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Ligurian (Romance language)

Ligurian (ligure or lengua ligure) is a Gallo-Italic language spoken in Liguria in Northern Italy, parts of the Mediterranean coastal zone of France, Monaco and in the villages of Carloforte and Calasetta in Sardinia. It is part of the Gallo-Italic and Western Romance dialect continuum. The Genoese (Zeneize), spoken in Genoa, the capital of Liguria, is the language's prestige dialect on which the standard is based.

ligure, zeneize
Pronunciation[ˈliɡyre], [zeˈnejze]
Native toItaly, Monaco, France
 • Liguria
 • Southern Piedmont
 • Southwestern Lombardy
 • Western Emilia-Romagna
 • Southern Sardinia
 • Southeastern Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
 • Corsica
Native speakers
500,000 (2002)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3lij
Linguasphere51-AAA-oh & 51-AAA-og

There is a long literary tradition of Ligurian poets and writers that goes from the 13th century to the present, such as Luchetto (the Genoese Anonym), Martin Piaggio and Gian Giacomo Cavalli.


Geographic extent and statusEdit

Ligurian does not enjoy an official status in Italy. Hence, it is not protected by law.[3] Historically, Genoese (the dialect spoken in the city of Genoa) is the written koine, owing to its semi-official role as language of the Republic of Genoa, its traditional importance in trade and commerce and its vast literature.

Like other regional languages in Italy, the use of Ligurian and its dialects is in rapid decline. ISTAT[4] (the Italian central service of statistics) claims that in 2012, only 9% of the population used other than standard Italian with friends and family, which decreases to 1.8% with strangers. Furthermore, according to ISTAT, regional languages are more commonly spoken by uneducated people and the elderly, mostly in rural areas. Liguria is no exception. One can reasonably suppose the age pyramid to be strongly biased toward the elderly who were born before World War II, with proficiency rapidly approaching zero for newer generations. On a more positive note, Ligurian has not experienced in recent years as strong a decline in number of native speakers as other regional languages. That could be a consequence of its status or the early, catastrophic decline it underwent in the past. The language itself is actively preserved by various groups.

Notable native speakers of Ligurian include Niccolò Paganini, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Christopher Columbus, Eugenio Montale, Giulio Natta, Italo Calvino, and Fabrizio De André. There is also a popular musical group, Buio Pesto, who compose songs entirely in the language.

Because of the importance of Genoese trade, Ligurian was once spoken well beyond the borders of the modern province. It has since given way to standard varieties, such as Standard Italian and French. In particular, the language is traditionally spoken in coastal, northern Tuscany, southern Piedmont (part of the province of Alessandria), western extremes of Emilia-Romagna (some areas in the province of Piacenza), in a small area of southern Sardinia (the so-called Tabarchino), where its use is ubiquitous and increasing. Until recently, it was also spoken in the department of the Alpes-Maritimes of France (mostly the Côte d'Azur from the Italian border to and including Monaco), in a township at the southern tip of the French island of Corsica (Bonifacio) and by a large community in Gibraltar (UK). It has been adopted formally in Monaco as the Monégasque dialect; or locally, Munegascu, without the status of official language (that is French). Monaco is the only place where a variety of Ligurian is taught in school.

The Mentonasc dialect, spoken in the East of the County of Nice, is considered to be a transitional Occitan dialect to Ligurian; conversely, the Roiasc and Pignasc spoken further North in the Eastern margin of the County are Ligurian dialects with Occitan influences.


As a Gallo-Italic language, Ligurian is most closely related to Lombard, Piedmontese and Emilian-Romagnol language, all of which are spoken in neighboring provinces. Unlike the aforementioned languages, however, it exhibits distinct Italian features. No link between Romance Ligurian and the Ligurian language of the ancient Ligurian populations, in the form of a substrate or otherwise, can be demonstrated by linguistic evidence. Only the toponyms are known to have survived from ancient Ligurian, the name Liguria being the most obvious example.


