In an earlier post I reproduced an article called Babel all’Italiana by Patricia Corbett which looked at the variety of languages which exist in Italy today. As the subject has come up in a separate discussion with a non-native Italian speaker and I had to put together a few explanatory words, I thought I’d put them into a post in my blog. In this post I’ll be showing you some of the differences between these languages with the aid of some excellent videos from the ILoveLanguages! YouTube channel. If you watch and enjoy any of these videos, please click LIKE and consider subscribing as this helps the channel.
This first link demonstrates how standard Italian is pronounced. This is the predominant language of the Italian peninsula: it’s taught in schools and is used in books, newspapers, TV, Radio and online (although there also are regional varieties of all of these media), and if you know any Italian at all, this is the version you’ll be familiar with. I was brought up speaking standard Italian at home, however I quickly realised that I had to lean Friulano – Furlán – at the same time if I wanted to understand what my Italian relatives were saying to each other. I’m told that people were quite amused by the little English boy who could speak the local dialect in a West Country accent!
Sadly ILoveLanguages! doesn’t have a video featuring Friulano, but it does have a couple featuring Veneto (Venetian) and Triestino, the regions which sit either side of Friuli, and they’re very similar. These videos both include the story of The Wren and I understand 90%+ of it. The different words for ‘wren’ highlights the differences between the three languages: Italian scricciolo, Veneto reatín, Triestino pagnarol).
Here’s another video demonstrating the Venetian dialect. Try to follow the speaker before enabling the English subtitles.
This video on the LangFocus YouTube channel discusses the various languages and dialects in Italy. Watch the entire video or jump directly to 8:57 for a demonstration of the differences between standard Italian, Neapolitan, Sardinian and Friulian.
I’ve found Agjenzie Regjonâl pe Lenghe Furlane (Regional Agency for the Friulian Language) which you can switch between English, Italian and Friulian, and which features an Italian-Friulian bilingual dictionary, but I wish there was more spoken and written Friulano on the Web. It must be there somewhere – I shall have to spend some time tracking down some suitable resources. In the meantime, see if you can understand more of this story than I’ve managed to: Paolo Paron racconta una favola in friulano.
As we more or less work our way down the country, ILoveLanguages! provides examples of Ladino, Romansch, Corsican, Logudorese (Sardinian), Romanesco, Foggiano, Neapolitano, Reggino and Siciliano. I don’t think I missed any!
Finally I’ll thrown Etruscan in as a bonus. Etruscan developed in the Bronze/Iron Ages in the area which is today called Tuscany. It’s not used by anyone today – certainly not spoken except perhaps by academics and historians – and does not appear to be related to any other known language, demonstrating just how completely a language can disappear over such a short space of time. I say ‘short space of time’… I realise it’s over two thousand years but in that same time languages like Italian, Spanish and French have diverged relatively little, such that many of the words are perfectly identifiable back to their roots in Latin.