THE LINGUISTIC PRINCIPLES THAT LEAD TO “PRUH-ZHOOT”. I learned from Mary Jane’s mother to pronounce “prosciutto” as “pruh-zhoot”. Mary Jane’s mother was born in this country but her immigrant mother, who was born in a village near Benevento, which is near Naples, arrived in the United States before the year 1914 and never learned English. Mary Jane’s mother was one of the members of the Italian-American generation which learned a dialect from their parents. After a while, I became familiar with dropping the final syllable from Italian words and learned to translate some of the words Mary Jane’s mother said into “standard Italian”.
Dan Nosowitz quotes a linguist, Ann Marie Olivo-Shaw, that even today in southern Italy, “…vowels at the ends of words are pronounced very very softly, and usually as more of an ‘uh’ vowel.” Nosowitz summarizes the principle: vowels are deleted “… to make the flow from one word to another more seamless. It’s easiest, in terms of muscle movement, to transition from a vowel to a consonant and vice versa. A vowel to a vowel is difficult….” i
Other languages also find ways to avoid successive vowel sounds. English uses “a” or “an”. French uses elision.
Nosowitz gives the example of “mutzadell”, which I was soon able to identify as “Mozzarella”.