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  2.18 Voiced and voiceless 's'

Some consonants can be produced with vibrating vocal cords (voiced consonants) or without vibrating vocal cords (voiceless consonants). And on the other side, you have consonants like 'm' which are always voiced as well. Vowel are always voiced. In Italian you have some consonants which exist in a voiced and a voiceless version.

voiced s
voiceless s

If you are not sure what "with vibrating vocal cords" means, put your hand on your larynx and say mmmmmm or nnnnnnn. You are going to feel a vibration because 'm' and 'n' are always voiced. Then, say fffffffffffffff, you are not going to feel any vibration because this sound is always voiceless.

Example (voiceless)
sapere = to know
sognare = to dream
secco = dry

If the s is followed by a voiced consonant, it is always pronounced as a voiced s.

Example (voiced)
smettere = to stop
smorfia = grimace
sviluppo = development
sbaglio = error
snidare = to take out of a nest

Voiced and voiceless 's' in the phonetic transcription
voiced smettere = to stop
voiceless   sapere = to know

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