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Italian has diphthongs when you put together two vowels, like in the word "uomo". As far as I understand a diphthong is not necessarily a glide, because a glide has to be less sonorous than a vowel. So I'm asking: are there real glides in Italian, and can you provide examples?

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  • Surely, the 'i' in 'chiaro' or 'chiesa' and the like is a glide, as is the 'u' in 'quando' and the like? Jun 11 '13 at 8:28
  • Why should UA in quando be a glide? They should be pronounced as a single item. In English, you get glides as single letters, right? Is Wet one of these?
    – martina
    Jun 11 '13 at 20:05
  • The question really is as Sjiveru outlines, then: in the first syllable of 'quando' /'kwando/, is the onset /kw/ and nucleus /a/, or is the onset /k/ and the nucleus /wa/? However, this really is well above my amateur paygrade. Jun 11 '13 at 20:29
  • Actually, "quando" is divided into syllables as "quan-do" (two syllables), look up here: it.wiktionary.org/wiki/quando At the sound level U and A go together. My guess from this discussion here would be that in Italian glides may occur only as two vowels. Could you please provide an example of an English glide?
    – martina
    Jun 12 '13 at 7:29
  • I mean, of course "quando" is divided into syllables, with first syllable /kwan/. The question is, in terms of the divison onset + nucleus + coda, does /kwan/ divide as /k/ + /wa/ + /n/, in which case /wa/ is a diphthong and /w/ doesn't serve as a glide, or does /kwan/ divide as /kw/ + /a/ + /n/, in which case /w/ does serve as a glide, even if it is preceded by the stop /k/? As for English, the glides are the usual glides are /j/ as in 'yes' /jɛs/ and /w/ as in 'will' /wɪl/ or in 'quick' /kwɪk/, even if the /w/ in /kwɪk/ is preceded by the stop /k/. At least, this is as far as I know. Jun 12 '13 at 7:55
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It really depends on how the language treats those kinds of vowel-vowel pairs. If the 'uo' in 'uomo' is treated like a single vowel, then it's a diphthong; but if the 'u' is treated like a consonant, then it's a glide.

Basically, a diphthong is when a vowel-vowel sequence is treated like one vowel; and a glide is when one vowel in a vowel-vowel sequence is treated instead as a consonant. (Really, it's not that glides have lower sonority than vowels, it's that vowels have their relative sonority level reduced when they're used as glides.)

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  • My problem is that, to me, the definition of relative sonority seems quite ambiguous. When you say "if the 'u' is treated as a consonant", do you mean that you don't stress it via sonority with respect to the 'o'?
    – martina
    Jun 10 '13 at 8:09
  • I think the point here is that sonority levels in this case are a product of the glide/diphthong distinction, not a cause of it. You'd find out whether or not it's a consonant based on whether its behaviour patterns more like other consonants rather than other vowels. It's kind of fuzzy and hard to tell, though (especially since in Italian /w/ and /u/ are both spelled 'u'). Basically, the question is - is 'uomo' CVCV (u-o-m-o) or VCV (uo-m-o)? The only way to answer that is to wander around the language looking for more data about u-vowel pairs.
    – Sjiveru
    Jun 10 '13 at 15:33
  • I would say it's the second. I've found this research here: academia.edu/2481999/… It basically furnishes a counterexample: "cliente", which should be cli-en-te.
    – martina
    Jun 10 '13 at 15:44

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