|Spoken in||Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Brazil (States of Espírito Santo, São Paulo, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina under the name of Taliàn with some influence of Portuguese and other Northern Italian languages), Mexico (in the town of Chipilo near Puebla a northern Venetian variety, Trevisan-Bellunese, is spoken).|
|Total speakers||2,280,387 (as of 2000) (some estimate goes up to 5,000,000 people in Triveneto and Istria only)|
|Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.|
Venetian or Venetan is a Romance language spoken as native language by over two million people, mostly in the Veneto region of Italy, where of five million inhabitants almost all can understand it. It is sometime spoken and often well understood outside Veneto, in Trentino, Friuli, Venezia Giulia, Istria and some towns of Dalmatia, an area of six to seven million people. The language is called vèneto or vènet in Venetian, veneto in Italian; the variant spoken in Venice is called venexiàn/venesiàn or veneziano, respectively. Although referred to as an Italian dialect (diałeto dialetto) even by its speakers, like other Italian dialects it is a sister language of the national language, not a variety or derivation of it. Venetan (and Venetian proper, the language of Venice), display notable structural and lexical differences from Italian. Typologically, Venetan belongs only partly to the Northern Italian group within Romance languages.
Both Venetan and Venetian proper are distinct from Venetian Italian, the variety of Italian (italiano regionale del Veneto) variably influenced by local Venetian features that is also spoken in the region. Neither Venetan nor Venetian should be confused with Venetic, an extinct Indo-European language that was spoken in the Veneto region around the 6th century BC.
Venetian descends from Vulgar Latin, influenced by the Celts and possibly the Venetic substratum and by the languages of the Germanic tribes (Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Lombards) who invaded northern Italy in the 5th century. Venetian, as a known written language, is attested in the 13th century. We also find influences and parallelism with Greek and Albanian in words such as : "piròn" (forket), "inpiràr" (to fork).
The language enjoyed substantial prestige in the days of the Venetian Republic, when it attained the status of a lingua franca in the Mediterranean. Notable Venetian-language authors are the playwrights Ruzante (1502–1542) and Carlo Goldoni (1707–1793). Both Ruzante and Goldoni, following the old Italian theater tradition (Commedia dell'Arte), used Venetian in their comedies the speech of the common folk. They are ranked among the foremost Italian theatrical authors of all time, and Goldoni's plays are still performed today. Other notable works in Venetian are the translations of the Iliad by Casanova (1725–1798) and Francesco Boaretti, and the poems of Biagio Marin (1891–1985). Notable also is a manuscript titled "Dialogue ... on the New star" attributed to Galileo (1564–1642).
However, as a literary language Venetian was overshadowed by the Dante's Tuscan "dialect" and the French languages like Provençal and the Oïl languages. After the demise of the Republic, Venetian gradually ceased to be used for administrative purposes; and when the newly-formed Italian Kingdom (founded in 1861) invaded Venetia in 1866, annexing it after a controversial plebiscite, the language was eclipsed by Tuscan, which was combined with elements of Sardinian to become the national language of Italy. Since then, deprived of any official status, Venetian steadily lost ground to standard Italian. At present, virtually all its speakers are diglossic, and use Venetian only in informal contexts. The policy of deploying law enforcement forces from other regions, especially southern Italy, has meant that people have to use standard Italian with the foremost representatives of the state. The present situation raises questions about the language's medium term survival. Despite recent steps to recognize it, the language remains far below the threshold of inter-generational transfer with younger generations preferring standard Italian in many situations. The dilemma is further complicated by the fact that the Veneto itself is becoming a land of large-scale non-Italian immigration.
In the past however, Venetian was able to spread to other continents as a result of mass migration from the Veneto region between 1870 and 1905 and 1945 and 1960. This is itself a by-product of the 1866 annexation because the latter subjected the poorest sectors of the population to the vagaries of a newly integrated, developing industrial economy so-called national economy centered on north-western Italy. Tens of thousands of peasants and craftsmen were thrown off the land or out of their workshop, forced to seek better fortune overseas.
Venetian migrants created large Venetian-speaking communities in Argentina, Brazil (see Talian), Mexico (see Chipilo Venetian dialect), and Romania, where the language is still spoken today. Internal migrations under the Fascist regime also sent many Venetian speakers to other regions of Italy like southern Lazio.
