Gallo-Italic languages

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Italy, San Marino, Switzerland, Monaco
Linguistic classification: Indo-European
Glottolog: gall1279[1]
Gallo-Italic in various shades of green

The Gallo-Italian or Gallo-Italic languages constitute the majority of northern Italian languages. They are Piedmontese, Lombard, Emilian, Romagnol and Ligurian, although there is some doubt about the position of the latter due to a number of special characteristics. The Venetian language is usually considered to belong to a different dialect community,[2] while some publications place it among the Gallo-Italian languages.[3]

The Gallo-Italian languages have characteristics both of the Gallo-Romance languages to the northwest (including French and Occitan) and the Italo-Romance languages to the south (including standard Italian). Examples of the former are the loss of all final vowels other than -a; the occurrence of lenition; the development of original /kt/ to /jt/ (and often later to /tʃ/); and the development of front rounded vowels (e.g. the change of /u/ to /y/). Examples of the latter are the use of vowel changes to indicate plurals, in place of /s/; the widespread occurrence of metaphony of stressed vowels, triggered by original final /i/; and the development in some areas of /tʃ/ instead of /ts/ as the result of palatalization of original /k/ before e and i. As a result, there is some debate over the proper grouping of the Gallo-Italian languages. Most commonly, they are grouped with the Gallo-Romance languages,[4] but some Italian linguists prefer to group them with the Italo-Romance languages.[5]

Geographic distribution[edit]

Traditionally spoken in Northern Italy, Southern Switzerland, San Marino and Monaco, most Gallo-Italian languages have given way in everyday use to Standardized Italian. The vast majority of current speakers are bilingual with Italian. These languages are still spoken by the Italian diaspora in countries with Italian immigrant communities. Ligurian is formalised in Monaco as Monegasque.

General classification[edit]


The Gallo-Italian languages differ somewhat in their phonology from one language to another, but the following are the most important characteristics, as contrasted with standard Italian:


  • Most Gallo-Italian languages delete all unstressed final vowels except /a/, e.g. Lombard òm "man", füm "smoke", nef "snow", fil "wire", röda "wheel" (Italian uomo, fumo, neve, filo, ruota). They remain, however, in Ligurian, with passage of -o to -u, except after n; e.g. ramu, rami, lüme, lümi "branch, branches, light, lights" (Italian ramo, rami, lume, lumi), but can, chen /kaŋ, keŋ/ "dog, dogs" (Italian cane, cani).
  • u /u/ tends to change to ü /y/, as in French, as in Lombard füm (Italian fumo "smoke") and Ligurian lüme, Piedmont lüm (Italian lume "light"). In some parts, e.g. southern Piedmont, this has further developed into /i/, e.g. fis (Italian fuso), lim (Italian lume "light"). In some mountainous parts of Piedmont, however (e.g. Biellese, Ossolano), this change is blocked before final /a/, leading to masculine crü (Italian crudo "raw") but feminine cru(v)a (Italian cruda).
  • So-called "metaphony" is very common, affecting original open stressed è /ɛ/ and ò /ɔ/ when followed by /i/ or sometimes /o/ (operating before final vowels were dropped). This leads at first to diphthongs ie and uo, but in many dialects these progress further, typically to monophthongs i and ö /ø/. Unlike standard Italian diphthongization, this typically operates both in open and closed syllables, hence in Lombardy (where typically /i/ but not /o/ triggers metaphony) quest (Italian questo "this") vs. quist (Italian questi "these").
  • Stressed closed é /e/ and sometimes ó /o/, when occurring in an open syllable (followed by at most one consonant) often diphthongize to /ei/ and /ou/, as in Old French; e.g. Piedmont beive (Italian bere < *bévere "to drink"), teila (Italian tela "cloth"), meis (Italian mese "month"). In Piedmont, /ei/ develops further into either /ɛ/ or /i/, e.g. tèla /tɛla/ < *teila (Italian tela "cloth"), sira (Italian sera "evening"), mis (Italian mese "month").
  • Stressed /a/ in an open syllable often fronts to ä /æ/ or è /ɛ/.


