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Lesson Transcript

Laura: "Buongiorno!"
Marco: Marco here! Italian Pronunciation Series Lesson 3 - Italian Consonants
Marco: Hello, and welcome to the Pronunciation Series at ItalianPod101.com, where we study modern Italian in a fun, educational format!
Laura: So brush up on the Italian that you started learning long ago, or start learning today.
Marco: Thanks for being here with us for this lesson. Laura, what are we looking at in this lesson?
Laura: Today, you will all work on your pronunciation of Italian consonants.
Marco: If you are interested, a consonant is a sound that is obstructed by either your lips, your tongue, or your teeth while producing it.
Laura: Oh...what a very scientific definition.
Marco: No, no, it 's just coming from my dictionary.
Laura: Also, what makes a consonant a consonant is that you can't have a word made of consonant sounds only.
Marco: In Italian? Oh no you can't. Maybe in Turkish!
Laura: Some languages have words with five or six consonants in a row!
Marco: Let's start with our consonants.
Laura: Sooooo...the Italian language has a total of twenty-one consonant sounds.
Marco: Of which some seem to be completely Italian-specific, right?
Laura: Well, we share most of them with other languages, but, of course, English speakers, for example, have a really hard time pronouncing some of them.
Marco: Like doubled consonant sounds, called "doppie" in Italian.
Laura: Yes, that's very specific to the Italian language. Like in Italians' favorite word, "mamma."
Marco: Or in my favorite Italian dish, "gnocchi."
Laura: Or in "pollo fritto," "fried chicken."
Marco: Not a very Italian dish though.
Laura: But very Italian sounding! So whenever there are two of the same consonants next to each other, we pronounce them as a doubled sound…"mamma" has two "-m's", gnocchi has two "-c's," "pollo" has two "-l's," and "fritto" has two "-t's."
Marco: To pronounce those, you basically stop a little on the consonant you need to double.
Laura: "Gatto," "palla," "troppo," "pizza..."
Marco: "Gatto" is "cat," "palla" is "ball," "troppo" is "too much," and "pizza"…is well "pizza!"
Laura: Now, pretty much all of you know how to make a "doppia."
Marco: What if you don’'t pronounce it correctly? Would people understand you anyway?
Laura: Sometimes skipping a "doppia" changes the meaning of the word completely. For example, "cappello" and "capello." Can you tell the difference, Marco?
Marco: Well the one with the doubled "-p" means "hat," "cappello," and the one with the single "-p" means "hair," "capello."
Laura: They have completely different meanings. People would think you're crazy if you told them you went to the hairdresser to get a "hat cut" instead of a "haircut."
Marco: Very true. Better cut off your "capello" than your "cappello," as your "hat" won't grow back.
Laura: You're absolutely right.
Marco: There are other difficult sounds in Italian, but we are going to have a look at those in another lesson, is that right?
Laura: Yes. We'll have only an overview of Italian consonants today…
Marco: Which can be divided into three groups.
Laura: Consonants can be occlusive, continuous, or affricates, depending on the sound.
Marco: That sounds really obscure to me.
Laura: Not difficult at all, after we practice this. Occlusive consonants, as the name suggests, require some sort of closure in our vocal tract.
Marco: For example?
Laura: When we pronounce "-p" or "-b," we close our mouths completely for a split second. And for "-t" or "-d," we pronounce those between our teeth. These are all occlusive.
Marco: So these are the occlusive consonants. Any tip to practice on?
Laura: Maybe we can practice with Italian city names. That's what we would use in Italy to spell a name on the phone.
Marco: Italian spelling sounds so complicated! So you have to learn Italian cities' names just to spell your name?
Laura: Yes, but unless your first name is very strange, you will need only to learn the cities to spell your last name.
Marco: Better off with a short last name then. Anyway, which Italian cities start with an occlusive consonant?
Laura: Let's see... We have "-p" in "Palermo," "-b" in "Bologna," "-m" in "Mantova," "-t" in "Trapani," "-d" in "Domodossola," and "-n" in "Napoli."
Marco: "-p" "Palermo," "-b" "Bologna," "-m" "Mantova," "-t" "Trapani," "-d" "Domodossola," "-n" "Napoli." Any other occlusive sounds?
Laura: Yes, but today we'll practice only the simple ones.
Marco: I see. So how about the continuous consonants?
Laura: Those are pronounced with more air going through your mouth, so you don't have to close it as much. "-f" and "-s" are called continuous because they produce a rustle…[ffff], [ssss].
Marco: Like in "Firenze" and "Sassari?"
Laura: "Bravo," Marco. Then we have vibrant continuous consonants, because they vibrate…[rrrrrr]
Marco: As in "Roma!"
Laura: That was an easy one.
Marco: "-v," "Verona." Is that an occlusive as well?
Laura: That's right. Then we have continuous lateral [llll], because the air goes through the side of your tongue. Any city starting with "-l," Marco?
Marco: "Livorno."
Laura: Very good. Ever been there?
Marco: No, but I'm a big fan of "baccalà alla livornese." "Salted cod Livorno style."
Laura: You’'re obsessed with food! I'll share my uncle's secret "baccalà" recipe with you if you find a city starting with the next consonant we'll look at.
Marco: Deal! What is it?
Laura: The last consonants we're looking at are affricates, a combination of occlusive and continuous consonants.
Marco: Ohh, that’'s interesting.
Laura: Yes. They are actually composed of two sounds, even though they sound like one.
As in "zio," meaning "uncle." The one of the secret "baccala" recipe. The sound of the letter "zeta," -z, is composed of [t] and [s], "zio." Any cities starting with "zeta," Marco?
