Romanesco dialect

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Native toItaly
RegionMetropolitan City of Rome Capital, Lazio
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Dialetti italiani centrali.jpg
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Advertisement in Romanesco at a subway station in Rome

Romanesco (Italian pronunciation: [romaˈnesko]) is one of the central Italian dialects spoken in the Metropolitan City of Rome Capital, especially in the core city. It is linguistically close to Tuscan and Standard Italian, with some notable differences from these two. Rich in vivid expressions and sayings, Romanesco is used in a typical diglossic setting, mainly for informal/colloquial communication, with code-switching and translanguaging with the standard language.


The young Giuseppe Gioachino Belli

The medieval Roman dialect belonged to the southern family of Italian dialects, and was thus much closer to the Neapolitan language than to the Florentine.[1][2] A typical example of Romanesco of that period is Vita di Cola di Rienzo ("Life of Cola di Rienzo"), written by an anonymous Roman during the 14th century.[1] Starting with the 16th century, the Roman dialect underwent a stronger and stronger influence from the Tuscan dialect (from which modern Italian derives) starting with the reigns of the two Medici popes (Leo X and Clement VII) and with the Sack of Rome in 1527, two events which provoked a large immigration from Tuscany.[3][4] Therefore, current Romanesco has grammar and roots that are rather different from other dialects in Central Italy.[4]

The path towards a progressive Tuscanization of the dialect can be observed in the works of the major Romanesco writers and poets of the past two centuries: Giuseppe Gioachino Belli (1791–1863), whose sonetti romaneschi represent the most important work in this dialect and an eternal monument to 19th century Roman people; Cesare Pascarella (1858–1940); Giggi Zanazzo (1860–1911); and Carlo Alberto Salustri (1871–1950), nicknamed Trilussa.


Before Rome became the capital city of Italy, Romanesco was spoken only inside the walls of the city, while the little towns surrounding Rome had their own dialects. Nowadays, these dialects have been replaced with a variant of Romanesco, which therefore is now spoken in an area larger than the original one. It slightly pervades the everyday language of most of the immigrants who live in the large city.[citation needed]


Graffito in Rome criticising Matteo Salvini; his surname is changed to the Romanesco form Sarvini; L is changed to R before a consonant in the dialect.

Romanesco pronunciation and spelling differs from Standard Italian in these cases:

  • /j/ is used where standard Italian uses [ʎ]. This [j] is spelt ⟨j⟩, a letter no longer used in Italian. Compare Italian figlio [ˈfiʎʎo] "son" and Romanesco fijo [ˈfijo];
  • geminate /r/ ("rolled r" or alveolar trill) does not exist anymore: for example, azzuro [aˈdːzuːɾo]; (Italian: azzurro "light blue"), verebbe [veˈɾebːe] (Italian: verrebbe "he/she would come").[5] A Roman pun recites: "Tera, chitara e guera, co' ddu' ere, sinnò è erore" (English: "Ground, guitar and war with two R's, otherwise there is a mistake"): note that ere and erore are also "wrong", as they are erre and errore in Standard Italian.[5] This phenomenon presumably developed after 1870, as it was not present in the classical 19th century Romanesco of Belli;[5]
  • /l/ becomes /r/ before another consonant: sòrdi [ˈsɔrdi], Italian soldi "money";
  • in Romanesco, as in most Central and Southern Italian languages and dialects, /b/ and // are always geminated where permissible: e.g. libbro [ˈlibːɾo] for Standard Italian libro [ˈliːbro] "book", aggenda for agenda "diary, agenda".
  • the dropping of vowels at the beginning of a word when followed by a nasal consonant (m, n, gn), for example 'nzomma (Standard Italian insomma), 'n (Standard Italian un/in), 'mparà (Standard Italian imparare), gni (Standard Italian ogni).[6]
  • assimilation with different consonant groups. (typically a Central-Southern phenomenon) For example, /nd/ turns into /nn/ (Standard Italian quando turns into quanno), /ld/ turns into /ll/ (Standard Italian caldo turns into callo), /mb/ turns into /mm/ (Standard Italian piombo turns into piommo).

Noteworthy figures[edit]

Today, Romanesco is generally considered more of a regional idiom than a true language. Classical Romanesco, which reached high literature with Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, has disappeared.

External forces such as immigration and the dominance of Italian are playing a role in the transformation.

Ma nun c'è lingua come la romana
Pe' dì una cosa co' ttanto divario
Che ppare un magazzino de dogana.
     — G. G. Belli, "Le lingue der monno"

But there is no language like the Roman one
To express a concept with so many variants
So that it seems a customs warehouse.
     — G. G. Belli, "Languages of the world"

Notable artists using Romanesco[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "La Parlata romana" (PDF). Università per stranieri di Siena. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 February 2015. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  2. ^ "Romanesco". Treccani. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  3. ^ D'Achille, Paolo. "Italiano di Roma". Treccani. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Dialetti". Treccani. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Ravaro 2005, p. 26
  6. ^ Canepari, Luciano, Manuale di pronuncia italiana, Bologna, Zanichelli, 1998.
  7. ^ Vidal, José Manuel (10 February 2017). "Pasquines contra Francisco, el Papa que atemoriza a los poderosos". Periodista Digital (in Spanish).


  • Ravaro, Fernando (2005). Dizionario romanesco (in Italian). Roma: Newton Compton. ISBN 9788854117921.

External links[edit]