Italian Language/The letter 'Z' in Italian
Hi Paolin - I noticed that 'Z' is sometimes pronounced with a 'ds'
sound, instead of 'ts'.
Are there any rules? I thought perhaps it has to do with some
Thanks in advance.
Hello Joe, thank you for this question. First of all, please forgive me because it took so much time before I answered; I had to check some specific topics before and anyway I'm afraid that it is not possible to get a totally clear answer.
By the way - you are right, the sound sure changes and it is due both to the characteristics of Italian language and to the regional special differences.
For instance in the northern Italy it is most common the sound "ts", while in southern Italy it is most common the sound "ds". There are no specific rules. If any, those are very specialistic rules, discussed and studied among professional linguists, and not much useful to check the right pronunciation in everyday speaking.
The best way to learn, of course, would be to practice a lot with excellent Italian speakers: as a matter of fact, most of us native Italian speakers are not good in these distinctions as well, even though we/they are highly scholarized!
So, what can we do? The best solution - and also a good way to study - is to use a good Italian dictionary to check the right pronunciation.
This website, for instance, shows the phonetic transcription of the words:
(you have to digit the word you need, then to search and click on it: a pop-up window will show you the word with the transcription);
the distinction between the two sounds is represented by two different signs: "z" and "ʒ".
Please notice that this is not the international phonetic transcription; anyway, it helps making clear what the word sounds like;
z - "sorda" (or "aspra", sharp); pronounce "ts";
ʒ - "sonora" (or "dolce", smooth); pronounce "ds";
here are some common sample words for each sound, ten with "ts" and ten with "ds":
pizza pozzo zappa zio pezzo pizzo puzzo pazzo vezzo ozio
orzo zero azzerato rozzo ingozzare gazza garza Zorro zufolo zen
A small tip for you: if you want to look more "Italian", try to practice very well in the "ts" sound. This is usually more difficult for non native speakers; the very very Italian word "pizza", for example, sounds funny when pronounced with the smooth zed (*piʒʒa, *piʒa), and most Italian will always pronounce it - correctly - "pizza" with a quite strong and sharp double "z" ("z"): "zz", "tsts". If you can pronounce correctly this sound... Italian people could be quite shocked by your capacity to master the language pronunciation.
Please let me know if you need any more specific help, such as more online or paper dictionary names, more sample words, pronunciation help or anything.
Good bye Joe and best regards,