Neapolitan language explained

States: Italy
Speakers:7.5 million

See also: Southern Italian. Neapolitan (autonym: nnapulitano; Italian: napoletano) is the language of the city and region of Naples, Campania (Neapolitan: Nàpule, Italian: Napoli). On October 14, 2008 the Neapolitan language was accepted by a law by the Region of Campania.[1]

The name is often given to the varied Italo-Western group of dialects of southern Italy, better termed as Southern Italian; for example Ethnologue groups the dialects as a separate Romance language called Napoletano-Calabrese.[2] This linguistic group is spoken throughout most of southern continental Italy, including the Gaeta and Sora districts of southern Lazio, the southern part of Marche and Abruzzo, Molise, Basilicata, northern Calabria, and northern and central Apulia. As of 1976, there were 7,047,399 theoretical native speakers of this group of dialects.[2]


Many would argue that the term "Neapolitan" should only be used for the dialect of Naples and its vicinity (as spoken around Naples and the Bay of Naples, Caserta, and Salerno).

Neapolitan, as the varied Italo-Western group of dialects, is distributed throughout most of continental southern Italy, historically united during the Kingdom of Naples and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The many dialects of this linguistic group include Neapolitan proper, Irpino, Cilentano, Ascolano, Teramano, Abruzzese Orientale Adriatico, Abruzzese Occidentale, Molisano, Dauno-Appenninico, Garganico, Apulo-Barese, Lucano, and Cosentino. The dialects are part of a strong and varied continuum, so the various dialects in southern Lazio, Marche, Abruzzo, Molise, Apulia, Lucania and Calabria can typically be recognizable as regional groups of dialects. In eastern Abruzzo and Lazio the dialects give way to Central Italian dialects such as Romanesco. In central Calabria and southern Puglia, the dialects give way to Sicilian dialects.

Neapolitan has also had a significant influence on the intonation of Rioplatense Spanish, spoken mainly in the Buenos Aires region of Argentina.[3]

The Language

Neapolitan is generally considered as Italo-Dalmatian, although some postulate a southern Romance classification. There are notable differences among the various dialects, but they are all generally mutually intelligible. The language as a whole has often fallen victim of its status as a "language without prestige".

Standard Italian and Neapolitan are generally mutually comprehensible, though with notable grammatical differences such as nouns in the neuter form and unique plural formation. Its evolution has been similar to that of Italian and other Romance languages from their roots in Vulgar Latin. It has also developed with a pre-Latin Oscan influence, which is noticeable in the pronunciation of the d sound as an r sound (rhotacism), but only when "d" is at the beginning of a word, or between two vowels (e.g.- "doje" or "duje" (two, respectively feminine and masculine form), pronounced, and often spelled, as "roje"/"ruje", vedé (to see), pronounced as "veré", and often spelled so, same for cadé/caré (to fall), and Madonna/Maronna). Some think that the rhotacism is a more recent phenomenon, though. Other Oscan influence (more likely than the previous one) is considered the pronunciation of the group of consonants "nd" (of Latin) as "nn" (this generally is reflected in spelling more consistently) (e.g.- "munno" (world, compare to Italian "mondo"), "quanno" (when, compare to Italian "quando"), etc.), and the pronunciation of the group of consonants "mb" (of Latin) as "mm" (e.g.- tammuro (drum), cfr. Italian tamburo), also consistently reflected in spelling. Other effects of the Oscan substratum are postulated too. In addition, the language was also affected by the Greek language. Naples was largely Greek-speaking prior to the Eighth Century, and the Greek language remained dominant in much of Southern Italy for many further centuries before finally being fully supplanted by Italian dialects (see: Griko language for remnant traces of Greek on the Italian peninsula). There have never been any successful attempts to standardize the language (eg.- consulting three different dictionaries, one finds three different spellings for the word for tree, arbero, arvero and àvaro).

Neapolitan has enjoyed a rich literary, musical and theatrical history (notably Giambattista Basile, Eduardo de Filippo, Salvatore di Giacomo and Totò).

The language has no official status within Italy and is not taught in schools. The Università Federico II in Naples offers (from 2003) courses in Campanian Dialectology at the faculty of Sociology, whose actual aim is not teaching students to speak the language, but studying its history, usage, literature and social role. There are also ongoing legislative attempts at the national level to have it recognized as an official minority language of Italy. It is however a recognized ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee language with the language code of nap.

For comparison, The Lord's Prayer is here reproduced in the Neapolitan spoken in Naples and in a northern Calabrian dialect, in contrast with a variety of southern Calabrian (part of Sicilian language), Italian and Latin.

Neapolitan (Naples)Neapolitan (Northern Calabrian)Sicilian (Southern Calabrian)Sicilian (Sicily)ItalianLatin
Pate nuoste ca staje 'ncielo,Patre nuorru chi sta ntru cielu,Patri nostru chi' sini nt'o celu,Nunnu nostru, ca inta lu celu sitiPadre Nostro, che sei nei cieli,Pater noster, qui es in caelis
santificammo 'o nomme tuojochi sia santificatu u nume tuoio,m'esti santificatu u nomi toi,mu santificatu esti lu nomu vostru:sia santificato il tuo nome.sanctificetur nomen tuum:
faje vení 'o regno tuojo,venisse u riegnu tuoio,Mù veni u rregnu toi,Mu veni lu regnu vostru.Venga il tuo regno,Adveniat regnum tuum.
sempe c' 'a vuluntà toja,se facisse a vuluntà tuoia,ù si facissi a voluntàMu si faci la vuluntati vostrasia fatta la tua volontà,Fiat voluntas tua
accussí 'ncielo e 'nterra.sia nto cielu ca'esti nt'o celu, u stessa sup'a terra.comu esti inta lu celu, accussì incapu la terracome in cielo, così in terra.sicut in caelo et in terra
Fance avé 'o ppane tutt' 'e juorneRanne oje u pane nuorro e tutti i juorni,Dùnandi ped oji u pani nostru e tutti i jornaDunàtini ogghi lu nostru panuzzu.Dacci oggi il nostro pane quotidiano,Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie.
lièvace 'e dièbbeteperdunacce i rebita nuorri,e' perdùnandi i debiti,E pirdunàtini li nostri dèbbiti,e rimetti a noi i nostri debiti,Et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
comme nuje 'e llevamme a ll'ate,cumu nue perdunammu i rebituri nuorri.comu nù nc'i perdunamu ad i debituri nostri.comu nuautri li pirdunamu a li nostri dibbitura.come noi li rimettiamo ai nostri debitori.sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.
nun 'nce fa spantecà,Un ce mannare ntra tentazione,Non nci dassari nt'a tentazioni,E nun lassàtini cascari inta la tintazziuni;E non ci indurre in tentazione,Et ne nos inducas in temptationem;
e llievace 'o mmale 'a liberacce e ru liberandi d'o malima scanzàtini di lu liberaci dal male.sed libera nos a malo.

See also

External links

Notes and References

  1. Article in Italian language of Il Denaro
  2. Ethnologue Napoletano-Calabrese