Venetian language

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Native to Italy, Slovenia and Croatia
Region Veneto[1][2]
Friuli-Venezia Giulia[1][2]
Native speakers
3.9 million (2002)[5]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 vec
Glottolog vene1258[6]
Linguasphere 51-AAA-n
Idioma véneto.PNG
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
A sign in Venetian reading "Here we also speak Venetian".
Map showing the spreading of Romance languages; Venetian is number 15

Venetian or Venetan (Venetian: vèneto, vènet or łéngua vèneta) is a Romance language spoken as a native language by almost four million people,[7] mostly in the Veneto region of Italy, where most of the five million inhabitants can understand it. It is sometimes spoken and often well understood outside Veneto, in Trentino, Friuli, Venezia Giulia, Istria, and some towns of Dalmatia. Venetian is usually referred to as an Italian dialect although it is a Western Romance language, a different branch of Romance from that of Italian. Some authors include it among the Gallo-Italic languages,[8] but by most authors, it is treated as separate.[9] Typologically, Venetian has little in common with the Gallo-Italic languages of northwestern Italy, but shows some affinity to nearby Istriot.

Modern Venetian is not a close relative of the extinct Venetic language spoken in the Veneto region before Roman expansion, although both are Indo-European, and Venetic may have been an Italic language, like Latin, the ancestor of Venetian and most other languages of Italy. The earlier Venetic people gave their name to the city and region, which is why the modern language has a similar name.


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A street sign (nizioléto) in Venice using the Venetian calle, as opposed to the Italian via.
"Lasa pur dir" (Let them speak), an inscription on the Venetian House in Piran, southwestern Slovenia

Venetian is descended from Vulgar Latin and influenced by the Italian language. Venetian is attested as a written language in the 13th century. There are also influences and parallelisms with Greek and Albanian in words such as pirón (fork), inpiràr (to fork), caréga (chair) and fanèla (T-shirt).

The language enjoyed substantial prestige in the days of the Venetian Republic, when it attained the status of a lingua franca in the Mediterranean. Notable Venetian-language authors include the playwrights Ruzante (1502–1542), Carlo Goldoni (1707–1793) and Carlo Gozzi (1720–1806). Following the old Italian theatre tradition (Commedia dell'Arte), they used Venetian in their comedies as the speech of the common folk. They are ranked among the foremost Italian theatrical authors of all time, and plays by Goldoni and Gozzi are still performed today all over the world. Other notable works in Venetian are the translations of the Iliad by Casanova (1725–1798) and Francesco Boaretti, and the poems of Biagio Marin (1891–1985). Notable too is a manuscript titled "Dialogue of Cecco di Ronchitti of Brugine about the New Star" attributed to Girolamo Spinelli, perhaps with some supervision by Galileo Galilei for scientific details.[10]

However, as a literary language Venetian was overshadowed by Dante's Tuscan "dialect" (the best known writers of the Renaissance, such as Petrarch, Boccaccio and Machiavelli, were Tuscan and wrote in the Tuscan language) and the French languages like Provençal and the Oïl languages.

Even before the demise of the Republic, Venetian gradually ceased to be used for administrative purposes in favor of the Tuscan-derived Italian language that had been proposed and used as a vehicle for a common Italian culture, strongly supported by eminent Venetian humanists and poets, from Pietro Bembo (1470–1547), a crucial figure in the development of the Italian language itself, to Ugo Foscolo (1778–1827).

Virtually all modern Venetian speakers are diglossic with Italian. The present situation raises questions about the language's medium term survival. Despite recent steps to recognize it, Venetian remains far below the threshold of inter-generational transfer with younger generations preferring standard Italian in many situations. The dilemma is further complicated by the ongoing large-scale arrival of immigrants, who only speak or learn standard Italian.

In the past however, Venetian was able to spread to other continents as a result of mass migration from the Veneto region between 1870 and 1905 and 1945 and 1960. This itself was a by-product of the 1866 annexation, because the latter subjected the poorest sectors of the population to the vagaries of a newly integrated, developing national industrial economy centered on north-western Italy. Tens of thousands of peasants and craftsmen were thrown off their lands or out of their workshops, forced to seek better fortune overseas.

