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Lombard language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

lombard, lumbard, lumbart, lombart
Native to



Native speakers
3.8 million (2002)[5]
Early forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3lmo
Linguasphere51-AAA-oc & 51-AAA-od
Lombard language distribution in Europe:
  Areas where Lombard is spoken
  Areas where Lombard is spoken alongside other languages (Alemannic, Ladin and Romansh) and areas of linguistic transition (with Piedmontese, with Emilian and with Venetian)
  Areas of influence of Lombard (Tridentine dialect)
? Areas of uncertain diffusion of Ladin
Lombard is classified as Definitely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger
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The Lombard language (native name: lombard,[N 1] lumbard,[N 2][7] lumbart[N 3] or lombart,[N 4] depending on the orthography; pronunciation: [lũˈbaːrt, lomˈbart]) belongs to the Gallo-Italic group within the Romance languages and is characterized by a Celtic linguistic substratum and a Lombardic linguistic superstratum[8] and is a cluster of homogeneous dialects that are spoken by millions of speakers in Northern Italy and southern Switzerland, including most of Lombardy and some areas of the neighbouring regions, notably the far eastern side of Piedmont and the extreme western side of Trentino, and in Switzerland in the cantons of Ticino and Graubünden.[9] The language is also spoken in Santa Catarina in Brazil by Lombard immigrants from the Province of Bergamo, in Italy.[4][10]



The most ancient linguistic substratum that has left a mark on the Lombard language is that of the ancient Ligures.[11][12] However, available information about the ancient language and its influence on modern Lombard is extremely vague and limited.[11][12] That is in sharp contrast to the influence left by the Celts, who settled in Northern Italy and brought their Celtic languages and culturally and linguistically Celticised the Ligures.[13] The Celtic substratum of modern Lombard and the neighbouring languages of Northern Italy is self-evident and so the Lombard language is classified as a Gallo-Italic language (from the ancient Roman name for the Celts, Gauls).[11]

Roman domination shaped the dialects spoken in the area, which was called Cisalpine Gaul ("Gaul, this side of the mountains") by the Romans, and much of the lexicon and grammar of the Lombard language have their origin in Latin.[13] However, that influence was not homogeneous[11] since idioms of different areas were influenced by previous linguistic substrata, and each area was marked by a stronger or weaker Latinisation or the preservation of ancient Celtic characteristics.[11]

The Germanic Lombardic language also left strong traces in modern Lombard, as it was the variety of Germanic that was spoken by the Germanic Lombards (or Longobards), who settled in Northern Italy, which is called Greater Lombardy after them, and in other parts of the Italian Peninsula after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Lombardic acted as a linguistic superstratum on Lombard and neighboring Gallo-Italic languages since the Germanic Lombards did not impose their language by law on the Gallo-Roman population, but they rather acquired the Gallo-Italic language from the local population. Lombardic left traces, mostly in lexicon and phonetics, without Germanicising the local language in its structure and so Lombard preserved its Romance structure.[14]



Lombard is considered a minority language that is structurally separate from Italian by both Ethnologue and the UNESCO Red Book on Endangered Languages. However, Italy and Switzerland do not recognize Lombard-speakers as a linguistic minority. In Italy, that is the same as for most other minority languages,[15] which have been for a long time incorrectly classed as corrupted regional dialects of Italian. However, Lombard and Italian belong to different subgroups of the Romance language family, and Lombard's historical development is not related to Standard Italian, which is derived from Tuscan.[16]


A Lombard speaker

Historically, the vast majority of Lombards spoke only Lombard, as "Italian" was merely a literary language, and most Italians were not able to read or write.[17] After the Italian economic miracle, Standard Italian arose throughout Italy and Lombard-speaking Switzerland, wholly-monolingual Lombard-speakers became a rarity as time went by, but a small minority may still be uncomfortable speaking Standard Italian. Surveys in Italy find that all Lombard-speakers also speak Italian, and their command of both two languages varies according to their geographical position as well as their socio-economic situation. The most reliable predictor was found to be the speaker's age. Studies have found that young people are much less likely to speak Lombard as proficiently as their grandparents.[18] In some areas, elderly people are more used to speaking Lombard than Italian even though they know both.


