Friulian language

"Furlan" redirects here. For the surname, see Furlan (surname).
Native to Italy
Region Friuli
Native speakers
300,000 (2002)[1]
total: 600,000, including 420,000 regular speakers (2015)[2]
Official status
Regulated by Osservatori Regjonâl de Lenghe e de Culture Furlanis
Language codes
ISO 639-2 fur
ISO 639-3 fur
Glottolog friu1240[3]
Linguasphere 51-AAA-m

Friulian or Friulan ( furlan  or, affectionately, marilenghe in Friulian, friulano in Italian, Furlanisch in German, furlanščina in Slovene; also Friulian) is a Romance language belonging to the Rhaeto-Romance family, spoken in the Friuli region of northeastern Italy. Friulian has around 600,000 speakers, the vast majority of whom also speak Italian. It is sometimes called Eastern Ladin since it shares the same roots as Ladin, but, over the centuries, it has diverged under the influence of surrounding languages, including German, Italian, Venetian, and Slovene. Documents in Friulian are attested from the 11th century and poetry and literature date as far back as 1300. By the 20th century, there was a revival of interest in the language that has continued to this day. In North America the more common English form is Friulan for both the language and the ethnic identity of the people living in Friuli and abroad. Friulan follows the example of Friulano in Italian. See the reference, Friulan Dictionary: English-Friulan / Friulan-English. Eds. Gianni Nazzi & Deborah Saidero. Udine: Ent Friul tal Mond. 2000.


Historical flag of Friûl

A question which causes many debates is the influence of the Latin spoken in Aquileia and surrounding areas. Some claim that it had peculiar features that later passed into Friulian. Epigraphs and inscriptions from that period show some variants if compared to the standard Latin language, but most of them are common to other areas of the Roman Empire; often, it is cited that Fortunatianus, the bishop of Aquileia 342-c. 357, wrote a commentary to the Gospel in sermo rusticus, in the language spoken by the people, which, therefore, would have been quite different from Standard Latin.[4] The text itself did not survive so its language cannot be examined, but its attested existence testifies to a shift of languages while, for example, other important communities of Northern Italy were still speaking Latin. The language spoken before the arrival of the Romans in 181 BC was of Celtic origin since the inhabitants belonged to the Carni, a Celtic population. In modern Friulian, the words of Celtic origins are many (names referring to mountains, woods, plants, animals) and much influence of the original population is shown in toponyms (names of villages with -acco, -icco). Even influences from the Lombard language - Friuli was one of their strongholds - are very frequent.

In Friulian there are also a lot of German, Slovenian and Venetian words. From that evidence, scholars today agree that the formation of Friulian dates back to around 1000, at the same time as other dialects derived from Latin (see Vulgar Latin). The first written records of Friulian have been found in administrative acts of the 13th century, but the documents became more frequent in the following century, when literary works also emerged (Frammenti letterari for example). The main centre at that time was Cividale. The Friulian language has never acquired official status: legal statutes were first written in Latin, then in Venetian and finally in Italian.

The "Ladin Question"

Historical linguist Graziadio Isaia Ascoli presented the theory that Ladin, Romansh and Friulian are from the same family.

The idea of unity among Ladin, Romansh and Friulian comes from the Italian historical linguist Graziadio Isaia Ascoli, who was born in Gorizia. In 1871, he presented his theory that these three languages are part of one family, which in the past stretched from Switzerland to Muggia and perhaps also Istria. The three languages are the only survivors of this family and all developed differently. Friulian was much less influenced by German. The scholar Francescato claimed subsequently that until the 14th century, the Venetian language shared many phonetic features with Friulian and Ladin and so he thought that Friulian was a much more conservative language. Many features that Ascoli thought were peculiar to the Rhaeto-Romance languages can, in fact, be found in other languages of Northern Italy.



Spread of the Friulian language in Italy

Today, Friulian is spoken in the province of Udine, including the area of the Carnia Alps, but as well throughout the province of Pordenone, in half of the province of Gorizia, and in the eastern part of the province of Venice. In the past, the language borders were wider since in Trieste and Muggia, local variants of Friulian were spoken. The main document about the dialect of Trieste, or tergestino, is "Dialoghi piacevoli in dialetto vernacolo triestino", published by G. Mainati in 1828.


