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I am brand new to Italian and have only studied it for a few days.

I was listening to the song "Certamente" by Madreblu and reading along with the lyrics and noticed how when a word that ends with a vowel is followed by a word that begins with a vowel, the ending vowel seems to disappear. Here are some examples from the song. I have bolded and asterisked the letters that seem to disappear.

  • "il temporale* aspetto"
  • "non riesco* a dormire"
  • "che questo caldo arrivi* alla fine"
  • "completamente tornerò* alla realtà"

Do vowels flow into each other this way, with the ending vowel being silenced? Am I mishearing it, or is this a form of liaison?

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It is not a real liaison, but a phenomenon that is formalised most in prosody, for poems and song lyrics: it is called synaloepha (in Italian, sinalefe), and consists in having two consecutive syllables count – and be uttered – as one. It happens when the first ends, and the second starts, with a vowel (as you have seen in that song).

For a more classical example, take the second line of Dante's Inferno:

mi ritrovai per una selva oscura

(“I found myself through a dark forest”), which is read almost as if the last two words were “selvoscura”. This is both the natural way of reading it, and the “correct” one if one is to reckon correctly the syllables of this hendecasyllable (which has the last tonic accent on the last-but-one syllable).

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  • So, in ordinary speech these phrases would be pronounced differently? This synaloepha only occurs in poem and song? – temporary_user_name Jun 9 '15 at 17:48
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    @Aerovistae : I think that ordinary speech in practice is so messed up that you have this, and much more. When speaking with my family and friends, I believe I have never heard "vado a" in my entire life, it's "vad-a". – gd1 Jun 9 '15 at 18:37
  • So I should indeed combine vowels this way. – temporary_user_name Jun 9 '15 at 19:00
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    I would say you should "Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others." (Robustness principle) We don't despise those who speak very clearly. – gd1 Jun 9 '15 at 19:01
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    @Aerovistae: I wouldn't suggest to try to combine vowels on purpose. It will come spontaneously when your Italian will be better (or it won't: it doesn't really matter unless you have to respect a rhythm or a tune). – DaG Jun 9 '15 at 21:50
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Sinalefe or synaloepha is just a prosodic phenomenon and should not affect the way words are pronounced in a normal speech or reading.
The answer by DaG is precise but potentially misleading. "Selva oscura" should be read actually precisely, and not like "selvOscura".
When it comes to singing, though, the prononciation may actually vary.
Synaloepha is infact used as a common singing technique (not only by italian singers or with Italian text!) - so 2 consequent vowels are pronounced as one. In this way, it is easier to keep the tune, rythm and there is a better breath-control. In normal speech instead, a sentence like "non riesco a dormire" would be said exactly as written and not as "non riescadormire" - and if that happens, then your interlocutore si sta mangiando le parole ;)

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  • Thanks for your answer! Welcome to stack exchange. I'm a little late here, hope you revisit. – temporary_user_name Jun 21 '16 at 18:50

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