L’alfabeto Italiano – The Italian Alphabet

L’alfabeto Italiano – The Italian Alphabet Free Italian Lessons on line by Nicola de Corato

The Italian alphabet is a variant of the Latin alphabet used by the Italian language.

Letter Name International Phonetic Alphabet Diacritics
A, a a /ɑ/ à
B, b bi /b/
C, c ci /k/ or /tʃ/
D, d di /d/
E, e e /e/ or /ɛ/ è, é
F, f effe /f/
G, g gi /ɡ/ or /dʒ/
H, h acca ∅ silent
I, i i /i/ or /j/ ì, í, î
L, l elle /l/
M, m emme /m/
N, n enne /n/
O, o o /o/ or /ɔ/ ò, ó
P, p pi /p/
Q, q cu /k/
R, r erre /r/
S, s esse /s/ or /z/
T, t ti /t/
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:

 

Plosive Affricate
Anywhere but before i e c caramella /karaˈmɛlla/
crema /ˈkrɛma/
ci ciaramella /tʃaraˈmɛlla/
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).[1]
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/
scrivere /ˈskrivere/
sci scialo /ˈʃalo/
Before i e sch scherno /ˈskerno/ sc scerno /ˈʃɛrno/

Other letters

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.

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