Monday, May 1, 2017

Italian Words with Tonic Stress on Third-From-Last Syllable

Helleborus (elleboro) flowers. The word in both English and Italian has the third-from-last syllable stressed.Helleborus (elleboro) flowers. The word in both English and Italian has the third-from-last syllable stressed.Helleborus (elleboro) flowers. The word in both English and Italian has the third-from-last syllable stressed.Helleborus (elleboro) flowers. The word in both English and Italian has the third-from-last syllable stressed.
Helleborus (elleboro) flowers. The word in both English and Italian has the third-from-last syllable stressed.

I’ve always kept a list of my “troublesome” words in English, words whose pronunciation I stumble over without fail. Now that I’m spending more time speaking and writing the Italian language, I’m doing the same thing. In particular, I track words in which the accent falls on the third-from-last (ante-penultimate) syllable. My list of third-from-last Italian tongue-twisters is toward the end of this post.

When the stress of a word falls on the third to last syllable, it’s called proparoxytone in English. In Italian, it’s proparossitono or parole sdrucciole. Interestingly, sdrucciolo also means a steep slope and the verb sdrucciolare means to fall down sliding. The way I think about it is that you have to put the stress on the third syllable and then slide to the end of the word as effortlessly as possible.

English

As pointed out on Linguapress, native speakers of a language don’t often make mistakes putting the stress in the correct place, but these same speakers also don’t actually know the rules. Case in point: I didn’t understand the rules and their exceptions until I read the linked page above. I just understood the “music” of the language and over time pronounced the words correctly, or mostly correctly. There are still some English words for which I have to pause to think about their pronunciation. Interestingly, these are also third-from-last-syllable stressed words, where the stress on the root word changes because of a change in the suffix. Examples are (with stressed syllables in CAPS):

  • AN-a-log, a-NAL-o-gous
  • E-po-nym, e-PON-ym-ous
  • pho-TOG-ra-phy, pho-to-GRAPH-ic, PHO-to-graph
  • SYL-la-ble, syl-LAB-ic
  • SYN-o-nym, syn-ON-y-mous
  • su-PER-flu-ous


Italian

In Italian, most words have the stress on the second-from-last (penultimate) syllable. Words that have stress on the third-to-last are fewer and trickier for me to remember. A summary of word stress can be found at Zanichelli Aula di Lingue (in Italian) and JakubMarian (in English).

Let’s take the same English words from above and see what they look like in Italian:

  • a-na-LO-gi-co, a-NA-lo-go
  • e-PO-ni-mo, e-po-NI-mi-co
  • fo-TO-gra-fo, fo-to-GRA-fi-co, fo-to-gra-FI-a
  • SIL-la-ba, sil-LA-bi-co
  • si-NO-ni-mo, si-no-NI-mi-co
  • su-PER-flu-o

The words in Italian are similar to their counterparts in English in terms of word stress, and in particular how the stress changes when the suffix changes. For example, when moving from analog (analogico) to analogous (analogo), the stress remains on the third-from-last syllable in both Italian and English.

This suggests to me that perhaps my problem is that I never correctly mastered word stress rules in English and my bad habits followed me into the Italian language. One recent example that comes to mind is elleboro (el-LE-bo-ro) in Italian. In English, you can use the scientific term Helleborus (he-LEB-o-rus), or in the plain English term hellebores (HEL-le-bore). Both have third-from-last syllable stressed. The problem is that I always pronounced Helleborus incorrectly as he-le-BO-rus, stressing the second-from-last syllable, and this is how I first approached elleboro in Italian, which got giggles and a correction.

I work on my pronunciation of third-from-last-syllable-stressed words by maintaining a list; it's a list of words culled from months of reading and writing in Italian. I read the list aloud every so often. I also put the list in text-to-speech applications (e.g., Google Translate) and listen to their pronunciation. The period after each word in the list adds a pause between each word. Here’s the list:

