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Ligurian (Romance language)

This article is about the modern Ligurian language. For the distantly-related ancient language, see Ligurian language (ancient).
Lìgure, Zenéize
Pronunciation [ˈliɡyre], [zeˈnejze]
Native to Italy, Monaco, France
Region Italy:
Piedmont (southern part of the Province of Cuneo and Province of Alessandria)
Lombardy (southern part of the Province of Pavia)
Emilia-Romagna (part of the Province of Piacenza and Province of Parma)
Sardinia (part of the Province of Carbonia-Iglesias)
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (part of Alpes Maritimes)
Corsica (part of Haute-Corse and Corse-du-Sud)
Buenos Aires (in the neighborhood of La Boca)
Native speakers
500,000  (2002)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 lij
Glottolog ligu1248[2]
Linguasphere 51-AAA-oh & 51-AAA-og

Ligurian (lìgure or lengoa lìgure) is a Gallo-Romance 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 Western Romance language continuum. The Genoese (Zenéize), spoken in Genoa, the capital of Liguria, is its most important dialect.

Ligurian has almost 500,000 speakers, and is still widely spoken by many in Genoa and in many of the small towns and villages in the region. There are also many groups dedicated to the preservation of the language such as Associazione Culturale O Castello in Chiavari, which offers Ligurian (Genovese) language courses. Notable native speakers of Ligurian include Niccolò Paganini, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Christopher Columbus, Eugenio Montale, Giulio Natta, Italo Calvino, and Fabrizio De André.[citation needed] There is also a popular musical group, Buio Pesto, who compose songs entirely in the Genoese subdialect.

There is, however, 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

Besides Liguria (Ligurian Ligùria), 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 are of southern Sardinia (Italy), the Alpes-Maritimes of France (mostly the Côte d'Azur from the Italian border to and including Monaco), and in a township at the south of Corsica (France). It has been adopted formally in Monaco as the Monegasque language; or locally, Munegascu.

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 showing Occitan influences.

In Italy, the language has given way to Standard Italian and in France to French.

Linguistic structure

Ligurian exhibits distinct Italian features, while also having features of other Romance languages. 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. There are, however, toponomastic derivations from ancient Ligurian.


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].
  • 18 consonants: b, c, ç, d, f, g, h, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, x, z.
  • It uses the umlaut (¨), circumflex (^), acute (´), and accent (`) on most vowels when the full pronunciation key is given in the official spelling. It also uses the c-cedilla (ç).


  • a péia: pear (It. and Sp. pera, Pt. pêra, Ro. păr )
  • o méi: apple (It. mela Ro. măr)
  • o belìn or belàn (used as an exclamation, lit. 'penis' similar with)
  • o çetrón: orange (cf. Fr. citron 'lemon'; replacing Gen. limón—cf. It. limone)
  • o fîgo: fig (It. fico Ro. fig Fr. figue, Gl. and Pt. figo)
  • o pèrsego: peach (It. pesca, Ro. piersică Fr. pêche, Cat. préssec, Gl. pexego, Pt. pêssego)
  • a franboâza: raspberry (Fr. framboise, Pt. framboesa)
  • a çêxa: cherry (It. ciliegia Ro. cireaşa, Fr. cerise, Pt. cereja)
  • o meréllo: strawberry
  • a nôxe: hazelnut (It. nocciola, Ro. nuc Fr. noisette, Pt. noz)
  • o bricòcalo: apricot (It. albicocca, Cat. albercoc, Pt. abricó)
  • l'ûga: grape (It., Sp. and Pt. uva Ro. uvă, auo)
  • o pigneu: pine nut (It. pinolo, Ro. nucă de pin Pt. pinho)
  • arvî: to open (It. aprire, Fr. ouvrir, Sp. and Pt. abrir)
  • serâ: to close (It. chiudere, Ro. închidere Sp. cerrar)
  • ciæo: light (cf. It. chiaro Ro. clar)
  • a cà: home, house (It., Sp. and Pt. casa; Ro. casă Cat. and Ven: 'Ca(sa))
  • l'êuvo: egg (It. uovo, 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)
  • a tésta: head (It. testa Ro. ţeastă)
  • a schénn-a: back (It. schiena, Ro. spinare Cat. esquena)
  • o cû: arse (It., Sp. culo, Ro. cur Fr. and Cat. cul, Gal. and Pt. cu)
  • 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. cor Fr. cœur)

See also


  1. ^ Ligurian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Ligurian". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  • 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.

External links