A Look At the Venetian and Friulian Languages

Repost from the old site.
Here we will compare Friulian and Venetian with Italian. The Friulian language is spoken in northeastern Italy. Among Friulian speakers, the language is affectionately known as Marilenghe and is best known from the Udine, the main town of the Friulian zone. It has 794,000 speakers and is in pretty good shape.
There is a close relationship with Ladin and Romansch. Most speakers also speak Standard Italian. In regions of Slovenia bordering Friuli, almost everyone speaks Friulian as a second or third language. Friulian is closer to French than to Italian. Friulian language edition of Wikipedia.
Friulian was in decline from the mid-60’s until the end of the 90’s when an entire generation was not taught to children. This generation now has a receptive but not a productive competence in the language. It has lost 18% of its speakers since 1989, and since 1981, there has been a 20% decline in people speaking it to the children. Nevertheless, there has been something of a comeback since it was protected by law in the late 90’s. There is one FM station that broadcasts only in Friulian and another station that broadcasts partly. There is only 15 minutes a week on TV in Friulian. There is one monthly magazine. All of these initiatives are private.
This is in contrast to Switzerland, where minority languages are promoted. Since Mussolini, Italy has had a policy to get rid of minority languages in favor of Italian. Only 20 schools have started teaching Friulian, and Italian is used as the vernacular. In Udine, about 40% of street signs are bilingual Friulian and Italian.
This paper analyzes the legal status of Friulian and feels that it is lacking, although a landmark law was passed in Italy in 1999. This law was very controversial, and public opinion in Italy continues to be that regional languages should all give way to Italian.
Venetian is said to be a dialect of the Italian language, but it is actually a completely separate language related more to French than Italian. It is spoken mostly in northeastern Italy in Venice, Trieste and other areas by 2,280,387 people, but the number may actually be up to 3 million. Venetian Wikipedia is here. There is television, radio and magazines in Venetian.
Venetian still lacks a unified orthography, so people just write it however they pronounce their local dialect. That Venetian is closer to French, Catalan, Portuguese and Spanish than to Italian seems outrageous to many people, but apparently it is based on structural similarities. Much of the Italian similarity is probably due to borrowing.
The Venetian cause has been taken up by Northern Italian separatists and has unfortunately become associated with fascist movements. This is ironic since Mussolini tried to stamp out Venetian. Various idiotic ethnic nationalist myths have arisen – that Northern Italians are Celtic (more White) and that Venetian is some kind of Celtic language.
There was a Celtic language spoken in the area some 1,800 years ago, but it has not left much trace on the languages of today. North Italians are not Celtic and Venetian has no relation to Celtic. Venetian is close to the northern Italian languages Piedmontese, Ligurian, Western Lombard , Eastern Lombard and Emiliano-Romagnolo.
The debate over regional languages being “dialects of Italian” was cemented by Mussolini’s fascism, which tried to wipe out all regional languages. This feeling is still widespread in Italy today. However, speakers of regional languages refer to such a mindset as “that of the Roman Empire” and those who promote it as fascists.
My English translation is a free literary translation and is not literal or word for word at all. It translates the text into the best possible literary English.
Central (Udine) Friulian
Il puar biāt al ą copiāt il Siōr
par dīj: “O soi come tč”:
ma il Siōr nol ą copiāt.
Magari chel biāt j ą vuadagnāt,
ma i fīs, daspņ, cetant ąno pajāt
no savint jéssi sé?
Il lōr destin al č, savéso quāl?
Copie de brute copie origjnāl!
Eastern/Coastal (Triestino) Venetian
Il sempio il gą copią il Sior
par dir “Mi son come ti”
ma il Sior no’l gą copią.
Forsi quel sempio xč divegnudo sior,
ma i fioi, dopo, quanto i gą pagą par
non saver come xe stado?
Savč vł qual xč il loro destin?
copie dela bruta copia original!
Notes: Both Friulian and Venetian are structurally separate languages. It’s very difficult to write in Friulian, and very few people know how to do it properly. Venetian is easier to write, and more speakers are able to write it.
Friulian ā is a long a.
Venetian x is the same as English z
Venetian ł resembles the “lh” sound. This sound does not occur in English.
Standard Italian
Il poveretto voleva copiare il Signore
per dire: “Io sono come te’,
ma il Signore non ha copiato.
Forse quel poveretto ha guadagnato
ma i figli, dopo, quanto hanno pagato
non sapendo cosa ?
Sapete qual’č il loro destino?
Essere copia dell’originale brutta copia!
Poveretto: povero di mente: simpleminded fellow.
Signore: educated, gentleman.
Guadagnato: learned something, got wiser.
Pagato: to pay in a moral, education way, to “learn your lesson.”
The simple man tried to copy the gentleman
so he could say, “I’m just like you”,
but the gentleman could not be copied.
Now, maybe that simple man learned a thing or two,
but how much would his sons, later on, have
to pay for not knowing a thing?
The sons’ destiny?
To be a copy of the original rude copy.

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14 thoughts on “A Look At the Venetian and Friulian Languages”

  1. Venetian is not a language anymore. I am Venetian and I know that it is not a language, unlike Friulian, which is still a minority language. Friulian speakers and Italian ones are different linguistic groups. Venetian speakers and Italian ones are not. Bye !!!!

