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From orbilat:

the i is not pronounced in the combinations ci, gi, and sci when they are followed by a, o or u, unless the accent falls on the i

But what is the role in words like sciare [ʃiˈaːre]?

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    You are perfectly right. This just proves that this “orbilat” thing isn't reliable. Adding it to “non-resources”, thanks! – DaG Mar 25 '17 at 15:07
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    Someone should really work on the Italian wikibook to make it a reasonable resource (not that I'm volunteering, but someone should). – Denis Nardin Mar 25 '17 at 16:27
  • According to this comment to Aula di Lingue Zanichelli the "i" after "sc" is pronounced only in the noun "scia", in the forms of the verb "sciare" and in the derivatives of "sci" (for instance, "sciata"). – Charo Mar 26 '17 at 8:30
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Main law about exceptions (MLAE)

Every rule has its exceptions, including the main law about exceptions

You'll find several applications of the MLAE when dealing with grammar or orthography.

The trigraph sci is normally used for denoting the /ʃ/ phoneme in front of a, o or u (like for ci and gi). For etymological reasons, sciare has two syllables (sci-are). The Treccani dictionary makes this apparent by writing the entry as “scïare”, where the dieresis denotes a hiatus.

There's no hard and fast rule: after all, exceptions are cases that cannot be linked together in a rule or subrule.

However, this case is easy: I'm not aware of other words that share the same exception to the main sci rule. As far as I know, sciare and the other words derived from sci (English ski) are the only ones where one should consider the spelling as “(sc)iare” unlike in “(sci)arpa” (the parentheses denote a digraph or trigraph, for clarity).

There is also scia (English wake), where the i is tonic, so sci cannot be considered a trigraph.

See this forum (thanks to Charo for the pointer).

It's not rare, but not frequent either, to hear the word sciare pronounced as /'ʃare/ for analogy with all other similar words.

There are also exceptions in the other direction: an i might follow sc and not be pronounced at all:

scienza coscienza usciere

keep their i for etymological reasons, but there's no /i/ or /j/ sound in the pronunciation.

  • According to this comment to Aula di Lingue Zanichelli the "i" after "sc" is pronounced only in the noun "scia", in the forms of the verb "sciare" and in the derivatives of "sci" (for instance, "sciata"). – Charo Mar 26 '17 at 9:01
  • @Charo In scia there is a tonic i. Thanks, I'll update. – egreg Mar 26 '17 at 9:02
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    There are some more possible exceptions: for sciente (and scientemente) the pronunciation with an “i” is prescribed (Treccani) or admitted (Zingarelli, De Mauro). (And one could argue about a [stʃiabat:ˈare] pronunciation for sciabattare...) – DaG Mar 26 '17 at 9:17
  • @DaG I didn't even think to scientemente: I'm surprised about what Treccani imposes. – egreg Mar 26 '17 at 9:22
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In Italian there is this rule: sc + vowel is pronounced like the English "SH", IPA: ʃ, sc + consonant is pronounced like the English "SK", just like in the English "ski".

So in the word "sciare" [ʃiˈaːre] I have to put an "i" before the "a" in order to pronounce "SH", IPA: ʃ .

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    I think you are missing that there is a substantial difference between the pronunciation of sciare (/ʃiˈaːre/) and sciarpa (/'ʃaːrpa/) and the OP would like to know the reason for it. – Denis Nardin Mar 25 '17 at 22:39
  • And the rule, as stated, is wrong. – DaG Mar 26 '17 at 9:18

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