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Geoffrey Hull, La lingua Padanese, English version

Updated on May 18, 2012

A synthesis of prof. Hull's PhD thesis, "The linguistic unity of Northern Italy and Rhaetia"

The article «La lingua Padanese»(«The Padanian language») was published in issues 13 and 14 of the review "Etnie" (1987), Milan.

It is a short and deep synthesis of prof. Hull's monumental PhD dissertation (8) about the Padanian language (also "Rhaeto-Cisalpine", in prof. Hull's words ).

The review "Etnie", meanwhile, closed; moreover, this article was originally written in Italian.

Hence, it is rather difficult to access, while the matters it deals with are of the utmost scientific importance.

For these reasons we propose here (by courtesy of prof. Hull) an English translation of the article. Possible mistakes are our resposibility: should you find any, please let us know by dropping a line in the guestbook.Many thanks.


While isolating from the Italian linguistic system the Ladin dialects, Ascoli left in a terminological limbo some dialects that Biondelli, thirty years earlier, had called "Gallo-Italic" (1). According to the illustrious dialectologist from Gorizia, Piedmontese, Ligurian, Lombard and Emilian-Romagnol, "are distinct from Italian proper, but nevertheless they do not form part of any neo-Latin system alien to Italy" (2).

During the first decades of national unity, linguists tried to define more clearly the status of "Gallo-Italic" against Ladin on the one hand and against peninsular dialects on the other hand. In this time of extreme nationalism, it was difficult for the investigation not to assume political tones. In fact, many scholars felt compelled to prove a priori the Italianity of both Gallo-Italic and Ladin, and the insistence of other linguists (especially German) on the clear Gallo-Romainc appearance of the two groups could not seem not antirisorgimental biased (3).

That the indigenous language of the Po Valley, a region considered to be the cornerstone of Italian unity, could result from structuralist analysis as a sister of French and only cousin of Tuscan was for many so intolerable as heretical a consideration. It was therefore canonized a specifically Italian classification system, emphasized more by classical tradition than scientific method, by which "Italian" (or "Italo-Romance") were those dialects which had long been subordinated to the literary Tuscan (4). According to this criterion, a dialect as Emilian or Ticinese, which shares all or most of its fundamental characteristics with French, could be called "Italian" without fear of error. For those who do not accept the Italianist thesis, the name "Gallo-Italic", applied to vernacular spoken in politically Italian territory but north of the well known La Spezia-Rimini line, is inaccurate and misleading. Even assuming the psychological importance cultural orientation, it is difficult to understand how it can be inferred from minor points (which are, moreover, only a layer of superstrate) that those dialect are structurally Italo-Romance: no one would dream, for example, to define the Corsican dialect Gallo-Romance to account for the Genoan and then French influences which have been transforming it for centuries.

We therefore deem cheefly correct the judgement of the various Romance linguistics specialists who consider the so-called "Northern Italian" as a part of the Gallo Romance system and deem it as a close relative of French (including Franco-Provençal) and Occitan-Catalan (5). And we would say, as does Pierre Bec, that the term "Gallo-Italic" should be corrected to "Cisalpine Gallo-Romance" or "Italian Gallo-Romance" (hereinafter "Italian" is meant in a strictly extralinguistic sense).

The depoliticized classification of the Po Valley dialects has inevitably changed the conception of the Ladin language as an independent linguistic unity from the "Padanian branch of Italo-Romance". Even the most ardent Ladinists were able to transcend their position of defending a speech that since the Middle Ages had developed out of the Italian cultural sphere, by looking beyond the surface Italianisms of the dialects of the plain. Many of them declared themselves open to the argument of an original Rhaeto-Cisalpine unit, provided that one gives up any attempt to link this system to Italian proper (6).

It is recognized that the "Tuscan conquest" of the Po Valley in the Renaissance has led to some Italianization of the Gallo-Romance (or, we would say, Ladin) vernacular of this area (7), and that just the marginal areas later called Ladinia kept untouched (apart from strong German influence in the Grisons and the Tyrol) the original language tradition of Padania. In 1982 I presented a PhD thesis with the title of "The Linguistic Unity of Northern Italy and Rhaetia" in which I attempted to outline the historical development and current features of Ladin and Padanian dialects (8). The assumed unit was renamed "Padanese" coinage referring to linguistic rather than geographic Padania (i.e. to the Rhaeto-Cisalpine amphizone) and necessitated by the fact that the adjective "Padanian" properly indicates the language of the Po basin only.

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Padania: Gallic land in Italian territory

It is well known that, in the ethnic structure of Italy, the main dividing line almost perfectly coincides with the Tuscan-Emilian Apennine ridge. North of this line, a Celtic or Celtized population had settled in ancient times, whose land was called Gaul by the Romans who conquered it between 193 and 78 BC. Twenty Centuries later, the anthropology of Padania has little changed, despite the profound Romanization of the area and the subsequent establishment of a Tuscan-Italian civilization; compactly brachycephalic race instead of mesocefalicy or dolichocephalic as in the peninsula; alpine or subalpine like popular housing rather than Mediterranean; consumption of cattle instead of sheep; butter instead of oil cooking butter; polyphonic singing, syllabic and narrative rather than solo, melismatic and lyrical; analytic rather than synthetic language and philosophical awareness, and so on.