  • Lenition affects single consonants between vowels. Voiced /d/ and /g/ drop; voiced /b/ becomes /v/ or drops; unvoiced /t/ and /k/ become voiced /d/ and /g/, or drop; unvoiced /p/ becomes /b/, /v/, or drops. /s/ between vowels voices to /z/. /l/ between vowels sometimes becomes /r/, and this /r/ sometimes drops. Double consonants are reduced to single consonants, but not otherwise lenited. /n/ becomes velarized to /ŋ/. These changes occur before a final vowel drops. After loss of final vowels, however, further changes sometimes affect the newly final consonants, with voiced obstruents often becoming voiceless, and final /ŋ/ sometimes dropping. Liguria, especially in former times, showed particularly severe lenition, with total loss of intervocalic /t/, /d/, /g/, /b/, /v/, /l/, /r/ (probably also /p/, but not /k/) in Old Genoese, hence müa (Latin matura "early"), a éia e âe? (Italian aveva le ali? "does it have wings?"; modern a l'aveiva e ae? with restoration of various consonants due to Tuscan influence). In Liguria and often elsewhere, collapse of adjacent vowels due to loss of an intervocalic consonant produced new long vowels, notated with a circumflex.
  • Italian palatoalveolar /ʧ/ and /ʤ/ are often reduced/assibilitated to /s/ and /z/, respectively. This typically does not occur in Lombardy, however, and parts of Liguria have intermediate /ts/ and /dz/.
  • Italian /kj/ from Latin /kl/ is further palatalized to /ʧ/; similarly /gj/ from Latin /gl/ becomes /ʤ/. In Liguria, /pj/ and /bj/ from Latin /pl/ and /bl/ are affected in the same way, e.g. Ligurian cian (Italian piano "soft") and giancu (Italian bianco "white").
  • Latin /kt/ develops variously into /jt/ or /ʧ/ (contrast Italian /tt/).

Isolated varieties in Sicily and in Basilicata[edit]

Varieties of Gallo-Italian languages are also found in Sicily, corresponding with the central-eastern parts of the island that received large numbers of immigrants from Northern Italy, called Lombards, during the decades following the Norman conquest of Sicily (around 1080 to 1120). Given the time that has lapsed and the cross-fertilisation that has occurred between these varieties and the Sicilian language itself, these dialects are best described as Gallo-Italic. The major centres where these dialects can still be heard today include Piazza Armerina, Aidone, Sperlinga, San Fratello, Nicosia, and Novara di Sicilia. Northern Italian dialects did not survive in some towns in the province of Catania that developed large Lombard communities during this period, namely Randazzo, Paternò and Bronte. However, the Northern Italian influence in the local varieties of Sicilian are marked. In the case of San Fratello, some linguists have suggested that the dialect present today has Provençal as its basis, having been a fort manned by Provençal mercenaries in the early decades of the Norman conquest (bearing in mind that it took the Normans 30 years to conquer the whole of the island).

Other dialects, attested from 13th and 14th century, are also found in Basilicata, more precisely in the province of Potenza (Tito, Picerno, Pignola and Vaglio Basilicata), Trecchina, Rivello, Nemoli and San Costantino. Because these have the same merger of Latin vowels that Dalmatian and Romanian languages do, they may be classified as Eastern Romance languages rather than as Gallo-Italic.[6]


