I'm looking for a practical list of minimal pairs to help with learning Italian pronunciation, but can't find anything in the public domain.

If anyone has a list it would be most helpful if they could post it, or failing that, I'd be grateful for a recommendation to a good source

  • Welcome to Italian.SE, @Tullochgorum!
    – Charo
    Feb 18 '16 at 22:46
  • Could this help? rhinospike.com/audio_requests/morganhendry/16022
    – user519
    Feb 18 '16 at 23:07
  • Thanks - I had spotted the rhinospike list, but found it very straightforward to distinguish the pairs. I'm new to this idea, and was wondering if these pairs covered the actual difficulties of the language. Perhaps Italian simply doesn't present any significant difficulties to the Anglophone ear? The tongue is another matter! Feb 19 '16 at 17:16
  • @Tullochgorum I am very late, but Italian vowels are very few compared to the English ones. Probably the major differences are between consonants (in particular the pair gl/l).
    – Denis Nardin
    Jan 30 '17 at 14:06

A complete set of minimal pairs for every possible pair of phonemes is quite sizeable.

I copy here the one from Serianni's Italiano (p. 4) for vowels:

  i      e      ɛ      a      ɔ      o      u
e venti
ɛ pezzo  esse
a pazzo  fatta  pazzo
ɔ fola   spola  trono  botte
o pozzo  groppo pozzo  pozzo  botte
u puzzo  pura   puzzo  puzzo  lutto  puzzo

(Every word yields the pair when the vowel corresponding to its row is substituted with the one corresponding to its column.)

Probably the most interesting minimal pair here are the ones for e/ɛ (ésse, plural feminine form of esso and èsse, name of letter S) and for o/ɔ (bótte, “barrel” and bòtte, “blows”); notice that in these words the accents aren't usually written down.

Serianni's book has on pp. 6-7 an analogous table for consonant sounds. To just give one example for one of the troublesome ones, take the two phonemes corresponding to the letter z, /ts/ and /dz/: razza (respectively “race” and “ray”, the fish).

Finally, if this is to learn pronunciation, note that in Italian – as in other languages – there happen to be single phonemes corresponding to more than an actual sound. For instance, there is a single phoneme /n/ in Italian, but it corresponds to different allophones: [n] in numero, [ŋ] in angolo.

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