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|Region||Abruzzo, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Lazio, Marche, Molise|
|5.7 million (2002)|
Intermediate Southern Italian dialects
Neapolitan as part of the centro-southern Italian languages
Intermediate Southern Italian (Neapolitan)
Extreme Southern Italian
Neapolitan (autonym: (’o n)napulitano [(o n)napuliˈtɑːnə]; Italian: napoletano) is a Romance language of the Italo-Dalmatian group spoken across much of Southern Italy, except for southern Calabria, southern Apulia, and Sicily, and spoken in a small part of central Italy (the province of Ascoli Piceno in the Marche). It is named after the Kingdom of Naples that once covered most of the area, of which the city of Naples was the capital. On October 14, 2008, a law by the Region of Campania stated that Neapolitan was to be protected.
The term "Neapolitan language" is used broadly in this article to refer to the group of closely-related Romance dialects found in southern continental Italy, as described above. However, as the term itself implies, it may also refer more specifically to the language native to the city of Naples. In contexts ranging from colloquial speech to academic linguistics, “Neapolitan", napulitano or napoletano often refer to the specific varieties spoken in Naples and the immediately surrounding Naples metropolitan area.
In the broad view adopted here, the Neapolitan dialects are distributed throughout most of continental southern Italy, historically united during the Kingdom of Naples and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, specifically southern Lazio (Gaeta and Sora districts), southern Marche, Abruzzo, Molise, Basilicata, Campania (Naples), northern and central Apulia, and northernmost Calabria. The dialects are part of a varied dialect continuum, so the varieties in southern Lazio, Marche, Abruzzo, Molise, Apulia, Lucania and Calabria can typically be recognizable as regional groups of dialects. In western Abruzzo and Lazio the dialects give way to Central Italian dialects such as Romanesco. In central Calabria and southern Apulia, the dialects give way to the Sicilian language.
Largely due to massive Southern Italian migration in the late 19th century and 20th century, there are also a number of Neapolitan speakers in Italian diaspora communities in the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and Venezuela. However, in the United States, traditional Neapolitan has had considerable contact with English and the Sicilian languages spoken by Sicilian and Calabrian immigrants living alongside Neapolitan-speaking immigrants, and, subsequently, Neapolitan in the U.S. is now significantly different from contemporary Neapolitan spoken in Naples. English words are often used in place of Neapolitan words, especially among second-generation speakers. On the other hand, the effect of Standard Italian on Neapolitan in Italy has been similar due to the increasing displacement of Neapolitan by Standard Italian in daily speech.
The following dialects constitute Neapolitan; numbers refer to the map:
- Abruzzese and Southern Marchigiano:
- Ia. Southern Marchigiano (Ascoli Piceno).
- Ib. Teramano (province of Teramo; northern province of Pescara: Atri, Abruzzo).
- Ic. Abruzzese Eastern Adriatico (Southern province of Pescara: Penne, Francavilla al Mare; province of Chieti).
- Id. Western Abruzzese (southern part of province of L'Aquila: Marsica, Avezzano, Pescina, Sulmona, Pescasseroli, Roccaraso).
- Molisan (Molise)
- Apulian (Pugliese):
- IIIa. Dauno (western province of Foggia: Foggia, Bovino).
- IIIb. Garganico (eastern province of Foggia: Gargano).
- IIIc. Barese (province of Bari; western province of Taranto (includes Tarantino dialect); and part of the western province of Brindisi).
- Campanian (Campania),
- IVa. Southern Laziale (southern part of province of Frosinone: Sora, Lazio, Cassino; southern part of Province of Latina: Gaeta, Formia).
- IVb. Naples dialect (Neapolitan proper: Naples and the Gulf of Naples).
- IVc. Irpino (province of Avellino).
- IVd. Cilentano (southern part of province of Salerno: Vallo della Lucania).
- Lucanian and Northern Calabrian:
- Va. Northwestern Lucanian (northern province of Potenza: Potenza, Melfi).
