Languages of Italy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Northern Italian languages)
Jump to: navigation, search
For dialects of the Italian language (which are influenced by these regional languages), see Regional Italian.
Languages of Italy
Linguistic map of Italy.png
Languages of Italy by groups[1][2][3][4][not in citation given]
Official languages Italian
Regional languages see "legal status"
Minority languages see "legal status"
Main immigrant languages Albanian, Romanian, Romani and Maghrebi Arabic
Main foreign languages English (34%)
French (16%)
Spanish (11%)
German (5%)
Other regional language (6%)
Sign languages Italian Sign Language
Common keyboard layouts
Italian QWERTY
Italian Keyboard layout.svg
Source ebs_243_en.pdf

There are a variety of regional languages spoken to varying degrees in Italy, most of which belong to various branches of the Romance languages and are hence descendants of Vulgar Latin. The official and most widely spoken language is Italian, a descendant of Tuscan. There are several minority languages that belong to other Indo-European branches, such as Cimbrian (Germanic), Arbëresh (Albanian), the Slavomolisano dialect of Serbo-Croatian (Slavic), and Griko (Hellenic). Other non-indigenous languages are spoken by a substantial percentage of the population due to immigration.[5]

Legal status[edit]

Recognition at the European level[edit]

Italy is a signatory of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, but is yet to ratify the treaty, and therefore its provisions protecting regional languages do not apply in the country.[6]

The Charter does not, however, establish at what point differences in expression result in a separate language, deeming it an "often controversial issue", and citing the necessity to take into account, other than purely linguistic criteria, also "psychological, sociological and political considerations".[7]

Recognition by the Italian state[edit]

Law number 482 of 15 December 1999, recognises the following minority languages: Albanian, Catalan, German, Greek, Slovene, Croatian, French, Franco-Provençal, Friulian, Ladin, Occitan, Sardinian (Legge 15 Dicembre 1999, n. 482, Art. 2, comma 1).[8] The law also makes a distinction between those who are considered minority groups (Albanians, Catalans, Germanic peoples indigenous to Italy, Greeks, Slovenes and Croats)[9] and those who are not (all the others).[8]

Although the original Italian Constitution does not explicitly express that Italian is the official national language, it could be implied because Italian is the language the constitution is written in. Since the constitution was penned, there have been some laws and articles written on the procedures of criminal cases passed that explicitly state that Italian should be used:

Statute of the Trentino-South Tyrol, (constitutional law of the northern region of Italy around Trento) — « [...] [la lingua] italiana [...] è la lingua ufficiale dello Stato. » (Statuto Speciale per il Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Art. 99) ("[…] [the language] italian […] is the official language of the State.")

Code for civil procedure — « In tutto il processo è prescritto l'uso della lingua italiana. » (Codice di procedura civile, Art. 122) ("In all procedures, it is required that the Italian language is used.")

Code for criminal procedure— « Gli atti del procedimento penale sono compiuti in lingua italiana. » (Codice di procedura penale, Art. 109 (169-3; 63, 201 att.)) ("The acts of the criminal proceedings are carried out in the Italian language.")

Article 1 of law 482/1999— « La lingua ufficiale della Repubblica è l'italiano. » (Legge 482/1999, Art. 1 Comma 1) ("The official language of the Republic is Italian")[citation needed]

Recognition by the regions[edit]

  • Aosta Valley: French is co-official (enjoying the same dignity and standing of Italian) in the whole region (Le Statut spécial de la Vallée d'Aoste, Title VIe, Article 38);[10] German is unofficial but recognised in the Lys Valley (Lystal) (Le Statut spécial de la Vallée d'Aoste, Title VIe, Art. 40 - bis).[10]
  • Campania: Neapolitan is "promoted", but not recognised, by the region (Reg. Gen. nn. 159/I 198/I, Art. 1, comma 4).[11]
  • Friuli-Venezia Giulia: Friulian and Slovene are "promoted", but not recognised, by the region (Legge regionale 18 dicembre 2007, n. 29, Art. 1, comma 1);[12] (Legge regionale 16 novembre 2007, n. 26, Art. 16).[13]
  • Piedmont: Piedmontese is unofficial but recognised as the regional language (Consiglio Regionale del Piemonte, Ordine del Giorno n. 1118, Presentato il 30/11/1999);[14][15] the region "promotes", without recognising, the Occitan, Franco-Provençal and Walser languages (Legge regionale 10 aprile 1990, n. 26, Art. 3, comma 1 bis).[16]
  • Sardinia: Sardinian, Sassarese and Gallurese are unofficial but recognised and promoted "enjoying the same dignity and standing of Italian" (Legge regionale 15 ottobre 1997, n. 26) [17] in their respective territories, as well as Catalan in the city of Alghero and Tabarchino in the islands of Sulcis.[17]
  • Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol: German is co-official (enjoying the same dignity and standing of Italian) in the province of South Tyrol (Statuto speciale per il Trentino-Alto Adige, Titolo XI, Articolo 99);[18] Ladin, Cimbrian and Mòcheno are unofficial but recognised in their respective territories (Statuto speciale per il Trentino-Alto Adige, Titolo XI, Articolo 102).[18]
  • Veneto: Venetian is unofficial but recognised (Legge regionale 13 aprile 2007, n. 8, Art. 2, comma 2).[19]

