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The linguistic unity of Northern Italy and Rhaetia

Updated on May 18, 2012

Prof. G.Hull's 1982 PhD thesis at Sydney university

The Linguistic Unity of Northern Italy and Rhaetia is prof. Hull's 1982 PhD thesis, a pioneering work consisting in a thorough description of the features of the Padanian language, spotted out as being a synthesis of the Rhaeto-Romance and Cisalpine linguistic diasystems.

This thesis consists in both an analysis and a synthesis of the Rhaeto-Cisalpine dialects, starting from the studies of Ascoli, Gartner and Rohlfs, none of which, however, is concerned with the speech of both Romance Rhaetia and the whole of Northern Italy and southern Switzerland.

Thus, supplementary material is culled from dialect dictionaries and grammars, medieval and modern texts, and from the Sprach- und Sachatlas Italiens und der Südschweiz (AIS).

Also, direct information from dialect-speakers resident in Australia is used.

Jump to downloading «The Linguistic Unity of Northern Italy and Rhaetia», free of charge.

The scientific framework

In 1982, much of the setting-cut and interpretation of particular linguistic phenomena in this work was pioneering, for instance:

• the distinction of "Lombard Padanian" and "Byzantine Padanian" types of tonic vocalism;

• the recognition of two bouts of phonemic lengthening of tonic vowels:

• the assumption of a universal tendency towards syncope and apocope of atonic vowels in early medieval Padania;

• the division of consonantal phonemes into strong, weak, neutral and complex types

• the discussion of the origin of Rhaeto-Cisalpine betacism of v-;

• the reinterpretation of "assibilation" as a coalescence of parallel palatal and sibilant consonants;

• the reinterpretation of "assibilation" as a coalescence of parallel palatal and sibilant consonants;

• the isolation of two separate bouts of palatalization of k and g.

Such a setting proved to be the most effective way to demonstrate the essential homogeneity of the vernaculars under investigation, i.e. those known since then as Rhaeto-Romance, Ladin, Gallo-Italic or Venetian.

The outline of external linguistic history included in this thesis presupposes a diachronic division of Rhaeto-Cisalpine speech into six broad periods:

• Vulgar Latin (c. 200 B.C. - A.D. 500);

• Gallo-Roman (500-850);

• Early Old Padanian (the pre-literary period, 850 - 1100);

• Late Old Padanian (1100 - 1320);

• Middle Padanian (1320 - 1500);

• Modern Padanian (1500 to the present).

See also a summary of this thesis by prof. Hull himself, originally written in Italian and translated into English by Claudi Meneghin.

Unified Padanian Orthography (UPO)

As a consequence of its general setting, in The Linguistic Unity of Northern Italy and Rhaetia a unified phonemic notation was devised, featuring one grapheme per Gallo-Roman phoneme. This was called Unified Padanian Orthography (UPO) (of which Standard Padanian Orthography (SPO) is a further development, see Meneghin 2010; see also Meneghin 2007).

The Gallo-Roman phase in the evolution of Rhaeto-Cisalpine rather than Vulgar Latin was the starting point in Hull's analysis of individual phonemes and morphemes, the Latin origins of these forms being considered jointly for each major grammatical group.

The synthetic aspect of the thesis was completed by the experimental canonization of a consistent set of archetypes intended to represent the Rhaeto-Cisalpine system as a whole in a "Standard Padanian" version of the St. Mark gospel. Chapter 4 is available with audio track recorded from the voice of a native speaker of an alpine Lombard dialect (see here below).

St.Mark Gospel (chapter four) translated into Padanian

St.Mark Gospel -- chapter four, translated into Padanian by prof. G.Hull. Read by a native speaker of an alpine Lombard variant. Orthography: prof. Hull's UPO, unified Padanian orthography.

From 1982 PhD thesis: "The linguistic unity of northern Italy and Rhaetia". Courtesy of prof. G.Hull

Download The Linguistic Unity of Northern Italy and Rhaetia from Sydney university library

Full text of prof. Hull's PhD thesis The Linguistic Unity of Northern Italy and Rhaetia is now available free of charge for download from Sydney university library (The Sydney eScholarship Repository):

Download The Linguistic Unity of Northern Italy and Rhaetia.

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Sample lexical maps

In the following sections, you will be able to take a look at five from the lexical maps in The Linguistic Unity of Northern Italy and Rhaetia. All items written in Hull's Unified Padanian Orthography

83 - Chair


85 - To light

To light
To light

105 - Cheese


120 - Potato


36 - Today


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Abbreviations and Symbols


Phonetic Transcription


Phonemic Notation




Part One: History of the Padanian Dialects


A. The Formation of a Rhaeto-Cisalpine Linguistic System


B. Factors of Disintegration


i. Effects of the Lombard-Byzantine Partition of Northern Italy


ii. The Individuation of Ladinia.


iii. Effects of the Italic Tradition in Cisalpine Padania.


iv. The Tuscan "Conquest" of Cisalpine Padania


C. Modern Classifications of the Padanian Dialects


Part Two: Phonology


A. Vocalism


B. Consonantism


Part Three: Morphology and Syntax


The Noun


The Pronoun


The Verb


Invariable Forms


Part Four: Conclusion


Part Five: Corollary


El Vangeli de Saint Marc tradoit en lengua padaneisa




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Other books by prof. Hull

Any comments or questions?

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very nice and interesting lens, great job!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very interesting and informative. Thanks.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Wow!!!It's very informative.keep on writing more on this wishes for your lens.

    • madoc profile image


      6 years ago

      Intriguing. Didn't expect to find a kindred soul on Squidoo interested in historical linguistics! I'm interested, among other things, in early Celtic so finding "cadriega" (83 above), which is "cadair/y gadair" in Welsh, is a nice reminder that there were Celtic settlements in and around what we now call Slovenia

    • Rangoon House profile image


      6 years ago from Australia

      Certainly a worthy thesis.

    • SophiaStar LM profile image

      SophiaStar LM 

      6 years ago

      Very interesting and fascinating. My father comes from the Marche region I speak fluent Italian and I have to say there are so many dialects that not only myself but my family in Italy have a hard time understanding.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice lens

    • WriterJanis2 profile image


      6 years ago

      It's obvious you know a lot about the subject matter. Thumbs up.


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