Hard (consonant)

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In English, the consonants c and g regularly have two clearly different sounds each. It has been traditional to describe these as hard and soft.

  • The hard sound is the velar sound. For the letter c, the hard sound is that of k (the unvoiced velar) as in 'can'; a hard g has the sound heard in 'get' and 'girl', the voiced velar. (These letters provide the symbols used to represent the 'hard' consonants in the IPA: /k/ and /g/.)

"In modern English G has the so-called 'hard' sound [/g/] at the end of a word, before a consonant or a, o, u, (exc[ept] in gaol, gaoler), and in words of Teutonic etymology before e and i, as in give, get; also in Hebrew proper names, as Gedaliah, Gideon. In words from Lat. or Romanic it has the 'soft' sound [/dʒ/] before e, i, y; and at the end of a syllable, in words of whatever origin, the sound [/dʒ/] is represented always by dge or ge, the letter J not being used in this position." " OED, s.v. g.

  • Soft c has the sibilant sound of s, as in 'since'. Soft g sounds like j. To be more precise, in English it most usually has the sounds of d + j, as in 'judge'.
There is a tendency in English for both c and g to be pronounced 'soft' after the vowels 'e' and 'i', and hard after the other vowels. This is a rule of Italian spelling, and (less markedly) in other Romance languages; in Italian, however, the soft c is pronounced like the English '-tch-' in 'watch'. The Italian soft g is similar to to the English.