Friuli was, until the 1960s, an area of deep poverty, causing a large number of Friulian speakers to emigrate. Most went to France, Belgium, and Switzerland or outside Europe, to Canada, Mexico, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, the United States, and South Africa. In those countries, there are associations of Friulian immigrants (called Fogolâr furlan) that try to protect their traditions and language.


The first texts in Friulian date back to the 13th century and are mainly commercial or juridical acts. The examples show that Friulian was used together with Latin, which was still the administrative language. The main examples of literature that have survived (much from this period has been lost) are poems from the 14th century and are usually dedicated to the theme of love and are probably inspired by the Italian poetic movement Dolce Stil Novo. The most notable work is Piruç myò doç inculurit (which means "My sweet, coloured pear"); it was composed by an anonymous author from Cividale del Friuli, probably in 1380.

Original text Version in modern Friulian
Piruç myò doç inculurit

quant yò chi viot, dut stoi ardit

Piruç gno dolç inculurît

cuant che jo cj viôt, dut o stoi ardît

There are few differences in the first two rows, which demonstrates that there has not been a great evolution in the language except for several words which are no longer used (for example, dum(n) lo, a word which means "child", which was used to be more frequently). A modern Friulian speaker can understand these texts with only a little difficulty.

The second important period for Friulian literature is the 16th century. The main author of this period was Ermes di Colorêt, who composed over 200 poems.

Notable poets and writers
Name Century
Ermes di Colorêt 16th
Pietro Zorutti 19th
Pier Paolo Pasolini 20th



Consonant phonemes in Central Friulian[5]
Labial Dental/
Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɲ (ŋ)
Plosive voiceless p t c k
voiced b d ɟ ɡ
Affricate voiceless ts
voiced dz
Fricative voiceless f s (ʃ)
voiced v z (ʒ)
Trill ɲ
Approximant w l j



Vowel phonemes[6]
Front Central Back
Close i u
Close mid e o
Open mid ɛ ɔ
Open a


Some notes on orthography (from the perspective of the standard, i.e. Central, dialect):[7]

Long vowels and their origin

Long vowels are typical of the Friulian language and greatly influence the Friulian pronunciation of Italian.

Friulian distinguishes between short and long vowels: in the following minimal pairs (long vowels are marked in the official orthography with a circumflex accent):

lat (milk)
lât (gone)
fis (fixed, dense)
fîs (sons)
lus (luxury)
lûs (light n.)

Friulian dialects differ in their treatment of long vowels. In certain dialects, some of the long vowels are actually diphthongs. The following chart shows how six words (sêt thirst, pît foot, fîl "wire", pôc (a) little, fûc fire, mûr "wall") are pronounced in four dialects. Each dialect uses a unique pattern of diphthongs (yellow) and monophthongs (blue) for the long vowels:

Latin origin West Codroipo Carnia Central
sêt "thirst" SITEM [seit] [seːt] [seit] [seːt]
pît "foot" PEDEM [peit] [peit] [piːt] [piːt]
fîl "wire" FĪLUM [fiːl] [fiːl] [fiːl] [fiːl]
pôc "a little" PAUCUM [pouk] [poːk] [pouk] [poːk]
fûc "fire" FOCUM [fouk] [fouk] [fuːk] [fuːk]
mûr "wall" MŪRUM [muːr] [muːr] [muːr] [muːr]

Note that the vowels î and û in the standard language (based on the Central dialects) correspond to two different sounds in the Western dialects (including Codroipo). These sounds are not distributed randomly but correspond to different origins: Latin short E in an open syllable produces Western [ei] but Central [iː], whereas Latin long Ī produces [iː] in both dialects. Similarly, Latin short O in an open syllable produces Western [ou] but Central [uː], whereas Latin long K produces [uː] in both dialects. The word mûr, for example, means both "wall" (Latin MŪRUM) and "(he, she, it) dies" (Vulgar Latin *MORIT from Latin MORITUR); both words are pronounced [muːr] in Central dialects, but respectively [muːr] and [mour] in Western dialects.

Long consonants (ll, rr, and so on), frequently used in Italian, are usually absent in Friulian.

Friulian long vowels originate primarily from vowel lengthening in stressed open syllables when the following vowel was lost.[6] Friulian vowel length has no relation to vowel length in Classical Latin. For example, Latin valet yields vâl "it is worth" with a long vowel, but Latin vallem yields val "valley" with a short vowel. Long vowels aren't found when the following vowel is preserved, e.g.:

It is quite possible that vowel lengthening occurred originally in all stressed open syllables, and was later lost in non-final syllables.[8] Evidence of this is found, for example, in the divergent outcome of Vulgar Latin */ɛ/, which becomes /jɛ/ in originally closed syllables but /i(ː)/ in Central Friulian in originally open syllables, including when non-finally. Examples: siet "seven" < Vulgar Latin */sɛtte/ < Latin SEPTEM, word-final pît "foot" < Vulgar Latin */pɛde/ < Latin PEDEM, non-word-final tivit /ˈtivit/ "tepid, lukewarm" < Vulgar Latin */tɛpedu/ < Latin TEPIDUM.

An additional source of vowel length is compensatory lengthening before lost consonants in certain circumstances, cf. pâri "father" < Latin patrem, vôli "eye" < Latin oc(u)lum, lîre "pound" < Latin libra. This produces long vowels in non-final syllables, and was apparently a separate, later development than the primary lengthening in open syllables. Note, for example, the development of Vulgar Latin */ɛ/ in this context: */ɛ/ > */jɛ/ > /jeː/, as in piêre "stone" < Latin PETRAM, differing from the outcome /i(ː)/ in originally open syllables (see above).

Additional complications:

Synchronic analyses of vowel length in Friulian often claim that it occurs predictably in final syllables before an underlying voiced obstruent, which is then devoiced.[9] Analyses of this sort have difficulty with long-vowel contrasts that occur non-finally (e.g. pâri "father" mentioned above) or not in front of obstruents (e.g. fi "fig" vs. "son", val "valley" vs. vâl "it is worth").


Friulian is quite different from Italian in its morphology; it is, in many respects, closer to French.


In Friulian as in other Romance languages, nouns are either masculine or feminine (for example, "il mûr" ("the wall", masculine), "la cjadree" ("the chair", feminine).


Most feminine nouns end in -e, which is pronounced, unlike in Standard French:

Some feminine nouns, however, end in a consonant, including those ending in -zion, which are from Latin.


Most masculine nouns end either in a consonant or in -i.

A few masculine nouns end in -e, including sisteme (system) and probleme (problem). They are usually words coming from Ancient Greek. However, because most masculine nouns end in a consonant, it is common to find the forms sistem and problem instead, more often in print than in speech.

There are also a number of masculine nouns borrowed intact from Italian, with a final -o, like treno (train). Many of the words have been fully absorbed into the language and even form their plurals with the regular Friulian -s rather than the Italian -i. Still, there are some purists, including those influential in Friulian publishing, who frown on such words and insist that the "proper" Friulian terms should be without the final -o. Despite the fact that one almost always hears treno, it is almost always written tren.


The Friulian definite article (which corresponds to "the" in English) is derived from the Latin ille and takes the following forms:

Definite articles
Number Masculine Feminine
Singular il la
Plural i lis

Before a vowel, both il and la can be abbreviated to l' in the standard forms. In the spoken language, various other articles are used.[10]

The indefinite article in Friulian (which corresponds to "a" and an in English) derives from the Latin unus and varies according to gender:

Indefinite articles
Masculine un
Feminine une

A partitive article also exists: des for feminine and dai for masculine: des vacjissome cows and dai libris - some books


A Friulian adjective must agree in gender and number with the noun it qualifies. Most adjectives have four forms for singular (masculine and feminine) and plural (masculine and feminine):

Number Masculine Feminine
Singular brut brute
Plural bruts brutis

Note that in some areas, the feminine is pronounced with different vowels: plural brutes, brutas, or singular bruta, bruto.

To form the plural, the normal rules are followed, but in the feminine is formed in severe ways from the masculine:


To form the plural of masculine and feminine nouns ending in -e, the -e is changed to -is.

The plural of almost all other nouns is just -s. It is always pronounced as voiceless [s], as in English cats, never as voiced [z], as in dogs.

In some Friulian dialects, there are many words whose final consonant becomes silent when the -s is added. The words include just about all those whose singular form ends in -t. The plural of gjat, for example, is written as gjats but is pronounced in much of Friuli as if it were gjas. The plural of plat 'dish', though written as plats, is often pronounced as plas. Other words in this category include clâf (key) and clap (stone), whose plural forms, clâfs and claps, are often pronounced with no f or p, respectively (clâs, clas) so the longer a in the former is all that distinguishes it from the latter. Note also that a final -ç, which is pronounced either as the English "-ch" (in central Friulian) or as "-s", is pluralized in writing as -çs, regardless of whether the pluralized pronunciation is "-s" or "-ts" (it varies according to dialect): messaç / messaçs (message).


Masculine nouns ending in -l or -li form their plurals by palatalising final -l or -li to -i.

Feminine nouns ending in -l have regular plurals.

Masculine nouns ending in -st form their plurals by palatalising the final -t to -cj

Some masculine nouns ending in -t form their plurals by palatalising the final -t to -cj:

Nouns ending in "s" do not change spelling in the plural, but some speakers may pronounce the plural -s differently from the singular -s.

The plural of an (year) has several forms depending on dialect, including ain, ains, agn and agns. Regardless of pronunciation, the written form is agns. The same happens for the adjective bon (good), as its plural is bogns.

Clitic subject pronouns

A feature of Friulian are the clitic subject pronouns. Known in Friulian as pleonastics, are never stressed; they are used together with the verbs to express the subject and can be found before the verb in declarative sentences or immediately after it in case of interrogative or vocative (optative) sentences.

Weak pronouns
Declaration Question Invocation
I o -io -io
You tu -tu -tu
He al -ial -ial
She e ie ie
We o -o -o
You o -o -o
They -a -o -o

An example: jo o lavori means "I work"; jo lavorio? means "Do I work?", while lavorassio means "I wish I worked".


Verbs, present, declarative form
Person fevelâ (to speak) (to go) jessi (to be)
Jo o fevel-i o v-oi o soi
Tu tu fevel-is tu v-âs tu sês
Lui al fevel-e al v-a al è
o fevel-ìn o l-in o sin
o fevel-ais o v-ais (l-ais) o sês
Lôr a fevel-in a v-an a son


An adjective can be made into an adverb by adding -mentri to the ending of the feminine singular form of the adjective (lente becomes lentementri, slowly), but it can sometimes[11] lose the -e of the adjective (facile becomes facilmentri, easily). It is more common in the written language; in the spoken language people use frequently other forms or locutions (a planc for slowly).


Most vocabulary is derived from Latin, with substantial phonological and morphological changes throughout its history. Therefore, many words are shared with Romance languages,[12] but other languages have contributed:

Present condition

Nowadays, Friulian is officially recognized in Italy, supported by law 482/1999, which protects linguistic minorities. Therefore, optional teaching of Friulian has been introduced in many primary schools. An online newspaper is active, and there are also a number of musical groups singing in Friulian and some theatrical companies. Recently, two movies have been made in Friulian (Tierç lion, Lidrîs cuadrade di trê), with positive reviews in Italian newspapers. In about 40% of the communities in the Province of Udine, road signs are in both Friulian and Italian. There is also an official translation of the Bible. In 2005, a notable brand of beer used Friulian for one of its commercials.

The main association to foster the use and development of Friulian is the Societât filologjiche furlane, founded in Gorizia in 1919.


Road sign in Italian and Friulian.

Every city and village in Friuli has two names, one in Italian and one in Friulian. Only the Italian is official and used in administration, but it is widely expected that the Friulian ones will receive partial acknowledgement in the near future. For example, the city of Udine is called Udin in Friulian, the town of Tolmezzo Tumieç and the town of Aviano is called both Avian and Pleif.


A challenge that Friulian shares with other minorities is to create a standard language and a unique writing system. The regional law 15/1996 approved a standard orthography, which represents the basis of a common variant and should be used in toponyms, official acts, written documents. The standard is based on Central Friulian, which was traditionally the language used in literature already in 1700 and afterwards (the biggest examples are probably Pieri Çorut's works) but with some changes:

Standard Friulian is called in Friulian furlan standard, furlan normalizât or from Greek, coinè.


There have been several critics of the standardisation of Friulian, mainly from speakers of local variants that differ substantially from the proposed standard; they also argue that the standard could eventually kill local variants. The supporters of standardisation refer to the various advantages that a unique form can bring to the language. Above all, it can help to stop the influence of Italian language in the neologisms, which pose a serious threat to Friulian's future development. They also point out that it is a written standard without affecting pronunciation, which can follow local variants.

Opponents of the standardisation, on the other hand, insist that the standard language, being artificially created, is totally inadequate to represent the local variations, particularly from differences in the phonetic pronunciation of the words in each variant that may, in some cases, even require special and different diacritics for writing a single variant.

Variants of Friulian

Four dialects of Friulian can be at least distinguished, all mutually intelligible. They are usually distinguished by the last vowel of many parts of speech (including nouns, adjectives, adverbs), following this scheme:

The word home for is cjase in Central Friulian and cjasa or cjaso in other areas. Pier Paolo Pasolini wrote his works in Western Friulian since he learned the language from his mother who was from Casarsa/Cjasarsa,[13] near Pordenone.

In the 13th century, early literary works in Friulian were based on the language spoken in Cividale del Friuli, which was the most important town in Friuli. The endings in -o, which, interestingly, now is restricted to some villages in Carnia. Later, the main city of Friuli became Udine and the most common ending was -a; only from the 16th century on, -e endings were used in standard Friulian.

Writing systems

Sign of the Universitât dâl Friûl in Udine

In the official writing system, approved by the Province of Udine and used in official documents, Friulian is written using the Latin script with the c-cedilla (ç). The letter q is used only for personal names and historical toponyms, and in every other case, it is replaced by c. Besides that, k, x, w, and y appear only in loan words so they are not considered part of the alphabet.

Aa Bb Cc Çç Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Ll Mm Nn Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Zz

There are also grave accents (à, è, ì, ò and ù) and circumflex accents (â, ê, î, ô, and û), which are put above the vowels to distinguish between homophonic words or to show stress (the former) and show long vowels (the latter).

Other systems

An alternative system is called Faggin-Nazzi from the names of the scholars who proposed it. It is less common, probably also because it is more difficult for a beginner for its use of letters, such as č, that are typical of Slavic languages but seem foreign to native Italian speakers.


English Friulian
Hello; my name is Jack! Mandi; jo mi clami Jack!
Today the weather is really hot! Vuê al è propite cjalt!
I really have to go now; see you. O scugni propite lâ cumò; ariviodisi.
I can’t go out with you tonight; I have to study. No pues vignî fûr cun te usgnot; o ai di studiâ.



The grammar section is based on An introduction to Friulan by R. Pontisso. Some parts are also based loosely on Gramatiche furlane by Fausto Zof, Edizioni Leonardo, Udine 2002.


  1. Friulian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. - Study made by Arlef, Association of Region for the Friulian Language
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Friulian". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. storia
  5. Pavel Iosad, Final devoicing and vowel lengthening in the north of Italy: A representational approach, Slides, Going Romance 24, December 10th 2010, Universiteit Leiden, Academia Lugduno Batava
  6. 1 2 Prieto, Pilar (1992), "Compensatory Lengthening by Vowel and Consonant Loss in Early Friulian", Catalan Working Papers in Linguistics: 205–244
  7. Loporcaro, Michele (2005), "(Too much) synchrony within diachrony? Vowel length in Milanese.", GLOW Phonology Workshop (PDF)
  8. Torres-Tamarit, Francesc (2015), "Length and voicing in Friulian and Milanese" (PDF), Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 33 (4): 1351–1386
  9. In Northern Friuli, el is used instead of 'il. In Southern and Western Friuli, al is used instead of il. In Northern Friuli, li or las is used instead of lis and le instead of la.
  10. Such is the case of FriulIan adjectives deriving from Latin adjectives of the second class.
  11. Language similarity table
  12. casarsa_casa Pasolini (Colussi) a Casarsa
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