(For some reason blogspot didn't let me use my usual font, Segoe UI, but I hope you'll be able to read my article all the same.)
In my post of the 19th November 2011, we discussed the issue of the non-existence in Italy of a phonetics textbook which presents “an objective account of what native speakers of (“standard”) Italian really say”. Towards the end of the article we also mentioned in passing the possibility in current Italian pronunciation of t͜s instead of plain s after the consonants n, r and l (what we didn’t say then was that this epenthetic t is to be found not only word internally but also across word boundaries and that it is considered by Italian linguists and phoneticians to be a feature of regional accents rather than a characteristic of the standard variety):
“And what’s wrong with ts instead of traditional s [after] n, r, l? After all, epenthetic t has now become increasingly widespread among native speakers and can frequently also be heard on all television channels. Why is, for instance, ˈpɛntso (penso, ‘I think’) not acceptable? Is it again because of clarity?”
I want to show you a video of the morning television programme UnoMattina Caffè (very similar to BBC Breakfast in the UK), broadcast by RAI from Monday to Friday and presented by university lecturer and TV author Guido Barlozzetti. The clip only lasts 3 minutes and features my brother, Sirio Rotatori, publicizing the recent Christmas events organized by him in Tarquinia. Both my brother and Mr Barlozzetti can be said to speak a variety of Italian which I would regard as standard and they can both be heard to use epenthetic t in the environments we described above:
persegue (‘it pursues’; at about 0:03), perˈtseɡwe
insomma (‘if you like’; at about 0:15), inˈtsomma
transito (‘passing of time’; at about 0:16), ˈtrantsito
(a velocità) non sostenuta (‘at slow speed’; at about 0:28), ˌnɔntsosteˈnuta
consentono (‘they allow’; at about 1:01), konˈtsɛntono
attraverso (‘through’; at about 1:52), attraˈvɛrtso
il sei gennaio (‘the 6th January’; at about 2:12), ilˌtsɛi dʒenˈnajo
considerando (‘considering’; at about 1:19), kontsideˈrando
persone (‘people, persons’; at about 1:31), perˈtsone (but he pronounces it without epenthesis at about 2:04)
conoscersi (‘to get to know each other’; at about 2:05), koˈnoʃʃertsi
insieme (‘together’; at 2:06 and 2:08), inˈtsjɛme
il sei gennaio (‘the 6th January’; at about 2:13), ilˌtsɛi dʒenˈnajo (cf. Guido Barlozzetti’s pronunciation of this phrase).
The phenomenon of t epenthesis just illustrated is so widespread that even Prime Minister Mario Monti and President Giorgio Napolitano can sometimes also be heard to use it in their political speeches. So why do Italian pronunciation dictionaries and phonetics books either keep shtum or still regard this as a reprehensible regionalism?
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Next post: 4 February.