Introduction to Italian/Lesson 2

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The Italian Alphabet[edit | edit source]

The national park of Abruzzo in Italy.

The Italian alphabet is very similar to the English alphabet:

Letter Name IPA Letter Name IPA
A, a a /a/ N, n enne /n/
B, b bi /b/ O, o o /o/ or /ɔ/
C, c ci /k/ or /tʃ/ P, p pi /p/
D, d di /d/ Q, q cu /k/
E, e e /e/ or /ɛ/ R, r erre /r/
F, f effe /f/ S, s esse /s/ or /z/
G, g gi /g/ or /dʒ/ T, t ti /t/
H, h acca (silent) U, u u /u/ or /w/
I, i i /i/ or /j/ V, v vi, vu /v/
L, l elle /l/ Z, z zeta /dz/ or /ts/
M, m emme /m/

Notice that it lacks the letters j, k, w, x, and y. These are "foreign letters" used only in loanwords.

Letter Name IPA Letter Name IPA
J, j i lunga, gèi /dʒ/ X, x ics /ks/
K, k cappa /k/ Y, y ipsilon, i greca /y/
W, w doppia vi, doppia vu, vi doppia, vu doppia[N 1] /v/

It is important to notice that letters are all feminine nouns.

Vowel pronunciations[edit | edit source]

Each vowel has basically one pronunciation. They are as follows:
a - pronounced roughly like the a in father or class, like the sound a dentist might have you make when you open your mouth wide. It is usually pronounced in a relaxed way, but hardens when an accent mark is added (à).
e - pronounced like the e in pest or Edward. When it has an accent (è) it is pronounced like the a in plate or the ei in eight.
i - pronounced like the ee in feed or the ea in peak.
o - pronounced like the oa in boat or the oe in toe.
u - pronounced like the o in to or who.

Note on accented vowels[edit | edit source]

In some languages accented letters are counted as their own letters (for instance, in Swedish the letter ä is considered different from the letter a). In Italian, à and è are just variations on a and e. So in a dictionary, the words ‘‘e’’ and ‘‘ è’’ will appear immediately after one another.

Consonant pronunciations[edit | edit source]

Most Italian consonants are pronounced the same as they are in English:

The Colosseum is an ancient arena in Roma (Rome), the capital of Italy.
Consonant or
consonant combination
b Same as b in bat.
ca, co, cu Same as c in cat, cot, cut
ce, ci Same as ch in chair, cheese
che, chi Same as k in kay, key
d Same as d in dog
f Same as f in fake
ga, go Same as g in gab, gob
ge, gi Same as g in gem
gh Same as gh in Pittsburgh
gla, gle, glo, glu Same as gl in ugly
gli Same as ll in billion
gn Same as ny in Bunyan
gu Same as gu in anguish
h Same as h in honest
l Same as l in lake
m Same as m in mom
n Same as n in not
p Same as p in post
qu Same as qu in queen
r Same as r in race, but rolled (your tongue should vibrate up and down when you pronounce it)
s Same as s in sorry; sometimes as z as in zoo
t Same as t in time
v Same as v in violin
z Same as z in zoo, but often as dz or tz (think pizza)

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Notice that all the Italian names for "W" mean "double V", instead of the English "double U".