For example, they pronounce "ricotta" as "rih-gaht", "manicotti" as "mani-gaht", and "prosciutto" as "pro-shoot".

I googled this, and according to this post from Chow.com, this is a common thing around New York and New Jersey, particularly in Italian-American restaurants.

Is this a cultural thing, or something related to the history of how the English language adopted these words, or what?

  • 1
    I believe this is related to the dialect of Italian that many Italian immigrants to the U.S. spoke. Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 19:14
  • 3
    Plus, since the words are being borrowed into English, they're subject to English fast speech rules, which license frequent loss of final vowels, capish? Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 19:48
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    It’s interesting that you’re thinking they are saying voiced stops like /g/ and when in fact they are really only saying unaspirated unvoiced ones like /k/. In English, you so much expect the aspiration at the start of stressed syllables that when it’s absent, you’ve mistaken them for voiced versions instead. But Italian doesn’t have aspirated consonants at all; the phonemic distinction there is based solely on voicing, while in English one obviously also cues off aspiration to sort out which phoneme is which — otherwise you wouldn’t have “misheard” these.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 20:39
  • My grandparents came straight over on the boat into Ellis Island as children - my Nona always pronounced the strone as in “bone” “loan” “cone”. It was NEVER pronounced as “knee”’as in “ouch, someone hit me in the knee with a baseball bat”. Reading the dialect of the region makes sense - I’ve gotten into straight up arguments and fights with people who tell me it’s KNEE!!! Yet these same people don’t call out people who say “y’all” instead of “you all”. It’s region specific!!!!!
    – Janna
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 2:33

1 Answer 1


This actually happens in Italian itself, particularly but not exclusively in the dialects spoken south of Rome, including in Sicily where such folks originate. (But see the Mark’s article below for some nuance there.)

Unlike northern Italian, which has a syllable-timed rhythm to it and so vowel reduction does not occur, southern Italian tends more toward the stress-timed end of the spectrum. This means that its vowels which are not stressed are shortened and reduced, and may even (seem to) be dropped completely. See this Language Log posting on “Italian: To vowel or not to vowel” by Mark Liberman for more.

The thing is, this is more common in Italian than English speakers may realize. To see that it happens pretty normally, just think of the familiar phrase il dolce far niente, where far is a shortened form of the normal verb fare. A less familiar phrase is a fior d’acqua, where fior is a similarly shortened version of fiore.

  • "i mafiosi"? I don't know about any "i mafiosi"... just "la cosa nostra".
    – Braiam
    Commented Jul 5, 2014 at 0:43
  • I'm not sure your comparison holds: you can't say "qual" or "far" or "fior" in random context, only when followed by certain phonemes which blend correctly.
    – Nemo
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 17:09
  • @tchrist This phenomenon doesn't occur in Italian, instead it occurs in some Italian dialects (like you said, Sicilian). In Italian you are not allowed to drop vowels at the end of the words except in some very specific cases. It's not random and never happens for the words listed in the question. Finally, my personal opinion is that this "American Italian" pronunciation doesn't sound natural and harmonic at all, I much prefer the English pronunciation (even if farther from the original) because it fits better in the language.
    – bcl
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 12:32
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    @drevis It's worthy to note that a great deal of Italian migration to the U.S. took place before Italian was standardized along Tuscan lines, and that the overwhelming majority of those migrants came from Sicily and the Mezzogiorno, The phenomenon described may not occur in modern standard Italian, but it's hardly fair to say that people who left in the first generation after the Risorgimento didn't speak properly or "naturally."
    – choster
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 16:15
  • It's noticeable in the 'Inspector Montalbano' TV series too. He makes his colleague Fazio's name sound like 'Fats'. Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 17:15

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