silent, there is no difference in the pronunciation of such words. In foreign loanwords, the h is still silent: hovercraft /ɔverkraft/.
Z represents an alveolar affricate consonant; either voiced /dz/ (zanzara /dzandzara/ ‘mosquito’) or voiceless /ts/ (nazione /nattsjone/ ‘nation’), depending on context, though there are few minimal pairs.
S also is ambiguous to voicing; it can represent /s/ or /z/. However, these two phonemes are in complementary distribution everywhere except between two vowels in the same word and, even in such environments, there are very few minimal pairs.