- Vb. Northeastern Lucanian (province of Matera: Matera).
- Vc. Central Lucanian (province of Potenza: Lagonegro, Pisticci, Laurenzana).
- Vd. Southern Lucanian. The Lausberg area; archaic forms of Lucanian with Sardinian vocalism (described in Lausberg 1939). It lies between Calabria and Basilicata (Chiaromonte, Oriolo).
- Ve. Cosentian (province of Cosenza: Rossano, Diamante, Castrovillari). With transitional dialects to south of Cosenza, where they give way to Sicilian group dialects.
Neapolitan is a Romance language and is generally considered one of the Italo-Romance branch of the Italo-Dalmatian languages. There are notable differences among the various dialects, but they are all generally mutually intelligible.
Italian and Neapolitan are of variable mutual comprehensibility, depending on factors that are both affective and linguistic. There are notable grammatical differences, such as Neapolitan having nouns in the neuter form and a unique plural formation as well as historical phonological developments, which often obscure the cognacy of lexical items.
Its evolution has been similar to that of Italian and other Romance languages from their roots in Vulgar Latin. It may reflect a pre-Latin Oscan substratum, as in the pronunciation of the d sound as an r sound (rhotacism) at the beginning of a word or between two vowels: e.g. doje (feminine) or duje (masculine), meaning "two", is pronounced, and often spelled, as roje/ruje; vedé ("to see") as veré, and often spelled so; also cadé/caré ("to fall") and Madonna/Maronna). Another purported Oscan influence is the historical assimilation of the consonant cluster /nd/ as /nn/, pronounced [nː] (this is generally reflected in spelling more consistently: munno vs Italian mondo "world"; quanno vs Italian quando "when"), along with the development of /mb/ as /mm/~[mː] (tammuro vs Italian tamburo "drum"), also consistently reflected in spelling. Other effects of the Oscan substratum are postulated, but substratum claims are highly controversial. As in many other languages in the Italian Peninsula, Neapolitan has an adstratum greatly influenced by other Romance languages (Catalan, Spanish and Franco-Provençal above all), Germanic languages and Greek (both ancient and modern). The language had never been standardised, and the word for tree has three different spellings: arbero, arvero and àvaro.
Neapolitan has enjoyed a rich literary, musical and theatrical history (notably Giambattista Basile, Eduardo De Filippo, Salvatore Di Giacomo and Totò). Thanks to this heritage and the musical work of Renato Carosone in the 1950s, Neapolitan is still in use in popular music, even gaining national popularity in the songs of Pino Daniele and the Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare.
The language has no official status within Italy and is not taught in schools. The University of Naples Federico II offers (from 2003) courses in Campanian Dialectology at the faculty of Sociology, whose actual aim is not teaching students to speak the language, but studying its history, usage, literature and social role. There are also ongoing legislative attempts at the national level to have it recognized as an official minority language of Italy. It is however a recognized ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee language with the language code of nap.
