Venetian language

From Academic Kids

Venetian is a Romance language spoken by over two million people in and around Venice. Although commonly referred to as an Italian dialect (even by its speakers), it does not descend from the Italian language. The language is called (dialeto) Veneto or Venessian in Venetian.

Venetian should 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.

More precisely speaking, Venetian is just one of the different varieties in which Veneto language is spoken: for this reason in Italy (and Veneto, too) two different words are used: "vneto" referring to the language spoken in the whole region and "venesin/veneziano" as the vneto variety spoken in Venice area.

So, in English we may better say "vneto/venetan" to refer to the whole region and "venetian" to refer only to the variety spoken in Venice.

Venetian (Veneto)
Spoken in: Italy, Croatia, Mexico, Slovenia
Region: The Adriatic
Total speakers: 2,210,000
Genetic classification: Indo-European


Official status
Official language of: --
Regulated by: --
Language codes
ISO 639-1--
ISO 639-2roa
See also: LanguageList of languages


Venetian descends from Latin, like all other Romance languages (including Italian and the other so-called Italian dialects). However, Venetian and Italian branch off from each other after Italo-Western; whereas Venetian and Spanish branch off after Gallo-Iberian, and Venetian and French don't branch off until after Gallo-Romance. Therefore Venetian is genetically closer to French and Spanish than to Italian.

Although French and Venetian are mutually intelligibile only to a small degree (mostly due to major changes in French pronunciation over time), Spanish and Venetian are mutually comprehensible to some extent — certainly more so than Spanish and Italian.

Geographic Distribution

Venetian is spoken in the Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia and in both Slovenian and Croatian Istria. It is also spoken in North and South America by the descendants of Italian immigrants. Notable examples of this are the city of Chipilo, Mexico or the Talian spoken in Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul.

The language enjoyed substantial prestige in the days of the Venetian Republic. The plays of Carlo Goldoni are still performed today, and his characters — including Harlequin, Columbine, and Pierrot — have become part of the world's folklore. However, as a literary language Venetian was overshadowed by the Tuscan "dialect" of Dante, which eventually became the national language of Italy. Due to its non-official status, Venetian has steadily lost ground to Italian; at present, virtually all its speakers are bilingual and use Venetian only in informal contexts.

Language features

Familial attributes

Like all Romance languages, Venetian has mostly abandoned the Latin case system, in favor of prepositions and a more rigid SVO sentence structure It has thus become more analytic, if not quite as much as English. Venetian also has the Romance articles, both definite (derived from the Latin demonstrative illo) and indefinite (derived from the numeral uno).

Venetian also retained the Latin concepts of gender (masculine and feminine) and number (singular and plural). 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:

  • El gaton gras, "the fat big (male) cat".
  • La gatona grassa, "the fat big (female) cat".
  • I gatoni grassi, "the fat big (male) cats".
  • Le gatone grasse, "the fat big (female) cats".
  • un bel gatel, "a nice small (male) cat".
  • na bea gatea, "a nice small (female) cat".

Specific attributes

Venetian has only one sound not present in Italian, an interdental fricative [θ] spelled and similar to English th in thing and thought, to Castilian (not Latin-American) Spanish c(e,i)/z (as in cero, cien, zapato), and to Greek θ (theta); it occurs, for example, in ena ("supper"), which sounds the same as Castilian Spanish cena (same meaning). However this sound, which is present only in some variants of the language (Central Venetian, around Padua, Vicenza and the mouth of the river Po), is considered "provincial" and is therefore being replaced by other sounds like [s], [z], [sh]. Some linguists also distinguish a "normal L" from a "soft L" (spelled ł, its pronunciation has a dialectal range from an almost e in the region of Venice, to a partially vowelized l in the inland, to being lost in some mountaneous areas; thus gndoła may sound like gndoea, gndola or gndoa; this spelling prevents possible confusion between pairs like skła "school" and ska "broom").

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, bala, and pena in Venetian. The masculine singular ending, which is usually -o 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.

The Venetian lexicon has a large number of original word forms, such as tost ("lad", in Italian ragazzo), tcia ("pan", pentola), carga ("chair", sedia), ctoa ("skirt", sottana), bsi ("peas", piselli), sgorlr ("to shake", scuotere), and many more.

