Italian has seven vowels. The letters e and o have both an open and a closed pronunciation. The closed vowels are high-mid vowels and the open vowels are low-mid. However, this distinction is lost in a few varieties. In parts of northern Sicily, only the open vowels occur and in parts of the north of Italy, only the closed variants occur.
In stressed position, both the open and closed vowels may occur, but in unstressed position, only the closed variant may occur. A famous example of the difference between the open and closed variants is the word pesca. Pronounced with the open vowel, it means peach and pronounced with the closed one, it means fishing. Another example is the word botte. Pronounced with the open vowel it means blows (plural noun) and with the closed one it means barrel.
Here is a list of Italian words with open and closed vowels:
open- bene (well) festa (party) presto (soon) vento (wind) bello (beautiful)
closed- e (and) me (me) fede (faith) neve (snow) mela (apple)
open- cosa (thing) moda (fashion) no (no) posta (mail) rosa (rose)
closed- dono (gift) mondo (world) nome (name) o (or) posto (place)
In Italian the letters e and o have both an open and a closed pronunciation. This is different from other languages such as Spanish in which no such distinction occurs. In stressed position, both vowels may be realized, but in unstressed position the distinction is neutralized and only the closed variant occurs.
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