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  2.6.1 Voiced and voiceless sounds (difference between gi / ge and ci / ce)

cugina = cousin (voiced)
cucina = kitchen (voiceless)

The only difference in the words above is the gi / ci. The first sound is voiced, the second voiceless. But what exactly is the difference between voiced and voiceless? Put your fingers on your larynx and say

d d d d d

and then

t t t t t t

You are going to feel that in the case of d d d d the vocal cords vibrate and in the case of t t t t they don't vibrate (the little vibration you feel in the case of t t t t is produced by the vowel you produce unconsciously between the 't's, because vowels are always voiced). Due to the fact that d is voiced an t is voiceless you can find sometimes find this informal transcription of these sounds.

gi = /dsh/
ci = /tsh/

You should understand the difference between voiced and voiceless, because we are going to see other couples of sounds o phonems, where the only difference is that one is voiced and the other voiceless.

sc sch sc sc (voiced)
sc sc sc sc (voiceless)

ssssssssssssssssss (voiced)
ssssssssssssssssss (voiceless)

Phonetic transcription

We already mentioned that the phonetic transcription is not as important for Italian than it is for French, because the writing is closer to the pronunciation. But if you are not sure how to pronounce a word, you can have a look in a dictionary, there you always have the phonetic transcription with the IPA (international phonetic association).

voiceless ci example: cinema ([tschinema])
voiced gi example: gioco ([dchoko])


As already mentioned the logic is the same as in the case of c. If g is followed bei a h, this h serves to maintain the value of the g, otherwise it would be pronounced /dsh/.

Examples gh
ghiaccio = ice
ghignare = to grin

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