Conservation status[edit]

Languages and dialects of Italy

According to the UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, there are 31 endangered languages in Italy.[20] The degree of endangerment is classified in different categories ranging from 'safe' (safe languages are not included in the atlas) to 'extinct' (when there are no speakers left).[21]

The source for the languages' distribution is the Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger[20] unless otherwise stated, and refers to Italy exclusively.


Definitely endangered[edit]

Severely endangered[edit]


All living languages indigenous to Italy are part of the Indo-European language family. The source is the SIL's Ethnologue unless otherwise stated.[23] Language classification can be a controversial issue, when a classification is contested by academic sources, this is reported in the 'notes' column.

They can be divided into Romance languages and non-Romance languages.

Romance languages[edit]

Gallo-Rhaetian and Ibero-Romance[edit]

Language Family ISO 639-3 Dialects spoken in Italy Notes Speakers
French Gallo-Romance Gallo-Rhaetian Oïl French fra 100,000
Arpitan Gallo-Romance Gallo-Rhaetian Oïl Southeastern frp 70,000
Friulian Gallo-Romance Gallo-Rhaetian Rhaetian fur 300,000
Ladin Gallo-Romance Gallo-Rhaetian Rhaetian lld 31,000
Catalan Ibero-Romance East Iberian cat Algherese 20,000
Occitan Ibero-Romance Oc oci Provençal; Gardiol 100,000

Gallo-Italic languages[edit]

Language ISO 639-3 Dialects spoken in Italy Notes Speakers
Emiliano-Romagnolo eml Emilian; Romagnol (Forlivese); Emilian and Romagnol have been assigned two different ISO 639-3 codes (egl and rgn, respectively). 1,000,000
Ligurian lij Tabarchino; Mentonasc; Intemelio; Brigasc 500,000
Lombard lmo Western Lombard (see Western dialects of Lombard language); Eastern Lombard; Gallo-Italic of Sicily 3,600,000
Piedmontese pms 1,600,000
Venetian vec Triestine Usually not considered as being Gallo-Italic 3,800,000

Italo-Dalmatian languages[edit]

Not included is Corsican, which is mainly spoken on the French island of Corsica. Istriot is only spoken in Croatia. Judeo-Italian is moribund.

Language ISO 639-3 Dialects spoken in Italy Notes Speakers
Italian ita Tuscan; Central Italian National language 60,000,000
South Italian (Neapolitan) nap Abruzzese; Northern Calabrian (Cosentino); Bari dialect 5,700,000
Sicilian scn Salentino; Southern Calabrian; Cilentan 4,700,000

Sardinian language[edit]

Sardinian is a distinct language with significant phonological differences among its dialects. Ethnologue, not without controversy, even considers Sardinian as four independent languages, which are included in a hypothetical subgroup named Southern Romance, along with Corsican.[24] Gallurese and Sassarese are considered dialects of Corsican by UNESCO,[20] rather than being Sardinian varieties.

Language ISO 639-3 Dialects spoken in Italy Notes Speakers
Campidanese Sardinian sro southern dialect of Sardinian proper 500,000
Logudorese Sardinian src central dialect of Sardinian proper 500,000
Gallurese sdn considered an outlying dialect of Corsican by the UNESCO[20] 100,000
Sassarese sdc considered an outlying dialect of Corsican by the UNESCO[20] 100,000

Non-Romance languages[edit]

Albanian, Slavic, Greek and Romani languages[edit]

Language Family ISO 639-3 Dialects spoken in Italy Notes Speakers
Arbëresh Albanian Tosk aae considered an outlying dialect of Albanian by the UNESCO[20] 100,000
Serbo-Croatian Slavic South Western hbs Molise Croatian 1,000
Slovene Slavic South Western slv Resian 100,000
Italiot Greek Hellenic (Greek) Attic ell Griko (Salento); Calabrian Greek 20,000
Romani Indo-Iranian Indo-Aryan Central Zone Romani rom