Venetian migrants created large Venetian-speaking communities in Argentina, Brazil (see Talian), and Mexico (see Chipilo Venetian dialect), where the language is still spoken today. Internal migrations under the Fascist regime also sent many Venetian speakers to other regions of Italy, like southern Lazio.

Presently, some firms have chosen to use the Venetian language in advertising as a famous beer did some years ago (Xe foresto solo el nome - only the name is foreign){{[11]}}. In other cases advertisements in the Venice region are given a "Venetian flavour" by adding a Venetian word to standard Italian: for instance an airline used the verb "xe" (Xe sempre più grande - It is always bigger) into an Italian sentence (the correct Venetian being el xe sempre più grando)[12] to advertise new flights from Marco Polo Airport.

On March 28, 2007 the Regional Council of Vèneto officially recognized the existence of the Venetian language (Łéngua Vèneta) by passing with an almost unanimous vote a law on the "Tutela e valorizzazione della lingua e della cultura veneta" (Law on the Protection and Valorisation of the Venetian Language and Culture) with the vote of both governing and opposition parties.

Geographic distribution

Venetian is spoken mainly in the Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia and in both Slovenia and Croatia (Istria, Dalmatia and the Kvarner Gulf). Smaller communities are found in Lombardy, Trentino, Emilia Romagna (in Mantua, Rimini, and Forlì), Sardinia (Arborea, Tanca Marchese, Fertilia), Lazio (Pontine Marshes), and formerly in Romania (Tulcea).

It is also spoken in North and South America by the descendants of Italian immigrants. Notable examples of this are the city of São Paulo, Brazil, and the Talian dialect spoken in the Brazilian states of Espírito Santo, São Paulo, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina.

In Mexico, Venetian is spoken in the state of Puebla and the town of Chipilo. The town was settled by immigrants from the Veneto region, and some of their descendants have preserved the language to this day. People from Chipilo have gone on to make satellite colonies in Mexico, especially in the states of Guanajuato, Queretaro, and Estado de Mexico. Venetian has also survived in the state of Veracruz, where other Italian migrants have settled from the late 1800s. The people of Chipilo preserve their dialect and call it chipileño and this has been preserved as a variant since the 19th century. The variant of the Venetan language spoken by the Cipiłàn (or chipileños) is northern Trevisàn-Feltrìn-Belumàt.

In 2009, the Brazilian city of Serafina Corrêa, in the State of Rio Grande do Sul, gave Talian a joint official status, alongside Portuguese.[13][14] Until the middle of the 20th century, Venetian was also spoken on the Greek Island of Corfu, which had long been under the rule of the Republic of Venice. Moreover, Venetian had been adopted by a large proportion of the population of Cefalonia, another Ionian Island, because the island was part of the Domini da Màr for almost three centuries.[15]


Venetian is a Romance language and thus descends from Vulgar Latin. It belongs to the Italo-Romance group, most closely related to Istriot on the one hand and Tuscan–Italian on the other.[16]

Despite the language region being surrounded by Gallo-Italic languages, Venetian does not share traits with its immediate neighbours. Scholars stress Venetian's characteristic lack of Gallo-Italic traits (agallicità)[17] or traits found further afield in Gallo-Romance (e.g. Occitan, French, Franco-Provençal)[18] or Rhaeto-Romance (e.g. Friulian, Romansch). For example, Venetian did not undergo vowel rounding or nasalization, palatalize /kt/ and /ks/, or develop rising diphthongs /ei/ and /ou/, and it preserved final syllables, whereas, like in Italian, Venetian diphthongization occurs in historically open syllables.

Regional variants

The main regional varieties and subvarieties of Venetian are

All these variants are mutually intelligible, with a minimum 92% between the most diverging ones (Central and Western). Modern speakers reportedly can still understand Venetian texts from the 14th century to some extent.

Other noteworthy variants are spoken in


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Like most Romance languages, Venetian has mostly abandoned the Latin case system, in favor of prepositions and a more rigid subject–verb–object 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 ille) and indefinite (derived from the numeral unus).