The division of Italy into two dioceses (with their capitals in Rome and Milan) made by Diocletian in 298 AD not only put into relief the existing ethnic and environmental differences of the two Italies, but fully inserted Padania in the new and opulent Gallo-Roman world that had long since eclipsed Rome and its peninsular hinterland.

This is borne out by Latin scholastic tradition that remained stronger in the Padania than in the peninsula and the prestige of the Ambrosian church in whose sanctuaries a kind of Roman and Gallican liturgy was celebrated rather than a Roman one, whose believers had been "freshly" converted from paganism, and not through a Greek-Christian element in the population. Dialect arose in continental Italy that did not had to be different in any important detail from proto-French.

To the powerful Frankish superstratum in northern France, there corresponds in Padania the dual Frank and Longobard presence. In the late Middle Ages, literary French and Provençal languages were so accessible to Cisalpine to prevent, on the eve of the 'Florentine miracle', the formation of a genuine and lasting Padanian koiné (9). If the Longobard had not aggregated Tuscany to their Padanian reign, it is clear that two nations would have arisen in the territory of Augustus Italy, so different from one another as the Spanish and French. Linked politically and culturally to the North, Tuscany, the 'Southern' region, enriched itself by Gallo-Roman currents. His dialect, even maintaining its Italo-Romance structure, acquired many Padanian elements. The result was a physiognomic transformation that allowed Tuscan to become the perfect Italian koiné, with the rise of the great authors of Florence, the only literary language capable of uniting Gallic Padania, the lands of the Tuscan-Italic and Hellenic Peninsula as well as Islands into one great nation. The thriving municipal Padania medieval civilization is, moreover, inseparable from the contemporary phenomenon of Tuscany. In fact, a Tuscan-Padanian cultural shpere arose, in which Florence soon assumed dominance, so much that almost whole Padania welcomed unhesitatingly Renaissance culture radiating from Tuscany, and renounced - seemingly forever - to any real ambition of creating its own literary language rooted in its common mother tongue.

As a part of this modern Italy, Padania was destined to remain a province of ambiguous character: of Italian high culture, but Gallo-Roman in its traditions. Only the future Ladin, namely, the "Lombard" of the alpine areas dominated by the Alemanni and Bavarians, were exempt from this centrifugal process. Today Padanians call themselves spontaneously northern Italians, feeling it so Italians to be able to claim in a chauvinistic way that "Italy ends at Po" or at least "at the Apennines." There are people who believe that the very notion of a Padanian ethnic group distinct from the Italian is completely absurd (10). It may also be true.

Nevertheless the hallmarks of the hereditary language of these "Northern Italian" remain steadfast; after fourteen centuries of Tuscan-Padanian symbiosis, it remains Gallo-Roman more than ever. We would say that dialect fragmentation, quite normal in a heteronomous language that has never been codified, has not even progressed to the point of altering its fundamental unit.

In this unit we would include, with only limited reserves, Friulian, Dolomitic and Swiss Ladin as well as the slightly Italianized dialects of Liguria, Veneto and Istria.

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The main features of Padanian (1)

Limitations of space allow us to hint only briefly at some of the specific features of Padanese dialects, of which we intend to point out particular aspects that separate them so conspicuous by the Italian dialects and highlighting their relationship with the other varieties of Gallo-Romance.

The various vernacular forms have been deliberately reduced to Rhaeto-Cisalpine prototypes, collected in a single etymological-type spelling, able to embrace each phonetic variant. (11)

In tonic vocalism, it stands out the potential diphtongation of all tonic vowels in free position (12): the types Rhaeto-Cisalpine mär (növ) fully agree with the French ones mer, poil, saveur, miei, neuf, while they disagree with the forms mare, pelo, sapore, mele, nove of the popular Tuscan dialects and the metaphonetic ones of the Peninsula strictu senso. (13)

The palatal phonemes ü (lat. U) e ö (üo < uo < lat. O) are characteristic of much of Padania, likely reflections of the ancient Gallic substratum of the country: in the central and western one readss mür, cör, more or less as in French (mur, coeur), and these sounds are indigenous Padanian and not "foreigners" or "French" as many believe. (14) Padanese, like French, has developed a set of nasal vowels tonic, so the types tipi paun/pan, serein, bon (bõ), vin (vi) correspond to fr. pain, Serein, bon, vin. But the most important feature of Padanese as a Gallo-Romance language is certainly the regular fall of all final unstressed vowels except -a: camp 'field', part 'part', quist 'these' (but the pòrta/door; fenèstra/window). (15)

I would not hesitate to assert that wherever we meet in the Po valley integer forms like campo, parte, quisti (i.e., in Liguria, Veneto, and some elsewhere), they are actually recent or medieval peninsular (Italo-Romance) influences. (16)