Presently, some firms have chosen to use the Venetian language in advertising as a famous beer did some years ago (Xe foresto solo el nome - only the name is foreign). In other cases Italian advertisements are given a "Venetian flavour" by adding a Venetian word: for instance an airline used the verb "xe" (Xe sempre più grande - It is always bigger) into an Italian sentence (the correct Venetian being el xe senpre pi grande) to advertise new flights from Marco Polo Airport.
On March 28, 2007 the Regional Council of Vèneto officially recognized the existence of the Venetian Language (Łéngua Vèneta) by passing with an almost unanimous vote a law on the "tutela e valorizzazione della lingua e della cultura veneta" (Law on the Protection and Valorisation of the Venetian Language and Culture) with the vote of both governing and opposition parties.
Venetian is spoken mainly in the Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia and in both Slovenia and Croatia (Istria, Dalmatia and the Kvarner Gulf). Smaller communities are found in the provinces of Lombardy, Trento, Emilia (in Mantova, Rimini, and Forlì), Lazio (Pontine Marshes), and formerly in Romania (Tulcea). It is also spoken in North and South America by the descendants of Italian immigrants. Notable examples of this are the city of Chipilo, Mexico or the Talian dialect spoken in Brazilian states of Espírito Santo, São Paulo, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina. Until the middle 20th Century, Venetian was spoken on the Greek Island of Corfu, which had been long under the rule of the Republic of Venice.
Venetian descends partly from Vulgar Latin — like all other Romance languages, including Italian and the other Italian dialects. However, in the traditional classification of Romance languages it is considered part of the Italo-Romance group.
According to Ethnologue, Venetian and Italian belong to different sub-branches of the Italo-Western branch: Venetian is a member of the Gallo-Iberian group, which also includes Catalan, Spanish, Portuguese and French, among others; whereas Italian is a member of the Italo-Dalmatian group. More precisely, Venetian belongs to the Gallo-Romance sub-branch of Gallo-Iberian, which includes French but not Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese. In that classification, therefore, Venetian is more closely related to French, Catalan and Spanish than to Italian.
Venetian proper can be distinguished from Venetian Italian, the variety of Italian influenced by local Venetian features that is also spoken in the region. Compare:
The main regional variants and sub-variants of Venetian are
All these variants are mutually intelligible, with a minimum 92% between the most diverging ones (Central and Western). Modern speakers reportedly can still understand to some extent Venetian texts from the 1300s.
Other noteworthy variants are spoken in
Like most Romance languages, Venetian has mostly abandoned the Latin case system, in favor of prepositions and a more rigid subject-verb-object sentence structure. It has thus become more analytic, if not quite as much as English. Venetian also has the Romance articles, both definite (derived from the Latin demonstrative ille) and indefinite (derived from the numeral unus).
Venetian also retained the Latin concepts of gender (masculine and feminine) and number (singular and plural). Unlike other Gallo-Iberian languages, which form plurals by adding -s, Venetian forms plurals in a manner similar to standard Italian. Nouns and adjectives can be modified by suffixes that indicate several qualities such as size, endearment, deprecation, etc. Adjectives (usually postfixed) and articles are inflected to agree with the noun in gender and number, but it is important to mention that the suffix might be deleted because the article is the part that suggests the number. However, Italian is influencing the Venetian Language :
In conservative Venetian, the article alone may convey the gender:
No native Venetic words seem to have survived in present Venetian, but there may be some traces left in the morphology , such as the the morpheme -esto/asto/isto for the past participle, which can be found in Venetic inscriptions from about 500 BCE:
Venetian has some sounds not present in Italian, an interdental voiceless fricative [θ] spelled ç or z(h) and similar to English th in thing and thought, to Castilian Spanish c(e, i)/z (as in cero, cien, zapato), Modern Greek θ (theta), and Icelandic Thorn þ/Þ and Eth Ð/ð; it occurs, for example, in çena/zhena (supper), which sounds the same as Castilian Spanish cena (same meaning). However this sound, which is present only in some varieties of the language (Bellunese, north-Trevisan, some Central Venetian rural areas around Padua, Vicenza and the mouth of the river Po), is sociolinguistically marked as provincial, with most variants using other sounds instead such as [s], [z], and [ʃ]. Some variants also present an interdental voiced fricative written "z" (el pianze 's/he cries') but this is often substituted by "voiced-S", i.e. [z] (written x: el pianxe) or [d] (el piande).
