Most of the current Italian pronunciation is retained from Ecclesiastical Latin, such as ce/ci, ge/gi, gn.

There's one sound, gli, that I can't find the origin of. Many words containing gli that, dating back to Latin, was le/li or lle/lli (e.g. illigli, meliusmeglio).

This sound is also present in some other Romance languages, like French ille, Spanish ll and Portuguese lh, but not Romanian (no such sound).

I'm guessing this sound was imported from other language families (Germanic / Slavic) some time around the collapse of the (Western) Roman Empire?

  • I'm quite sure that French doesn't have the same sound. If you mean, say, the last phoneme in the pronunciation of paille, that would be /j/, not /ʎ/.
    – DaG
    Sep 5, 2018 at 8:04
  • @DaG Not exactly. I mean ill + vowel (excluding unstable e), like -illé.
    – iBug
    Sep 5, 2018 at 9:21
  • 2
    Like mouillé? It's again a /j/ phoneme. If we trust Wikipedia, the phoneme /ʎ/ doesn't occur in French.
    – DaG
    Sep 5, 2018 at 9:25
  • @DaG Then I must have learned something wrong. Thanks.
    – iBug
    Sep 5, 2018 at 9:30
  • 1
    In any case, your intuition is interesting, since apparently the outcome of Vulgar Latin “-llj-” (see my answer) has been /ʎ/ (or /ʎʎ/) in Standard Italian, but /j/ both in French and in some varieties of Italian, like the Roman one, where “son” is fijo.
    – DaG
    Sep 5, 2018 at 10:08

1 Answer 1


Serianni's Italiano, speaking of palatal sounds in Italian and why they are always geminated between vowels (/ʎʎ/, /ɲɲ/ and /ʃʃ/), explains (section I.47):

Le ragioni della pronuncia intensa di queste consonanti risalgono all'etimo latino. Infatti le tre palatali provengono nella quasi totalità dei casi da una base latina o latino-volgare con consonante intensa: per esempio figlio < *fīlljum (invece del classico fīlium), bagno < *bănnjum (invece di bălneum), lascia < lāxat ...

So, apparently there is no influence from other linguistic families, but a direct derivation from different but similar-sounding Latin or Vulgar Latin consonants.

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