Tuscan gorgia

The Tuscan gorgia (Italian: Gorgia toscana [ˈɡɔrdʒa toˈskaːna], "Tuscan throat") is a phonetic phenomenon characteristic of the Tuscan dialects, in Tuscany, Italy, especially the central ones, with Florence traditionally viewed as the center.


The gorgia affects the voiceless stops /k/ /t/ and /p/, which are pronounced as fricative consonants in post-vocalic position (when not blocked by the competing phenomenon of syntactic gemination):

An example: the word identificare (to identify) /identifiˈkare/ is pronounced by a Tuscan speaker as [ˌidentifiˈhaːre], not as [ˌidentifiˈkaːre], as standard Italian phonology would require. The rule is sensitive to pause, but not word boundary, so that /la kasa/ (the house) is realized as [laˈhaːsa].

(In some areas the voiced counterparts /ɡ d b/ can also appear as fricative approximants [ɣ ð β], especially in fast or unguarded speech. This, however, appears more widespread elsewhere in the Mediterranean, having become standard in Spanish and Greek.)

In a stressed syllable, /k t p/, preceded by another stop, can occasionally be realized as true aspirates [kʰ tʰ pʰ], especially if the stop is the same, for example [apˈpʰuːnto] (appunto, note), [akˈkʰaːsa] (a casa, at home, with phonosyntactic strengthening due to the preposition).

Geographical distribution

Establishing a hierarchy of weakening within the class /k t p/ is not an easy task. Recent studies have called into question the traditional view that mutation of /t/ and /p/ is less widespread geographically than /k/[h], and in areas where the rule is not automatic, /p/ is often more likely to weaken than /k/ or /t/.

On the other hand, deletion in rapid speech always affects /k/ first and foremost wherever it occurs, but /t/ reduce less often to [h], especially in the most common forms such as participles ([anˈdaːho] andato). Fricativisation of /k/ is by far the most perceptually salient of the three, however, and so it has become a stereotype of Tuscan dialects.

The phenomenon is more evident and finds its irradiation point in the city of Florence. From there, the gorgia spreads its influence along the entire Arno valley, losing strength nearer the coast. On the coast, /p/ and usually /t/ are not affected. The weakening of /k/ is a linguistic continuum in the entire Arno valley, in the cities of Prato, Pistoia, Montecatini Terme, Lucca, Pisa, Livorno.

In the northwest, it is present to some extent in Versilia. In the east, it extends over the Pratomagno to include Bibbiena and its outlying areas, where /k t p/ are sometimes affected, both fully occlusive [k], [t], [p] and "lenited" (lax, unvoiced) allophones being the major alternates.

The Apennine Mountains are the northern border of the phenomenon, and while a definite southern border has not been established, it is present in Siena and further south to at least San Quirico d'Orcia. In the far south of Tuscany, it gives way to the lenition (laxing) typical of northern and coastal Lazio.


The Tuscan gorgia arose perhaps as late as the Middle Ages, as a natural phonetic phenomenon, much like the consonant voicing that affected Northern Italian dialects and the rest of Western Romance (now phonemicised as in /amika/ 'friend, f.' > /amiɡa/), but it remained allophonic in Tuscany, as laxing or voicing generally does elsewhere in Central Italy and in Corsica.

Although it was once hypothesised that the gorgia phenomena are the continuation of similar features in the language that predated Romanization of the area, Etruscan, that view is no longer held by most specialists. Instead, it is increasingly accepted as being a local form of the same consonant weakening that affects other speech in Central Italy, extending far beyond, to Western Romance. Support for that hypothesis can be found in several facts:


    See also

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