Deep structural differences also mark the consonant system of the Rhaeto-Cisalpine as opposed to Italian. In addition to degemination of consonants (copa 'cup', maza 'kill') and the weakening of intervocalic single consonants (LATINU > ladin, SECURU > segur, SUDARE > suar, SCALA > scara) it should be noted the rare spontaneous (west) or reactive (east) palatalization of the velars (castel, gat, formiga) (17) and phonetic trends as the Gallo-Romance solution of the consonant clusters -ct-,-cs-(-x-) (FACTU> fait, fac , LAXARE> laissar, lasar), the reduction of di -gli- to -j- (fója 'foglia', aj 'aglio') and the devoicing of the finals (neiv > neif 'neve', verd > vert 'verde').

The main factors behind the split between mountain (Alpine and Apennine) on one side and lowland dialects on the other side are the same invoked by the scholars pro independence of "Ladin" (for them that of the Grisons, the dolomite and Friuli only) from "Padanian". In fact we deal with the differences between conservative or even archaic dialects and innovating ones (and often open to strong Italian influences). Aside from some peculiarities of tonic vocalism (e.g. Gallo-Romance umlaut relics in western and central Ladinia and in Romagna, as well as spontaneous diphthongation in Friuli) we observe, in the physiognomy of the peripheral dialects of Padanian a strong resistance to assimilation of consonant phonemes that in the lowlands have, among other things, brought the assimilation of c, g g (ciel > tsiel > siel, gent > dzent > zent), the mutation of g, s, z, ts, dz (g> g> DZA> za 'already', pes> pes 'fish', bazar> bazar 'kiss' , Tsapi> sapa 'hoe', medzi> meza 'half'), the restoration of -d- (from Lat.-D-: crua> raw) and palatalization groups pl, bl, fi, cl, gi (blanc > bianc, clav > ciav = cav).

Lost in large areas of the Padanian lowlands is also the final -s, once in normal in noun and verb forms: las casas / les cases > la casa / le case, tu tires > tu tir(e), egl mòrts 'i morti' > i mòrt. (18)

We report some features more of the morphosyntax of Rhaeto-Cisalpine in which the most important Gallo-Romance elements and trends still hold. In most genuine dialects, adjectives obey a single model, as in French, e.g., un om fòrt ~ una femna fòrta 'un homme fort ~ une femme forte'.

It is also required he use of the subject pronoun with the finite forms of the verb: eu vuogl 'voglio', tu dis 'dici', ieu eu vegn (in pianura mi eu vegn) 'io vengo': Compare the French je veux, tu dis, moi je viens. The spoken Cisalpine willingly add this to the relative pronoun (as "la tousa che la canta" 'the girl who sings'). The type of construct om va (= French on va 'one goes'), once common in the Cisalpine territory, supplanted in the dialects of eastern Lombardy the fourth person forms of the verb: lom. em porta = portem 'portiamo' (cfr. on porte = nous portons in popular French). Another feature shared with French is the use of atonic eu ( élles > lour 'loro', ieu > mi 'io', tu > ti 'tu', mei > mi 'me', tei-ti 'te', gli > ghe. Interesting is the presence, both in padanese and French of an impersonal pronoun, probably a (calque) relic of the Germanic superstrate, e.g. el me par 'it seems to me', el coventa partir 'on has to leave' (cfr. il me parait, il faut partir).

An aspect of the Padanese verb that has come to invest the syntax of northern Italian is the replacement of perfect with the remote past which survives, however, as a literary tense, and persists in some dialects of Emilia-Romagna. Regional Italian often shows some features of the native syntax as well: we allude to the constructs èsser drieu a + infinitive to indicate continuous action (l'es drieu a seriver 'he is writing', compare in some French dialects the type il est après d'écrire), the denial of the imperative verb with the star (no star a cridar 'do not shout'); compulsory use of an intensifying adverb in negative expressions (el (no) parla miga 'il ne parle pas/(mie)', tu (no) dormes brixa / (bric, nient, pa ecc.) 'tu ne dors pas'), and to the corresponding strengthening of demonstratives (questa cadriega qui 'cette chaise-ci', quel prieved li 'ce prêtre-là').

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The main features of Padanian (2)

Among indefinite pronouns, adverbs, prepositions and conjunctions, many constructions are purely Padanese, such as negun 'none', nuglia, negot(a) 'nothing', vergot(a), alc, alchet 'something', medem same', minca 'any ', massa 'too', avonda, assai 'enough', noma 'only', just(a) 'just, exactly', debon, dessèn 'really', cour(a) 'when', encuoi (uoi, oz) 'today', ancamò, amò 'still', drieu, davors 'behind, after', despuoi 'since' (fr. depuis). A quite remarkable phenomenon is the 'localized verb', of Germanic flavour, for example, star sus 'get up', meter sus 'erect', trasios 'demolish'.

