Make your own free website on Tripod.com

The Milanese Dialect

A concise grammar

Andrea Tettamanzi


I paroll d'on lenguagg, car sur Gorell,
hin ona tavolozza de color,
che ponn f el quader brutt e el ponn f bell,
segond la maestra del pittor.

Senza idej, senza gust, senza on cervell
che regola i paroll in del descor,
tutt i lenguagg del mond hin come quell
che parla on s umilissem servitor.

E sti idej, sto bon gust, gi el savar
che no han privativa di pas,
ma di coo che gh'han flemma de studi:

Tant l' vera che, in bocca de usciura,
el bellissem lenguagg di Siens
l' el lenguagg pu cojon che mai ghe sia.

Carlo Porta, 1812


Introduction

Milanese is spoken in Milan, Italy, and a big portion of its neighborhood. It has been said that a language is a dialect with an army.According to this view Milanese is considered by the layman a dialect of Italian. However, Milanese is to be classified as a Gallo-Romance language, therefore coordinate with French, Piedmontese, Ligurian, Rumantsch, Ladin and, most of all, with Occitan and Catalan.

Despite being a distant cousin, Italian has nevertheless exerted a strong influence on Milanese along the course of its history.Since the times of Renaissance, educated Milanese have always been conversant with standard Italian and they have been using it forlearned and literary writing. However they would use Milanese in their everyday family life, for drawing-room conversations and, not surprisingly,to communicate with the common people.

In recent times, the fascist regime first, imposing the national language with the force and fighting against any minority language,and then the spread of Rome-based Italian state radio and television and massive immigration from other regions of Italy after the end ofWorld War II have put Milanese in jeopardy.

Today, very few youngsters use it other than forshort phrases in the middle of Italian sentences,and fewer and fewer of them even understand it,although in the countryside at least this is not always true.

Phonology

The Alphabet

Milanese is written using a latin alphabet of 22 letters, plus a few diacritic signs: Acute accent, grave accent and circumflex accent.The alphabet is the following:

a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, z.

Orthography

Vowels

There are nine distinct vowels. Four of them appear only in stressed syllables, and the remaining five can appear everywhere.The four "unstressed" vowels are the following:

a
The "open" a has the same sound as in the English word latin; the stress on this vowel is marked with an acute accent, except when it is at the end of a word, in which case it is marked with a grave accent;
e
The "closed" e has a sound similar to the diphthong ay in the English word say, except that it's short and strait; the stress on this vowel is marked with an acute accent;
i
Has the same sound as the letter e in the English word me; the stress on this vowel is marked with a grave accent;
o
The "closed" o has a sound similar to the diphthong ou in the English word you; the stress on this vowel is marked with a circumflex accent;
u
The u sounds like the German or the French u; the stress on this vowel is marked with a circumflex accent.

The four "stressed" vowels are the following:

It's difficult to find a sound corresponding to the "closed" a in other languages. Actually it appears that the difference with the "open" a is very hard to hear for non-native Lombard speakers, and thus it is one of the features that help identify them; as a rough approximation, one could say that the "closed" a is much like an a articulated in the back of the mouth; a "closed" a at the end of a word is written as -aa instead of -;
The "open" e has the same sound as the letter e in the English word bet;
The "open" o has the same sound as the letter o in the English word top;
oeu
This sound is much like German or the diphthong eu in the French word peur.

Consonants

b
 
c
This letter is used to write two different sounds: before a, o and u it gives the sound of the letter c in the English words cow, color and cool; before e and i and at the end of a word it gives the sound of letters ch in the English words chess and cheese; the group ch always gives the sound of the letter k in English;
d
 
f
 
g
groups gh, gn and gu + vowel or at the end of a word;
h
 
j
 
l
 
m
 
n
simple at the end of a word, it marks nasalization of the preciding vowel.
p
 
q
 
r
 
s
voiced and unvoiced; double s is always unvoiced; groups sc, sg, s'c, s'g;
t
 
v
 
z
voiced and unvoiced.