Marco: That's unfair! There aren't any major Italian cities starting with "zeta!"
Laura: No city starts with "-z," so no secret recipe. Sorry!
Marco: There must be one though. How do Italians spell their names with a "-z" on the phone?
Laura: Well, if we say "zeta," that cannot be confused with any other letter, so we don't use a city name for spelling in this case. We use city names only for those letters that can be mistaken if not heard clearly. Anyway, there are a few places in Italy starting with "-z."
Marco: For example?
Laura: "Zaccanopoli."
Marco: Never heard of it.
Laura: I bBet not. It's a village in Calabria with fewer than one thousand "Zaccanopolesi" living there.
Marco: Who are "Zaccanopolesi?"
Laura: People coming from "Zaccanopoli." "Milanesi" live in Milano, "Bolognesi" live in Bologna, and "Zaccanopolesi" live in Zaccanopoli.
Marco: Of course...is pizza any good in Zaccanopoli?
Laura: How would I know? Never been there. Anyway, speaking of pizza, have you ever noticed any differences in pronouncing "zeta" sounds in Italian?
Marco: Let me see…"pizza," "Zaccanopoli"…yes, they do sound different.
Laura: They are actually two different sounds. We'll see them again in another lesson, but we can start practicing. Give me a "zeta" word, Marco.
Marco: "Zio" [ts], "uncle."
Laura: Okay, so that's [ts]...imagine pronouncing "-t" and "-s." [tsssss], "zio." Another "zeta" word?
Marco: "Zero."
Laura: Good, that's composed of a [d] and an [s]. [dssss], "zero." "Zio," "zero." "Pizza," "Zaccanopoli."
Marco: Now I can go to a nice pizzeria in Zaccanopoli and order that pizza with confidence.
Laura: Then you will let me know whether it's worth the trip.
Marco: But what if I get confused and mix up the [tsss] and the [dsss] sounds?
Laura: Don't worry, you will only sound a bit funny, but you'll still get what you want.
Marco: By the way, you say "zio" [ts], but I'm pretty sure that my Italian teacher said "zio" [ds].
Laura: Oh yes, that makes sense. [ts] "zio" is standard Italian, but there are acceptable regional differences for some words. So some people from the north would say [ds] "zio." But it's a good idea to stick to standard Italian pronunciation so you don't get confused.
Marco: Okay. So, to sum it up, shall we have a look again at those doubled consonants? Let's say I'm in a restaurant in Zaccanopoli.
Laura: Okay, let's say you can order all you want, and I'll pay for the bill, but every single thing you order must have a "doppia" in it.
Marco: A doubled consonant? Okay. To start with, I will order a "fritto misto."
Laura: That's a "mixed fry-up," and it usually refers to seafood. "Fritto."
Marco: So that has two "-t's," "doppia -t." "Fritto."
Laura: Not bad as an appetizer. What else.
Marco: Then I will order "gnocchi di zucca."
Laura: "Gnocchi" and "zucca," meaning "pumpkin," both with a doubled "-c."
Marco: Then I will order "pizza" and "bistecca."
Laura: "Pizza," doubled "zeta," and "bistecca," "steak," with a doubled "-c." Are you sure you can eat everything you order?
Marco: As long as you're paying, I sure can. I'll also have "polpette fritte" as a side dish.
Laura: Usually that's a main dish, but anyway..."polpette fritte" are "fried meatballs," both words have two "-t's."
Marco: I will have a nice bottle of "vino rosso" to go with everything.
Laura: You cannot have "red wine."
Marco: Why? "Rosso" has two "-s's."
Laura: Yes, but you ordered "fritto misto," and in Italy we never have red wine with seafood or fish. You should have "white wine" instead.
Marco: Oh, I'll have "vino bianco" then.
Laura. You cannot have that…"vino bianco" has no doubled consonant.
Marco: So I'll have "grappa" instead.
Laura: Oh, that's a very strong Italian liquor, but it does have a doubled "-p," so no objections, I guess.
Marco: For dessert, I will have "panna cotta!"
Laura: That's "cooked cream," "panna" with two "-n's" and "cotta" with two "-t's." Not sure you can find that in Zaccanopoli, though.
Marco: Why?
Laura: Zaccanapoli is in Calabria, and you are not ordering much local food. Anyway, let's assume you ended up in a touristy restaurant and they're used to dealing with that.
Marco: Many tourists in Zaccanapoli?
Laura: I really doubt it. Anyway, to wash down everything, what will you order?
Marco: A "cappuccino."
Laura: I knew it! That's so wrong.
Marco: Why? That's the most doubled consonant item I ordered so far. "Cappuccino," two "-p's" and two "-c's."
Laura: Real Italians would rarely have a cappuccino after eleven a.m., and anyway never, ever for lunch or dinner. You're such an obvious tourist.
Marco: Okay, so I'll have a "caffe" instead. "Doppio," please.
Laura: A "double espresso" that is. I'm starting to regret I said I'd pay the bill…


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Monday at 6:30 pm
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Wednesday at 10:09 am
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Hi Kathy Brackett,

Thank you for the positive feedback!

Grazie mille!


Team ItalianPod101.com

Kathy Brackett
Tuesday at 5:53 am
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I like this format a great deal

Friday at 12:38 am
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Di niente Jene'!

You are welcome!


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Tuesday at 8:14 am
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Grazie mille Ofelia!

Monday at 8:51 pm
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Hi Jane!

In general you have a trilled r when it is at the beginning of a word, before or after another consonant and if it is double (e.g. rosso, portare, terra), in the the other cases it is normally flipped (e.g. fiore, lavorare).

Grazie e a presto!:smile:


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Monday at 7:05 am
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When is an "r" flipped, and when is it trilled?