Italian 101

Italian is written using the Latin alphabet. The letters J, K, W, X and Y are not part of the standard Italian alphabet, but are seen in imported words (such as jeans, whiskey, taxi). J may also appear in many words from different dialects. Each of these foreign letters had an Italian equivalent spelling: gi, ch, u, cs or s, and i, but these are now obsolete.

~ Italian uses the acute accent over the letter E (as in perché, why/because) to indicate a mid-close vowel, and the grave accent (as in , tea) to indicate a mid-open vowel. The grave accent is also used on letters A, I, O, and U to mark the stress position when it is on the last letter of a word (for instance gioventù, youth). Typically, the penultimate syllable is stressed. If other syllables are stressed, no accent is marked, as is instead done in Spanish.

~ The letter H is always silent when it begins a word, and is only used to distinguish ho, hai, ha, hanno (present indicative of avere, to have) from o (or), ai (to the), a (to), anno (year). H is otherwise used for some combinations with other letters (see below), but the /h/ sound does not exist in Italian.

~ In general all letters are clearly pronounced, and always in the same way, and even in stressed syllables, vowels are always short. (The only notable allophonic variations in the pronunciation of phonemes in standard Italian are the assimilation of /n/ before consonants; compare with the enormous number of allophones of the English phoneme /t/. Relevant allophonic variations, /y/ and back /R/ are non-standard and can be found in states with either French (Piedmont, Val d'Aosta, Lombardy) or German-speaking minorities (as in Trentino). In non-standard southern-central Italian, words like andare ("to go"), insomma ("as a matter of fact", "well"), rosa (rose) are often sounded as "annare", "intsomma", "roSa" (with an /s/), while in the North insomma and rosa tend to sound more like "inshomma" and "roza". Spelling is clearly phonetic and difficult to mistake given a clear pronunciation. Exceptions are generally only found in foreign borrowings. There is less dyslexia than in languages like English.

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