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Lesson Transcript

Laura: "Buongiorno a tutti!" "Hi, everyone!"
Marco: Marco here! Pronunciation Series Lesson 5 – Pronouncing the Letter "-s," Diphthongs, and the Hiatus
Marco: Hi, this is Marco, and I am joined here by Laura.
Laura: So we're progressing fast with our pronunciation lessons, isn't that so?
Marco: Yes, we can almost say anything we want now in Italian.
Laura: In this lesson, we are going to learn how we can pronounce the letter "-s" in the Italian language.
Marco: And how we say diphthongs and handle the hiatus.
Laura: Let's start with the letter "-s."
Marco: It's incredible how much impact this simple letter can have on the pronunciation of some words.
Laura: Well, let's see them together.
Marco: First of all, the letter "-s" can have two phonetic values.
Laura: Voiced and unvoiced.
Marco: The unvoiced "-s" [s] is the regular one from the English words "sport," "sky," "star," and so forth.
Laura: The voiced "-s" [z] is actually the sound [z] in English as we have in the words "zoo," "zone," "zip," and so forth.
Marco: Let's now take a practical look at the rules for the pronunciation of the letter "-s."
Laura: Let's start by taking a look at the letter "-s" plus "-a," "-e," "-i," "-o," and "-u."
Marco: In this case, the sound is unvoiced, as in…
Laura: "sale," [sa]
Marco: "salt"
Laura: "serpente," [se]
Marco: "snake"
Laura: "sole," [so]
Marco: "sun"
Laura: "superbo," [su]
Marco: "superb." Those were simple.
Laura: Yes, no problem at all.
Marco: Now, let's take a look at the letters "-l," "-r," "-m," and "-n" followed by "-s," also unvoiced.
Laura: "polso," [lso]
Marco: "wrist"
Laura: "università," [rsi]
Marco: "university"
Laura: "console," [nso]
Marco: "consul."
These were also pretty easy.
Laura: Yes, very easy.
Marco: Next, what do we have?
Laura: Now we have the letter "-s," plus "-c," "-f," "-p," "-q," and "-t."
Marco: The first word is…
Laura: "sconto," [sko-]
Marco: "discount"
Laura: "sforzo," [sfo-]
Marco: "effort"
Laura: "speranza," [spe-]
Marco: "hope"
Laura: "squadra," [skwa-]
Marco: "team"
Laura: and then "storia," [sto-]
Marco: "story."
Laura: This group was also fine, but in the next one we will see the voiced "-s."
Marco: Oh yes. Here, we have the letter "-s" followed by "-b," "-d," "-g," "-l," "-m," "-n," "-r," and "-v."
Laura: Shall we see some examples?
Marco: Yes!
Laura: "sbaglio," [zba]
Marco: "mistake," "error"
Laura: "sdraiarsi," [zdra]
Marco: "to lie down"
Laura: "sgridare," [zgri]
Marco: "to scold"
Laura: "slittare," [zlit]
Marco: "to skid"
Laura: "smemorato," [zme]
Marco: "forgetful"
Laura: "snello," [zne]
Marco: "thin"
Laura: "sradicare," [zra]
Marco: "eradicate," "uproot"
Laura: "svogliato," [zvo]
Marco: "halfhearted"
Laura: Those were quite a lot!
Marco: Oh yes, but we are nearly there, right?
Laura: Yes, just a little more.
Marco: Now we have the letter "-s" between vowels.
Laura: "casa," [aza]
Marco: "house," "home"
Laura: "cortese," [eze]
Marco: "gentle, " "courteous"
Laura: "fisica," [izi]
Marco: "physics"
Laura: That was short!
Marco: We now have one last situation to see.
Laura: What happens when the letter "-s" is doubled?
Marco: Let me think…I guess we say it with double the strength.
Laura: Yes, we say it with more emphasis, as in "cassa"
Marco: "crate," "cash desk"
Laura: "rosso"
Marco: "red"
Laura: "abisso"
Marco: "abyss"
Laura: Let's now take a look at diphthongs.
Marco: What are those? Is it something Zio Giacomo cooks?
Laura: Noooo! You haven't been paying attention!
Marco: "Scusami," "sorry!"
Laura: A diphthong is a juncture of either two identical consonants or two vowels within the same syllable.
Marco: Ahhh that was easy…well, sort of. How does this affect pronunciation?
Laura: The main characteristic of the vowel diphthong is that we pronounce it in one breath, and together both vowels lose their individual vocal characteristics, making a brand new sound.
Marco: "È magia!" "It's magic!"