Venetian also retained the Latin concepts of gender (masculine and feminine) and number (singular and plural). Unlike the Gallo-Iberian languages, which form plurals by adding -s, Venetian forms plurals in a manner similar to standard Italian. 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, but it is important to mention that the suffix might be deleted because the article is the part that suggests the number. However, Italian is influencing the Venetian Language :

  • el gato graso, the fat (male) cat.
  • ła gata grasa, the fat (female) cat.
  • i gati grasi, the fat (male) cats.
  • łe gate grase, the fat (female) cats.

In conservative Venetian, the article alone may convey the gender:

  • i gat gras, the fat (all males or males and females) cats.
  • łe gat gras, the fat (female) cats.
  • el gatòn graso, the fat big (male) cat.
  • ła gatòna grasa, the fat big (female) cat.
  • un bel gateło, a nice small (male) cat.
  • na beła gateła, a nice small (female) cat.

No native Venetic words seem to have survived in present Venetian, but there may be some traces left in the morphology, such as the morpheme -esto/asto/isto for the past participle, which can be found in Venetic inscriptions from about 500 BC:

  • Venetian: Mi go fazesto ('I have done')
  • Venetian Italian: Mi go fato
  • Standard Italian: Io ho fatto

Redundant subject pronouns

A peculiarity of Venetian grammar is a "semi-analytical" verbal flexion, with a compulsory "clitic subject pronoun" before the verb in many sentences, "echoing" the subject as an ending or a weak pronoun. Independent/emphatic pronouns (e.g. ti), on the contrary, are optional. The clitic subject pronoun (te, el/ła, i/łe) is used with the 2nd and 3rd person singular, and with the 3rd person plural. 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. (The Piedmontese language also has clitic subject pronouns, but the rules are somewhat different.) The function of clitics is particularly visible in long sentences, which do not always have clear intonational breaks to easily tell apart vocative and imperative in sharp commands from exclamations with "shouted indicative". For instance, in Venetian the clitic el marks the indicative verb and its masculine singular subject, otherwise there is an imperative preceded by a vocative. Although some grammars regard these clitics as "redundant", they actually provide specific additional information as they mark number and gender, thus providing number-/gender- agreement between the subject(s) and the verb, which does not necessarily show this information on its endings.

Interrogative inflection

Venetian also has a special interrogative verbal flexion used for direct questions, which also incorporates a redundant pronoun:

Italian Venetian
(Tu) eri sporco?
("Were you dirty?")
(Ti) jèristu onto?
or (Ti) xèrito spazo?
(lit. "You were-you dirty?")
Il cane era sporco?
("Was the dog dirty?")
El can jèreło onto?
(lit. "The dog was-he dirty?")
or Jèreło onto el can ?
(lit. "Was-he dirty the dog ?")
(Tu) ti sei domandato?
("Have you asked yourself?")
(Ti) te seto domandà?
(lit. "You to-yourself have-you asked?")

Auxiliary verbs

Reflexive tenses use the auxiliary verb avér ("to have"), as in English, German, and Spanish; instead of èssar ("to be"), which would be normal in Italian. The past participle is invariable, unlike Italian:

Italian Venetian
(Tu) ti sei lavato
(lit. "(You) yourself are washed")
(Ti) te te à/gà/ghè lavà
(lit. "(You) you yourself have washed")
(Loro) si sono svegliati
(lit. "(They) themselves are awakened")
(Lori) i se gà/à svejà
(lit. "(They) they themselves have awakened")

Continuing action

Another peculiarity of the language is the use of the phrase eser drìo (literally, "to be behind") to indicate continuing action:

  • Italian: Mio padre sta parlando ("My father is speaking").
  • Venetian: Mé pare 'l xe drìo(invià) parlàr (lit. "My father he is busy speaking").

Indeed the word drio=busy/engaged also appears in other sentences:

  • Venetian: So' drio far i mistieri lit. means "I am busy doing the housework" (=I'm doing it)
  • Venetian: Vo drio i mistieri lit. means "I go busy with the housework" (=I'm going to do it)
  • Venetian: Mé pare l'è in leto drio (invià) dormir lit. means "My father is in bed, busy sleeping" (=My father is sleeping in bed)

Another progressive form uses the construction "essar là che" (lit. "to be there that"):

  • Venetian: Me pàre 'l è là che 'l parla (lit. "My father he is there that he speaks").