Morphology

Milanese has two genders, masculine and feminine, and two numbers, singular and plural.

Articles

There are two articles in Milanese: Definite article and indeterminate article.

Definite article

The definite article agrees in number and gender with the noun;the masculine singular has two forms depending on whether the followingword has a leading vowel or a consonant:

* singular plural
consonant vowel
masculine el l' i
feminine la

When used in conjunction with the definite article, prepositionstend to contract with it, yielding the so-called articulate prepositions:

* el l' la i
a al a l' a la ai
cont cont el / col con l' con la cont i / coi
da dal da l' da la dai
de del de l' de la di
in in del in (de) l' in (de) la in di
su sul su l' su la sui

Indeterminate article

The indeterminate article uses two roots for singular and plural.The root used for singular forms is on-, akin to the numeral vun, "one", whereas the plural formis in fact the articulate preposition di which introduces apartitive complement:

* singular plural
consonant vowel
masculine on di
feminine ona on'

The Noun

Gender of nouns

Feminine nouns are usually marked by the -a ending in thesingular form; there is no morphological distinction between masculineand feminine in the plural.Exceptions to this rule are all feminine abstract nouns formed with thesuffix -zion.

In general nouns are classified according to gender in the same way as theyare in Italian.

Nouns for which this rule does not hold are the following:el martor, "the marten";el verz, "the savoy";la pssera, "the sparrow";el fon, "the beech-marten";la gira, "the loir";la saa, "the salt";la spuzza, "the stink";la midlla, "the marrow";la spua, "the spit";l'assa, "the beam";la bugada, "the laundry";el bombs, "the cotton wool";la bazzila, "the basin";l'co, "the echo";la guaja, "the woe";el sciavtt, "the slipper";la fanga, "the mud";la zccora, "the clog", "the hoof";la rama, "the (secondary) branch" (the main branch is masculine: el ramm);la gnaccia, "a chestnut cake";el canef/canov, "the hemp", "the cannabis";el pures, "the flea";el scimes, "the bug";la purisna, "the itch";el capngher, "the blackcap";el tremaca, "the wagtail";el saln, "the salt pot";el popoeu, "the pupil (of an eye)";el sciabel/sciabol, "the sabre";Miln, "Milan";Pars, "Paris";el Cairo, "Cairo".

The following nouns have alternate masculine and feminine classification (forms are listed according to how common they are, most common first):la badila/el badil, "the shovel";el/la sgn, "the dream";el/la lumm, "the lamp";l'ari/l'aria, "the air";l'stes/l'stasi, "the extasy";la s'giaffa/el s'giaff, "the slap";la schinca/el stinch, "the shin";el poin/la poianna, "the buzzard";el parpaj/la parpja, "the butterfly".

Plural formation

As a general rule, masculine nouns have the same form for both singularand plural. However, there are a few notable exceptions to this rule:

Feminine nouns ending in -a form their plural by simplydropping that ending, for examplesg. la donna, "the woman", pl. i donn, "the women";sg. l'ideja, "the idea", pl. i idej, "the ideas".

Feminine nouns not ending in -a have the same form for both singularand plural.

Pronouns

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns come in two forms: Isolated or prefix to a verb.Prefix third person personal pronouns have different forms depending onwhether they are used as subject or object (direct/indirect).

Form:
isolated prefix
Person:
subject object
1st sg. m (a) me
2nd sg. t te
3rd sg. m. l
f. lee
m. el, l'
f. la
le
1st pl. nun - ne
2nd pl. vujolter - ve
3rd pl. lor (a) le

Note: The first person singular and third person pluralprefix subject pronoun a can be heard in peripheric or rural variantsof Milanese. There is reason to believe that this form is an archaism whichhas now largely fallen out of use.

Possessive Pronouns

The third person posessive pronouns are the same for both singular and plural, whereas other persons distinguish between singular and plural.

