3

By "open" vowels I mean è and ò.

(Note: I am purposely adding the accents in words here to clarify what I think the right sound is.)

I noticed that words having an open vowel sound like mèdico and tòssico "become" a closed sound in derived words.

mèdico -> médicare and tòssico -> tóssicodipendènte

So I'm curious if there's any word with two or more è and ò (in any combination). My guess is "No", but I can't prove that, while you may be able to come up with a word to show that my guess is wrong.

1 Answer 1

3

In standard Italian it is impossible to have a word containing two open vowels, since all atonic vowels (that is, those occurring in syllables that don't carry a word's main stress) are closed. Hence, an Italian word may have at most one open vowel, and if so in its stressed syllable.

Se for instance Luca Serianni's Italiano (I.19):

Fuori d'accento le vocali si riducono a cinque, perché viene meno l'opposizione /ɛ/~/e/ e /ɔ/~/o/.

That is, “In unstressed syllables, the vowels are reduced to five [as opposed to seven in the full vocalic system], because the opposition /ɛ/~/e/ and /ɔ/~/o/ disappears”.

3
  • One can pronounce tossicodipendente with two tonic accents (so as two words), or with a secondary accent in the first part, depending on the rhythm of the sentence or on desired emphasis, but this of course doesn't invalidate your answer.
    – egreg
    Jan 26, 2023 at 15:57
  • Yeah, I thought tòssicodipendente sounds natural and is correct (open o in toss), but the digital Zingarelli I have clearly pronounces the first o as closed. This is why I posted here :) thanks DaG and egreg! Jan 26, 2023 at 22:02
  • Personally “tòssicodipendente” would sound to me a bit like a “tossico” (drug addict) who is a “dipendente” (employee) of someone, but composite words and their nuances are always tricky.
    – DaG
    Jan 26, 2023 at 23:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.