    1. I’m Venetian as well, and I’m sorry a fellow Venetian has this poor knowledge of his language. According to UNESCO, the Venetian is still a language and a minority one. Both Friulan and Venetian share the same Latin roots, Venetian is NOT a dialect of Italian, this article is correct, and Venetian has the same linguistic dignity of Friulan.

      1. I guess I ask for two reasons.
        One, I’m wondering where the fault lines are if Italy starts to break up.
        Two, the definition of ‘language’ by the people who built Ethnologue seems entirely arbitrary. Some languages are separate even though they’re mutually intelligible, while others are considered dialects of the same language even though speakers of those ‘dialects’ don’t understand a word each other is saying. Worse, French and Italians are described as being able to understand each other, and their languages aren’t in the same immediate group! So unless a given entry explicitly says what’s going on, I’m kind of in the dark.
        Kinda frustrating. 😛

        1. All of the Italian language splits in Ethnologue are excellent and valid. Those are all separate languages. In fact, there are quite a few languages inside each of those Italian “dialects.” French and Italian can under no circumstances understand each other. Not so.

      2. Italians generally understand neighboring dialects if they use their own at home. Thus, while Friulian is a different language from standard Italian, it is much more understandable to Venetians with some immersion, then to say Neapolitans. Mind you, other Northern Italian dialects like Lombard are certainly easier to understand. This is probably due to the influence that Slavic speakers have had on the language, as it borders that linguistic element.

  2. East Lombard can understand Venetian as the Venetian republic owned these areas from 1430 to 1815. Towns include Bergamo, Sondrio, Brescia and Cremona to name a few. These areas have been under longer period in years under Venice than Milan.

  3. For Americans like myself, it is hard to imagine the native linguistic diversity of Italy because all the languages spoken here were imported. Moreover, there are no English dialects here except perhaps Ebonics, but there are accents. The so-called dialects of Italy are languages. They derive directly from Latin just as Florentine which, modified, became the national language.
    When Italy was Romanized, there were different peoples in different regions. The Veneti had their own language and when they adopted Latin, their pronunciation changed the Latin they spoke. The Etruscans of Tuscany did the same as did the Gauls of Lombardy and Piedmont, which is why these latter two languages sound almost French.
    Venice over time dominated mainland Veneto and other Veneto towns began to look to Venice as a linguistic standard for grammar and vocabulary. But, there are differences, especially in the mountains. The Venetian language has more Greek and German influences than standard Italian. It is not mutually comprehensible with French (a national language based on the language of Paris) although it shares some features that both it and Gallic-based languages absorbed from Vulgar Latin.

  4. I am Friulian native speaker, to be precise I am bilingual (Friulian, Italian) having spoken both languages since my very first childhood, namely Friulian at home and with other bilingual speakers and Italian at school and with Italian speakers. I find the article interesting, but there are some aspects that I do not think are right.
    I do not find that Friulian is closer to Latin than other Romance languages: What’s the source your statement? You should also consider that Friulian has many words derived form French, German and Slovenian, as also from Celtic (almost 10% of the total amount).
    Regarding the decline of the language, I am not so sure that this is correct, rather the opposite. As you wrote, since the end of the Nineties Friulian is protected by the law (law nr.482/1999), and as a consequence, always more people are learning it. Friulian has been included in some schools as an optional subject, and native speakers can speak it also in public offices. The language protection law resulted thus as a giant step for the native speakers, since they could speak their mother tongue freely without feeling themselves discriminated for expressing themselves in Friulian (I was born in the Eighties, and can still remember that I got a good telling-off by the teacher at high school for having spoken with a mate in Friulian!).
    The same way I perceive that after “the great change” of the the end of the Nineties, no further steps forward have been done, I thus agree with you when you say that “public opinion in Italy continues to be that regional languages should all give way to Italian.”
    You should also consider the lost generation of Friulian speakers: from the Great Boom in the Mid Sixties up to the End of the Nineties, the great majority of children born from Friulian parents did not speak Friulian, and now these people, even though able to understand it, can’t speak it, and the same way won’t be able to transmit it to the next generations.
    Thanks for having considered the Friulian language 🙂

  5. I am from Australia, Melbourne. There are many people here including my husband and myself that understand and speak some Veneto or Friulian. The language is in a time capsule due to migration from Italy to Australia. When we go to visit Northern Italy many Italians notice that we use words in our Italian dialect that they have not used for at least 70 years. They remember their grandparents or old aunts using these words. I also notice that now when we talk dialect in Italy it is ok and people are happy that we speak it. Years ago it was embarrassing to them like we were uneducated
    but there does seem to be a big turnaround now. People proudly speak it.
    We always explain that we speak more dialect than Italian. It was our grandparents tongue in the 1920s. I still try and practise standard Italian but
    seem to fall back automatically with a few Veneto words as my mother who was born in Australia in 1932 spoke to me in Veneto after learning from her parents who migrated to Australia in 1927. Many of our italian Australian born friends all speak and understand some dialect.
    Thankyou its been an interesting read.

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