Chart of Romance languages based on structural and comparative criteria

Lombard belongs to the Gallo-Italic (Cisalpine) group of Gallo-Romance languages, which belongs to the Western Romance subdivision.[19]



Traditionally, the Lombard dialects have been classified into the Eastern, Western, Alpine and Southern Lombard dialects.[20]

The varieties of the Italian provinces of Milan, Varese, Como, Lecco, Lodi, Monza and Brianza, Pavia and Mantua belong to Western Lombard, and the provinces of Bergamo, Brescia and Cremona are dialects of Eastern Lombard. All varieties spoken in the Swiss areas (both in the Canton of Ticino and the Canton of Graubünden) are Western, and both Western and Eastern varieties are found in the Italian areas.

The varieties of the Alpine valleys of Valchiavenna and Valtellina (Sondrio) and upper-Valcamonica (Brescia) and the four Lombard valleys of the Swiss canton of Graubünden have some peculiarities of their own and some traits in common with Eastern Lombard but should be considered Western.[citation needed] Also, dialects from the Piedmontese provinces of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and Novara, the Valsesia valley (province of Vercelli), and the city of Tortona are closer to Western Lombard than to Piedmontese.[citation needed] Alternatively, following the traditional classification, the varieties spoken in parts of Sondrio, Trentino, Ticino and Grigioni can be considered as Alpine Lombard,[21] and those spoken in southern Lombardy such as in Pavia, Lodi, Cremona and Mantova can be classified as Southern Lombard.[22]



Lacking a standard language, authors in the 13th and 14th language created Franco-Lombard, a mixed language including Old French, for their literary works. The Lombard variety with the oldest literary tradition (from the 13th century) is that of Milan, but Milanese, the native Lombard variety of the area, has now almost completely been superseded by Italian from the heavy influx of migrants from other parts of Italy (especially from Apulia, Sicily and Campania) during the rapid industrialization after the Second World War.

Ticinese is a comprehensive denomination for the Lombard varieties that are spoken in Swiss canton Ticino (Tessin), and the Ticinese koiné is the Western Lombard koiné used by speakers of local dialects (particularly those diverging from the koiné itself) when they communicate with speakers of other Lombard dialects of Ticino, Grigioni or Italian Lombardy. The koiné is similar to Milanese and the varieties of the neighbouring provinces on the Italian side of the border.

There is extant literature in other varieties of Lombard like La masséra da bé, a theatrical work in early Eastern Lombard, written by Galeazzo dagli Orzi (1492–?) presumably in 1554.[23][failed verification]


Detailed geographic distribution of Lombard dialects Legend: L01 – Western Lombard; L02 – Eastern Lombard; L03 – Southern Lombard; L04 – Alpine Lombard

Standard Italian is widely used in Lombard-speaking areas. However, the status of Lombard is quite different in the Swiss and Italian areas and so the Swiss areas have now become the real strongholds of Lombard.

In Switzerland

The LSI, published in 2004

In the Swiss areas, the local Lombard varieties are generally better preserved and more vital than in Italy. No negative feelings are associated with the use of Lombard in everyday life, even with complete strangers. Some radio and television programmes, particularly comedies, are occasionally broadcast by the Swiss Italian-speaking broadcasting company in Lombard. Moreover, it is common for people to answer in Lombard in spontaneous interviews. Even some television advertisements have been broadcast in Lombard. The major research institution working on Lombard dialects is in Bellinzona, Switzerland (CDE – Centro di dialettologia e di etnografia, a governmental (cantonal) institution); there is no comparable institution in Italy. In December 2004, it released a dictionary in five volumes, covering all Lombard varieties spoken in the Swiss areas.[N 5]

In Italy

A Lombard-speaker, recorded in Italy

Today, in most urban areas of Italian Lombardy, people under 40 years old speak almost exclusively Italian in their daily lives because of schooling and television broadcasts in Italian. However, in rural areas, Lombard is still vital and used alongside Italian.

A certain revival of the use of Lombard has been observed in the last decade. The popularity of modern artists singing their lyrics in Lombard dialects (in Italian rock dialettale, the best known of such artists being Davide Van de Sfroos) is also a relatively-new but growing phenomenon involving the Swiss and the Italian areas.[citation needed]

Lombard is spoken in Campione d'Italia, an exclave of Italy that is surrounded by Swiss territory on Lake Lugano.



The following tables show the sounds that are used in all Lombard dialects.