The use of progressive tenses is more pervasive than in Italian; E.g.

  • English: "He wouldn't possibly have been speaking to you".
  • Venetian: No 'l sarìa mìa stat/stà drìo parlarte (lit. "Not-he would possibly have been behind to speak-to-you").

That construction does not occur in Italian: *Non sarebbe mica stato parlandoti is not syntactically valid.

Subordinate clauses

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 parla (lit. "(I) know about whom that you-speak").

As in other Romance languages, the subjunctive mood is widely used in subordinate clauses (although not always). Remarkably, although the use of subjunctive is weakening in many colloquial varieties of Italian, the Venetian subjunctive seems to be more resisting. For example, many Italian speakers often hesitate between subjunctive che fosse 'that...were' and indicative che era 'that...was' (though this phenomenon is generally sanctioned in the standard form), whereas almost no Venetian speaker would use the indicative in the following examples. Notice that it is hardly possible to distinguish a colloquial and a standard form, Venetian being used especially in the spoken form.

  • Std.Italian: Credevo che fosse... ("I thought that he were...")
  • Coll. Ital.: Credevo che era... ("I thought that he was...")
  • Venetian: Credéa/évo che 'l fuse... ("I thought that he were...")
  • Venetian: Credéa/évo che 'l *xera...

For the same reasons, although Italian speakers may accept both vada and vado 'I go-subj/indic.' in the colloquial style, nearly everybody would reject the Venetian indicative *vo in the following context.

  • Std.Italian: E' meglio che vada ("I'd better go", lit. "it is better that I go" subj.)
  • Std.Italian: E' meglio che vado ("I'd better go", lit. "it is better that I go" indic.)
  • Venetian: Xe mejo che vaga/vae ("I'd better go"-subj.)
  • Venetian: Xe mejo che *vo

Sound system

Consonant phonemes
Bilabial Labio-
Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɲ
Plosive voiceless p t k
voiced b d ɡ
Affricate voiceless t͡ʃ
voiced d͡ʒ
Fricative voiceless f s
voiced v z
Approximant central j
lateral l
Trill r

Some dialects of Venetian have certain sounds not present in Italian, such as the interdental voiceless fricative [θ], often spelled with ç, z, zh, or ž, and similar to English th in thing and thought. This sound occurs, for example, in çéna 'supper' (also written zhena, žena), which is pronounced the same as Castilian Spanish cena (same meaning). The voiceless interdental fricative occurs in Bellunese, north-Trevisan, and in some Central Venetian rural areas around Padua, Vicenza and the mouth of the river Po. Because the pronunciation variant [θ] is more typical of older speakers and speakers living outside of major cities, it has come to be socially stigmatized, and most speakers now use [s] or [ts] instead of [θ]. In those dialects with the pronunciation [s], the sound has fallen together with ordinary s, and so it is not uncommon to simply write s (or ss between vowels) instead of ç or zh (e.g. sena).

Similarly some dialects of Venetian also have a voiced interdental fricative, often written z (as in el pianze 'he cries'); but in most dialects this sound is now pronounced either as [dz] (i.e. Italian voiced-Z), or more typically as [z] (i.e. Italian voiced-S, written x, as in el pianxe); in a few dialects the sound appears as [d] and may therefore be written instead with the letter d, as in el piande.

Some varieties of Venetian also distinguish an ordinary [l] vs. a weakened or lenited ("evanescent") l, which in some orthographic norms is indicated with the letter ł; in more conservative dialects, however, both l and ł are merged as ordinary [l]. In those dialects that have both types, the precise phonetic realization of ł depends both on its phonological environment and on the dialect of the speaker. Typical realizations in the region of Venice include a voiced velar approximant or glide [ɰ] (usually described as nearly like an "e" and so often spelled as e), when ł is adjacent (only) to back vowels (a o u), vs. a null realization when ł is adjacent to a front vowel (i e). In dialects further inland ł may be realized as a partially vocalised l. Thus, for example, góndoła 'gondola' may sound like góndoea, góndola or góndoa, [ˈɡondoɰa, ˈɡondola, ˈɡondoa]. In dialects having a null realization of intervocalic ł, although pairs of words such as scóła 'school' and scóa 'broom' are homophonous (both being pronounced [ˈskoa]), they are still distinguished orthographically.