Laura: No, it's just simple phonetics. And for people who like these things, the first sound in the diphthong becomes a semivowel because it loses a half of its vocal quality.
Marco: Are there any other rules that can help us out?
Laura: First of all, if "-i" is followed by "-a," "-e," "-u," or "-o," the result is "-ya," "-ye," "-yu," or "-yo."
Marco: That I can remember!
Laura: And if "-u" is followed by "-a," "-e," "-i," or "-o," we get "-wa," "-we," "-wi," or "-wo."
Marco: Anything else we should know?
Laura: There is a second case in which vowels are followed by "-i" or "-u"…
Marco: And what happens here?
Laura: "-a," "-e," "-u," or "-o" followed by "-i" becomes "-ai," "-ei," "-ui," or "-oi."
Marco: Okay.
Laura: And "-a" or "-e" followed by "-u" results in "-au" and "-eu."
Marco: Anything else?
Laura: We cannot break a diphthong into syllables.
Marco: Can we now see it in practice?
Laura: Sure we can.
Marco: What will we start with?
Laura: "-i" plus a vowel, as in "chiaro," [kya]
Marco: "clear"
Laura: "pieno," [pye]
Marco: "full"
Laura: "chiodo," [kyo]
Marco: "nail"
Laura: "piuma," [pyu]
Marco: "feather"
Laura: It seemed so difficult in theory, but it's rather easy in practice, right?
Marco: Well, yes, and also in this case, I guess the best is to just practice what you hear from native speakers.
Laura: Absolutely. Let's now take a look at "-u" plus a vowel.
Marco: The following examples should help.
Laura: "quando," [kwa]
Marco: "when"
Laura: "quello," [kwe]
Marco: "that"
Laura: "inguine," [gwi]
Marco: "groin"
Laura: "luogo," [lwo]
Marco: "place"
Laura: Now we have vowel plus "-i."
Marco: Do you have an example for us?
Laura: "zaino," [zai]
Marco: "rucksack"
Laura: "caleidoscopio," [lei]
Marco: "kaleidoscope"
Laura: "asteroide," [roi]
Marco: "asteroid"
Laura: "anguilla" [gui]
Marco: "eel"
Laura: And that does it for the diphthongs.
Marco: Are you sure there is no recipe with this name?
Laura: I'm pretty sure.
Marco: We are now going on hiatus.
Laura: What Marco means is that we are now going to take a look at the hiatus, or when there are two vowels close to each other and they both preserve their vocal quality.
Marco: In other words, they both keep their original sound, right?
Laura: Yes, exactly.
Marco: Let's see some examples then.
Laura: "boemo," [bo-e, mo]
Marco: "bohemian"
Laura: "creare," [cre-a-re]
Marco: "to create"
Laura: "eroe," [e-ro-e]
Marco: "hero"
Laura: "violino," [vi-o-li-no]
Marco: "violin"
Laura: As for the pronunciation, please keep your mouth open longer than usual.
Marco: Anything else before we go?
Laura: Yes, one last thing. In some cases, the case of hiatus can cause difficulties in communication.
Marco: For example?
Laura: If I say "Lo dà a Andrea."
Marco: "He will give it to Andrea."
Laura: At a fast speed, we get "Lo dàndrea."
Marco: That is difficult to understand.
Laura: Same as "Ci vanno Luca e Emilio."
Marco: "Luca and Emilio are going there."
Laura: At fast speed, it becomes "Ci vanno Luca Emilio."
Marco: So how can we avoid this?
Laura: We simply add the letter "-d" and we get..."Lo dà ad Andrea" and.
Marco: "Ci vanno Luca ed Emilio."


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Monday at 6:30 pm
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Tuesday at 12:09 pm
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Hi Thomas Sobocinski,

Are you referring to the Voice Recorder tool?

If so, I highly recommend studying the Ultimate Italian Pronunciation Guide, where we break down the Italian language sounds, one by one, and we provide lists of words to practice with the voice recorder.

I hope this helps!



Team ItalianPod101.com

Thomas Sobocinski
Friday at 1:30 pm
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Hello, I notice that in later lessons you give us the chance to hear the native pronunciation, then we can record our own voice and see how well it matches for timing and intonation. Could you please do this for the pronunciation section with 3-4 examples for each consonant, vowel, combination etc.....thanks