Most of the common vocabulary of the Rhaeto-Cisalpine dialects consists of Romance and Latin terms that are found in all the Romance languages of Western and Central Europe. A much smaller number are the relics of the gallic and pregallic substrata and the lexical contributions of Germanic superstratum of the Dark Ages.

On the contrary, rather impressive is the influence of recent superstrata and adstrata on the different Padanese dialects, especially the Italian element in the lexicon of the Po valley (including the Friuli) and the High German and modern German element in Grisons and Dolomitic Ladin. Conspicuous, though less important, are the French and Occitan loans in Piedmontese.

What interests us in particular, however, is typical of the lexicon padanese conceived as a linguistic unit.

Very significant are the quite a few words confirming the close relationship between Padanese and other Gallo-Romance languages, e.g., àmeda 'aunt' (fr. tante), av 'grandfather' (fr. aïeul), cadriega 'chair' (fr. chaise), fat 'tasteless' (fr. fade), feida 'sheep '(occ. feda), got 'glass '(occ. got, fr. godet), empremudar 'borrow' (fr. emprunter), maxon (fr. maison), mogliar 'wet' (fr. mouiller), mocar 'turn off' (fr. moucher), menton 'chin' (fr. menton), meisson 'crop' (fr. moisson), mica 'loaf' (fr. miche), nèza 'granddaughter' (fr. nièce), paveglion 'butterfly' (fr. pavillon, papillon), plorar, plurar 'cry' (fr. pleurer), saxon 'season' (fr. saison). A discrete number of words to be regarded as too old to be the Italian loans are by contrast testimony to the secular orientation Padania, for example, bevolc 'bifolco' peasant, cadin 'catino' bowl, descedar 'destare' awake, grem 'grembo' lap, ledam 'letame' manure, menestra 'minestra' soup, mescedar 'mescitare' pour out, miz / niz 'mézzo' means, massaira 'massaia' housewife, piegora 'pecora'sheep, spuzar 'puzzare'stink, regordar 'ricordare' remember, refudar 'rifiutare' refuse, roncar, seron 'siero' serum.

None of these items is found in transalpine Gallo-Romance.

Also, we have an abundance of Padanese words that are not always connected to French or Occitan lexemes, but disagree with the use of lexical Tuscany and the peninsula in general.

Thus, the following words form part of the 'classical' Padanese lexicon: barba (m.) (uncle), barbix (mustache), biàdeg (grandson), hboleid (mushroom), bugnon (Furuncle), calegair (shoemaker), calzair (shoe), çanc (left), catar (find, collect), cegaira (fog), cioc (drunk), cocombre (cucumber), compagn (similar), covatar (hide, cover), coveida (lust), cop (tile), cosp (sabot), (em)pizar (turn on), fallar (mistake), forcellina (piron) (fork), formenton (maize), franc (lira), geld (frigid), gnec (sickly), liguoir (green lizard), luxour (splendor), marangon (carpenter), molleta (grinder), muola (grindstone), padimar (consular), presça (hurry), rampin (hook), rauba (thing), ladin (dissolved), ninzar (dent, sculpt), lugànega (sausage), pander (announce), rexentar (rinse), sabla (sand), sangueta (leech), segar (mow), sarir (weed), sopressar (iron), tòc (piece), tomàtes (tomato), travonder (swallow), tuoisseg (poison), zivolar, sublar (whistle).

The lexical unit of Padanese, like any fragmented language, is of course relative. For a large number of dialects Western concepts have an unknown representation in the east, and vice versa. In the following list of duplicates the first term is always the Western one: bigat / cavalier, silkworm; brèn, crusca / sémola, rémol(a), bran; càmola / tarma, ringworm; ferrair / favre, smith; gudaz, padrin / sàntol, godfather; lassair / lagar, leave; lavandin / seglair, sink; mascherpa / poïna, ricotta; ninçuola / noxella, hazel; pigliar / tuor, take; senestre / çanc, left; solair / granair, attic; tiret / casset, drawer. Another important lexematic division contrasts Cisalpine usage with the Rhaetic one (and, sometimes, with the latter agrees Dolomitic Ladin). To the Rhaetic Baselga there corresponds Cisalpine gliesia 'church', and also caxuol / formàdeg, formaj, cheese; clauder / serrar, close; còcen / ross, red; coudex / libre, book; èdema / setema(u)na, week; figliol / figlioç, godson; folin / calijen, soot; jentar / disnar, lunch; lisura / jointura, conjuncture; meil / pom, apple; meisa / taula, table; mur / rat, pondeg, sourex, mouse; neir / negre, black; saglir / saultar, jump; solegl / soul, sun; tema / pavoira, fear; zevrar / deslaitar, desierar, wean, (cfr. French sevrer).

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Once admitted the fundamental unity of the Rhaeto-Cisalpine dialects, the question of their unification arises. The transcription system that we developed on the basis of the common features of the group is capable of serving not only as a starting point for an orthographical reform (or systematization) of individual Padanese dialects, but also lends itself as a code in which to record the rich but ever assembled lexical treasure of the language.

