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scegliere (ˈʃeʎʎere)

scegli (ˈʃeʎʎi) ???

I'm not sure how to pronounce the "ʎʎ" sound in IPA corresponding to the spelling "gli", since on the following links, the pronunciations of "scegliere" and "scegli" seem somewhat different:

http://www.wordreference.com/iten/scegliere

https://forvo.com/word/scegliere/#it

As for "scegli":

https://forvo.com/search/scegli/

Q1: Do you need to pronounce the L sound in "scegLiere" and "scegLi"? I mean, is it similar to the L sound in "Lip" in English? On the first link, the L sound is ever so faint.

Q2: How do you pronounce the E vowel right after "ʎʎ" in (ˈʃeʎʎEre)? Does it sound like the pure vowel "Elf"? Or is it more like "YEs / jes"?

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    See the pronunciation in the DOP – alexjo Jan 3 '18 at 13:34
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    It is a different sound from the English l, a sound that does not exist in the English language called a palatalized lateral approximant. – Denis Nardin Jan 3 '18 at 13:38
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    Re the Q1, you don't pronounce the “L”, as such, at all: the whole symbol “gli” in “scegliere” denote a single (albeit geminated) sound. – DaG Jan 3 '18 at 13:50
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    See also this question: italian.stackexchange.com/q/1349/707. – Charo Jan 3 '18 at 14:05
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    Regarding your second question, take into account that we are not experts in English, so we may not be able to perceive the difference between the "e" of "elf" and the "e" of "yes" (in this sense, it seems to me off-topic). – Charo Jan 4 '18 at 12:17
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First, no /l/ sound is present. The tip of the tongue for /ʎ/ is positioned like for /l/, but the jaw is raised so the sides of the tongue are pressed between the teeth.

There is no implicit or explicit /i/ in the sound either (at least in standard Italian): gli is mostly a trigram whose pronunciation is /ʎʎ/. The first e in cogliere (I use a different word for doing easier comparisons) is the same as in collere (plural of collera). Similarly, taglio is /'taʎʎo/ with the same vowels as in callo.

The orthographic exception is in case the following (phonetic) vowel is an i, where the digram gl is used: the plural of taglio is tagli /'taʎʎi/, not *​taglii.

However, regional pronunciations vary and in some dialects the sound, instead of /ʎ/, becomes an approximant more similar to /j/ (in Rome, for instance). Also the gemination is mostly omitted in northern dialects, that have almost no consonant gemination in general.


The sound /ʎ/ is not an easy one to produce and, indeed, even some Italian native speakers are not able to make it.

In my regional language (veneto) the sound doesn't exist; the Latin clusters that evolved in Italian to /ʎ/ became /j/ or /d͡ʒ/ (depending on varieties); so in my hometown we say fameia /fa'meja/ for the Italian famiglia, but in Venice it is famegia /fa'med͡ʒa/.

Actually, the sound is unknown to most regional languages of Italy (commonly known as dialetti, although they're not dialects of Italian).

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The sound [ʎ] has been explained in detail in the answers to this question. Taking into account that it's not present in English (at least in British English) nor in French, I would take the advice of Melina Insolera in his book Italiano grammatica. Grammatica essenziale della lingua italiana, published by Zanichelli:

si consiglia agli stranieri di ascoltare i parlare i parlanti italiani,

that is, it is advisable to listen to Italian speakers. As said by @alexjo in his comment, you can use the Dizionario d’ortografia e di pronunzia della RAI to listen carefully to some words containing this sound, such as, "gli", "glielo", "glieli", etc. There are also some YouTube videos that try to help you to pronounce this sound.

To complicate things, this sound is geminated word-internally and this is why you found that it is [ʎʎ] in "scegliere". That means that this consonantic sound is pronounced for an audibly longer period of time. In some sense, it's "as if were pronounced twice". Again, you can use DOP to listen carefully to some words containing this geminated sound, such as, "famiglia", "figlio", "foglio", " battaglia" (which has also a geminated "t"), etc.

Regarding your second question, I think it's off-topic for the reason I have explained in my previous comment: we are not experts in English, so we may not be able to perceive the difference between the "e" of "elf" and the "e" of "yes". At least, I am not.

Update:

If, as suggested by @FedericoPoloni, with your second question you mean if the second "e" in "scegliere" has or not the sound of an "e" in a diphthong "ie", the answer is no because there is not such a diphthong in this word. In fact, no sound "i" is present in "scegliere", all the vocalic sounds are "e".

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    In any case, the vowels of Italian and the vowels of English have an almost empty intersection (and this is before we introduce the regional variations of pronunciation!), so it is kind of hopeless to give a precise correspondence. – Denis Nardin Jan 4 '18 at 14:50
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    @FedericoPoloni: Do you mean that the sound of the vowel is different in the sense that the ie in cantiere is a diphthong, whereas in vendere there is not such a diphthong? – Charo Jan 4 '18 at 20:03
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    @Alone-zee: The already mentioned DOP gives the pronunciation of all its lemmas, not using IPA but its own phonetic transcription. Most monolingual dictionaries, however, give with some marking the essentials of the pronunciation, marking the potentially doubtful points: position of the stress, /s/ vs. /z/ and so on. The only dictionary I can recall that gives IPA for all lemmas is Zanichelli's Zingarelli (not free). – DaG Jan 5 '18 at 10:31
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    As for tipaccio, you generally won't find all diminutive, pejorative etc. forms for all words (omettino, micetto, libraccio etc.), and tipaccio doesn't appear on many dictionaries (however, they are generally predictable from the root's and the suffix's), but it does on Zingarelli, and the pronunciation is given as /tiˈpattʃo/. – DaG Jan 5 '18 at 10:33
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    I forgot this great resource for Italian pronunciation (in IPA): the Dizionario di pronuncia italiana online, which also records pronunciations that are to be avoided or that sound affected. – DaG Jan 11 '18 at 17:24

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