Italian Phonology - Phonotactics - Onset


Italian allows up to three consonants in syllable-initial position, though there are limitations:


  • /s/ + any voiceless stop or /f/. E.g. spavento ('fright')
  • /z/ + any voiced stop, /v/, /d͡ʒ/, /m/, /n/, /l/, or /r/. E.g. srotolare ('unroll')
  • /f/, /v/, or any stop + /r/. E.g. frana ('landslide')
  • /f/, /v/, or any stop except /t d/ + /l/. E.g. platano ('planetree')
  • In words of foreign (mostly Greek) origin which are only partially assimilated, other combinations such as /pn/ (e.g. pneumatico), /mn/ (e.g. mnemonico), /tm/ (e.g. tmesi), and /ps/ (e.g. pseudo-) occur, though in more casual speech these may be /nn/, /nn/, /mm/, and /ss/ respectively.


  • /s/ + voiceless stop or /f/ + /r/. E.g. spregiare ('to despise')
  • /s/ + /p/ or /k/ + /l/. E.g. sclerosi ('sclerosis')
  • /z/ + voiced stop + /r/. E.g. sbracciato ('with bare arms'), sdraiare ('to lay down'), sgravare ('to relieve')
  • /z/ + /b/ + /l/. E.g. sbloccato ('unblocked')

Read more about this topic:  Italian Phonology, Phonotactics

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