Consonant phonemes[24]
Labial Alveolar (Palato-)


Nasal m n ɲ (ŋ)
Stop voiceless p t k
voiced b d ɡ
Affricate voiceless t͡s t͡ʃ
voiced d͡z d͡ʒ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ
voiced z ʒ
Approximant central ʋ j w
lateral l (ʎ)
Trill r

In Eastern Lombard and Pavese dialect[citation needed] /dz/, /z/ and /ʒ/ merge to [z] and /ts/, /s/ and /ʃ/ merge to [s]. In Eastern Lombard, the last sound is often further debuccalized to [h].


Vowel phonemes[25]
Front Central Back
Unrounded Rounded
High i iː y yː u uː
Mid e eː ø øː o
ɛ (œ)[26] ɔ
Low a aː

In Western varieties, vowel length is contrastive (Milanese andà "to go" and andaa "gone"),[27] but Eastern varieties normally use only short allophones.

Two repeating orthographic vowels are separated by a dash to prevent them from being confused with a long vowel: a-a in ca-àl "horse".[27]

Western long /aː/ and short /ø/ tend to be back [ɑː] and lower [œ], respectively, and /e/ and /ɛ/ may merge to [ɛ].

See also



  1. ^ Classical Milanese orthography, Scriver Lombard [lmo] and New Lombard Orthography [lmo].
  2. ^ Ticinese orthography.
  3. ^ Modern Western orthography and Classical Cremish Orthography.
  4. ^ Eastern unified orthography.[clarification needed]
  5. ^ "Lessico dialettale della Svizzera italiana (LSI)" [Dialectal Lexicon of Italian Switzerland (LSI)], Centro di dialettologia e di etnografia (in Italian), archived from the original on 23 November 2005


  1. ^ a b Minahan, James (2000). One Europe, many nations: a historical dictionary of European national groups. Westport.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  2. ^ a b Moseley, Christopher (2007). Encyclopedia of the world's endangered languages. New York.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  3. ^ a b Coluzzi, Paolo (2007). Minority language planning and micronationalism in Italy. Berne.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  4. ^ a b Spoken in Botuverá, in Brazil, municipality established by Italian migrants coming from the valley between Treviglio and Crema. A thesis of Leiden University about Brasilian Bergamasque: [1].
  5. ^ Lombard at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  6. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian (10 July 2023). "Glottolog 4.8 - Piemontese-Lombard". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. doi:10.5281/zenodo.7398962. Archived from the original on 29 October 2023. Retrieved 29 October 2023.
  7. ^ "Vocabolario dei dialetti della Svizzera italiana - CDE (DECS) - Repubblica e Cantone Ticino" [Vocabulary of Swiss Italian dialects]. www4.ti.ch. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  8. ^ "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: LMO". Identifier: LMO - Language(s) Name: Lombard - Status: Active - Code set: 639-3 - Scope: Individual - Type: Living
  9. ^ Jones, Mary C.; Soria, Claudia (2015). "Assessing the effect of official recognition on the vitality of endangered languages: a case of study from Italy". Policy and Planning for Endangered Languages. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 130. ISBN 9781316352410. Archived from the original on 21 April 2017 – via Google Books. Lombard (Lumbard, ISO 639-9 lmo) is a cluster of essentially homogeneous varieties (Tamburelli 2014: 9) belonging to the Gallo-Italic group. It is spoken in the Italian region of Lombardy, in the Novara province of Piedmont and in Switzerland. Mutual intelligibility between Lombard and Italian has been reported as very low (Tamburelli 2014). Although some Lombard varieties, Milanese in particular, enjoy a rather long and prestigious literary tradition, Lombard is now used mostly in informal domains. According to Ethnologue, Piedmontese and Lombard are respectively spoken by between 1,600,000 and 2,000,000 speakers and around 3,500,000 speakers. Those are very high figures for languages that have never been recognised officially or systematically taught in schools.
  10. ^ Bonfadini, Giovanni. "lombard, dialects" [lombard dialects]. Enciclopedia Treccani (in Italian).
  11. ^ a b c d e Agnoletto 1992, p. 120.
  12. ^ a b D'Ilario 2003, p. 28.
  13. ^ a b D'Ilario 2003, p. 29.
  14. ^ "Il milanese crogiuolo di tanti idiomi" [The Milanese melting pot of many languages] (in Italian). Archived from the original on 24 September 2017.
  15. ^ Coluzzi, P. (2004). Regional and Minority Languages in Italy. Marcator Working Papers. Vol. 14.
  16. ^ von Wartburg, W. (1950). Die Ausgliederung der romanischen Sprachräume [The spin-off of the Romance language areas] (in German). Bern: Francke.
  17. ^ De Mauro, T. (1970). Storia linguistica dell'Italia unita [Linguistic history of unified Italy] (in Italian) (Second ed.). Laterza, Berkeley.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  18. ^ 2006 report Archived 2010-07-04 at the Wayback Machine by the Italian institute for national statistics. (ISTAT)
  19. ^ Tamburelli, Marco; Brasca, Lissander (2018). "Revisiting the classification of Gallo-Italic: a dialectometric approach". Digital Scholarship in the Humanities. 33 (2): 442–455. doi:10.1093/llc/fqx041.
  20. ^ "Lingua lombarda" [Lombard language]. Lingua Lombarda (in Italian). Circolo Filologico Milanese.
  21. ^ "Lombardo alpino" [Alpine Lombard]. Lingua Lombarda (in Italian). Circolo Filologico Milanese.
  22. ^ "Lombardo meridionale" [Southern Lombard]. Lingua Lombarda (in Italian). Circolo Filologico Milanese.
  23. ^ Produzione e circolazione del libro a Brescia tra Quattro e Cinquecento: atti della seconda Giornata di studi "Libri e lettori a Brescia tra Medioevo ed età moderna" Valentina Grohovaz (Brescia, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) 4 marzo 2004. Published by "Vita e Pensiero" in 2006, ISBN 88-343-1332-1, ISBN 978-88-343-1332-9 (Google Books).
  24. ^ Sanga, Glauco (1984). Dialettologia Lombarda [Lombard dialectology] (in Italian). University of Pavia. pp. 283–285.
  25. ^ Sanga, Glauco (1984). Dialettologia Lombarda (in Italian). University of Pavia. pp. 283–285.
  26. ^ [œ] occurs in most areas of the language but may overlap in usage with [ø], as they both share the same trigram (oeu).
  27. ^ a b Sanga, Glauco (1984). Dialettologia Lombarda (in Italian). University of Pavia. pp. 283–285.