* singular plural
m. f. m. f.
1st sg. m mia m mee
2nd sg. t tova t
3rd sg. s so(v)a soeu s
1st pl. nst nstra nster
2nd pl. vst vstra vster
3rd pl. s so(v)a soeu s

Numerals

Cardinal Numerals

Unlike other Romance languages, cardinal numbers from one to three have different forms for the two genders.

Like in all Romance languages, cardinal numerals between ten and twenty are formed in an irregular way, but the formation of greater numbers follows few simple rules.

1.
m. vun, f. voeuna
2.
m. duu, f. d
3.
m. trii, f. tr
4.
quater
5.
cinq
6.
ss
7.
stt
8.
vtt
9.
noeuf
10.
ds
11.
vundes
12.
dodes
13.
tredes
14.
quattrdes
15.
quindes
16.
sedes
17.
desstt
18.
desdtt
19.
desnoeuf
20.
vint
21.
vintun
28.
vinttt
30.
trenta
40.
quaranta
50.
cinquanta
60.
sessanta
70.
settanta
80.
vottanta
90.
noranta
100.
cent
200.
dusent
500.
cinq cent
600.
ses cent
1000.
milla

Ordinal Numerals

1.
m. primm, f. prima
2.
m. segond, f. segonda
3.
m. terz, f. terza
4.
m. quart, f. quarta
5.
m. quint, f. quinta
6.
m. sest, f. sesta
7.
m. settim, f. settima
8.
m. , f.
9.
m. , f.
10.
m. decim, f. decima
11.
m. undecim, f. undecima

Verb

The Verb vess (to be)

Present Indicative
1st sg. m son(t)
2nd sg. t te see(t)
3rd sg. l/lee l' ~ ell
1st pl. nun semm
2nd pl. vujolter sii
3rd pl. lor (a) hin

Note: The alternate third person singular form ellis only used in isolation, that is when the verb is not preceded by the prefixpronoun.In contemporary Milanese this seldom happens, with a few notable exceptionsin idiomatic expressions, such as t'ell ch, "here it is" orin questions, e.g. chi ell che no ha de d che ..., literally"who is the one who doesn't have to say that ...,ell fors che no ghe piasen sti reson? "Is it maybe that you don't likethese reasons?".In fact, ell is the fossilized contraction of a form -el, "is it", which shows inversion of verb and prefix subjectpronoun.

The Verb av (to have)

The verb av is used as an auxiliary verb for transitive verbs. Its conjugation changes when it is used as a verb meaning "to have".In that case av is always in conjunction with the particleghe, yielding the verb avgh.

Present Indicative
1st sg. m hoo ~ gh'hoo
2nd sg. t t'hee(t) ~ te gh'hee
3rd sg. l/lee l'ha ~ el/la gh'ha
1st pl. nun emm ~ gh'avemm
2nd pl. vujolter hii ~ gh'avii
3rd pl. lor han ~ gh'han

Syntax

Vocabulary

Below is a sample of Milanese words:
el per, "the pear";el pmm, "the apple";el narnz, "the orange";el figh, "the fig";el prsegh, "the peach";el ribes, "the currant";el mandarin, "the tangerine";el fambrs, "the raspberry";la scirsa, "the cherry";la magiostra, "the strawberry";la ns, "the nut";la mognaga, "the apricot";la brugna, "the plum";la niscioeula, "the hazelnut";la mra, "the blackberry";l'uga, "the grape";el pinciroeu, "the grape" (the single fruit in a bunch).la nspola, "the medlar";el pignoeu, "the pine-kernel";spiur, "to itch";l'erborin, "the parsley";el sller, "the celery";borl gi, "to fall";scarlig, "to slide";spetasci, "to squash";la schiscetta, "the packed lunch";derv, "to open";sar su, "to close";el ciar, "the light";la c, "the house", "the home";l'oeuf, "the egg";l'oeucc, "the eye";la bocca, "the mouth";el coo, "the head";el brasc, "the arm";la gamba, "the leg";el coeur, "the heart";la s'cenna, "the back";el cuu, "the butt";, "".