High German languages[edit]

Language Family ISO 639-3 Dialects spoken in Italy Notes Speakers
German Middle German East Middle German deu 225,000
Cimbrian Upper German Bavarian-Austrian cim sometimes considered a dialect of Bavarian, also considered an outlying dialect of Bavarian by the UNESCO[20] 2,200
Mocheno Upper German Bavarian-Austrian mhn considered an outlying dialect of Bavarian by the UNESCO[20] 1,000
Walser Upper German Alemannic wae 3,400

Geographic distribution[edit]

Northern Italy[edit]

The Northern Italian languages are conventionally defined as those Romance languages spoken north of the La Spezia–Rimini Line, which runs through the northern Apennine Mountains just to the north of Tuscany; however, the dialects of Occitan and Franco-Provençal spoken in the extreme northwest of Italy (e.g. in the Val d'Aosta) are generally excluded. The classification of these languages is difficult and not agreed-upon, due both to the variations among the languages and to the fact that they share isoglosses of various sorts with both the Italo-Romance languages to the south and the Gallo-Romance languages to the northwest.


One common classification divides these languages into four groups:

Any such classification runs into the basic problem that there is a dialect continuum throughout northern Italy, with a continuous transition of spoken dialects between e.g. Venetian and Ladin, or Venetian and Emilio-Romagnolo (usually considered Gallo-Italian).

All of these languages are considered innovative relative to the Romance languages as a whole, with some of the Gallo-Italian languages having phonological changes nearly as extreme as standard French (usually considered the most innovative of the Romance languages). This distinguishes them significantly from standard Italian, which is extremely conservative in its phonology (and notably conservative in its morphology).

Southern Italy and islands[edit]

Approximate distribution of the regional languages of Sardinia and southern Italy according to the UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger:

Southern Italian
of Sicily

Standardised written forms[edit]

The following regional languages of Italy have a standardised written form. This may be widely accepted or used alongside more traditional written forms:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ali, Linguistic atlas of Italy
  2. ^ Linguistic cartography of Italy by Padova University
  3. ^ Italiand dialects by Pellegrini
  4. ^ AIS, Sprach-und Sachatlas Italiens und der Südschweiz, Zofingen 1928-1940
  5. ^
  6. ^ European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages – Status as of: 9/3/2010, Council of Europe 
  7. ^ What is a regional or minority language?, Council of Europe 
  8. ^ a b Norme in materia di tutela delle minoranze linguistiche storiche, Italian parliament 
  9. ^ RAI Internazionale - Le "isole" linguistiche
  10. ^ a b Statut spécial de la Vallée d'Aoste, Title VIe, Region Vallée d'Aoste 
  11. ^ Reg. Gen. nn. 159/I 198/I, Norme per lo Studio, la Tutela, la Valorizzazione della Lingua. Napoletana, dei Dialetti e delle Tradizioni Popolari in. Campania, Consiglio Regionale della Campania 
  12. ^ Norme per la tutela, valorizzazione e promozione della lingua friulana, Regione Autonoma Friuli Venezia Giulia 
  13. ^ Norme regionali per la tutela della minoranza linguistica slovena, Regione Autonoma Friuli Venezia Giulia 
  14. ^ Ordine del Giorno n. 1118, Presentato il 30/11/1999, Consiglio Regionale del Piemonte 
  15. ^ Ordine del Giorno n. 1118, Presentato il 30/11/1999, Gioventura Piemontèisa 
  16. ^ Legge regionale 10 aprile 1990, n. 26., Regione Piemonte 
  17. ^ a b Legge Regionale 15 ottobre 1997, n. 26, Regione Sardegna, 1997 
  18. ^ a b Statuto speciale per il Trentino-Alto Adige 
  19. ^ Legge regionale 13 aprile 2007, n. 8, Consiglio Regionale del Veneto 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger, UNESCO's Endangered Languages Programme 
  21. ^ Degrees of endangerment, UNESCO's Endangered Languages Programme 
  22. ^ UNESCO Red Book on endangered languages and dialects: Europe by Tapani Salminen
  23. ^ Languages of Italy, SIL 
  24. ^ "Ethnologue report for Southern Romance". 
  25. ^ Grafîa ofiçiâ, Académia Ligùstica do Brénno 
  26. ^ Limba sarda comuna, Sardegna Cultura 
  27. ^ Grafie dal O.L.F., Friû 
  28. ^ PUBLICAZIOIGN DEL ISTITUTO LADIN, Istituto Ladin de la Dolomites 

External links[edit]