Venetian, like Spanish, does not have the geminate consonants characteristic of standard Italian, Tuscan, Neapolitan and other languages of southern Italy; thus Italian fette, 'slices', palla 'ball' and penna 'pen' correspond to féte, bała, and péna in Venetian. The masculine singular noun ending, corresponding to -o/-e in Italian, is often unpronounced in Venetian, particularly in rural varieties: Italian pieno ('full') corresponds to Venetian pien, Italian altare to Venetian altar. The extent to which final vowels are deleted in pronunciation does however vary by dialect: the central-southern varieties have deletion only after [n], whereas in the northern variety deletion occurs even after dental stops and velars; the eastern and western varieties exhibit patterns in between these two extremes.

The velar nasal consonant [ŋ] (the final sound in English song) also occurs frequently in Venetian, because word-final /n/ is always velarized and pronounced as [ŋ]. This phenomenon is especially obvious in the pronunciation of many local Venetian surnames that end in n, such as Marin [maˈɾiŋ] and Manin [maˈniŋ], as well as in common Venetian words such as man [ˈmaŋ] 'hand', piron [piˈɾoŋ] 'fork'. Speakers of Italian lack this sound and so usually substitute a (geminate) dental [n] for Venetian [ŋ], changing for example [maˈniŋ] to [maˈninː] and [maˈɾiŋ] to [maˈɾinː].

Sample etymological lexicon

As a direct descent of regional spoken Latin, the Venetian lexicon derives its vocabulary substantially from Latin and (in more recent times) from Tuscan, so that most of its words are cognate with the corresponding words of Italian. Venetian includes however many words derived from other sources (such as Greek, Gothic, and German) that are not cognate with their equivalent words in Italian, such as:

