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Subject: Italian diction debate
From: Silvia Luraghi <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Silvia Luraghi <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 12 Apr 2000 21:34:30 +0100
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dear Listers,
I read the messages regarding the correct pronounciation of unstressed
/e/ in Italian.  I'm not a singer, but, apart from being a native
speaker, I have been teaching Italian phonetics and phonology for
fifteen years and would like to add something to what you heard from
other sources.  All Italian speakers pronounce both open and closed
/e/'s in accented syllables; for some of them (maybe one third, maybe
less) this difference also has a distinctive value, i.e. they
distinguish between e.g. 'venti' with open /e/ ='winds' and with closed
/e/ = twenty; for the others it is a matter of other phonetic conditions
(in many northern varieties, for example, all long /e/'s are closed and
all short ones are open).  In unaccented syllables there is no
distinction of open or closed /e/ (or /o/ for that matter), so it makes
little sense to speak of degrees of openness, since this is obviously a
relative concept.  however, if you compare the vowels of unstressed
syllables with the vowels of stressed ones, the former are clearly more
similar to the closed variants, and should consequently be pronounced
closed, as your Italian colleagues correctly told you.  there are no
dialectal differences regarding unaccented vowels.  Finally, as a
listener who is sometimes bothered by incorrect diction, let me add that
I have the feeeling that English speaking singers rather have problems
with consonants, their vowel usually sound fine (Russian singers on the
contrary have problems with Italian vowels).  And anyway, there are some
very famous Italian singers whose vowels are so badly articulated that
you would prefer they were foreigner and had studied diction more
accurately.
Silvia Luraghi
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