Introduction to the Sounds of Italian

In the following table you will find the sounds of sung Italian, as they are represented in International Phonetic Alphabet and their ASCII Equivalents, along with sample words. Diction experts and references do not always agree on these symbols, so we have included some explanatory notes following the table.

IPA Symbol ASCII Equivalent Example Word
Pure Vowels
i /i/ sì
e /e/ devo
ɛ /E/ ecco
a /a/ amare
(note 1)
o /O/ occhi
ɔ /o/ contro
u /u/ tu
j /j/ ieri
w /w/ uomo
ʎ /L/ gli
b /b/ ballo
d /d/ dare
ʣ /dz/ mezzo
f /f/ fatto
g /g/ legato
ʤ /dZ/ giusto
k /k/ cambiare
l /l/ letto
m /m/ mamma
n /n/ non
ŋ /N/ smoking
ɲ /n;/ gnocchi
p /p/ pino
r /r/ rimango
s /s/ soave
ʃ /S/ lasciare
t /t/ tuo
ʦ /ts/ menzione
ʧ /tS/ pace
v /v/ vedere
z /z/ rosa


Note 1: Occasionally we see the substitution of /A/ for /a/ in Italian transcription. The vast majority of transcriptions use /a/. The Italian /a/ is brighter than the English usage, and not pronounced as close to the /ae/ as the French usage.

Note 2: Occasionally you will see the letter "j" in older Italian texts. This is a form of [i] and should be transcribed accordingly.

Note 3: Double consonants in Italian are sustained or performed as "stop consonants." These are very important to correct Italian pronunciation and meaning.

Note 4: Textbooks, dictionaries amd experts disagree on the use of open or closed vowels in Italian. These disagreements are caused by differences in regional pronunciation, the "rules" of Italian pronunciation, and personal preference. An example: some books state that final unstressed "e" should always be transcribed and sung as open "e"; other texts argue for closed "e." Whichever system you use, be consistent and make sure your choices do not adversely affect the meaning of words.