Piedmontese language

"Piedmontese" redirects here. For other uses, see Piedmontese (disambiguation).
Native to Italy
Region Piedmont (northwest Italy)
Native speakers
1.6 million (2002)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 pms
Glottolog piem1238[2]
Linguasphere 51-AAA-of

Piedmontese (piemontèis or lenga piemontèisa) is a Romance language spoken by over 1 million people in Piedmont, northwest Italy. It is geographically and linguistically included in the Northern Italian group (with Lombard, Emiliano-Romagnolo, Ligurian, Friulian, and Venetian). It is part of the wider western group of Romance languages, including French, Occitan, and Catalan.

Many European and North American linguists (e.g. Einar Haugen, Gianrenzo P. Clivio, Hans Göbl, Helmut Lüdtke, George Bossong, Klaus Bochmann, Karl Gebhardt, and Guiu Sobiela Caanitz) acknowledge Piedmontese as an independent language, though in Italy it is often still considered a dialect;[3] on the other hand, in the Italian context, dialetto 'dialect' refers to an indigenous language, not to a variety of Italian.[4] Today it has a certain official status recognized by the Piedmont regional government, but not by the national government.[3]

Piedmontese was the first language of emigrants who, in the period from 1850 to 1950, left Piedmont for countries such as France, Brazil, the United States, Argentina, and Uruguay.


The first documents in the Piedmontese language were written in the 12th century, the sermones subalpini, when it was extremely close to Occitan. Literary Piedmontese developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, but it did not gain literary esteem comparable to that of French or Italian, other languages used in Piedmont. Nevertheless, literature in Piedmontese has never ceased to be produced: it includes poetry, theatre pieces, novels, and scientific work.[5]

Current status

In 2004, Piedmontese was recognised as Piedmont's regional language by the regional parliament,[6][7][8] although the Italian government has not yet recognised it as such. In theory it is now supposed to be taught to children in school,[9] but this is happening only to a limited extent.

The last decade has seen the publication of learning materials for schoolchildren, as well as general-public magazines. Courses for people already outside the education system have also been developed. In spite of these advances, the current state of Piedmontese is quite grave, as over the last 150 years the number of people with a written active knowledge of the language has shrunk to about 2% of native speakers, according to a recent survey.[10] On the other hand, the same survey showed Piedmontese is still spoken by over half the population, alongside Italian. Authoritative sources confirm this result, putting the figure between 2 million (Assimil,[11] IRES Piemonte[12]) and 3 million speakers (Ethnologue[13]) out of a population of 4.2 million people. Efforts to make it one of the official languages of the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics were unsuccessful.


Piedmontese is written with a modified Latin alphabet. The letters, along with their IPA equivalent are shown in the table below.

Letter IPA Value Letter IPA Value Letter IPA Value
A a /a/~/ɑ/ H h P p /p/
B b /b/ I i /i/ Q q /k/
C c /k/, //[lower-roman 1] J j /j/ R r /r/~/ɹ/
D d /d/[lower-roman 2] L l /l/ S s /s/, /z/[lower-roman 3]
E e /e/, /ɛ/, /æ/[lower-roman 4] M m /m/ T t /t/
Ë ë /ə/ N n /n/, /ŋ/[lower-roman 5] U u /ɹ/
F f /f/ O o /u/ V v /v/, /w/, /u/, ∅[lower-roman 6]
G g /ɡ/, //[lower-roman 1] Ò ò /o/ Z z /z/~/dz/
  1. 1 2 Before i, e or ë, c and g represent /tʃ/ and /dʒ/, respectively.
  2. /d/ is devoiced to /t/ at the end of words.
  3. s is voiced /z/ between vowels, at the end of words and immediately after other consonants.
  4. e is /e/ or /ɛ/ in open syllables and /æ/ in closed.
  5. At the end of words, n represents the velar nasal /ŋ/ and lengthens the preceding vowel.
  6. v is /v/ initially, /w/ before dental consonants, /w/ (/f/ by some speakers) at the end of words and silent between vowels.

Certain digraphs are used to regularly represent specific sounds as shown below.

Digraph IPA Value Digraph IPA Value Digraph IPA Value
ae /ˈaɛ/ gg // òi /oj/
ao /aw/ gh /ɡ/ qu /kw/
cc // gli /ʎ/ (in Italian loans) ss /s/
ea /ˈɛa/ gn /r/ sc /sk/, /ʃ/
ei /ɛj/ ij /ij/ sc, scc /stʃ/
eo /ɛw/ oe /ˈue/, /we/ sg /ʒ/
eu /ø/ oi /uj/ sg, sgg /zdʒ/

All other combinations of letters are pronounced as written. Grave accent marks break diphthongs, so ua and are /wa/, but ùa is pronounced separately, /ˈya/.