  • Agnoletto, Attilio (1992). San Giorgio su Legnano - storia, società, ambiente. SBN IT\ICCU\CFI\0249761.
  • D'Ilario, Giorgio (2003). Dizionario legnanese. Artigianservice. SBN IT\ICCU\MIL\0625963.
  • 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.
  • 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 )
  • Glauco Sanga: La lingua Lombarda, in Koiné in Italia, dalle origini al 500 (Koinés in Italy, from the origin to 1500), Lubrina publisher, Bèrghem.
  • Claudio Beretta: Letteratura dialettale milanese. Itinerario antologico-critico dalle origini ai nostri giorni - Hoepli, 2003.
  • G. Hull: "The linguistic Unity of Northern Italy and Rhaetia, PhD thesis, University of Sydney, 1982; published as The Linguistic Unity of Northern Italy and Rhaetia: Historical Grammar of the Padanian Language, 2 vols. Sydney: Beta Crucis Editions, 2017.
  • Jørgen G. Bosoni: «Una proposta di grafia unificata per le varietà linguistiche lombarde: regole per la trascrizione», in Bollettino della Società Storica dell’Alta Valtellina 6/2003, p. 195-298 (Società Storica Alta Valtellina: Bormio, 2003). A comprehensive description of a unified set of writing rules for all the Lombard varieties of Switzerland and Italy, with IPA transcriptions and examples.
  • Tamburelli, M. (2014). Uncovering the 'hidden' multilingualism of Europe: an Italian case study. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 35(3), 252-270.
  • NED Editori: I quatter Vangeli de Mattee, March, Luca E Gioann - 2002.
  • Stephen A. Wurm: Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing. Paris 2001, UNESCO Publishing, p. 29.
  • Studi di lingua e letteratura lombarda offerti a Maurizio Vitale, (Studies in Lombard language and literature) Pisa: Giardini, 1983
  • A cura di Pierluigi Beltrami, Bruno Ferrari, Luciano Tibiletti, Giorgio D'Ilario: Canzoniere Lombardo - Varesina Grafica Editrice, 1970.
  • Sanga, Glauco. 1984. Dialettologia Lombarda. University of Pavia. 346pp.