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Lesson Transcript

Hi everyone.
Welcome to The Ultimate Italian Pronunciation Guide.
In this lesson, we'll cover accents in Italian.
Have you seen these marks before?
They commonly appear above vowels.
They're called accents and their main job is to tell us when to modify the pronunciation of a vowel.
They may look intimidating at first and their function may seem complicated, but in fact it's quite simple.
There are two main accents in Italian.
"The first, is the grave accent.
It can appear over all vowels, but only if that vowel is the last syllable of a word. If it appears otherwise, it's likely an unusual pronunciation.
It's represented by a downward stroke."
"The second accent, is the accute accent.
Which can *only* appear over the vowel E.
It's represented by an upward stroke."
Accents in Italian are used primarily to mark stress. So whenever you see an accent in Italian, you know that the vowel *must* be stressed.
The good news is that that's *all* you need to do for accented A, I and U, you just have to stress them.
So for now, we can brush them aside and just focus on E and O.
The 3 remaining accented vowels will require you to pronounce them in a certain way, but remember, you've learnt *all* of the sounds before! So it's nothing worry about.
First, is the grave accented E.
cioè (i.e., that is)
c’è (there is)
caffè (coffee)
"This is identical to the E in the word 'red'. This is an open sound, so try to widen your mouth.
It's easy to remember, because the downward stroke is telling you to drop your jaw and open your mouth."
Compare that to the acute accented E.
perché (why/because)
finché (so that)
benché (despite)
This E sound is more like the one in the word 'neigh'. It's more closed than the grave accented E, so try not to widen or open your mouth *too much*. That upward stroke is reminding you to lift your jaw up!
Finally, we have the grave accented O. This is an open sound, so be sure to open your mouth and allow the air to pour out.
This is identical to the O in the word 'ought'.
Accented vowels can be written anywhere where a syllable needs to be stressed.
For example...
sillàba (syllable)
The accented A indicates that the second syllable needs to be stressed.
Here's another one.
poiché (because)
As indicated by the accent, the last syllable should be stressed. Easy right?
There's one big caveat though, because accents are seldomly written in modern day Italian. Nowadays, it's only mandatory to mark the accent if the vowel is in the last syllable in the word.
So the first example would actually be written *without* the accent, even though you *still* have to stress the second syllable.
This can be a major problem for Italian learners, because unless the accent is on the last syllable, you'd have no way of knowing which syllable to stress.
The general principle though, is to stress the *second last* syllable when in doubt. You could always check with the dictionary later, in which case stressed syllables are *always* marked properly.
Okay! Let's conclude with a short quiz.
Where should you place the stress for this word?
università (university)
The accent is on the vowel at the end of the word, so the answer is the last syllable.
How about this one?
The answer is the second last syllable. Remember, if you're not sure, the general principle is to stress the second last syllable.
"Okay, lucky last!
How do you pronounce this word?"
It ends with an acute accented E, this E sound is more like the one in the word 'neigh'.
In this lesson, you learned about Italian accents.
In the next lesson, we'll review the material that we've covered in this series.
Do you have accents in your language? If so, what kind? Let us know in the comments.
See you in the next Ultimate Italian Pronunciation Guide lesson!