Here is the IPA pronunciation of the Neapolitan spoken in the city of Naples:
|Our Father who art in heaven,||Pate nuoste ca staje 'n cielo,||[ˈpɑːtə ˈnwostə ka ˈstɑːjə nˈdʒjeːlə]|
|hallowed be thy name||santificammo 'o nomme tuojo||[sandifiˈkamm(ə) o ˈnommə ˈtwoːjə]|
|Thy kingdom come,||faje venì 'o regno tuojo,||[ˈfɑːjə vəˈni o ˈrɛɲɲə ˈtwoːjə]|
|Thy will be done,||sempe cu 'a vuluntà (t)toja,||[ˈsɛmbə ˈkɑː vulunˈda (t)ˈtɔːjə]|
|on earth as it is in heaven.||accussì 'n cielo accussì 'n terra.||[akkusˈsi nˈdʒjeːlə akkusˈsi nˈdɛrrə]|
|Give us this day our daily bread||Fance avé 'o ppane tutte 'e juorne||[ˈfandʒ aˈve o pˈpɑːnə ˈtutt e ˈjwornə]|
|and forgive us our trespasses||liévace 'e diébbete||[ˈljeːvəʃ(ə) e ˈrjebbətə]|
|as we forgive those who trespass against us,||comme nuje 'e llevamme a ll'ate,||[ˈkommə ˈnuːjə e lləˈvammə a lˈlɑːtə]|
|and lead us not into temptation,||nun ce fa spantecà,||[nun dʒə ˈfa ʃpandəˈka]|
|but deliver us from evil.||e lliévace 'o mmale 'a tuorno.||[e lˈljeːvəʃ(ə) o mˈmɑːl(ə) a ˈtwornə]|
Alphabet and pronunciation
Neapolitan orthography consists of 22 Latin letters. Much like Italian orthography, it does not contain k, w, x, or y even though these letters might be found in some foreign words; unlike Italian, it does contain the letter j. The English pronunciation guidelines that follow are based on General American pronunciation and the values used may not be applicable to other dialects. (See also: International Phonetic Alphabet chart for English dialects.)
All Romance languages are closely related. Although Neapolitan shares a high degree of its vocabulary with Italian, the official language of Italy, differences in pronunciation often make the connection unrecognizable to those without knowledge of Neapolitan. The most striking phonological difference is the Neapolitan weakening of unstressed vowels into schwa (schwa is pronounced like the a in about or the u in upon). However it is also possible (and quite common for some Neapolitans) to speak standard Italian with a "Neapolitan accent"; that is, by pronouncing un-stressed vowels as schwa or by pronouncing the letter s as [ʃ] (like the sh in ship) instead of /s/ (like the s in sea or the ss in pass) when the letter is in initial position followed by a consonant, but not when it is followed by a dental occlusive /t/ or /d/ (at least in the purest form of the language) but by otherwise using only entirely standard words and grammatical forms. This is not Neapolitan proper, but a mere difference in Italian pronunciation.
Therefore, while pronunciation presents the strongest barrier to comprehension, the grammar of Neapolitan is what sets it apart from Italian. In Neapolitan, for example, the gender and number of a word is expressed by a change in the accented vowel, whereas in Italian it is expressed by a change in the final vowel (e.g. luongo [ˈlwoŋɡə], longa [ˈloŋɡə]; Italian lungo, lunga; masc. "long", fem. "long"). These and other morpho-syntactic differences distinguish the Neapolitan language from the Italian language and the Neapolitan accent.
While there are only five graphic vowels in Neapolitan, phonemically, there are eight. Stressed vowels e and o can be either "closed" or "open" and the pronunciation is different for the two. The grave accent (à, è, ò) is used to denote open vowels, and the acute accent (é, í, ó, ú) is used to denote closed vowels, with alternative ì and ù. However, accent marks are not commonly used in the actual spelling of words except when they occur on the final syllable of a word, such as Totò, arrivà, or pecché and when they appear here in other positions it is only to demonstrate where the stress, or accent, falls in some words. Also, the circumflex is used to mark a long vowel where it wouldn't normally occur (e.g. sî "you are").