Piedmontese linguistic map

Some of the characteristics of the Piedmontese language are:

  1. The presence of clitic so-called verbal pronouns for subjects, which give a Piedmontese verbal complex the following form: (subject) + verbal pronoun + verb, as in (mi) i von 'I go'. Verbal pronouns are absent only in the imperative form and in the Piedmontese interrogative form.
  2. The bound form of verbal pronouns, which can be connected to dative and locative particles (a-i é 'there is', i-j diso 'I say to him').
  3. The interrogative form, which adds an enclitic interrogative particle at the end of the verbal form (Veus-to…? 'Do you want to…?'])
  4. The absence of ordinal numerals higher than 'sixth', so that 'seventh' is col che a fà set 'the one which makes seven'.
  5. The existence of three affirmative interjections (that is, three ways to say yes): si, sè (from Latin sic est, as in Italian); é (from Latin est, as in Portuguese); òj (from Latin hoc est, as in Occitan, or maybe hoc illud, as in Franco-Provençal, French and Old Catalan and Occitan).
  6. The absence of the voiceless postalveolar fricative /ʃ/ (like the sh in English sheep), for which an alveolar S sound (as in English sun) is usually substituted.
  7. The existence of an S-C combination pronounced [stʃ].
  8. The existence of a velar nasal [ŋ] (like the ng in English going), which usually precedes a vowel, as in lun-a 'moon'.
  9. The existence of the third Piedmontese vowel Ë, which is very short (close to the vowel in English sir).
  10. The absence of the phonological contrast that exists in Italian between short (single) and long (double) consonants, for example, Italian fata 'fairy' and fatta 'done (F)'.
  11. The existence of a prosthetic Ë sound when consonantal clusters arise that are not permitted by the phonological system. So 'seven stars' is pronounced set ëstèile (cf. stèile 'stars').

Piedmontese has a number of varieties that may vary from its basic koiné to quite a large extent. Variation includes not only departures from the literary grammar, but also a wide variety in dictionary entries, as different regions maintain words of Frankish or Lombard origin, as well as differences in native Romance terminology. Words imported from various languages are also present, while more recent imports tend to come from France and from Italian.

A variety of Piedmontese was Judeo-Piedmontese, a dialect spoken by the Piedmontese Jews until the Second World War.

Lexical comparison with other Romance languages and English

Piedmontese Italian French Spanish Portuguese Romanian Catalan English
cadrega sedia chaise silla cadeira scaun, catedră cadira chair
pijé prendere, pigliare prendre coger, tomar, pillar pegar, tomar a lua prendre to take
surtì uscire sortir salir sair a ieși sortir/eixir to go/come out
droché/casché/tombé cadere, cascare tomber caer, tumbar cair, tombar cădere caure to fall
ca/mison casa maison casa casa casă ca/casa home
brass braccio bras brazo braço braț braç arm
nùmer numero nombre número número număr nombre number
nòm nome nom nombre nome nume nom name
pom mela pomme manzana maçã măr poma apple
travajé lavorare travailler trabajar trabalhar a lucra treballar to work
ratavolòira pipistrello chauve-souris murciélago morcego liliac ratpenat bat (animal)
scòla scuola école escuela escola școală escola school
bòsch bosco bois bosque bosque pădure bosc wood (land)
monsù signore monsieur señor senhor, seu domn senyor Mr
madama signora madame señora senhora, dona doamnă senyora Mrs
istà estate été verano, estío Verão, Estio vară estiu summer
ancheuj oggi aujourd'hui hoy hoje azi avui/hui today
dman domani demain mañana amanhã mâine demà tomorrow
jer ieri hier ayer ontem ieri ahir yesterday
lùnes lunedì lundi lunes segunda-feira luni dilluns Monday
màrtes martedì mardi martes terça-feira marți dimarts Tuesday
mèrcol/merco mercoledì mercredi miércoles quarta-feira miercuri dimecres Wednesday
giòbia giovedì jeudi jueves quinta-feira joi dijous Thursday
vënner/vene venerdì vendredi viernes sexta-feira vineri divendres Friday
saba sabato samedi sábado sábado sâmbătă dissabte Saturday
dumìnica domenica dimanche domingo domingo duminică diumenge Sunday


  1. Piedmontese at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Piemontese". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. 1 2 La Stampa. "Per la Consulta il piemontese non è una lingua". Retrieved May 14, 2010.
  4. Dizionario Sabatini Coletti. "Definizione e significato del termine Dialetto". Retrieved May 14, 2010.
  5. University-level course material - physics and calculus (as consulted on 30 July 2010)
  6. Motion 1118 in the Piedmontese Regional Parliament, Approvazione da parte del Senato del Disegno di Legge che tutela le minoranze linguistiche sul territorio nazionale - Approfondimenti, approved unanimously on 15 December 1999
  7. Text of motion 1118 in the Piedmontese Regional Parliament, Consiglio Regionale del Piemonte, Ordine del Giorno 1118
  8. Piemontèis d'amblé - Avviamento Modulare alla conoscenza della Lingua piemontese; R. Capello, C. Comòli, M.M. Sánchez Martínez, R.J.M. Nové; Regione Piemonte/Gioventura Piemontèisa; Turin, 2001]
  9. Details on how schools can implement Piedmontese courses subsidized by the regional government by "Arbut", one organisation offering such courses Arbut - Ël piemontèis a scòla
  10. Knowledge and Usage of the Piedmontese Language in Turin and its Province, carried out by Euromarket, a Turin-based market research company on behalf of the Riformisti per l'Ulivo party in the Piedmontese Regional Parliament in 2003 (Italian).
  11. F. Rubat Borel, M. Tosco, V. Bertolino. Il Piemontese in Tasca, a Piedmontese basic language course and conversation guide, published by Assimil Italia (the Italian branch of Assimil, the leading French producer of language courses) in 2006. ISBN 88-86968-54-X. http://www.assimil.it
  12. E. Allasino, C. Ferrer, E. Scamuzzi, T. Telmon Le Lingue del Piemonte, research published in October 2007 by Istituto di Ricerche Economiche e Sociali, a public economic and social research organisation. Available under: http://www.ires.piemonte.it/quaderni.html
  13. Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International ISO 639-3, pms (Piemontese) Retrieved 13 June 2012

Further reading

External links

Piedmontese edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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