Even those who doubt the value of a synthetic koiné padanese designed to anachronistically compete with the pan-Padanian Italian, cannot deny the desirability, even if only as a scientific task, of a Cisalpine equivalent of Tresor dou Felibrige and of the pan-Occitan dictionaries compiled in recent decades.

To illustrate the feasibility of a unification of spelling - the first step towards the creation of a Rhaeto-Cisalpine koine - we present eight little pieces taken by various dialect authors, all reduced to our common "Padanese spelling", compared with the current Regional ones:

1. Piedmontese

Puoi pauc a pauc el ha mollau de cau la pluova e el soul, surtend fòra da les nìvoles, el ha fait luxer ent l'aria les ùltimes stizes. Entloura eu son surtiu encima a l'aira a cuoglier les granes de tempèsta ch'elles eren ancoura nient sleguades. Les gallines elles cacaraven ch'elles semegliaven mates e les rondolines empleniven l'aria degl suoi squiz, voland tut en gir a la cassina.

Peui pòch a pòch a l'ha molà 'd cò la pieuva e '1 sol, surtend fòra da le nìvole, l'ha fàit luse ant l'aria j'ùltime stisse. Anlora i son surtì ansima a l'àira a cheuje le gran-e 'd tempesta ch'a j'ero ancora nen slinguà. Le galin-e cacaravo ch'a smijavo mate e le rondolin-e ampinìo l'aria dij sò squiss, voland tut an gir a la cassin-a (19).

2. Western Lombard (Milanese)

(Eu) s'era setada en tèrra, col cau en maun, e egl gombed sugl genuogl: me zifolava el vent ent egl cavegl: demanamaun che vegneiva un quagl bof, el me portava come una voux che vegna de lontaun: ella me pareiva la soa voux, (eu) alzava egl uogl, (eu) guardava entorna: ma el es nuoit, el es senza luna, e no se ved negot. (Eu) clame. Pedrin! Pedrin!. Neissun respond.

S'era settada in terra, col coo in man, e i gombet sui genoeucc: me ziffolava el vent in di cavij: demeneman che vegneva on quaj bôff, el me portava come ona vôs che vegna de lontan: la me pareva la soa vôs, alzava i oeucc, guardava intorna: ma l'è nott, l'è senza luna, e no se vede nagott. Ciami. Pedrin! Pedrin!. Nissun respond (20).

3. Ligurian (Genoan)

Cruoses rìpides, streites, lastregades da riçuogl redondi con la passiera de madoin. Cruosetes fra does muraglies flanchejades da lo passaman de fèrro e dagl lampioin. Portetes misteriouses vernixades de verde con targheta e sonaglin. Copies [cobles] fermes ent egl canti plui appartades, dònnes dagl portelleti degl balcoin.

Crêuze ripide, strèite, lastregae da rissêu riondi co' a passüa de möin. Crêuzette fra due mûage fiarichezzae da-o passaman de faero e dai lampioin. Portette misteriose vernixae de verde con targhetta e sûnaggin. Coppie ferme in ti canti ciù appartae, donne da-i portelletti di barcoin. (21)

4. Romagnol

Un tòc, les does, el sona el campanon. Per la contrada les scarpes elles baten sugl saiss e drenta les cambres chi senten egl nuostre pass egl scrichen egl lieit de fòglies de formenton. Un àndit scur, un gat e puoi a lí sota el lum m'una fenéstra bassa; drenta una vècia [vègia] a smasar ent una cassa: les does de la nuoit (a), per una berreta rota!

Un tòc, al dò, e' sòuna e' Campanòun. Par la cuntrèda al schèrpi al batt si sas e dréinta al cambri chi sint i nóst pass e' scréca i létt ad fôi 'd furmantòun. Un andìt schéur, un gatt e pu a lè sòta ancòura e' lóm m'una finèstra bassa; dréinta una vècia a smasè t'una cassa: al dò dla nòta, pr'una brèta ròta! (22)

5. Venetan (Rustic dialect of Feltre)

Sot un covèrt larg ghe n'es una plui bèlla fontana che buta; denanzi les fenèstres vasi de flours, d'entorn a la casa, el par che sia sempre fèsfa, che ghe n'es un orden e una netixia straordenaria; en tèrra no se vedereiv una paglia, gnanca a cercar-la. Un bèl tosat, mòro, el es sentau sus una banca piturada de verd; el guarda pensieriouso sus per egl bosc; el ha la fuma en boca, quasi studada.

Sot on cuert larc ghe n'è na pì bela fontana che buta; denanzi le finestre vasi de fior; d'intorn a la casa, 'l par che sia sempre festa, chè ghe n'è 'n orden e na netisia straordenargia; in tera no se vederee na paja, gnanca a zercarla. 'N bel tosat, moro, l'è sentà su na banca piturada de vert; el varda pensieroso su pa i bosc; l'à la fuma in boca, quasi stuada. (23)

6. Friulian

Egl ieren tre quatre dis che Linda ella aveva alc. A no aveir mai nuglia, alc el es alc! Linda ella iera contenta. "Gli el dixerai esnuoit," ella pensà dut el di. Sierrada l'ostaria - egl sierraven atorn dieix - egl cenaren come sempre, lour doi de bessogl, dessovra. Ella lavò la massaría, la meté sul desgotaplats. Lui el era quiet e el sbesegliava plancut depruouv de un campanèl elétric. "Marfin!. eu hai un fruit!"