|a is usually open and is pronounced like the a in father |
when it is the final, unstressed vowel, its pronunciation is indistinct and approaches the sound of the schwa
|stressed, open e is pronounced like the e in bet|
stressed, closed e is pronounced like the a in fame except that it does not die off into ee
unstressed e is pronounced as a schwa
|stressed, open o is pronounced like the o in often|
stressed, closed o is pronounced like the o in closed except that it does not die off into oo
unstressed o is pronounced as a schwa
|i is always closed and is pronounced like the ee in meet |
when it is initial, or preceding another vowel
|u is always closed and is pronounced like the oo in boot |
when it is initial, or preceding another vowel
|pronounced the same as the p in English spill (not as the p in pill, which is aspirated)|
voiced after m
|b||/b/||pronounced the same as in English, always geminated when preceded by another vowel|
|dental version of the English t as in state (not as the t in tool, which is aspirated)|
voiced after n
|d||/d/||dental version of the English d|
|when followed by e or i the pronunciation is somewhere between the sh in share and the ch in chore, especially after a vowel |
otherwise it is like the k in skip (not like the c in call, which is aspirated)
in both cases voiced after n
|when followed by e or i the pronunciation is like the g of germane, always geminated when preceded by another vowel |
otherwise it is like the g in gum
|f||/f/||pronounced the same as in English|
|v||/v/||pronounced the same as in English|
|pronounced the same as in English sound unless it comes before a consonant other than /t d n r l/ |
pronounced as ds in lads after n
pronounced as English z before d
|pronounced sh when followed by a voiceless consonant (except /t/) |
zh when followed by a voiced consonant (except /n d r l/)
|voiced z is pronounced like the ds in lads |
unvoiced z (not occurring after n) is pronounced like the ts in jetsam
|j||/j/||referred to as a semi-consonant, is pronounced like English y as in yet|
|l||/l/||pronounced the same as in English|
|m||/m/||pronounced the same as in English|
|n||/n/||pronounced the same as in English; if followed by a consonant, it variously changes its point of articulation|
|r||/r/~[ɾ]||when between two vowels it is sounds very much like the American tt in butter but in reality it is a single tic of a trilled r |
when at the beginning of a word or when preceded by or followed by another consonant, it is trilled
|q||/kʷ/||represented by orthographic qu, pronounced the same as in English|
|h||h is always silent and is only used to differentiate words pronounced the same and otherwise spelled alike (e.g. a, ha; anno, hanno)|
and after g or c to preserve the hard sound when e or i follows (e.g. ce, che; gi, ghi)
|x||/k(ə)s/||pronounced like the cks in backs or like the cchus in Bacchus; this consonant sequence does not occur in native Neapolitan or Italian words|
Digraphs and trigraphs
The following clusters are always geminated if vowel-following.
|gn||/ɲ/||palatal version of the ni in the English onion|
|gl(i)||/ʎ/~[ʝ]||palatal version of the lli in the English million, most commonly realized like a strong version of y in the English yes.|
|sc||/ʃ/||when followed by e or i it is pronounced as the sh in the English ship|
The Neapolitan classical definite articles (corresponding to the English word "the") are la (feminine singular), lo (masculine singular) and li (plural for both), but in reality these forms will probably only be found in older literature (along with lu and even el), of which there is much to be found. Modern Neapolitan uses, almost entirely, shortened forms of these articles which are:
Before a word beginning with a consonant:
These definite articles are always pronounced distinctly.
Before a word beginning with a vowel, l’ or ll’ are used for both masculine and feminine, for both singular and plural. Although both forms can be found, the ll’ form is by far the most common.
It is well to note that in Neapolitan the gender of a noun is not easily determined by the article, so other means must be used. In the case of ’o which can be either masculine singular or neuter singular (there is no neuter plural in Neapolitan), when it is neuter the initial consonant of the noun is doubled. As an example, the name of a language in Neapolitan is always neuter, so if we see ’o nnapulitano we know it refers to the Neapolitan language, whereas ’o napulitano would refer to a Neapolitan man.
Likewise, since ’e can be either masculine plural or feminine plural, when it is feminine plural, the initial consonant of the noun is doubled. As an example, consider ’a lista which in Neapolitan is feminine singular for "list." In the plural it becomes ’e lliste.
There can also be problems with nouns whose singular form ends in e. Since plural nouns usually end in e whether masculine or feminine, the masculine plural is often formed by orthographically changing the spelling. As an example, consider the word guaglione (which means "boy", or "girl" in the feminine form):
|Masculine||’o guaglione||’e guagliune|
|Feminine||’a guagliona||’e gguaglione|
More will be said about these orthographically changing nouns in the section on Neapolitan nouns.
A couple of notes about consonant doubling:
- Doubling is a function of the article (and certain other words), and these same words may be seen in other contexts without the consonant doubled. More will be said about this in the section on consonant doubling.
