Niçard dialect

Pronunciation [niˈsaʀt]
Native to France, Monaco
Region County of Nice, Monaco
Official status
Regulated by Conselh de la Lenga Occitana (norme classique) / Félibrige (norme mistralienne)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog nica1249[1]
Linguasphere 51-AAA-gd

Niçard (Classical orthography), Nissart/Niçart (Mistralian orthography), Niçois (French, IPA: [ni.swa]), or Nizzardo (Italian, IPA: [nitˈtsardo]) is considered a distinct subdialect of the Occitan language (Provençal dialect) spoken in the city of Nice (Niçard: Niça/Nissa) and in the historical County of Nice (since 1860 the main part of the current French département of Alpes-Maritimes). In addition to Monégasque, Niçard is also spoken by some in Monaco. However some authors, like Francesco Barberis, believe original Nissart was more closely related to the Gallo-Italian languages (Ligurian) than to the Occitan, until it was annexed to France in 1860.[2]

Most residents of Nice and its region no longer speak Niçard, and those who do are bilingual in French. Nonetheless, today there is a developing revival of the use of the language. Some local television news is presented in Niçard (with French subtitles) and street signs in the old town of Nice are written in the dialect as well as in French. The Niçard song Nissa La Bella is often regarded as the "anthem" of Nice.

Writing system

Niçard is written using two forms:

An Italian orthography also existed but was abandoned when Nice joined the French empire in 1861 (but was reinstated briefly in 1942/3 when Italy occupied and administered the city).

Orthography Comparison (from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
English Classical Mistralian
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Toti li personas naisson liuri e egali en dignitat e en drech. Son dotadi de rason e de consciéncia e li cau agir entre eli emb un esperit de frairesa. Touti li persouna naisson lib(e)ri e egali en dignità e en drech. Soun doutadi de rasoun e de counsciència e li cau agì entre eli em' un esperit de fratelança.

Example of Nissart and similarity with Italian, according to Barberis:

Occitan and Ligurian influences

Standard Occitan recognises regional differences. It has been written that Niçard has kept some of the oldest forms of Occitan, other dialects (such as Provençal) having been more "frenchified" by their history.

Giuseppe Garibaldi, born in Nice in 1807, defined his "Nizzardo" as an Italian dialect with some influences from Occitan and French, and for this reason promoted the union of Nice to the Kingdom of Italy. Italian Giulio Vignoli wrote in his book about the "Nizzardo Italian" minority that, after Garibaldi's failed attempt, 11,000 of his supporters (nearly 1/3 of the population of Nice in the 1860s) were forced to move to Italy from Nice and were substituted by the French government with people from nearby Occitan areas; this changed the characteristic of Nissart, which started to have many loanwords from Occitan (a language that is now predominant in the Nissart dialect).[3]

Even today some scholars (like the German Werner Forner, the French Jean-Philippe Dalbera and the Italian Giulia Petracco Sicardi) agree that Niçard has some characteristics (phonetical, lexical and morphological) that are typical of the western Ligurian language.[4]

The French scholar Jean-Philippe Dalbera (in Bernard Cerquiglini's report) pinpoints in his Les langues de France[5] the actual existence of a Ligurian dialect, called Royasque, in the Roya Valley (near Tende), in the westernmost part of the County of Nice. Royasque, which is a Ligurian variety, should not be confused with Niçard.

However most experts in Romance linguistics see Niçard as a variety of Occitan. Statements saying that Niçard is a Ligurian or Italian dialect[6] are not supported by these experts (see especially Dalbera 1984).[7] Indeed, French scholar Bernard Cerquiglini wrote in his book on the languages of France about the actual existence of a Ligurian minority in Tende, Roquebrune and Menton, a remnant of a bigger medieval "Ligurian" area that included Nice and most of the coastal County of Nice.

Differences between Niçard and standard Occitan

  1. Niçard does not make the plural by adding the letter "s", but instead changes the last vowel
  2. Niçard uses "non" before the verb to make a negative of it, whereas Occitan uses "pas" after the verb.
  3. Niçard has some proparoxytonic words (such as lagrima) like Italian, while Occitan has no proxitonical words (lagrema).
  4. Niçard has conserved the Latin "d" between vowels (as in creder, veder)
  5. Niçard uses the definite article before the possessive, as in Italian and Portuguese
  6. Niçard in creating the future tense of verbs ending in "-ar" changes "a" to "e" (for example, parlar becomes parlerai, not parlarai as in Occitan)
  7. Niçard retains a different sound for the letters B and V, whereas in Occitan both sound like B.
  8. Niçard used "Ahì" to say yes, not "O" or "Oc", as in Occitan dialects.
  9. Niçard still ends feminine words in A, as in Latin, Italian, or Spanish, whereas Occitan has endings in O
  10. Niçard shares many words with Italian and its dialects (anquei pms. ancheuj, lij. ancheu, brut, capir; plu and not mai or mes to say "more", as in Occitan, pilhar, bastian countrari, ficcanas, madona, minga, calar, tchapar, rumenta, riturnella, testada, testard, tchouc) that are absent in other Occitan dialects.

See also


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Niçard". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. (Italian) Nizza Italiana' by Francesco Barberis
  3. Vignoli, Giulio Gli Italiani Dimenticati. Minoranze Italiane In Europa. p. 85-98
  4. Petracco Sicardi, Giulia. L'amfizona Liguria-Provenza. p 107
  5. DALBERA Jean-Philippe (2003) “Les îlots liguriens de France” [in: CERQUIGLINI Bernard (2003) (dir.) Les langues de France, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France / Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication-DGLFLF, p. 125-136]
  6. Beyond Boundaries: Language and Identity in Contemporary Europe, Chapter Seven. Retrieved 2013-10-01.
  7. DALBERA Jean-Philippe (1984) Les parlers des Alpes Maritimes: étude comparative, essai de reconstruction [PhD thesis], Toulouse: Université de Toulouse 2 [ed. 1994, London: Association Internationale d’Études Occitanes]


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