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I have heard "fianchetto" for four decades now, and I have always pronounced it "fēənˈCHetō", but I have heard many people also pronounce it "fēənˈketō".

It is of Italian origin, so I am wondering if there are any Italians out there, especially natives, or anyone really, who can tell me what is the true, and proper, pronunciation.

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    There is no doubt in Italy fianchetto has a K sound (it comes from fianco which means side). So like in musical terminology you use Italian nomenclature, even for non Italian speakers I would recommend "fianKetto". – Francesco Jan 24 at 5:24
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    Do you want the " true, and proper, pronunciation" of the word in Italian, or in English? Note that neither language has a magic infallible oracle of pronunciation - you have to go by what people actually do. – AakashM Jan 24 at 9:15
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    In Russian, it is transliterated into Cyrillic as фианкетто (fianketto) and pronounced with a /k/. – trolley813 Jan 24 at 9:19
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    ch is always pronounced as a k in Italian. You're maybe led astray by words like ciabatta, ciao, etc, where the c takes a ch sound (though typically only when followed by i or e). – J... Jan 24 at 17:25
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While I'm not sure exactly how "fēənˈketō" would be pronounced (I'm not a native English speaker), that's more correct as to the pronunciation of the "ch" (following the Italian pronunciation).

The pronunciation written in English would be something like fee-ahn-keh-toh, with the accent on the third syllable (keh).

I just found this website in which there are actual recordings of italian (I hope) people pronouncing it. It sounds pretty good to me.

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    Wow, excellent. I especially liked the site with the four natives pronouncing it. In a way, neither normal English pronunciation is correct, but the "keto" variation is closer. – PhishMaster Jan 23 at 15:49
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    Words borrowed from other languages generally change in pronunciation, so the Italian pronunciation isn't really relevant here. Though FWIW both Wikipedia and Wiktionary list either pronunciation as valid in English (with a normal "ch" as the primary one) – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jan 24 at 20:59
  • Interesting, in those recordings the accent sounds like it lands on the second rather than the third syllable. – Apollys supports Monica Jan 24 at 22:45
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    @ApollyssupportsMonica: “stress on third vs second syllable” is a bit misleading here. The stress is certainly on the “ket” syllable; the difference is in whether the “fian” before it is a single syllable, as it is for most native Italian speakers, or becomes two syllables “fee-ahn”, which is the nearest approximation within English phonotactics, so is what a well-informed English speaker within an English-speaking context is likely to produce. – Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine Jan 25 at 23:19
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According to Wikipedia:

In chess, the fianchetto (/ˌfiænˈtʃɛtoʊ/; Italian: [fjaŋˈketto] "little flank") is a pattern of development ...

Hence English speakers pronounce the "ch" as in "chess" and Italian speakers as in "kettle".

Which suggests that there is no "true, and proper, pronunciation".

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    I've never heard anyone pronounce it as "ch", I've either heard the hard "k" sound or "sh" (fee ann shett toe). We must move in vastly different circles of english speakers. – Arlen Jan 23 at 16:46
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    As a native english speaker I pronounce it both ways since I am never sure which is right. – Michael West Jan 23 at 19:56
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    My first instinct was to pronounce this with an "sh" sound, but then I saw the Italian pronunciation here and was immediately convinced of "[fjaŋˈketto]" as correct. Good answer. – John Hamilton Jan 24 at 14:31
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    +1 for using IPA. I have trouble even telling what the other answers are trying to get me to pronounce. – Sriotchilism O'Zaic Jan 24 at 14:34
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    I'm very wary of using a Wikipedia article as a source, especially when there are barely any citations on said article. – Bladewood Jan 25 at 1:25
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I'm Italian and I can confirm the pronounces posted on this site: https://forvo.com/word/fianchetto/

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    It'd be helpful to post more than a link; see this meta post. – Bladewood Jan 25 at 1:23
  • This looks like a response/confirmation comment to this answer which mentions the same site earlier, but the poster didn't have enough (50) reps to comment before. – Andrew T. Jan 26 at 12:17
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In Italian, c is pronounced like English "ch" or "tsh" before "i" and "e" and like "k" (unaspired) before "a", "o", and "u". If you want it as "k" before "i" and "e", you add an "h" in between, if you want it as "tsh" before "a" (and probably the other dark vowels as well), you add an "i" in between that is not (or hardly) being pronounced.

Similar with "g".

So ciabatta is "tshah-baht-tah", giotto is "jot-to", Giuseppe is "ju-sep-pe", fianchetto is "fee-ahn-ket-to".

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    Nice and informative and seemingly the most accurate answer! – polfosol Jan 25 at 12:07
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When in Rome speak Roman.

They may say fi an Ket oh in Italy, but the rest of the world says fi an CHet oh.

Words change meanings and pronounciations over time and the majority usage eventually wins out.

I always have heard fi an Chet oh and that is how I say it.

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    That's a really poor argument: because others do it wrong, I'll do it wrong too. It doesn't really stand, in my opinion. It's an Italian word and please, learn something new and pronounce it correctly. – Adriano Jan 24 at 5:04
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    It's an Italian word. It's not even a Latin word where people can pronounce things like joo-dik-im or vuh-jy-na in totally alien ways and nobody will care (except diehard scholars). This is a living language and it is nonsense to argue that doing it wrong is fine because everybody else does, especially when it's not even everybody else, just your particular experience. – Nij Jan 24 at 8:29
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    Actually, when in Rome speak Italian :-P – ChatterOne Jan 24 at 10:26
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    Sorry to inform, but the "rest of the world" does not speak English in the first place, apart from a tiny minority. – Kostya_I Jan 24 at 12:00
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    @Nij There's an argument that any word used in an English sentence is an English word, even if it has been "borrowed" from another language. So the only meaningful definition of "correct" is what English speakers agree is the correct pronunciation of that loan word. I bet there are plenty of loanwords taken from Italian where the "correct" English pronunciation would not be recognised as correct by an Italian speaker. This answer doesn't give a particularly strong argument, but nor does a naive appeal to Italian. – IMSoP Jan 24 at 16:17
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Fianchetto is commonly pronounced in English as /fiænˈɛtoʊ/ (soft ch as in "cherry") but the original Italian word is pronounced /fjaŋˈketto/ (hard ch as in "chaos"). Note the word is cognate to English flank.

It is common for terms borrowed from other languages to take on 'erroneous' pronunciations if the inherited orthography is ambiguous e.g.

  • pistachio (Italian: /k/; English /tʃ/)
  • bruschetta (Italian: /sk/; English: /ʃ/)
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