- Doubling only occurs when the consonant is followed by a vowel. If it is followed by another consonant, such as in the word spagnuolo (Spanish), no doubling occurs.
The Neapolitan indefinite articles, corresponding to the English a or an, are presented in the following table:
|Before words beginning with a consonant||nu||na|
|Before words beginning with a vowel||n’|
In Neapolitan there are four finite moods: indicative, subjunctive, conditional and imperative, and three non-finite modes: infinitive, gerund and participle. Each mood has an active and a passive form. The only auxiliary verbs used in the active form is (h)avé (Eng. "to have", It. avere), which contrasts with Italian in which the intransitive and reflexive verbs take èssere for their auxiliary. For example, we have:
|Nap.||Aggio stato a Nnapule ajere.||AUX-HAVE-1st-SING-PRES "be"-PART-PAST "in"-PREP "Naples"-NOUN "yesterday"-ADVERB|
|It.||Sono stato a Napoli ieri.||AUX-BE-1st-SING-PRES "be"-PART-PAST "in"-PREP "Naples"-NOUN "yesterday"-ADVERB|
|Eng.||I was in Naples yesterday.|
Doubled initial consonants
- All feminine plural nouns, when preceded by the feminine plural definite article, ’e, or by any feminine plural adjective, have their initial consonant doubled.
- All neuter singular nouns, when preceded by the neuter singular definite article, ’o, or by a neuter singular adjective, have their initial consonant doubled.
- In addition, other words also trigger this doubling. Below is a list of words that trigger the doubling of the initial consonant of the word that follows.
However, when there is a pause after the "trigger" word, the phonological doubling does not occur (e.g. tu sî (g)guaglione, [You are a boy], where sî is a "trigger" word causing doubling of the initial consonant in guaglione but in the phrase ’e do sî, guaglió? [Where are you from, boy?] no doubling occurs). Neither does doubling occur when the initial consonant is followed by another consonant (e.g. ’o ttaliano [the Italian language], but ’o spagnuolo [the Spanish language], where ’o is the neuter definite article). This is what happens phonologically and no orthographic change is required. The same thing happens in Italian, where multiple words trigger first-consonant doubling, e.g. la casa but a (c)casa, io e (t)te, etc.
Words that trigger doubling in pronunciation
- The conjunctions e and né but not o (e.g. pane e ccaso; né (p)pane né (c)caso; but pane o caso)
- The prepositions a, pe, cu (e.g. a (m)me; pe (t)te; cu (v)vuje)
- The negation nu, short for nun (e.g. nu ddicere niente)
- The indefinites ogne, cocche (e.g. ogne (c)casa; cocche (c)cosa)
- Interrogative che and relative che but not ca (e.g. che (p)piense? che (f)femmena! che (c)capa!)
- accussí (e.g. accussí (b)bello)
- From the verb "essere," so’; sî; è but not songo (e.g. je so’ (p)pazzo; tu sî (f)fesso; chella è (M)Maria; chilli so’ (c)cafune but chilli songo cafune)
- chiú (e.g. chiú (p)poco)
- The number tre (e.g. tre (s)segge)
- The neuter definite article ’o (e.g. ’o (p)pane, but nu poco ’e pane)
- The neuter pronoun ’o (e.g. ’o (t)tiene ’o (p)pane?)
- Demonstrative adjectives chistu and chillu which refer to neuter nouns in indefinite quantities (e.g. chistu (f)fierro; chillu (p)pane) but not in definite quantities (e.g. Chistu fierro; chillu pane)
- The feminine plural definite article ’e (e.g. ’e (s)segge; ’e (g)guaglione)
- The plural feminine pronoun ’e (’e (g)guaglione ’e (c)chiamme tu?)
- The plural masculine pronoun ’e preceding a verb, but not a noun (’e guagliune ’e (c)chiamme tu?)