abito. abitudine. abside. acero. acronimo. aereo. aferesi. affittasi. agnostico. alcool. alcoolico. altitudine. ambito. analogico. analogo. anatra. anatroccolo. ancora. angelo. angolo. antibiotico. antipatico. antipode. antropico. anagrafe. analisi. anice. antitesi. apocope. apposito. arabo. architettonico. arcipelago. arista. asparago. aspirapolvere. astice. astronomo. ateo. atletica. atomo. atono. attendibile. basilica. benefico. bifora. bigamo. biologo. bisdrucciola. bonifico. borragine. briciola. bufala. cadavere. cannibale. capitolo. cappero. capsula. carcere. cardiologico. cardiologo. carico. carnivoro. catalogo. catastrofe. cattedra. celiaco. centimetro. centrifuga. ceramica. cercasi. chiacchiera. chimico. chiocciola. cibernetica. coetaneo. compito. coriandolo. cupola. cuspide. debole. democratico. demografo. didattico. dietologo. difficile. digeribile. dinamica. dirigibile. disamina. discepolo. dollaro. dondolo. eccetera. edera. effimero. elicottero. elleboro. enfasi. enfatico. ennesimo. epilogo. epitome. epoca. eponimo. eponimico. eremo. esercito. esplicito. estasi. estero. etere. etica. ettaro. facile. farmaco. fascicolo. favola. fegato. filantropo. filosofo. fisico. fitofago. fotofobico. fotografo. fotografico. garofano. genere. gerarchico. giallognolo. giocattolo. glutine. gocciolo. gondola. gotico. grafico. grammatica. grandine. idillico. igienico. immagine. implicito. indagine. instabile. interprete. ipotesi. ipotetica. isola. isteresi. lampada. larice. legittimo. lessico. libero. liquido. logico. lucertola. marittimo. meccanica. medico. mensola. metafora. metodo. miracolo. mitico. modifica. molecola. monaco. monofora. muscolo. nettare. nocciolo. nobile. nucleo. omografo. omonimo. onomastico. orefice. orfano. organo. origano. origine. ospite. ossido. osteopata. pacifico. paesaggio. Paleocapa. paragrafo. paralisi. parentesi. pellicola. penisola. pentola. perdita. pericolo. periferico. perimetro. periodo. petalo. piacevole. pillola. pirofila. pisside. politico. polittico. polizza. pollice. polvere. popolo. possibile. prezzemolo. principe. probabile. proposito. protesi. pubblico. quaresima. quindicesimo. rabarbaro. rafano. ragionevole. reciproco. redine. retina. ricarica. ricciolo. ridicolo. romanico. rondine. salsedine. sandalo. satellite. scientifica. sdrucciola. sdrucciolevole. sedano. segale. semplice. senape. sesamo. sillaba. sillabico. simbolo. simpatico. sindaco. sinonimo. sinonimico. sintattico. sintesi. sintomo. solito. spettacolo. specifico. speleologico. speleologo. statua. stimolo. stomaco. stupidaggine. subito. suddito. superfluo. superstite. svizzera. tavola. telefono. tendine. teorico. termine. termometro. terzultimo. tessera. tirannico. tonico. toponimo. trascurabile. triangolo. trifora. unico. utile. vedova. veicolo. vendesi. venere. veneto. ventesimo. vergine. verifica. vertigine. vescovo. vittima. vocabolo. vocalico. volatile. vongola. zenzero. zigomo. zingaro. zucchero.


Some guidelines for third-from-last stressed words appear in the two links mentioned above as well as in Grammatica italiana di base by Trifone and Palermo and published by Zanichelli. (This reference is one of my favorites for delving into grammar. It's written in Italian, so reading it is also a good language work-out.) The guidelines are:

  • Nouns with suffixes -agine, -aggine, -igine, -iggine, -edine, -udine
  • Adjectives and nouns with suffixes -abile, -evole, -ibile, -ico, -aceo, -ognolo, -oide
  • Scholarly words with Greek-originating suffixes -cefalo, -crate, -dromo, -fago, -filo, -fobo, -fono, -gamo, -geno, -gono, -grafo, -logo, -mane, -metro, -nomo, -stato, -tesi, -ttero
  • Scholarly words with Latin-originating suffixes -fero, -fugo, -voro

Note that the words in my list above are nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Adding in verbs and their conjugations is another level of complexity we don't cover here. For example, the verb pagare "to pay" has third person plural conjugation of PA-ga-no, with third-from-last syllable stressed.

Also, there can be homographs of the third-from-last words, that is, words that are written the same but have a different meaning and a different stressed syllable. For example, homographs from the Zanichelli reference are:

  • am-BI-to - the past participle of the verb ambire (compare to AM-bi-to)
  • an-CO-ra - the adverb meaning "again" or "still" (compare to AN-co-ra)
  • be-ne-FI-ci - plural of beneficio (compare to be-NE-fi-ci, plural of benefico)
  • com-PI-to - educated (compare to COM-pi-to)
  • net-TA-re - to clean (compare to NET-ta-re)
  • noc-CIO-lo - hazelnut tree (compare to NOC-cio-lo)
  • prin-CI-pi - plural principio (compare to PRIN-ci-pi, plural of principe)
  • re-TI-na - a small net (compare to RE-ti-na)
  • su-BI-to - the past participle of the verb subire)
  • ten-DI-ne - small tents (compare to TEN-di-ne)

I'll close this post with a couple of homographs that in many ways started my obsession with tonic stress in Italian words. The list below show how aware you must be when pronouncing words in Italian. Just a slight change (at least to my ears) in what syllable you stress changes everything.
  • LEG-ge-re - the verb "to read" in its infinitive form
  • leg-GE-re - an adjective meaning light, without much weight as in stoffe leggere
  • leg-GE-ro - same adjective in its singular, masculine form as in  odore leggero
  • leg-ge-RO - reading in the future as in "I will read"

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