Venetian or Venetan is a Romance language spoken by over two million people, mostly in the Veneto region of Italy. The language is called vèneto in Venetian, veneto in Italian; the variant spoken in Venice is called venexiàn/venesiàn or veneziano, respectively. Although commonly referred to as an Italian dialect (diałeto, dialetto), even by its speakers, it displays notable structural differences from Italian proper. It belongs to the Northern Italian group within Romance languages.
On March 28, 2007 the Regional Council of Vèneto officially recognized the existence of the Venetian Language (Łéngua Vèneta) by passing with a vast majority the law on the "tutela e valorizzazione della lingua e della cultura veneta" with the vote of both ruling and opposition parties.
Venetan proper can be distinguished from Venetian Italian, the dialect of Italian influenced by local Venetian features that is also spoken in the region. Compare:
Venetian should also not be confused with Venetic, an apparently unrelated (and extinct) Indo-European language that was spoken in the Veneto region around the 6th century BC.
Venetian descends from Vulgar Latin, possibly influenced by the Venetic substratum and by the languages of the Germanic tribes (Visigoths, Ostrogoths and Lombards) that invaded northern Italy in the 5th century. Venetian, as a known written language, is attested in the 13th century.
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 as 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 Tuscan "dialect" of Dante, and by 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 Italy was unified, in the 19th century, the Tuscan language was imposed as the basis of the national language of Italy. Since that time Venetian, deprived of any official status, has steadily lost ground to Italian. At present, virtually all its speakers are bilingual, and use Venetian only in informal contexts.
On the other hand, Venetian was spread through the world by the massive emigration from the Veneto region between 1870 and 1905. Those migrants created large Venetian-speaking communities in Argentina, Brazil (see Talian), Mexico, 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.
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 advertisings are given a "Venetian flavor" by adding a Venetian word: for instance an airline used the verb "xe" (Xe sempre più grande - Is bigger and bigger) into an Italian sentence (the correct Venetian rendering being xe senpre pi grande) to advertise new flights from Venice airport.
On the other hand, although French and Venetian are now mutually intelligible only to a small degree (mostly due to major changes in French pronunciation over the last few centuries), Spanish and Venetian are mutually comprehensible to some extent.
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
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:
Some pronouns retain a neuter form reserved for abstract nouns (par questo "for this reason" , de queło "about that fact" n.) different from the masculin (par 'sto qua "for this boy/dog" , de queło là "about that man/book" m.) while in Italian masculine forms also work for the neuter (per questo="for this boy/reason"; di quello="about that man/fact").
In some varieties the intervocalic L turns into 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 void in some mountainous areas. Thus, for example, góndoła may sound like góndoea, góndola or góndoa. In the latter variants, the "ł" spelling prevents possible confusion between pairs like scóła/skóła ("school") and scóa/skóła ("broom"). Standard Italian had this type of L in more limited conditions, but changed the spelling to i (bianco, chiamare from earlier blancus, clamare). It does contribute to its mutual intelligibility to Spanish speakers, who hear it as Spanish ll.
Venetian does not have the doubled consonant sounds characteristic of 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.
|Venetian||English||Italian||Venetian word Origin|
|bèver, trincàr||to drink||bere||bibere (Latin), trinken (German)|
|becar||to be spicy hot||piccante||from the verb beccare (Italian), literally "to peck"|
|bisato||eel||anguilla||Latin bestia ("beast"); cf. biscia (a kind of snake)|
|butàr||to throw||gettare||bautan (Gothic)|
|caréga, trón||chair||sedia||cathedra, thronus (Latin) from (Greek)|
|cascàr||to fall||cadere||from casus of cadere (Latin) made into a verb|
|ciapàr||to catch, to take||chiappare||capulare (Latin)|
|co||when (in non-interrogative clauses)||quando||cum (Latin)|
|copàr||to kill||uccidere||from Latin and later Italian accoppare, literally "to behead"|
|doxe (doge)||Doge||duce||dux (Latin), meaning "leader"|
|fiól||son||figlio||filius, filiolus (Latin)|
|gòto||drinking glass||bicchiere||from the Latin guttu|
|insìa||exit||uscita||in + exita (Latin)|
|magnàr||to eat||mangiare||manducare (Latin)|
|mojére, mugere||wife, woman||moglie||mulier (Latin)|
|morsegàr||to bite||mordere||from morsus of mordere (Latin) made into a verb|
|mustaci||mustaches||baffi||from Greek muostakion|
|munìn||cat||gatto||perhaps from "meow" sound|
|nòtoła, barbastrìo, signàpoła||bat||pipistrello||"the one of the night", from Italian notte|
|òcio||eye; watch out!||occhio||occulus (Latin)|
|pirón||fork||forchetta||from inpirar ("to insert")|
|orécia, récia||ear||orecchio||auriculum (Latin)|
|supiar, fis-ciar||to whistle||fischiare||sub + flare (Latin)|
|tòr su||to pick up||raccogliere||tollere (Latin)|
|ancuò, 'ncò||today||oggi||hunc + hodie (Latin)|
|vardar||to look||guardare||warten (Gothic)|
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.
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.
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 /'baza/ ("he/she kisses"), bassa for /'basa/ ("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).
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.
Orbéntena, el no serae mal
star in campo per sto robare,
se 'l no foesse che el se ha pur
de gran paure. Càncaro ala roba!
A' son chialò mi, ala segura,
e squase che no a' no cherzo
esserghe gnan. [...]
Se mi mo' no foesse mi?
E che a foesse stò amazò in campo?
E che a foesse el me spirito?
Lo sarae ben bela.
No, càncaro, spiriti no magna.
"Really, it would not be that bad
to be in the battlefield looting,
were it not that one gets also
big scares. Damn the loot!
I am right here, in safety,
and almost can't believe
I am. [...]
And if I were not me?
And if I had been killed in battle?
And if I were my ghost?
That would be just great.
No, damn, ghosts don't eat."
Par trezentosetantasete ani
le nostre sostanse, el nostro sangue,
le nostre vite le xè sempre stàe
par Ti, S.Marco; e fedelisimi
senpre se gavemo reputà,
Ti co nu, nu co Ti,
e senpre co Ti sul mar
semo stài lustri e virtuosi.
Nisun co Ti ne gà visto scanpar,
nisun co Ti ne gà visto vinti e spaurosi!
"For three hundred and seventy seven years
our bodies, our blood
our lives have always been
for You, St. Mark; and very faithful
we have always thought ourselves,
You with us, we with You,
And always with You on the sea
we have been illustrious and virtuous.
No one has seen us with You flee,
No one has seen us with You defeated and fearful!"
Sti cantori vèci da na volta,
co i cioéa su le profezie,
in mezo al coro, davanti al restèl,
co'a ose i 'ndéa a cior volta
no so 'ndove e ghe voéa un bèl tóc
prima che i tornésse in qua
e che i rivésse in cao,
màssima se i jèra pareciàdi onti
co mezo litro de quel bon
tant par farse coràjo.
"These old singers of the past,
when they picked up the Prophecies,
in the middle of the choir, in front of the gate,
with their voice they went off
who knows where, and it was a long time
before they came back
and landed on the ground,
especially if they had been previously "oiled"
with half a liter of the good one [wine]
just to make courage."
Language and Culture: