Insubric grammar

This is an article about the general grammar of the Western Lombard (Insubric) language.

General characteristics of Insubric grammar

The phonetical characteristics of Insubric language are the halving of consonants, the voicing of intervocalic consonants, the transformation of Latin "u" into Insubric /y/, Latin short "o" into /œ/ø/, partial transformation of long "o" into /u/, the falling of final vowels except "a", apocope of Latin desinence "re" of infinitive, desinence "i" for 1st person, partial falling of intervocalic "d", partial transformation of "a" into "o" when followed by "l" and another consonant, the transformation of Latin groups "pl", "bl", "fl", "gl" into "pi", "bi", "fi", "gi" (read: dj) and of group "ct" into "c" (read: tsh), the nasalization of vowels followed by "n" or its transformation into a velar nasal, the falling of final "l" and "r" when followed by a long vowel, the distinction of vowel length, the partial transformation of intervocalic "l" into "r".

Insubric is a synthetic fusional language. The substantive nouns have two genders (masculine and feminine) and two numbers (singular and plural): masculine often ends with a consonant, while the feminine adds an "a"; plural of both masculine and feminine is like singular masculine; for different declensions, see Plural inflection in Western Lombard. The verbs have seven moods (indicative, conjunctive, conditional, imperative, infinitive, gerundive, participle) and six tenses (present, imperfect, future, with relative composed tenses); in the past, participle was not only passive but also active and there was the perfect tense; there are also continuous tenses; the auxiliary verb (for composed tenses) is often "to have" with transitive verbs, and often "to be" with intransitive verbs, when it can't be confused with a passive form. Every person of the verb has its own desinence, that sometimes varies associated with the desinence of the tense and of the mood, and depending on the fact that the verb is monosyllabic or plurisyllabic. Unlike most Romance languages, Western Lombard has vowel quantity oppositions, e.g. "pas" [paːs] (peace) vs. "pass" [pas] (step, mountain pass); "ciapaa" [t͡ʃaˈpaː] (caught, got m.) vs. "ciapà" [t͡ʃaˈpa] (to catch, get). The base vowels of Western Lombard language are: /a/ (c.m.o. "a"), /e/ (c.m.o. "e"), /ɛ/ (c.m.o. "e"), /i/ (c.m.o. "i"), /o/ (c.m.o. "o"), /ɔ/ (c.m.o. "o"), opener and closer /œ/ (c.m.o. "oeu"), /u/ (c.m.o. "o") and /y/ (c.m.o. "u").

The etymology of the words is very often derived from Latin. An uncommon feature for a Romance language is the extended use of idiomatic phrasal verbs (verb-particle constructions) much in the same way as in English. E.g. "trà" (to draw, to pull), "trà via" (to waste, to throw away), "trà sù" (to vomit, to throw up), "trà foeura" (to remove, to take away); "mangià" (to eat), "mangià foeura" (to squander).

The most frequent word order is subject–verb–object but all the other orders are possible when there isn't any ambiguity: the inversions are commonly used to emphasize the first word. The singular third person of the verb is preceded by a proclitic word ("el" for masculine subject, "la" for feminine subject: identical to determinative articles) that remind the subject; the singular second person of the verb is preceded by a proclitic word ("te"); there can be other proclitic words, like "a" in all the persons, or "i" in the plural third person. The determinative articles are "el" (m.), "la" (f.), "i" (pl.); indeterminative articles are "on" (m.), "ona" (f.), "di" (pl.).

(The examples are in Milanese).


Insubric grammar has some geographical mutation. The main sections can be:


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