Syntactic gemination

Syntactic gemination, or syntactic doubling, is an external sandhi phenomenon in Italian and some other Western Romance languages. It consists in the lengthening (gemination) of the initial consonant in certain contexts.

The phenomenon is variously referred to in English as word-initial gemination, phonosyntactic consonantal gemination, as well as under the native Italian terms: raddoppiamento sintattico (RS), raddoppiamento fonosintattico (RF), raddoppiamento iniziale, rafforzamento iniziale (della consonante)

In Standard Italian, syntactic doubling occurs after the following words (with exceptions described below):

Articles, clitic pronouns (mi, ti, lo, etc.) and various particles do not cause doubling.

The cases of doubling are commonly classified as "stress-induced doubling" and "lexical".[2]

"Syntactic" means that gemination spans word boundaries, as opposed to the ordinary geminated consonants: "grappa".[2] The emergence of syntactic doubling has traditionally been explained by a diachronic phenomenon of the loss of terminal consonants in Italian during its evolution from Latin (ad > a, quid > qui, etc.), but more recent research also pays attention to synchronic aspects.[2]

In some phonetic transcriptions, such as in the Zingarelli dictionary, words that lead to syntactic gemination are marked an asterisk: the preposition "a" is transcribed as /a*/.

Regional occurrence

Syntactic gemination is the standard native pronunciation in Tuscany, Central Italy (both "stress-induced" and "lexical") and Southern Italy (only "lexical"), including Sicily and Corsica. In Northern Italy, including Sardinia, use it inconsistently because the feature is not present in the dialectal substratum and is not usually shown in the written language unless a new word is produced by the fusion of the two: "chi sa"-> chissà ("who knows" in the sense of goodness knows).

It is not taught in normal grammar programmes in Italian schools so most speakers do not recognize it as a standard feature of the language; indeed, many Italian speakers consider it to be a pronunciation error typical of Central and Southern Italy. Thus, northern speakers often do not try to acquire the feature, and other speakers try to avoid it in formal speech.


It does not occur in the following cases:

There are other considerations, especially in various dialects, so the initial gemination is subject to complicated lexical, syntactic and phonological/prosodic conditions.

See also


  1. Migliorini, Bruno; Tagliavini, Carlo; Fiorelli, Piero; Bórri, Tommaso Francesco (31 January 2008). "come". Dizionario d'ortografia e di pronunzia (DOP) (in Italian). Rai Eri. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  2. 1 2 3 Doris Borrelli (2002) "Raddoppiamento Sintattico in Italian: A Synchronic and Diachronic Cross-Dialectical Study" (Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics) Routledge, ISBN 0-415-94207-1
  3. 1 2 3 Absalom, Matthew, Stevens, Mary, and Hajek, John, "A Typology of Spreading, Insertion and Deletion or What You Weren’t Told About Raddoppiamento Sintattico in Italian", in "Proc. 2002 Conference of the Australian Linguistic Society", Macquarie University (e-print pdf file)
  4. Nespor, Marina & Irene Vogel (1986). Prosodic Phonology. Dordrecht: Foris.


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