I just read this page and found that it listed these words under the /ɾ/ sound:

/ɾ/ fare, amaro, regalo

Note the bold word. In Spanish and Portuguese, if a single R is at the start of a word, it pronounces the same as RR. Although in Portuguese RR doesn't sound like trilled R, this statement is still true. In French, you don't hear any difference between R and RR.

However, in different videos, I have heard this R-at-start pronounced both like a single tap and trilled (like in volere and vorrei). What's the standard pronunciation? Does it vary by dialects?

  • I am not sure if I understand correctly. Are you asking wether “r” in regalo is pronounced like “rr”, say, in carro? If so, the answer is certainly not. – DaG Sep 10 at 10:56
  • @DaG Not only relago, but all words that starts with r + vowel. – iBug Sep 10 at 10:59
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    Well, let me rephrase: Are you asking wether “r” + vowel at the start of a word is pronounced like “rr”, say, in carro? If so, the answer is in general not. (It only happens after some specific words: a Roma is pronounced as if it were written arroma. It is the “raddoppiamento fonosintattico”.) – DaG Sep 10 at 11:06
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    @DaG Yes, that's what I'm asking. – iBug Sep 10 at 11:07
up vote 6 down vote accepted

In Standard Italian, in most cases, in a word beginning by “r” + vowel, the “r” is pronounced as a simple, non-geminate one.

The “most cases” include the word in isolation, the word preceded by a consonant and, in the majority of the cases, the word preceded by a vowel. So, regalo, un regalo, quattro regali all are pronounced with a simple “r”.

The exception comes from a phenomenon called raddoppiamento sintattico (or fonosintattico): in Standard Italian some words ending by a vowel, followed by a word beginning by a consonant, cause a gemination (doubling) in that consonant. These words are those with two or more syllables in which the last one is stressed (so, paltò rosso is pronounced as if it were written paltorrosso), some monosyllables (e, è, se, a, da and other ones: a Roma sounds like arròma) and a few two-syllable words (come, dove, sopra, qualche).
If you read Italian, you can find more in the article quoted above.

All of this holds for Standard Italian: various regional varieties have small or large differences from this, ranging from the choice of the words that induce the raddoppiamento (for instance, in Rome most of the above holds, but da doesn't geminate the consonant that follows), to extending the doubling to many more cases or, vice versa, speaking with almost no geminate consonants.

I agree with the other answers, in standard Italian there is no such a case of "rr" at the start of the word.

However, adding to those already cited, there is another case of doubling the "r" at the beginning of the word, which is the raddoppiamento espressivo ("expressive doubling") in various southern dialects and accents.

Un altro fenomeno di allungamento consonantico sistematico è il raddoppiamento di /r/ a inizio di parola in varietà siciliane e calabresi meridionali. Anche in questo caso il raddoppiamento è un tratto che caratterizza fortemente l’accento locale e si ritrova frequentemente nella pronuncia dell’italiano regionale (ad es., la [rː]iva, la [rː]egola, hanno [rː]ifiutato).

Another phenomenon of sistematic consonant lengthening is the doubling of /r/ at the beginning of words in Sicilian and Calabrian varieties. In this case, the doubling is a trait that strongly characterizes the local accent and it is frequently found in the pronounciation of regional Italian (e.g. la [rː]iva, la [rː]egola, hanno [rː]ifiutato).

[...]

Si è già osservato come la geminazione iniziale sia in buona parte un fenomeno legato a singole parole [, come] le forme raddoppiate per i tipi lessicali re e roba, diffuse nell’area centromeridionale (ad es., il napol. o [rː]e «il re», a [rː]o[bː]a «la roba»)

It has already been observed how the doubling of the first letter is mostly a phenomenon regarding single words [, such as] the doubled forms for the words "re" (king) and "roba" (stuff) in the center-southern area (e.g. the neapolitan o [rː]e «il re», a [rː]o[bː]a «la roba»).

No, it's not stressed in Italian only the intervocalic double r like in guerra \ɡwɛr.ra\ , or serra is stressed.

When I lived in Spain I had a flatmate called Raul and he told me that I pronounced his name wrong (because I am Italian) and I pronounced like many Italian pronounce it with a single r (e.g. Raul Bova) while he was expecting from me to pronouncing with the double initial r. Having said that in many sources I can't find the difference when it transliterated in IPA. If you have a look at the Rodrigo page in wiktionary only in Portuguese they used the Voiced uvular fricative ʁ.

I am not aware of any Italian dialect in which it is used, actually usually in many dialects, we lose the gemination (e.g. guerra in Veneto is guèra). Regarding the @DaG comment, about the syntactic gemination it certainly something to notice in central-meridional accents, although as the "syntactic" term suggests it's related to the usage of the word into a sentence and not the word itself so I think it's different compared to other languages where it's the standard pronunciation of the word also as a stand-alone unit.

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    This answer is missing the case of the raddoppiamento sintattico. I'll add to it, or write another time, when I have time, unless someone do it first. – DaG Sep 10 at 11:12
  • Your Spanish flatmate expected you to pronounce his name like rraul, right? – iBug Sep 10 at 11:14

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