Venetian English Italian Venetian word origin
uncò, 'ncò, incò, ancò, ancùo, incoi today oggi from Latin hunc + hodie
apotèca pharmacy farmacia from Greek apotheke
trincàr to drink bere from German trinken 'to drink'
armelìn apricot albicocca from Latin armenīnus
astiàr to bore dare noia, seccare from Gothic haifsts meaning 'contest'
bagìgi peanuts arachidi from Arabic, habb-ajiz
becàr to be spicy hot essere piccante from Italian beccare, literally 'to peck'
bìgolo spaghetti vermicello, spaghetti from Latin (bom)byculus
bisàto, bisàta eel anguilla from Latin bestia 'beast', cf. also Ital. biscia (a kind of snake)
bìssa, bìsso snake serpente from Latin bestia 'beast', cf. also Ital. biscia (a kind of snake)
bìsi peas piselli related to the Italian word
isarda, risardola lizard lucertola from Latin lacertus, same origin as English lizard
trar via to throw tirare local cognate of Italian tirare via
calìgo fog nebbia foschia from Latin caligo
cantón corner/side angolo/parte from Latin cantus
catàr find+take trovare+prendere from Latin adcaptare
caréga, trón chair sedia from L cathedra and thronus (borrowings from Greek)
ciao hello, goodbye ciao from Venetian s-ciao 'slave' from popular Latin sclavus
ciapàr to catch, to take prendere from Latin capere
co when (non-interr.) quando from Latin cum
copàr to kill uccidere from Old Italian accoppare, originally 'to behead'
carpéta miniskirt gonna mini cf. English carpet
còtoła skirt sottana from Latin cotta 'coat, dress'
fanèla T-shirt maglietta borrowing from Greek
gòto, bicèr drinking glass bicchiere from Latin gut(t)us 'cruet'
insìa exit uscita from Latin in + exita
mi I io from Latin me 'me' (accusative case); Italian io is derived from the Latin nominative form ego
massa too much troppo from Greek maza
morsegàr, smorsegàr to bite mordere derverbal derivative, from Latin morsus 'bitten' (cf. Italian morsicare)
mustaci, mostaci moustaches baffi from Greek moustaki
munìn, gato, gatìn cat gatto perhaps onomatopoeic, from the sound of a cat's meow
meda big sheaf grosso covone from messe, mietere, cf. English meadow
musso donkey asino from Latin almutia 'horses eye binders (cap)' (cf. Provençal almussa, French aumusse)
nòtoła, notol, barbastrìo, signàpoła bat pipistrello derived from not 'night' (cf. Ital. notte)
pantegàna rat ratto from Slovene podgana
pinciàr beat, cheat, sexual intercourse imbrogliare, superare in gara, amplesso from French pincer (cf. English pinch)
pirón fork forchetta from Greek peirouni
pisalet dandelion tarassaco
plao far truant marinare scuola from German blau machen
pomo/pón apple mela from Latin pomus
sbregàr to break, to shred strappare from Gothic brikan, related to English to break and German brechen
schèi money denaro soldi from German Scheidemünze
saltapaiusk grasshopper cavalletta from salta 'hop' + paiusk 'grass' (Ital. paglia)
sghiràt schirata skirata squirrel scoiattolo Related to Italian word, probably from Greek skiouros
sgnapa spirit from grapes, brandy grappa acquavite from German Schnaps
sgorlàr, scorlàr to shake scuotere from Latin ex + crollare
sina rail rotaia from German Schiene
straco tired stanco from Lombard strak
strica line, streak, stroke, strip linea, striscia from the proto-Germanic root *strik, related to English streak, and stroke (of a pen). Example: Tirar na strica 'to draw a line'.
strucàr to press premere, schiacciare from proto-Germanic þrukjaną ('to press, crowd') through the Gothic or Langobardic language, related to Middle English thrucchen ('to push, rush'), German drücken ('to press'). Example: Struca un tasto / boton 'Strike any key/Press any button'.
supiàr, subiàr, sficiàr, sifolàr to whistle fischiare from Latin sub + flare (cf. French siffler)
tòr su to pick up raccogliere from Latin tollere
técia, téia, tegia pan pentola from Latin tecula
tosàt(o) (toxato), fio lad, boy ragazzo from tosare (Italian, 'to cut someone's hair')
puto, putèło, putełeto, butèl lad, boy ragazzo from Latin puer, putus
matelot lad, boy ragazzo perhaps from French matelot ('sailor')
vaca cow mucca, vacca from Latin vacca
s-ciop, s-ciòpo, s-ciopàr, s-ciopón gun fucile-scoppiare from Lat scloppum (onomatopoeic)
troi track path sentiero from Latin trahere 'to draw, pull', cf. English track
zavariàr to worry preoccuparsi, vaneggiare from Latin variare

Spelling systems

Traditional system

Venetian does not have an official writing system, but it is traditionally written using the Latin script — sometimes with certain additional letters or diacritics. The basis for some of these conventions can be traced to Old Venetian, while others are purely modern innovations.

Medieval texts, written in Old Venetian, include the letters x, ç and z to represent sounds that do not exist or have a different distribution in Italian. Specifically:

  • The letter x was often employed in words that nowadays have a voiced /z/-sound (cf. English xylophone); for instance x appears in words such as raxon, Croxe, caxa ("reason", "(holy) Cross" and "house"). The precise phonetic value of x in Old Venetian texts remains unknown, however.
  • The letter z often appeared in words that nowadays have a varying voiced pronunciation ranging from /z/ to /dz/ or /ð/ or even to /d/; even in contemporary spelling zo "down" may represent any of /zo, dzo, ðo/ or even /do/, depending on the dialect; similarly zovena "young woman" could be any of /'zovena, 'dzovena/ or /'ðovena/ and zero "zero" could be /'zɛro, 'dzɛro/ or /'ðɛro/.
  • Likewise, ç was written for a voiceless sound which now varies, depending on the dialect spoken, from /s/ to /ts/ to /θ/, as in for example dolçe "sweet", now /'dolse, 'doltse, 'dolθe/, dolçeça "sweetness", now /dol'sesa, dol'tsetsa, dol'θeθa/), or sperança "hope", now /spe'ransa, spe'rantsa, spe'ranθa/.