In some varieties intervocalic L is realized as a soft "evanescent" L (this alternation is often represented with one spelling ł). The pronunciation of this phoneme varies from an almost e in the region of Venice, to a partially vocalised l further inland, to null realization in some mountainous areas. Thus, for example, góndoła may sound like góndoea, góndola or góndoa. In the latter variants, the "ł" spelling provides orthographic distinction for pairs such as scóła/skóła 'school' and scóa/skóa 'broom'. The Tuscan dialect source of Standard Italian underwent a similar development of /l/ following /p/, /b/, /k/, and /g/, now represented in spelling as i (bianco, chiamare from earlier blancus, clamare).
Venetian, like Spanish, does not have the geminate consonants characteristic of Italian, Tuscan and many other Italian dialects: thus Italian fette, palla, penna ("slices", "ball", and "pen") are fete, bała, and pena in Venetian. The masculine singular ending, which is usually -o / -e in Italian, is often voided in Venetian, particularly in the countryside varieties: Italian pieno ("full") is pien, and altare is altar. Also, the masculine article el is often shortened to 'l.
As a direct descent of regional spoken Latin, the Venetian lexicon derives its vocabulary substantially from Latin and (in more recent times) from Tuscan, so that most of its words are cognate with the corresponding words of Italian. Venetian includes however many words derived from other sources (such as Greek, Gothic, and German) that are not cognate with their equivalent words in Italian, such as:
|Venetian||English||Italian||Venetian word Origin|
|uncò, 'ncò, anco, ancuo||today||oggi||hunc + hodie (Latin)|
|trincàr||to drink||bere||trinken (German)|
|becàr||to be spicy hot||essere piccante||from the verb beccare (Italian), literally "to peck"|
|bisato||eel||anguilla||Latin bestia ("beast"); cf. biscia (a kind of snake)|
|bisa, biso||snake||serpente||Latin bestia ("beast"); cf. biscia (a kind of snake)|
|bìsi||peas||piselli||Related to Italian word.|
|isarda||lizard||lucertola||same etymon as lizard|
|trar via||to throw||tirare||?|
|calìgo||fog||nebbia||from caligo (Latin)|
|cantón||corner||angolo||from cantus (Latin)|
|caréga, trón||chair||sedia||cathedra, thronus (Latin) from (Greek)|
|petar sò||to fall||cascare||from casus of cadere (Latin) made into a verb|
|ciao||hello, goodbye||ciao||s-ciao (Venetian for slave); sclavus (vulgar Latin)|
|ciapàr||to catch, to take||prendere||captare (Latin)|
|co||when (non-interr.)||quando||cum (Latin) or possibly ko (slovene), the etymon being ked,kad from old slovene|
|copàr||to kill||uccidere||accoppare (old Italian, literally "to behead")|
|còtoła, còtola||skirt||sottana||cotta (Latin, coat or dress)|
|gòto, bicer||drinking glass||bicchiere||gut(t)us (Latin for "cruet")|
|insìa||exit||uscita||in + exita (Latin)|
|morsegàr, smorsegàr||to bite||mordere||morsus (Latin "bitten") made into a verb (cf. Italian morsicare)|
|munìn, gato||cat||gatto||perhaps from "meow" sound|
|nòtoła, barbastrìo, signàpoła||bat||pipistrello|
|pirón||fork||forchetta||from Greek pirouni|
|sghiràt||squirrel||scoiattolo||Related to Italian word. More probably from the Greek "skiouros"|
|sgorlàr, scorlàr||to shake||scuotere||ex + crollare (Latin)|
|supiàr, subiàr, sficiàr||to whistle||fischiare||sub + flare (Latin)|
|tòr su||to pick up||raccogliere||tollere (Latin)|
|técia, tegia||pan||pentola||tecula (Latin)|
|tosàto, tosàt, buteleto||lad, boy||ragazzo||from tosare (Italian, "to cut someone's hair")|
|puto, putèło, putełeto||lad, boy||ragazzo||?|
|vaca||cow||mucca, vacca||vacca (Latin)|
A peculiarity of Venetian grammar is a "semi-analytical" verbal flexion, with a compulsory "clitic subject pronoun" before the verb in many sentences, "echoing" the subject as an ending or a weak pronoun. Independent/emphatic pronouns (e.g. ti), on the contrary, are optional.