A' jerin tre quatri dîs che Linde 'e veve alc. A no vê mai nuje, alc Al è alc! Linde 'e jere contente. "J al disarai usgnot", 'e pensà dut il di. Siarade l'ostarie - a' siaravin tôr dîs - a' cenàrin come simpri, lôr doi di bessoi, disore. 'E lavà la massarie, la meté sul disgoteplàz. Lui al jere cuiet e al sbisiave plancut daprûf di un campanel eletric. "Martin!. 'o ai un frut!" (24)

7. Dolomitic Ladin

Encuoi, doménega., davors la gran messa avomnos tòlt comiau de nòssi òmes sun plaza de gliexa. El capellan Favé ha teniu una rexonada e ha dait la bendizion a quegl, che mosseiva laissar l'encasa, senza saveir se egl la podeiva vedeir amò una vegada. Gent braglava. Anca vègli egl aveiva las làgremes ent egl uogli. Quegl che fòva stati cridai a jir a combater, se òva amò pestau e ordenau.

Ncuëi, dumënia, dò la gran messa ons tëut cumià da nosc uëmes sun piaza de dlieja. L caplan Favé a tenì na rujnèda y à dat la bendiscion a chëi, che messòva iascé l ncësa, zënza savëi, sce i la pudòva udëi mò n iëde. Jent bradlava. Nce vedli ëi òva la lègrimes ti uëdli. Chëi che fòva stac cherdei a jì a cumbater, se òva mò pistà e urdenà. (25)

8. Rhaetic Ladin (High Engadinese)

El stoveiva ensèn bauld rir, courch'el vegnif (f)òr del tren. Seguentre dex-sèt ans d'absenza torneiva el a casa e sortiva una stazion mema bauld. Apòsta. Negun no lo speitaeiva e segur che negun no brameiva sieu arriv. Seguentre aveir depositau sias dos greivas valis se metet el en via vèrs casa. Ensí, cols mauns vuoids e senza peis terrestre, voleiva el far quel ùltim tuoc via chi l'era stada ensí crapousa el di de sia partenza!

El stuvaiva insè bod rir, cur ch'el gnit our dal tren. Zieva deschset ans d'absenza turnaiva el a chesa e sortiva üna staziun memma bod. Aposta. Ãngün nu'l spettaiva e sgür ch'üngün nu bramaiva sieu arriv. Zieva avair deposito sias duos greivas valischs as mettet el in via Vers chesa. Uschè, culs mauns vöds e sainza pais terrester, vulaiva ci fer quel ultim töch via chi l'eira steda uschè crappusa il di da sia partenza! (26)

Unifiable variants of one language, or many small languages. It is the discussion of the ideal characteristics of the intended 'Padanese language' (and of the arbitrary choices that such synthesis work would require): we bequathe it to the future and rely on the collective will of the heirs of the linguistic heritage that unites the peoples of northern Italy and Southern Switzerland.

Meanwhile, to finish this article, I propose a short sample of the synthetic language into which I translated the Gospel of St. Mark. I have used my unified spelling, a conservative consonantism, an innovating vowel system, more or less similar to the one of Milan, a "Cisalpine" morphosyntax inspired by the Friulian, and a deliberately panpadanese vocabulary. Here are the first eleven verses of the first chapter:

El Vangeli De Saint Marc - tradoit en lengua padaneisa - Capitol prim

Comenzament del Vangeli de Jesus Crist, Figl de Dieu, co ch'el es scrit en Isaia el profeta: "Guardaid, eu tramete el mieu nonzi denanz de tei, ch'el te pareja la via". La voux d'un chi clama ent el desért: "Preparaid la via del Segnour, egualivaid les soes sendes!" Ensi compari Joan ent el desèrt a batejar e a predegar un bateisem de penitenza per el perdon degl pecai. E l'entriega contrada de Judea e tuit egl abitants de Jerusalem jiven depruov a lui e se faxeiven batejar de lui ent el flum Jordaun, confessand egl lor pecai. Joan era vestiu de peil de cameil e el portava una ceinta de coiram entorn de la vita. El manjava cigales e miel selvàdega. E el predegava ensì: "Davors de mei el vein un chi es plui possent che ieu, e eu no sont miga degn de sbassar-me per desnoar les correjes degl suoi calzairs. Ieu eu vos hai batejai ent l'aigua, ma lui el vos batejarà ent el Spirit Saint".