The usage of letters in medieval and early modern texts was not, however, entirely consistent. In particular, as in other northern Italian languages, the letters z and ç were often used interchangeably for both voiced and voiceless sounds. Differences between earlier and modern pronunciation, divergences in pronunciation within the modern Venetian-speaking region, differing attitudes about how closely to model spelling on Italian norms, as well as personal preferences, some of which reflect sub-regional identities, have all hindered the adoption of a single unified spelling system.[19]

Nevertheless, in practice, most spelling conventions are the same as in Italian. In some early modern texts letter x becomes limited to word-initial position, as in xe ("is"), where its use was unavoidable because Italian spelling cannot represent /z/ there. In between vowels, the distinction between /s/ and /z/ was ordinarily indicated by doubled ss for the former and single s for the latter. For example, basa was used to represent /ˈbaza/ ("he/she kisses"), whereas bassa represented /ˈbasa/ ("low"). (Before consonants there is no contrast between /s/ and /z/, as in Italian, so a single s is always used in this circumstance, it being understood that the s will agree in voicing with the following consonant. For example st represents only /st/, but sn represents /zn/.)

Traditionally the letter z was ambiguous, having the same values as in Italian (both voiced and voiceless affricates /ts/ and /dz/). Nevertheless, in some books the two pronunciations are sometimes distinguished (in between vowels at least) by using doubled zz to indicate /ts/ (or in some dialects /θ/) but a single z for /dz/ (or /ð, d/).

In more recent practice the use of x to represent /z/, both in word-initial as well as in intervocalic contexts, has become increasingly common, but no entirely uniform convention has emerged for the representation of the voiced vs. voiceless affricates (or interdental fricatives), although a return to using ç and z remains an option under consideration.

Regarding the spelling of the vowel sounds, because in Venetian, as in Italian, there is no contrast between tense and lax vowels in unstressed syllables, the orthographic grave and acute accents can be used to mark both stress and vowel quality at the same time: à /a/, á /ɐ/, è /ɛ/, é /e/, ò /ɔ/, ó /o/, ù /u/. Different orthographic norms prescribe slightly different rules for when stressed vowels must be written with accents or may be left unmarked, and no single system has been accepted by all speakers.

Venetian allows the consonant cluster /stʃ/ (not present in Italian), which is sometimes written s-c or s'c before i or e, and s-ci or s'ci before other vowels. Examples include s-ciarir (Italian schiarire, "to clear up"), s-cèt (schietto, "plain clear"), s-ciòp (schioppo, "gun") and s-ciao (schiavo, "[your] servant", ciao, "hello", "goodbye"). The hyphen or apostrophe is used because the combination sc(i) is conventionally used for the /ʃ/ sound, as in Italian spelling; e.g. scèmo (scemo, "stupid"); whereas sc before a, o and u represents /sk/: scàtoła (scatola, "box"), scóndar (nascondere, "to hide"), scusàr (scusare, "to forgive").

Proposed systems

Recently there have been attempts to standardize and simplify the script by reusing older letters, e.g. by using x for [z] and a single s for [s]; then one would write baxa for [ˈbaza] ("[third person singular] kisses") and basa for [ˈbasa] ("low"). Some authors have continued or resumed the use of ç, but only when the resulting word is not too different from the Italian orthography: in modern Venetian writings, it is then easier to find words as çima and çento, rather than força and sperança, even though all these four words display the same phonological variation in the position marked by the letter ç. Another recent convention is to use ł for the "soft" l, to allow a more unified orthography for all variants of the language. However, in spite of their theoretical advantages, these proposals have not been very successful outside of academic circles, because of regional variations in pronunciation and incompatibility with existing literature.

The Venetian speakers of Chipilo use a system based on Spanish orthography, even though it does not contain letters for [j] and [θ]. The American linguist Carolyn McKay proposed a writing system for that variant, based entirely on the Italian alphabet. However, the system was not very popular.