The clitic subject pronoun (te, el/ła, i/łe) is used with the 2nd and 3rd person singular, and with the 3rd person plural. This feature may have arisen as a compensation for the fact that the 2nd- and 3rd-person inflections for most verbs, which are still distinct in Italian and many other Romance languages, are identical in Venetian. (The Piedmontese language also has clitic subject pronouns, but the rules are somewhat different.)
The function of clitics is particularly visible in long sentences, which do not always have clear intonational breaks to easily tell apart vocative and imperative in sharp commands from exclamations with "shouted indicative". In Venetian the clitic el marks the indicative verb and its masculine subject, otherwise there is an imperative preceded by a vocative:
Indeed, the verbal forms requiring subject clitics can often change or even drop their endings without problems of confusion because the clitic itself provide the necessary information (in Piedmontese and Milanese the clitic is not sufficient to mark the verb and often requires the cooccurence of a specific ending).
The clitics are the same in whole Veneto with two exceptions: te becomes ti in Venice (but is different from emphatic TI!) and becomes tu in some bellunese areas. El becomes Al in bellunese.
Such variations in last and internal vowels do not block reciprocal comprehension between people in Veneto because what is felt as important to mark the verb is the clitic ("te, el").
Also general Venetian forms exist with no endings:
Note that when the subject is postverbal (motion verbs, unaccusative verbs) the clitic is banned and the past participle of compound forms (if any) is invariably masc.singular, yielding a semi-impersonal form which does not exist in Italian:
In Italian the past participle is always inflected while in the Venetian in the impersonal form it is invariable and the verb has no plural (fem.) clitic, differently from the normal flection.
Venetian also has a special interrogative verbal flexion used for direct questions, which also incorporates a redundant pronoun:
Reflexive tenses use the auxiliary verb aver ("to have"), as in English, German, and Spanish; instead of essar ("to be"), which would be normal in Italian. The past participle is invariable, unlike Italian:
Another peculiarity of the language is the use of the phrase eser drìo (a) (literally, "behind to") to indicate continuing action:
Indeed the word drio=busy/engaged also appears in other sentences:
Another progressive form uses the construction "essar là che" (lit. "to be there that"):
The use of progressive tenses is more pervasive than in Italian; E.g.
That construction does not occur in Italian: *Non sarebbe mica stato parlandoti is not syntactically valid.
Subordinate clauses have double introduction ("whom that", "when that", "which that", "how that"), as in Old English:
As in other Romance languages, the subjunctive mood is widely used in subordinate clauses (although not always). Remarkably, while the use of subjunctive is weakening in many colloquial varieties of Italian, Venetian subjunctive seems to be more resisting. For example, many Italian speakers often hesitate between subjunctive che fosse 'that...were' and indicative che era 'that...was' (though this phenomenon is generally sanctioned in the standard form), while almost no Venetian speaker would use the indicative in the following examples. Notice that it is hardly possible to distinguish a colloquial and a standard form, Venetian being used especially in the spoken form.
For the same reasons, while Italian speakers may accept both vada and vado 'I go-subj/indic.' in the colloquial style, nearly everybody would reject the Venetian indicative *vo in the following context.
Venetian does not have an official writing system, but it is traditionally written using the Latin alphabet — sometimes with the addition of a couple of letters and/or diacritics for the sounds that do not exist in Italian, such as ç/zh for /θ/. Otherwise, the traditional spelling rules are mostly those of Italian, except that x represents /z/, as in English "zero".
As in Italian, the letter s between vowels usually represents [z], so one must write ss in those contexts to represent a voiceless /s/: basa for /ˈbaza/ ("he/she kisses"), bassa for /ˈbasa/ ("low"). Also, because of the numerous differences in pronunciation relative to Italian, the grave and acute accents are liberally used to mark both stress and vowel quality:
Venetian allows the consonant cluster /stʃ/ (not present in Italian), which is usually written s-c or s'c before i or e, and s-ci or s'ci before other vowels. Examples include s-ciarir (Italian schiarire, "to clear up"), s-cèt (schietto, "plain clear"), and s-ciòp (schioppo, "gun"). The hyphen or apostrophe is used because the combination sc(i) is conventionally used for /ʃ/ sound, as in Italian spelling; e.g. scèmo (scemo, "stupid"); whereas sc before a, o and u represents /sk/: scàtoa (scatola, "box"), scóndar (nascondere, "to hide"), scusàr (scusare, "to forgive").
