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Whilst looking up the verb conjugations for viaggiare on WordReference, I began thinking about this:

conjugation table for viaggiare

(blue text means it's an irregular form)

What I don't quite understand is why these would be considered irregular forms. I can understand that the second-person singular conjugation would be, but why is it the case for the first-person plural? Would it be due to pronunciation or is there something else I'm missing?

Is there an explanation as to why these are considered irregular?

  • Welcome to Italian.SE, @Texenox! – Charo Sep 20 '15 at 12:21
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    I think it's just because it is not "viaggii" and "viaggiiamo". – Charo Sep 20 '15 at 12:28
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The forms viaggi and viaggiamo are irregular because they would be formed (tu) viaggii (noi) viaggiiamo if you were following the normal rules of conjugating present tense verbs.

One forms the stem for present tense conjugations by chopping the -are, -ere or -ire ending and then adding the present endings. So if you create the stem viaggi- and add the present endings you get a double -i in the second person singular and first person plural conjugations.

Note, however, that sometime verbs do double the i, but only when the -i is stressed in the 1st person present indicative: i.e. scio, invio (I send), spio (I spy). The correct conjugation for these is (tu) scii (invii, spii).

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  • The i in sciare is definitely not stressed; a is. Perhaps you mean that i and a belong to different syllables and are pronounced separately. Are you quite sure about sciiamo? I never saw it, and Zingarelli dictionary gives sciamo. – DaG Sep 20 '15 at 13:10
  • You're right about both points. I'll edit the response. – gbutters Sep 20 '15 at 13:45
  • Still seems about right. – nine Sep 20 '15 at 13:58
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    Yes, @Texenox, I agree with the rest of the answer, and now with all of it (although I myself would not have called these irregular forms, but just forms undergoing standard orthographic adjustments). – DaG Sep 20 '15 at 14:15
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No, they aren't irregular forms. The verb belongs to the first conjugation (in -are), the same as amare

amo
ami
ama
amiamo
amate
amano

The only difference is the presence of the i, which is just an orthographic device for telling the palatal pronunciation of the preceding (geminated) g. So this is a very different situation than cambiare, where there is an i in the root of the verb. However, the final realization is the same: in both cases the desinence remains -iamo; in both cases the i in the desinence is absorbed: it's not really heard in viaggiamo and it's not doubled in cambiamo.

It's a general rule in Italian that pairs of non-tonic identical vowels contract to a single one: the plural of olio is oli and, similarly, any desinence starting with i is absorbed:

cambio
cambi (not cambii)
cambia
cambiamo (not cambiiano)
cambiate
cambiano

In the case of viaggiare, the “purely orthographic” i is removed when there is one in the desinence, which avoids any doubt in the pronunciation: so tu viaggi and noi viaggiamo.

Somebody supports writing plurals of words ending in the diphthong -io with a double i. Somebody disagrees. But viaggio doesn't end with a diphthong, so there should be no doubt that the graphic i is dropped when it doesn't serve its purpose any more because a phonetic i is present.

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