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Laura and Alice

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No, these aren’t the names of former love interests–hmm, then again perhaps one is, but that really isn’t what this is about. The reason I find these two names interesting is because they are spelt exactly the same in both English and Italian, yet pronounced in completely different ways.

In English, the name Laura is basically pronounced ‘L-O-R-A’: the middle ‘au’ sound turns into an ‘o’ in most English accents. In Italian however, both vowels are clearly and separately pronounced together, giving us an ‘AH-OO’ type sound as in ‘L-AH-OO-R-A’. Other similar words include ‘Australia’. Again, the ‘Au’ is pronounced as various shades of ‘o’ in English (or even like the ‘e’ in ‘river’), but in Italian we hear the full vowels.

The name Alice is usually pronounced ‘A-L-I-S’ in English, just as it is in French (from where we originally got the name). In Italian, however, the ‘c’ is pronounced like ‘ch’ in English, since it is followed by an ‘e’. So we get ‘A-L-I-CH-EH’. I really like the Italian version of this name. However, as an aside, my favourite version of ‘Alice’ is actually the one from Old French (and the name of the main character in the excellent Labyrinth by Kate Mosse). This is written ‘Alaïs’ and pronounced like ‘A-LAH-YIS’. Lovely.

Added 15/05/2014: Another female name that is spelled the same but pronounced differently in English and Italian is Irene. In English, it’s pronounced AHY-REEN or sometimes AHY-REEN-EE. However, in Italian, it’s pronounced EE-REH-NEH. Again, I prefer the Italian version with its consecutive ‘eh’ sounds.

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