However, the traditional spelling is subject to many historical, regional, and even personal variations. In particular, the letter z has been used to represent different sounds in different written traditions. In Venice and Vicenza, for example, the phonemes /θ/ and /z/ are written z and x, respectively (el pianze = "he cries", el xe = "he is"); whereas other traditions have used ç and z (el piançe and el ze).
Recently there have been attempts to standardize and simplify the script, e.g. by using x for [z] and a single s for [s]; then one would write baxa for [ˈbaza] ("she kisses") and basa for [ˈbasa] ("low"). Another recent convention is to use ł for the "soft" l, to allow a more unified orthography for all variants of the language. However, in spite of their theoretical advantages, these proposals have not been very successful outside of academic circles, because of regional variations in pronunciation and incompatibility with existing literature.
The Venetian speakers of Chipilo use a system based on Spanish orthography, even though it does not contain letters for [j] and [θ]. The American linguist Carolyn McKay proposed a writing system for that variant, based entirely on the Italian alphabet. However, the system was not very popular.
The following sample, in the old dialect of Padua, comes from a play by Ruzante (Angelo Beolco), titled Parlamento de Ruzante che iera vegnù de campo ("Dialogue of Ruzante who came from the battlefield", 1529). The character, a peasant returning home from the war, is expressing to his friend Menato his relief at being still alive:
Orbéntena, el no serae mal
"Really, it would not be that bad
The following sample is taken from the Perasto Speech (Discorso de Perasto), given on August 23, 1797 at Perasto, by Venetian Captain Giuseppe Viscovich, at the last lowering of the flag of the Venetian Republic (nicknamed the "Republic of Saint Mark").
Par trezentosetantasete ani
"For three hundred and seventy seven years
The following is a contemporary text by Francesco Artico. The elderly narrator is recalling the church choir singers of his youth, who, needless to say, sang much better than those of today:
Sti cantori vèci da na volta,
"These old singers of the past,
|Venetian source||English loanword||Notes|
|arsenà||arsenal||via Italian; from Arabic dār aṣ-ṣināʿah 'house of work/skills, factory'|
|artichioco||artichoke||from Arabic al-haršūf|
|balota||ballot||'ball' used in Venetian elections|
|casin||casino||borrowed in Italianized form|
|schiao||ciao||used originally in Venetian to mean 'your servant', 'at your service'|
|gazeta||gazette||'small Venetian coin'; from the phrase gazeta de la novità 'a penny worth of news'|
|ziro||giro||'circle, turn, spin'; borrowed in Italianized form; from the name of the bank Banco del Ziro|
|gnoco, -chi||gnocchi||'lump, bump, gnocchi'; from Germanic *knokk- 'knuckle, joint'|
|lo(t)to||lotto||from Germanic *lot- 'destiny, fate'|
|marzapan||marzipan||from Arabic martabān, the name for the porcelain container in which marzipan was transported, from Mataban in the Bay of Bengal where these were made (this is one of several proposed etymologies for the English word)|
|negro ponte||Negroponte||'black bridge'|
|monte negro||Montenegro||'black mountain'|
|Pantalon||pantaloon||a character in the Commedia dell'arte|
|pestachio||pistachio||ultimately from Middle Persian *pistak|
|regata||regatta||originally 'fight, contest'|
|scampo, -i||scampi||from Greek κάμπη 'caterpillar', lit. 'curved (animal)'|
|zechin||sequin||'Venetian gold ducat'; from Arabic sikkah 'coin, minting die'|
|Zanni||zany||a character in the Commedia dell'arte|
|zero||zero||via French zéro; ultimately from Arabic ṣifr 'zero, nothing'|
Language and Culture:
The Venetian language (in Venetian: vèneto) is a Romance language.
It was the language once spoken in the Republic of Venice.
In the present day, it is spoken in the Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, in Slovenia and in Croatia. It is also spoken in Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina states) and Mexico (town of Chipilo) by the descendants of Italian immigrants.