A peculiarity of Venetian grammar is the use of a redundant pronoun in some sentences, "echoing" the subject, i.e. venetian has a semi-analitycal verbal flexion:

  • Italian: (tu) eri sporco ("you were dirty").
  • Venetian: (ti) te jra sporc or even ti te jri/xeri sporco (lit. "you you were dirty").
  • Italian: il cane era sporco ("the dog was dirty").
  • Venetian: el can 'l jra sporc[o] ("the dog he was dirty").
  • Italian: (tu) ti sei domandato ("you have asked yourself").
  • Venetian: (ti) te te /ga/gh domand (lit. "you you yourself have asked").

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.

Venetian also has a special interrogative verbal flexion used for direct questions:

  • Italian: (tu) eri sporco? ("were you dirty?").
  • Venetian: (ti)jritu sporc? or even (ti) xrito sporco? (lit. you were-you dirty?)
  • Italian: il cane era sporco? ("was the dog dirty?").
  • Venetian: el can jrelo sporc[o]? ("the dog was-he dirty?").
  • Italian: (tu) ti sei domandato? ("you have asked yourself").
  • Venetian: (ti) te tu/gatu/ghtu/ghto domand? (lit. "you to-yourself have-you asked?")

Reflexive tenses use aux. "aver" (=to have) as english, german, spanish instead of italian "essere". Past participle is invariable, differently from italian:

  • Italian: (tu) ti sei lavato (lit. you yourself are washed)
  • Venetian: (ti) te te /ga/gh lav (lit. you yourself have washed)
  • Italian: (essi) si sono svegliati (lit. they themselves are wokenS up)
  • Venetian: (luri) i se ga/ svej (lit. they themselves have woken up)

Another peculiarity of the language is the use of the phrase dro a, literally "behind to", to indicate continuing action:

  • Italian: mio padre stava parlando ("my father was speaking").
  • Venetian: me pre 'l jra dro a parlr (lit. "my father he was behind to speak").

Another form for the continuing present action in some variations of Venitian in the countryside and in Chipilo, Mexico is (mi) son l che parle ("I am speaking"), instead of (mi) son dro a parlr.

The use of progressive tenses is more spread than that of their italian couterparts:

  • Italian: *Non sarei stato parlandoti (I wouldn't have been speaking to you)

In Italian this is incorrect and never used

  • Venetian: No sara ma st drio parlarte (I wouldn't have been speaking to you)

In Venetian this is used

Subordinate clauses have double introduction (whom that, when that, which that, how that), as in old english:

  • Italian: So di chi parli (I know about whom [you] speak)
  • Venetian: So de chi CHE te parli (lit. I know about whom that you-speak)

Writing System

Venetian does not have an official writing system, but it is commonly written using the Latin alphabet — sometimes with the addition of a couple of letters and/or diacritics for the sounds that do not exist in Italian, such as "" for [θ] or stroken-L. Otherwise, the spelling rules are mostly those of Italian, except that "x" traditionally sounds similar to the "z" in English "zero".

Recently there have been attempts to standardize the script, but these have not been very successful because of regional variations in pronunciation and incompatibility with existing literature.

Moreover the same letter can be used two represent different sounds in different varieties: for example Venice and Vicenza's "x" represents the voiced-S sound whereas the voiced interdental existing in other Vneto varieties is represented with "z". Many people especially in Padua, however, use the letter "z" to represent the voiced-S sound thus leading to confusion in the writing system. A couple of example is here below


El xe = he is (voiced-S), a xera = she was (voiced-S), AND El pianze = he cries (voiced interd).

But many people write:

El ze (=el xe: voiced-S), a zera (=a zera: voiced-S)!!

In the case of Chipilo, Mexico, there have been several attempts to establish a writing system for the Venetian dialect spoken in the city. Carolyn McKay, an American linguist who did research on the dialect while studying at the Universidad de las Amricas, created a system based entirely on the Italian alphabet, and publish it in a book entitled Il dialetto veneto di Segusino e Chipilo. This system has been used in some publications, but it did not receive wide acceptance by the speakers of the Venetian in Chipilo, since most of them prefer to use the Spanish system they learn at school, even if it does not contain letters for the voiced-S or for the [θ].

English words of Venetian origin

External links

de:Venezianische Sprache it:Dialetto veneto pl:Język wenecki


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