- The locative lloco (e.g. lloco (s)sotto)
- From the verb stà: sto’ (e.g. sto’ (p)parlanno)
- From the verb puté: può; pô (e.g. isso pô (s)sapé)
- Special case Spiritu (S)Santo
- Neapolitan at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Minahan, James (2002). Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: L-R. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 1348. ISBN 978-0-313-32111-5.
- J.-P. Cavaillé; Le napolitain : une langue majoritaire minorée. 09 mars 2007.
- The Guardian for the list of languages in the Unesco site.
- "Tutela del dialetto, primo via libera al Ddl campano" Archived 27 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine ("Bill to protect dialect green lighted") from Il Denaro, economic journal of South Italy, 15 October 2008 Re Franceschiello. L'ultimo sovrano delle Due Sicilie
- Ledgeway, Adam. 2009. Grammatica diacronica del napoletano. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, pp. 3, 13-15
- Radtke, Edgar. 1997. I dialetti della Campania. Roma: Il Calamo. pp. 39ff
- Carta dei Dialetti d'Italia Archived 3 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine (Mapping of dialects of Italy) by Giovan Battista Pellegrini, 1977 (in Italian)
- Hammarström, Harald & Forkel, Robert & Haspelmath, Martin & Nordhoff, Sebastian. 2014. "Italo-Dalmatian" Glottolog 2.3. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
- Colantoni, Laura, and Jorge Gurlekian."Convergence and intonation: historical evidence from Buenos Aires Spanish", Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, Volume 7, Issue 02, August 2004, pp. 107–119, Cambridge Journals Online
- Canepari, Luciano (2005), Italia (PDF), Manuale di fonetica, Lincom Europa, pp. 282–283, ISBN 3-89586-456-0, archived from the original (PDF) on 6 June 2011 (in Italian)
- Iandolo, Carlo (2001). A lengua ’e Pulecenella: Grammatica napoletana (in Italian). Sorrento: Franco Di Mauro. ISBN 978-8885263710.
- De Blasi, Nicola; Imperatore, Luigi (2001). Il napoletano parlato e scritto: Con note di grammatica storica [Written and Spoken Neapolitan: With Notes on Historic Grammar] (in Italian) (2nd ed.). Napoli: Dante & Descartes. ISBN 978-8888142050.
- Del Vecchio, Emilano (3 July 2014). "Neapolitan: A Great Cultural Heritage". TermCoord.
- Verde, Massimiliano (17 June 2017). "Consegnato il primo Certificato Europeo di Lingua Napoletana" [Granted the first European Certificate of the Neapolitan language]. NapoliToday (in Italian). First Course of Neapolitan Language according to the QCER CEFR with the Patronage of City of Naples realized by Dr.Massimiliano Verde "Corso di Lingua e Cultura Napoletana" with a document of study in Neapolitan Language by Dr.Verde
First public document in Neapolitan Language of the XXI century according to a text of Dr.Verde; the touristic Map of the III Municipality of Naples in Neapolitan Language:
- Palmieri, Paola (22 June 2017). "Napoli per turisti: arriva la prima mappa con info in napoletano e italiano!" [Naples for turists: Released the first map with text in Neapolitan and Italian!]. Grandenapoli (in Italian).
- "A Napoli nasce la prima mappa turistica con info in italiano e napoletano". Vesuvio Live (in Italian). 21 June 2017.
|Neapolitan edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|Neapolitan edition of Wikisource, the free library|
- Neapolitan recognized by UNESCO (in Italian)
- Websters Online Dictionary Neapolitan–English
- Interactive Map of languages in Italy
- Neapolitan on-line radio station
- Neapolitan glossary on Wiktionary
- Italian-Neapolitan searchable online dictionary
- Neapolitan basic lexicon at the Global Lexicostatistical Database
- Grammar primer and extensive vocabulary for the Neapolitan dialect of Torre del Greco
- Neapolitan language and culture (in Italian)
- Prosodic detail in Neapolitan Italian. By Francesco Cangemi. Berlin: Language Science Press. 187pp. Free download