Ent quel dis Jesus rivà de Nazaret de Galilea e vans batejau de Joan ent el Jordaun. E pròpi co ch'el vegniva fuor de l'aigua, el ciel se dervi e om vit a vegnir jos souvra de lui el Spirit Saint en forma d'una colomba. E una voux rivà del ciel dixend: "Tu ses el mieu Figl amau, en tei eu hai el mieu plaxeir".

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(1) Bernardino Biodelli, Saggio sui dialetti galloitalici, Milano, 1853. In particular pp. XXI-XXII;

(2) G.I. Ascoli, "L'Italia dialettale", AGI VIII (1882), p.103. Note that Ascoli excludes the Venetan dialects (which he considered more afine to Tuscan) from the Gallo-Italic group.

(3) The argumentations pro the Italianity of Ladin an Gallo-Italic, thesis proposed and supported by Carlo Salvioni, were summarized at the eve of second world war II by Carlo Battisti in Storia della 'Questione Ladina', Firenze, Le Monier, 1937. See also G.B. Pellegrini, "A proposito di 'ladino' e 'Ladini' ", in Saggi sul ladino dolomitico e sul friulano, Bari, Adriatica, 1972. pp 96-130.

(4) Relevant to this issue is G.B. Pellegrini's statement ("I cinque sistemi dell'italo-romanzo"):

"by 'Italo-Romance' I am referring to the various dialects of the Peninsula and the Islands which have chosen, since long time, Italian as a 'guiding language' " (Saggi di linguistica italiana,Turin, Boringhieri, 1975, pp. 56-7);

(5) The occitanist Pierre Bec writes: "Both innovative and archaic if compared to Gallo-Italic, Rhaeto-Friulian should be integrated anyway to the whole typological Gallo-Roman Italian or Cisalpine, of which it constitutes ….a marginal and conservative area" (Manuel pratique de philolpogie romane, Paris, Picard, 1970-71, vol. II, p 316);

(6) Significant are Ladinist Lois Craffonara's conditional concessions: "... even if it could one day conclusively prove an old Ladinity of ancient Venice and adjacent areas, today undoubtedly belonging to Italo-Romance [for us the Venetian is rather an Italianate Padanian dialect], there is no reason to regard the dialects of the Sella and Friuli as peripheral dialects of the Italian system, since it remains the indisputable fact that the old Padania belonged to the Gallo-Romance. Therefore, our dialects are -even in the case of a possible demonstration of the original Ladinity of Venetian area-the relics of a Romance civilisation one time widespread, but distinct from the Italian one" ("Zur Stellung der Sellamundarten in romanischen Sprachraum, Ladino, Sföi cultural Ladins from the Dolomites, 1 (1977), pp 73-120). The Swiss Andrea Schorta conceived an even greater 'Cisalpine-Ladin' unity cisalpina' ("Il rumantsch - grischun sco favella neolatina", Annalas da la Società Retorumantscha, LXXII (1959), pp 44-63), and his compatriot Heinrich Schmid says also that: «those features that Rhaeto-Romance shares with the Northern-Italian area (...) belong almost without exception to the common base of western Romance, which indicate precisely the unitalian nature of all these dialects» ("About Randgebiete und Sprachgrenzen "Vox Romanica, XV (1956), pp. 79-80);

(7) The Italianization of Liguria and Veneto (firstly evident in the restoration of the final unstressed vowels) was started already in the Middle Ages as a result of commercial and maritime contacts with the Peninsula instead;

(8) Ph.D. Thesis, unpublished, University of Sydney, 1982;

(9) V.G. Devoto, Il linguaggio d'Italia, Milano, Rizzoli, 1974, pp. 238-39. The so-called (and in fact little unitary) Padanian koiné at this time was, as the Venetian contemporary vernacular, an Italianate idiom rather than consciously Gallo-Romance.

(10) According to Sergio Salvi the idea is anachronistic rather than absurd. He writes about in "Lingue taliate" (Milan, Rizzoli, 1975): «While on the one hand it is clear that the characteristic features of Northern-Italian dialects are quite similar to each other and differ considerably both from official Italian and from the dialects of the center and south of the peninsula ... on the other hand it seems that the 'Italianization" of the northern-Italian territory (and its speech) is at a very advanced stage, irrimedialmente marked, also, by the massive immigration of central and especially southern Italians. Piedmont and Lombardy ... are probably urecoverable to their mother tongue. People of ALP (autonomous movement Padania Libera) attempt to circumvent the slender by focusing on marginalized and deprived areas that surround the great oasis of well-being (now converted to the state language ...): but we deem that they are betting on an as noble as lame horse. "Padanian", however, is yet to come even in "foreigner" areas of Northern-Italian (Ticino, Graubünden, Istria) where the population defends his identity by adopting (incorrectly) just official Italian « (pp. 85-85, No. 9)

