Faetar dialect

Faetar and Cellese Francoprovençal
Pronunciation [ˈfajdar]
Native to Italy
Region Foggia
Native speakers
< 1,000 (2010)[1]
Latin (no official orthography)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog faet1240[2]

Faetar, fully known as Faetar and Cellese (Cigliàje), is a Franco-Provençal language spoken in two small communities in Foggia in the southwest of Italy: Faeto and Celle di San Vito, and in emigre communities such as Toronto and Brantford, one hour west of Toronto. Although it shares many similarities with both Franco-Provençal and Italian, it is distinct from both. These two small communities have been isolated from the rest of Italy by mountains, and so Faetar has evolved and changed over the centuries into a distinct language.

After a large wave of emigration from Italy after the Second World War, many Faetano and Cellese settled in North America; with a relatively large group immigrating to Toronto, Canada. The language has been studied both in its native Italy, and in Toronto, because of its small number of speakers, its unique blend of Italian and Franco-Provençal features, and its changes brought on by language contact.

Although not given a distinct language code from Franco-Provençal, it is listed by UNESCO as "definitely endangered".[3]


The Faetar language has its beginnings in the 13th century.[4] A Franco-Provençal group of soldiers was sent to the Puglia region to fight the battle of Benevento of 1266. After the battle, some soldiers stayed and set up communities in the region. Celle di San Vito was founded as a monastery on the mountainside to avoid an outbreak of malaria down the mountain, and Faeto was founded either on the 8th of July, 1268, or the 20th of October, 1274 by an edict from Charles of Anjou.

In the 20th century, hundreds of Faetano and Cellese people left Italy and settled in the Toronto area of Canada, and in small pockets of the United States, such as upstate New York (The demonyms for the people from Faeto and Celle di San Vito are Faetani and Cellese, respectively). The Toronto community has been studied recently to examine the effects of language contact, and to look at the differences between the language in Toronto and in its native Italy.[1]


There have been at least two dictionaries and one grammar published since 2000 that describe the Faetar language in Italian.[5] It has also been studied extensively in English,[6] French,[7] and Italian [8] as a minority language, a language in contact, and for comparison with other Franco-Provençal languages.[9]

Faetar’s grammar is similar to most other Romance languages with articles that agree with masculine and feminine nouns, and verbs that are inflected with different endings for person, number, and tense. Because of these inflected verbs, pronouns are not necessary. However, Faetar has a unique pronoun characteristic in that it has two versions of each pronoun. There is a “strong” pronoun and a “weak” pronoun. In conversation, both the strong and the weak can be used together (the strong always comes first), or only the strong, or only the weak, or no pronoun at all. The weak can also appear after a noun. For example:

(1) No overt subject pronoun

/ɛ lu dʒórɛ Ø stav a la kaz/

and that day, [Ø=I] was at the house

(2) Weak pronoun

/e i stávo vakánt/

     and it was vacant

(3) Strong pronoun

/no íʎɛ sta tútːo/

     No, he was always…

(4) Strong + Weak pronoun

/íʎɛ i e lu me prɛfɛríːtə/

     She-strong she-weak is my favourite [10]

This case of strong and weak pronouns has been the source of much study as to what constrains, if anything, the choice of pronouns in a given phrase.[9] This also makes Faetar a partial pro-drop language.


  1. 1 2 , Nagy, N. Lexical change and language contact: Francoprovençal in Italy and Canada. in M. Meyerhoff, C. Adachi, A. Daleszynska & A. Strycharz (eds.) The Proceedings of Summer School of Sociolinguistics 2010, Edinburgh.
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Faeto and Celle San Vito Francoprovencal". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. , UNESCO Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger.
  4. , Accenti provenzali sui monti Dauni, by Antonio Ricucci, April 30, 2012 (in Italian).
  5. , Rubino, Vincenzo et. al. 2007. Dizionario Italiano-Francoprovenzale (F-I) di Faeto. Sportello Linguistico Francoprovenzale. Foggia, Italy.
  6. , Perta, Carmela. 2008. Can language politics ensure languages survival? Evidence from Italy. Language and Linguistics Compass 2.6: 1216-1224.
  7. , Colecchio, Linda & Michele Pavia. 2008. Les patrimoines linguistiques dans le cadre du développement local: enjeux seulement symboliques ou également économiques? la situation de Faeto. Abstract for a paper presented at Les droits linguistiques: droit à la reconnaissance, droit à la formation. Université de Teramo.
  8. , Bitonti, Alessandro. 2012. Luoghe, lingue, contatto: Italiano, dialetti, e francoprovenzale in Puglia. Tesi. Università di Lecce.
  9. 1 2 , Heap, D. & N. Nagy. 1998. Subject pronoun variation in Faetar and Francoprovencal. Papers in Sociolinguistics. NWAVE-26 a l'Universite Laval. Quebec: Nota bene. 291-300.
  10. Nagy, N.; Iannozzi, M.; & D. Heap. In Press. Faetar Null Subjects: A Variationist Study of Heritage Language In Contact. International Journal of the Sociology of Language.
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