Monday, 27 February 2012

I dialetti/Dialects in Italy

I dialetti

Prima della conquista romana e della diffusione del latino, le diverse aree italiane erano abitate da popolazioni diverse, al nord vivano tribù celtiche (il nord Italia era chiamato Gallia cisalpina), venete e liguri, al centro Etruschi e Osco-Umbri, al sud greco-italici. Ognuna di queste popolazioni parlava lingue molto diverse che hanno influenzato il latino parlato nelle varie regioni, evolutosi poi nei "dialetti" che sono parlati ancora oggi.

Mappa che mostra le regioni diversi dove i dialetti sono parlati/Map showing the different regions where dialects are spoken.

Durante l'unificazione d'italia, la differenza linguistica tra regioni italiane era ancora molto evidente. Alessandro Manzoni sosteneva l'idea di sviluppare una lingua nazionale partendo dal vernacolo fiorentino, considerato prestigioso dato che Dante, Machiavelli, Boccaccio e Petrach l'hanno utilisato per scrivere I loro capolavori. L'italiano standard, però, non è mai stato identico al dialetto toscano.

La Divina Commedia di Dante

Gradualmente la lingua italiana è diventata più diffusa. Fino alla seconda guerra mondiale, quelli che non potevano permertersi di andare a scuola parlavano nel loro dialetto regionale/cittadino. Oggi sono gli anziani a ricorrere (to revolve to) maggiormente al dialetto. Per ragioni storiche, culturali e politche, allla maggior parte dei dialetti non è stato dato lo status di lingua ufficiale, malgrado siano molto diversi all'italiano.

Se si va in italia, è molto facile imbattersi nei dialetti, specialmente se si va in campagna. Sono spesso completamente diversi, o almeno, difficile da capire. Ora però, molti dialetti sono riconosciuti di UNESCO come lingue in pericolo. Comunque, è un argomento controverso.


E' un dialetto appartenente al gruppo gallo-italico, parlato in alcuni comuni della provincia di Cremona. Caratteristica peculiare della pronuncia del dialetto cremonese è la vastissima presenza di vocali lunghe, che conferisce alla parlata cremonese la tipica cadenza cantilenante. E' chiaro che il dialetto cremonese, come molti dialetti del nord, assomiglia molto al francese. Per esempio, dicono 'pomme' invece di 'mela', c'è la stessa distinzione tra I suoni 'ou' e 'u' che esistono nella lingua francese.

Alcuni vocaboli del cremonese subiscono il fenomeno della sincope, cioè prevedono la caduta delle vocali non accentate (es. stemàana per "settimana", oppure létra per "lettera")

La bella città di Cremona/The beautiful city of Cremona

Una frase cremonese

ööh la pèpa: questo si dice quando qualcosa è molto interessante, è un po' come 'wow'
ho incontrato quest'espressione a cremona, ma è anche comune in altre città del nord, come mantova e Brescia.


Dialects in Italy

Before the Roman conquest and the spreading of Latin, the different areas of Italy were inhabited by a variety of different populations; in the North there were Celtic tribes (the North of Italy was called Gallia cisalpina), those from Veneto (Venete) and those from Liguria (Liguri), in the centre there were the Etruscans and Osco-Umbrians, whilst in the South lived the Greco-Italics. Each of these different populations spoke languages very different from one another, which influenced the Latin spoken in the various regions, which evolved into the 'dialects' which are spoken today.

During the Italian Unification, the linguistic variance between Italian regions was still very evident. Alessandro Manzoni supported the idea of developing a national language based upon the Florentine vernacular, which was considered prestigious considered that Dante, Machiavelli, Boccaccio and Petrach used it to write their masterpieces. It is important to bear in mind, however, that Italian standard has never been identical to the Tuscan dialect.

Gradually the Italian language became more widespread. Until the second world war, those who could not afford to go to school spoke in their regional dialects. Today, generally the elder generations are the ones who keep using these local dialects. For cultural, historical and political reasons, the majority of dialects have not been given the status of official languages, despite being very different from Italian.

If you go to Italy, it is likely that you will come across dialects, especially if you visit the countryside. They are often completely different, or at least, difficult to understand. Now, however, many dialects have been recognised by UNESCO as endangered languages. Though this is a controversial topic.


Cremonese is a dialect belonging to the group gallo-italico, spoken in several municipalities in the province of Cremona. A peculiar characteristic of the pronunciation of Cremonese dialect is the frequent appearance of long vowels, which give spoken Cremonese that typical singsong rhythm. It is clear that Cremonese dialect, like many dialects of North Italy, bears much resemblance to French. E.g. In Cremonese 'pomme' is said instead of 'mela'. There is also the same distinction between the sounds 'ou' and 'u' that exists in French. Some Cremonese words undergo the syncope phenomenon, which involves the loss of unstressed vowels (eg stemàana "settimana", or letra "lettera").

