Tuesday, January 25, 2011

How to learn Italian 5 - Double consonants

Many Italian words have doubleconsonants. They can be found in any part of the word,
but never as first letters or as last letters.

In most cases they are followed by a vowel, as in dubbio= doubt,gatto= cat, etc.; but in some cases they may be followed by r, as in labbra= lipsattrito= friction, etc.

Instead, another consonant can never come before a double consonant.

Also English has several words with double consonants, for instance supple,bottle,
abbot, and so on.

In Italian, though, double consonants have a specific sound, while in English they are pronounced as if they were single.
The Italian sound is obtainable by breaking the word by the double consonant; for example, as if
the word cattle was spelt ca - ttle, i.e. with a very short suspension between the two syllables: the tt sound should therefore be heard more distinctly.

Any consonant can be doubled, except letter h (never doubled, because it is always
soundless), and special ones (jkwxy).

Here you can listen to the actual sound of double consonants:

dubbio (doubt)affare(bargain / business)
gatto (cat)passato(past)
labbra (lips)collare(collar)
attrito (friction)anno (year)

Some clusters too may be doubled:
...cci like English "...tchyh", as in stracci (rags)
...cce like English "...tcheh", as in accesso (access)

Compounds of ...cci + vowel obviously follow the same pronounciation, dropping the i sound:
...ccia (sounds like "...tchah"), as in faccia (face)
...ccio (sounds like "...tchoh"), as in riccio (curl / porcupine)
...cciu sounds like "...tchuh" as in acciuga (anchovy)

Similar clusters with g (...ggia...ggio, etc.), follow the same phonetical
rules as above, sounding as "...djah""...djoh", etc.

Rarely, the cluster ...ccie or ...ggie (with an i) may also occur, but
they sound exactly as the clusters ...cce and ...gge mentioned above; in these
cases i (merely phonetic) is also redundant, so modern spellings tend to drop it.

Double vowels are uncommon in Italian, though possible in a few words.

They are always pronounced as the ordinary individual ones, but in these cases a longer sound should be
cooperare (to cooperate)
zii (uncles)
veemenza (vehemence)
riinserire (to insert again)

Double letters, either consonants or vowels, always belong to separate syllables.
How to divide words into their syllables is specifically dealt with by paragraph 17.3, so for the time being simply focus how the following words are divided into their own syllables:

attrito(friction)at - tri - to
passare (to pass)pas - sa - to
ammazzare(to kill)am - maz - za - re
lucchetto(padlock)luc - chet - to
cooperazione(cooperation)co - o - pe - ra - zio - ne
riinstallare (to install again, reinstall)ri - in - stal - la - re

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