Latin (Illa) Claudit semper fenestram antequam cenet.
Bergamasque (Eastern Lombard) (Lé) La sèra sèmper sö la finèstra prima de senà.
Milanese (Western Lombard) (Lee) la sara semper su la finestra primma de zena.
Piacentino (Emilian) Le la sära sëimpar sö/sü la finestra (fnestra) prima da disnä
Bolognese (Emilian) (Lî) la sèra sänper la fnèstra prémma ed dsnèr.
Fanese (Romagnol dialect of Marche) Lì a chìud sèmper la fnestra prima d' c'nè.
Piedmontese (Chila) a sara sempe la fnestra dnans ëd fé sin-a.
Canavese (Piedmontese) (Chilà) a sera sémper la fnestra doant ëd far sèina.
Carrarese (Emilian) Lê al sèr(e)/chiode sènpre la fnestra(paravento) prima de cena.
Ligurian Lê a særa sénpre o barcón primma de çenâ.
Tabarchino (Ligurian dialect of Sardigna) Lé a sère fissu u barcun primma de çenò.
Romansh Ella clauda/serra adina la fanestra avant ch'ella tschainia. (Rhaeto-Romance)
Nones (Ela) la sera semper la fenestra inant zenar. (Rhaeto-Romance)
Solander La sèra sempro (sèmper) la fenèstra prima (danànt) da cenàr. (Rhaeto-Romance)
Friulan Jê e siere simpri il barcon prin di cenâ. (Rhaeto-Romance)
Venetian Ła sàra/sèra senpre el balcón vanti senàr/dixnàr.
Trentinian Èla la sèra sèmper giò/zo la fenèstra prima de zenà.
Istriot (Rovignese) Gila insiera senpro el balcon preîma da senà.
Italian (Ella) chiude sempre la finestra prima di cenare.
Tuscan (Florentine) Lei la 'hiude sempre la finestra prima di cenà.
Sardinian Issa serrat semper sa fentana in antis de si esser chenada.
Corsican Ella chjudi sempri a finestra primma di cenà.
Salentino Quiddhra chiude sèmpre a fenéscia prìma cu mancia te sira.
Sicilian Idda chiudi sèmpri la finéstra prìma di manciari a la sira.


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Gallo-Italian". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ See authors like Ascoli, Pellegrini or Marcato; take a look at Pellegrini's Map of Italian Dialects
  3. ^ As in Ethnologue
  4. ^ Ethnologue, report for Gallo-Italian
  5. ^ For example, Giovan Battista Pellegrini, Tullio De Mauro, Maurizio Dardano, Tullio Telmon (see Enrico Allasino et al. Le lingue del Piemonte, IRES – Istituto di Ricerche Economico Sociali del Piemonte, Torino, 2007, p. 9) and Vincenzo Orioles (see Classificazione dei dialetti parlati in Italia).
  6. ^ Michele Loporcaro, "Phonological Processes", in Maiden et al., 2011, The Cambridge History of the Romance Languages: Volume 1, Structures


  • Bernard Comrie, Stephen Matthews, Maria Polinsky (eds.), The Atlas of languages : the origin and development of languages throughout the world. New York 2003, Facts On File. p. 40.
  • Stephen A. Wurm, Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger of Disappearing. Paris 2001, UNESCO Publishing, p. 29.
  • Glauco Sanga: La lingua Lombarda, in Koiné in Italia, dalle origini al 500 (Koinés in Italy, from the origin to 1500), Lubrina publisher, Bèrghem
  • Studi di lingua e letteratura lombarda offerti a Maurizio Vitale, (Studies in Lombard language and literature) Pisa : Giardini, 1983
  • Brevini, Franco – Lo stile lombardo : la tradizione letteraria da Bonvesin da la Riva a Franco Loi / Franco Brevini – Pantarei, Lugan – 1984 (Lombard style: literary tradition from Bonvesin da la Riva to Franco Loi )
  • Mussafia Adolfo, Beitrag zur kunde der Norditalienischen Mundarten im XV. Jahrhunderte (Wien, 1873)
  • Pellegrini, G.B. "I cinque sistemi dell'italoromanzo", in Saggi di linguistica italiana (Turin: Boringhieri, 1975), pp. 55–87.
  • Rohlfs, Gerhard, Rätoromanisch. Die Sonderstellung des Rätoromanischen zwischen Italienisch und Französisch. Eine kulturgeschichtliche und linguistische Einführung (Munich: C.H. Beek'sche, 1975), pp. 1–20.
  • Canzoniere Lombardo – by Pierluigi Beltrami, Bruno Ferrari, Luciano Tibiletti, Giorgio D'Ilario – Varesina Grafica Editrice, 1970.

See also[edit]