A typical Cremonese phrase

ööh la pèpa: This phrase is said when something is very interesting, it would seem to be like 'wow' in English. Though I first came across this phrase in Cremona, I have noticed that exists (perhaps in various forms) in numerous parts of the North, including Mantova, Brescia and Bologna.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

pour les franglais...

Edinburgh is a wonderful place if you want to pretend to live a more continental life. So whether you fancy posing in some chic French café, or just some exposure to the language, these are your best bets:

1. Institut Français d’Ecosse (13 Randolph Crescent)
The French institute of Scotland has much in store for those who enjoy French cinema, literature, and potentially wine! The resources and membership are free to University students who study French, plus is an invaluable source of information to get involved with the French cultural events happening all over the city. There are courses on offer, though visiting the institute in itself will provide an opportunity to practice your French.,3.html?lang=en

2. La Barantine (Bruntsfield)
Those who travel frequently to France know that the fresh baguette is an important part of the day in France. People wake up early to buy their thin, crunchy bread straight from the oven. In Tesco you will buy a thick, stodgy replica of a baguette, no, this is not a baguette! Head immediately to la Barantine in Bruntsfield for a wonderful french baguette, but please don't miss the petit dejeuner. It's another great place to practice French, or even Franglish, should you wish.

3. The University of Edinburgh French society
The French society at the University of Edinburgh organise numerous cultural events throughout the year, including film screenings, French wine evenings and socials with a French theme. This will no doubt motivate you to study your French grammar. How else will you communicate with that good looking bunch? There is also a French theatre society, even if you cannot see yourself as the protagonist in 'La dame de chez Maxim', do go along and see it!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Summer school in Antibes, France

A brief trip back to Summer 2011 and I'm in France, on the cote d'azur, sitting on a train with a massive suitcase, freaking out as I realise that those strange nasal sounds I am hearing are indeed French. Oh crap. Sitting on that train, it seemed like nothing.

I had been in Italy for three months, then in what seemed like a flash, realised it what time to cram in an intensive French programme in Antibes. I remembered what it felt like to be back in that terrifying yet thrilling period when everything people say is gobbledygook. I'd been studying French alone on and off for 3 months, I knew the present, conditional, past, and imperfect tenses. Suddenly a panicked voice came through the loudspeaker, interrupting the usual location announcements 'blah blah French words PICKPOCKETS'. Uncomfortably I squeezed into a corner guarding my valuables with snakelike eyes.

I failed miserably at asking for directions to my accommodation in French. Well, I asked them in a reasonable manner, but the kind lady searched for directions using her android then pulled a puzzled face and said something too long and incomprehensible for me to understand. I was relieved that my taxi driver knew exactly where I needed to go, and felt obliged to tell me (in a French I could understand) about how much he loved the English. Arriving and settling down in my beautiful accommodation, I thought about my taxi driver's genuine enthusiasm and was reminded of the stereotypical ideas of the French and their culture, and thought it was time to question them. Despite having visited France as a tourist many times throughout my childhood, I was always positive of certain aspects about the French, and enthralled by the illusion of the French way of life.

Besides studying for 6 hours a day at le centre international d'Antibes, I found a lot of time to walk around the old town of Antibes, and the not so charming, rather tacky area, Juan Les Pins. On my first day I wanted to do as the locals did, so woke up at 6.30am just to get to the best boulangerie nearby to pick up a fresh pain au raisin and half baguette, then to the deli next door to pick up some rather pungent goats cheese. I felt let down whilst trying to understand French customers talking with the cashier, or failing to understand 'would you like the receipt in your bag?'. On my induction day our guide kept cracking jokes (I would presume they were jokes, given that the people surrounding me were laughing) which I didn't understand. But things got better, by the end of a fortnight I could explain that my neighbour was robbed last night in comprehensible French.

The trip was not only linguistically useful, yet enlightening. I discovered that those beautiful pink biscuits 'roses de Reims' are just tarty savoiardi biscuits, that people are usually saying 'Merd' or 'Putain' when you think they are having a deep philosophical conversation, that those beautiful sleepy Medieval French hill towns are not inhabited by the French but an army of restless tourists. That said, the French have impressed me with their pedestrian zones, exquisite sweet morning goods and methods of creating presenting goods in an alluring manner.