Soft G Sound in Italian

G Dolce

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Filippo, Michael San. "Soft G Sound in Italian." ThoughtCo, Oct. 31, 2015, thoughtco.com/soft-g-sound-in-italian-2011639. Filippo, Michael San. (2015, October 31). Soft G Sound in Italian. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/soft-g-sound-in-italian-2011639 Filippo, Michael San. "Soft G Sound in Italian." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/soft-g-sound-in-italian-2011639 (accessed September 21, 2017).

In Italian the term "soft G" (G dolce) refers to a sound that is similar to the English ji (as in giraffe). Technically known as a voiceless postalveolar affricate, it is represented, depending on the word, with the letters g or gi, and behaves in direct opposition to the so-called "hard G."

G dolce is one of the 30 phonemes of the Italian phonological system, but for historical and linguistical reasons in the evolution of the orthography of the Latin alphabet, a specific phoneme did not develop, so the "soft G" had to coexist with the "hard G." This means that, despite having a phonologically distinctive value within the Italian language, not all Italian speakers are necessarily conscious of the autonomous existence of G dolce.

Representation in Italian
The soft G sound is represented in Italian via two complementary spellings:

  • g (grapheme)—proceeding the vowels -e and -i. Examples include: gètto, giro;
  • gi (digramma)—proceeding the other vowels -a, o, and -u. Examples include: già, gioco, giù.

    The Italian soft G is also sometimes present using the letter combination gi+e, in words which usually retain a remnant of the original Latinate spelling. An example includes: giènte.

The same rules also apply in those instances where the G dolce is geminate (a long or "doubled" consonant), that is, gg before -e or -i, and ggi before -a, -o, and -u.

Note that with combinations of the type -[g]gi + vowel, sometimes the correct pronunciation is [soft g + vowel]; in these cases the letter i is no longer a diacritical mark, but a letter with a phonological value as sometimes happens when the stress falls on the next-to-last syllable of the word.

Examples of the Soft G Sound in Italian
giaccagiacchégiacenza
giaceregiacigliogiacitura
giadagiaggiologiaietto
gialappagiallastrogialliccio
giallinogiallistagiallo
giallognologiallorosagiallume
giambicogiambogiamburrasca
gianduiagianduiottogiannizzero
giaragiardinaggiogiardinetta
giardinogiarrettieragiavellotto
gibbogibbonegiberna
gibigianagigantegiganteggiare
gigioneggiareginestragingillarsi
ginocchieraginocchiogiocherellone
giocondogioielleriagiornalaio
giornalegiornogiostrare
giovanegiovanettogiovanotto
giovaregiovedìgioventù
giradischigirandolonegirasole
girobussolagiubbottogiudaico
giudicaregiudicegiuggiolo
giugnogiugularegiugulo
giulebbegiullarescogiumenta
giumentogiuncagiunchiglia
giuncogiungeregiungla
giunturagiuramentogiurare
giurassicogiuregiuridico
giurisdizionalegiurisprudenzagiusquiamo
giustapporregiustapposizionegiustappunto
giustezzagiustificaregiustizia
giustiziaregiustizieregiusto
Format
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Your Citation
Filippo, Michael San. "Soft G Sound in Italian." ThoughtCo, Oct. 31, 2015, thoughtco.com/soft-g-sound-in-italian-2011639. Filippo, Michael San. (2015, October 31). Soft G Sound in Italian. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/soft-g-sound-in-italian-2011639 Filippo, Michael San. "Soft G Sound in Italian." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/soft-g-sound-in-italian-2011639 (accessed September 21, 2017).