Sample texts

Ruzante returning from war

The following sample, in the old dialect of Padua, comes from a play by Ruzante (Angelo Beolco), titled Parlamento de Ruzante che iera vegnù de campo ("Dialogue of Ruzante who came from the battlefield", 1529). The character, a peasant returning home from the war, is expressing to his friend Menato his relief at being still alive:

Discorso de Perasto

The following sample is taken from the Perasto Speech (Discorso de Perasto), given on August 23, 1797 at Perasto, by Venetian Captain Giuseppe Viscovich, at the last lowering of the flag of the Venetian Republic (nicknamed the "Republic of Saint Mark").

Francesco Artico

The following is a contemporary text by Francesco Artico. The elderly narrator is recalling the church choir singers of his youth, who, needless to say, sang much better than those of today:

English words of Venetian origin

Venetian source English loanword Notes
arsenàl arsenal via Italian; from Arabic دار الصناعة dār al-ṣināʻah 'house of manufacture, factory'
artichioco/articiòco artichoke from Arabic الخرشوف al-kharshūf
balòta ballot 'ball' used in Venetian elections; cf. English 'to black-ball'
casìn casino 'little house'; adopted in Italianized form
s'ciào ciao cognate with Italian schiavo 'slave'; used originally in Venetian to mean 'your servant', 'at your service'
contrabando contraband
gazéta gazette 'small Venetian coin'; from the phrase gazeta de la novità 'a pennysworth of news'
g(h)èto ghetto hypothesized as from either (bor)ghetto 'little city', or from the Venetian term for 'foundry'
ziro giro 'circle, turn, spin'; adopted in Italianized form; from the name of the bank Banco del Ziro
gnòco, -chi gnocchi 'lump, bump, gnocchi'; from Germanic *knokk- 'knuckle, joint'
góndoła gondola possibly related to dondolare 'to rock'
laguna lagoon from Latin lacus 'lake'
lazaréto Lazaretto, lazaret ultimately from the Biblical Lazarus, who was raised from the dead
Lido lido from Latin litus 'shore'
lò(t)to lotto from Germanic *lot- 'destiny, fate'
malvasìa malmsey ultimately from the name Monemvasia, a small Greek island off the Peloponnese once owned by the Venetian Republic and a source of strong, sweet white wine from Greece and the eastern Mediterranean
marzapàn marzipan from the name for the porcelain container in which marzipan was transported, from Arabic موثبان mawthabān, or from Mataban in the Bay of Bengal where these were made (these are some of several proposed etymologies for the English word)
Negropónte Negroponte Greek island called Euboea or Evvia in the Aegean Sea
Montenégro Montenegro 'black mountain'; country on the Eastern side of the Adriatic Sea
Pantalón pantaloon a character in the Commedia dell'arte
pestàcio/pistàcio pistachio ultimately from Middle Persian *pistak
quaranténa quarantine 'forty', referring to the number of days a ship with plague victims must remain isolated
regata regatta originally 'fight, contest'
scampo, -i scampi from Greek κάμπη 'caterpillar', lit. 'curved (animal)'
zechìn sequin 'Venetian gold ducat'; from Arabic سكّة sikkah 'coin, minting die'
Zanni zany 'Johnny'; a character in the Commedia dell'arte

See also


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  5. Venetian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
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  7. Ethnologue.
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  9. Lorenzo Renzi, Nuova introduzione alla filologia romanza, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1994, p. 176 «I dialetti settentrionali formano un blocco abbastanza compatto con molti tratti comuni che li accostano, oltre che tra loro, qualche volta anche alla parlate cosiddette ladine e alle lingue galloromanze [...] Alcuni fenomeni morfologici innovativi sono pure abbastanza largamente comuni, come la doppia serie pronominale soggetto (non sempre in tutte le persone)[...] Ma più spesso il veneto si distacca dal gruppo, lasciando così da una parte tutti gli altri dialetti, detti gallo-italici.»
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  12. Right spelling, according to: Giuseppe Boerio, Dizionario del dialetto veneziano, Venezia, Giovanni Cecchini, 1856.
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  16. Carlo Tagliavini, Le Origini delle Lingue Neolatine.
  17. Alberto Zamboni(1988:522)
  18. Giovan Battista Pellegrini (1976:425)
  19. Ursini, Flavia (2011). Dialetti veneti.'Italiano)/


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