Italian Language: The Roman Way
- WTI Magazine #93 Jul 14, 2017
Let’s continue on our journey around Italy and its beautiful dialects. We are now landing in the Italian capital: Rome or as you’d say in Italian, Roma. Roma’s dialect is very interesting because it’s more than a dialect, it’s considered more a way of speaking than a dialect due its similarities in grammar and form to standard Italian. In a way, Romanesco is an exception to the rule: it is a dialect, but it is so similar to Italian that you can easily understand it if you know the tricks.
However, at first this dialect did not have a lot in common with Italian, but due to the historic relevance of Tuscan and its prestige, Roman soon fell under the influence of the Tuscan language; therefore, becoming closer to modern Italian. But still, if someone is speaking strict Roman to you, you might not understand him anyway because it does have some words that only belong to Roman and some words are pronounced in a completely different way. Let’s stop with the theory and let’s look at some concrete examples of this Italian dialect.
We’ll now enter the infinite world of word modifications. They really are endless, but we’ll tackle only the more predominant ones. For example, one major topic here are the doubles: when to use it and when not to. Let’s see when to use them. The letter “b” and “g” usually pronounced as doubles. “Magico” – magical – becomes “maggico” in Roman and “abete” – spruce – “abbete.” Also consonants at the beginning of a word are often doubled, like in “bbene” – good or love. Now, when not to use them. Basically every time an “r” should be a double in Italian, in Roman you pronounce it as a single: “orrore” – horror – becomes “orore” and so on.
Then take all the “l”s and turn them into an “r.” so, “dolce” – sweet or dessert – is pronounced “dorce.” All the “gli” are pronounced like Italian “j” or simple “i,” for example “famiglia” – family – becomes “famija/famiia.” The letter group “ng” is often switched around and becomes “gn” in words, like in the verb “piangere” – to cry – which becomes “piagne” or “stringere” – to squeeze – “strigne.” And often the letter “e” replaces the letter “a” in many words like in girl: “ragazza” becomes “regazza.” These differences between Italian and the Roman dialect may seem huge, but many Italians would still be able to understand a great deal when listening to this dialect. In a sense, it’s just a matter of getting used to it, rather than learning a total different language.
Even though, the grammar mostly stays the same, there are some modifications in the vocabulary. First of all, the article “il” disappears in the Romanesco and leaves the space to “er,” which becomes the official article for masculine words: er letto (the bed), er sole (the sun). For the other articles there is not much different because the “l” disappears completely and it leaves “la,” “lo,” and “le,” as ‘a, ‘o, and ‘e. But the article is not the only word that changes. Although the majority of the words are very similar to Italian, the Roman dialect still has its own separate vocabulary. For example, “sercio” means “sasso” in Italian which will be a rock or a stone in English. “Gabbio” means “prigione” (jail), or “dindarolo” which in Italian is “salvadanaio” (piggy bank).
But Roman gave a lot to the Italian language as well. Many Roman words entered the national vocabulary and enriched the language, and it’s almost impossible to remember which language they really belong to.