Variants of the Ligurian language are:


The Ligurian alphabet has:

  • 7 vowels: a, e, i, ò (IPA: [ɔ]), o [u], u [y], æ [ɛ], plus the group eu [ø].
  • 19 consonants: b, c, ç, d, f, g, h, l, m, n, ñ (or nn- like in singing), p, q, r, s, t, v, x, z.
  • It uses the umlaut (¨), circumflex (ˆ), acute (´), and grave (`) accents on most vowels when the full pronunciation key is given in the official spelling. It also uses the c-cedilla (ç).


According to the spelling of the Genoese Académia Ligùstica do Brénno

  • o péi (or: a péia): pear (It. and Sp. pera, Pt. pêra, Ro. pară ), plural e péie (f.)
  • o mei (or: a méia): apple (It. mela , Ro. măr), its plural is feminine: e méie
  • o çetrón: orange (cf. Fr. citron 'lemon'; replacing Gen. limon—cf. It. limone)
  • o fîgo: fig (It. fico, Fr. figue, Gl. and Pt. figo), plural e fîghe (f.)
  • o pèrsego: peach (It. pesca, Ro. piersică, Fr. pêche, Cat. préssec, Gl. pexego, Pt. pêssego), plural e pèrseghe (f.)
  • a frambôasa: raspberry (Fr. framboise, Pt. framboesa)
  • a çêxa: cherry (It. ciliegia Ro. cireaşă, Fr. cerise, Pt. cereja)
  • o meréllo: strawberry
  • a nôxe: walnut (It. noce, Pt noz, Ro nucă )
  • a nissêua: hazelnut (It. nocciola, Fr. noisette, Pt. avelã)
  • o bricòccalo: apricot (It. albicocca, Cat. albercoc, Pt. abricó)
  • l'ûga: grape (It., Sp. and Pt. uva , Ro. strugure")
  • o pigneu: pine nut (It. pinolo,Pt. pinhão)
  • arvî: to open (It. aprire, Fr. ouvrir, Sp. and Pt. abrir)
  • serrâ: to close (It. chiudere, Ro. închidere, Sp. cerrar)
  • ciæo: light (cf. It. chiaro , Ro. clar)
  • a cà or casa: home, house (It., Sp. and Pt. casa; Ro. casă, Cat. and Ven: 'Ca(sa))
  • l'êuvo: egg (It. uovo, Fr. l'œuf, Ro. ou, Gl. and Pt. ovo)
  • l'éuggio: eye (It. occhio, Ro. ochi, Fr. l'œil, Cat. ull, Gl. ollo, Pt. olho)
  • a bócca: mouth (It. bocca, Sp. and Pt. boca, Fr. "bouche")
  • a tésta: head (It. testa , Ro. ţeastă, in Pt. testa is forehead)
  • a schénn-a: back (It. schiena, Ro. spinare, Cat. esquena)
  • o bràsso: arm (It. braccio, Ro. braţ, Fr. bras, Pt. braço)
  • a gànba: leg (It. gamba, Ro. gambă, Fr. jambe, Cat. cama)
  • o cheu: heart (It. cuore, Ro. cord (in Ro. more commonly "Heart" translates as "inimă"), Fr. cœur, pt. coração)
  • l'articiòcca: artichoke (It. carciofo, De. Artischocke, Fr. artichaut)
  • a tomâta: tomato (It. pomodoro, De. Tomate, Fr. and Pt. tomate)


  1. ^ Ligurian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Ligurian". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ Legge 482, voted on Dec 15, 1999 does not mention Ligurian as a regional language of Italy.
  4. ^ "L'uso della lingua italiana, dei dialetti e di altre lingue in Italia". (in Italian). 2018-03-09. Retrieved 2018-08-22.
  • Jean-Philippe Dalbera, Les parlers des Alpes Maritimes : étude comparative, essai de reconstruction [thèse], Toulouse: Université de Toulouse 2, 1984 [éd. 1994, Londres: Association Internationale d’Études Occitanes]
  • Werner Forner, "Le mentonnais entre toutes les chaises ? Regards comparatifs sur quelques mécanismes morphologiques" [Caserio & al. 2001: 11–23]
  • Intemelion (revue), n° 1, Sanremo, 1995.

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