(11) We have adapted to the common (proto-)Padanese the vowel spelling of modern Occitan, in which e, o, always represent closed vowels (e,o) and open vowels regularly bring a grave accent: è,ò. Central and Western Padanese agree with the Occitanic rendering of u as ü. As to consonants, we have stuck to traditional Italian orthography (a Padanian no less than Italian creation), aside from the following cases: the Italian digraphs ci, gi represent [tS] [dZ] in words of nonpadanese origin only, and when they spot the palatalized variants of cl, gl: otherwise, the Gallo-Romance (and so appropriate to the phonematic Padanian system) graphemes ) ç (= ci), j (= gi), e pure sc (= sci) are used. In intervocalic and final position, voiced and voiceless s are distinguished by the spelling s resp. ss. (messa, pass). Geminate proto-Padanese ll, rr, nn are always written, except in intervocalic position (rrat > rat, torr > tor, ma tèrra); however, mm is always represented by the spelling m, owing to the fact that the distinction mm ~ m was lost in Padania while the phonetic oppositions nn ~ n etc. went on for long. Velars [k] [g] in final position are written -c,-g (and not -ch, -gh since we have the opposed graphemes -ç, j instead) and the grapheme x, typical of ancient Padanian and modern Ligurian (as well as of Venetian xe!) always correponds to the outcomes of -c-, -si- (and sometimes -li-).

(12) In remote areas traces persist of umlaut phenomena, once normal in Gallo-Romance.

(13) The usual reference to the whole Italy as 'The Peninsula' is of course wrong, from the geographical point of view it is necessary to distinguish clearly between continental Italy (i.e. the Po Valley with the Ligurian coast and Istria) and the real Peninsular Italy which has Tuscany as its northern boundary.

(14) It is more than likely that in the past Romagna and the Veneto knew ü; as to Friuli and Istria (in which the linguistic clues seem completely absent) it is perhaps significant that the vowel system of the nearby Dalmatian once had ü, no doubt inherited from Padanian (cfr. col < cul < CULU).

(15) However, when the fall of final vowels is difficult, there appears a supportinf vowel which we

Transcribe -e, but can be pronounced, depending on the dialect, -i,-o (-u) and even -a: : MACRU > *magr > magre (magri, magro, magra). Magar is also a widespread variant in which there was a retraction of the vocal support of an earlier type *magra.

(16) Evidence of this fact are e.g. the ancient Venetian texts in which apocope is still common, and many false regressions of Ligurian, holding especially in the eastern Ligurian dialects bordering Tuscany. The final question of the restoration of final vowels is dealt with in my dissertation (cited in n. 8), at § 51.

(17) The velars [k] [g] turned to mediopalatal (c, g) in Cisalpine Gallo-Romance. It is likely that Milan was the epicenter of the phenomenon. This is still found in Rhaetian and Alpine Lombardy dialects (and there is some evidence in the Padanese of Sicily), but now the dialects that show c, g in each position are rare (consider that of Tresivio in Valtellina). In most of this territory the palatal c, g now concurr with the regressive variant k, g, as camp, costa, crepa, vaca, sac > camp, vaca, còsta, crepa, sac; formigra, fuog > magra, fuog. In north-eastern Padania a conditioned palatalization of k, g was accomplished independently in the late Middle Ages, bound to the simplification of qu, gu before (quand > cant: cant < cant, agua > aga, paga > paga). Both phenomena must be strictly distinguished from the similar development of French.

(18) In the high Middle Ages Padanese, as Old French and Occitan, had a two case declension (nominative and accusative). With the collapse of this two case system, in principle, the accusative forms (oblique) were generalized in the singular (types mort, caval), while in the plural the two variants fought for a long time. The Gallo-Italic and Venetian dialects preferred the nominative plurals (mort(i), cavagl), Romansh and Engadinese the accusative ones (morts, cavals), but Dolomitic Ladin and Friulian chose a compromise solution (compare Fri. muarts ~ cavai).

(19) Nino Autelli, La cros ëd ramuliva.

(20) Tommaso Grossi, La fuggitiva (poem).

(21) Aldo Acquarone, Creuze de Zena (poem).

(22) Tonino Guerra, La cuntrèda (poem).

(23) Paolo Segato, Come che l'à fat Met a catarse na femena.

(24) Aurelio Cantoni, Une peraule!

(25) Elsa Runggaldier, Lecurdanzes de l'ava.

(26) Selina Chönz, Il retuorn.

Other books by prof. Hull

Many thanks to raphaelo, rwoman, sangrinad for dropping a line in this guestbook!

Any comments or questions?

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great articles!!

    • profile image

      Donnette Davis 

      7 years ago from South Africa

      Dear Padaneis, wow, I can't even pretend to try and fool anyone, I think I looked pretty blank for most of this read lol... I found the information fascinating, although *true confessions* I didn't understand a lot of the introductory text. But I'm going to polish up and do a little research now... thank you!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow.. Very very interesting and useful lens. I love all you've presented here. Tweeted to all my fans. I'm so happy to visit this awesome lens. Have a wonderful time.. always.. dear, Padaneis :)

    • rwoman profile image


      7 years ago

      Very useful!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks, this answers one of my past questions!

      Thank you so much and bets wishes.


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