“REGIONS AND DIALECTS” COLUMN. SEASON 1 – EPISODE 3 “VENETO”

Welcome back to a new episode of “Regions and dialects“! After our Sicilian almond treats from last episode, how about a nice Spritz? I’ll stop with the clichés sooner or later, but not today. Today we travel to the north-east up to Veneto to learn about the dialect, or rather dialects, of this region.

Let’s start with the hottest topic: the Italian State does not recognise the Venetian dialect as a language. The Venetian language is therefore in all respects a dialect, or rather a set of dialects.

The matter is rather complex, so I’ve decided to start with a necessary premise: at a linguistic level, there are no substantial differences between languages and dialects. The differences are mainly at the political-administrative level.

Despite this, just like Sicilian, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has attributed the code ISO 639-3 vec to the Venetian language. If you recall, this ISO code is envisaged only for languages, not for dialects.

Furthermore, UNESCO also recognised its status as a language in 1999 by including it in the list of endangered languages.

Having said this, the website of the Senate of the Republic states: “The Venetian language spoken in the Veneto region is among those most discriminated against by the Italian State, which erroneously classifies it as an Italian dialect”. Erroneously, yes, because, as the linguist Michele Loporcaro also argues, Venetian is not a variant of Italian but a “main Romance dialect” deriving directly from Latin.

VENETO: THE DIALECT’S ORIGINS

As I said, the Venetian dialect does not derive from Italian, but from Latin.

The dialects of the Italian peninsula are often divided into three large groups, in turn diversified into various subgroups. In this case, I’m talking about Clemente Merlo’s classification, which divides the Italian dialects on a geographical basis, obtaining the distribution into NorthernTuscan and Central-Southern dialects.

So geographically, Venetian belongs to the first group. The Northern dialects have common peculiarities and are also called Gallo-Italic dialects. One common characteristic of these dialects is the high frequency of words that end with a consonant, unlike what usually occurs in Italian. This aspect is shared by all the Northern dialects except for Venetian, where the difference derives from a different origin of the linguistic system.

While most of the dialects spoken in this geographical area can be traced back to a Gallic origin, the same cannot be said for the Venetian dialects. Indeed, these dialects developed thanks to the “Venetic” population, that is, the ancestors of the current Venetians who lived in Italy from the second millennium BC.

VENETIAN DIALECT VARIANTS

According to ISTAT research of 1998, 52% of Venetians mostly speak the regional language, which was the official language of the Republic of Venice for a thousand years.

But what is meant by regional language?

The website of the Venetian Language Institute, an autonomous protection body, states that, “The Venetian language, like all languages, consists of different dialects, which were formed following historical, political and geographical events”.  

The Venetian dialects can be divided into those of the:

  • West (in Verona and Trentino)
  • Centre (in Vicenza and Padua)
  • North (Belluno and Pordenone, among others)
  • Veneto da mar, meaning seaside (Venice, Trieste and Rijeka)

Despite the substantial differences within these dialectal variants, it’s important to note that all the dialects of Veneto are in any case intelligible with one another.

But that’s not all.

Venetian dialect is not only spoken within Italy’s national borders, or in territories historically linked to Italy. Indeed, variants of Venetian are spoken in CroatiaBrazil (Brazilian Venetian dialect or Talian), Mexico and Argentina.

On second thought, even Marco Polo spoke in Venetian.

See you next episode!

English translation and adaptation by Sarah Schneider