Piedmontese language

Piedmontese (autonym: piemontèis [pjemʊŋˈtɛjz] or lenga piemontèisa, in Italian: piemontese) is a Romance language spoken by some 700,000 people mostly in Piedmont, northwestern region of Italy. It is geographically and linguistically included in the Gallo-Italic languages group of Northern Italy (with Lombard, Emiliano-Romagnolo and Ligurian). It is part of the wider western group of Romance languages, which also includes French, Occitan, and Catalan. It is spoken in Piedmont (except on Sesia river in the eastern part), Liguria (northwest part near Savona) and Lombardy (a very small part in Lomellina in the Pavia province).

Native toItaly
RegionNorthwest Italy:
Native speakers
700,000 (2012)[1]
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3pms

Many European and North American linguists acknowledge Piedmontese as an independent language, though in Italy it is often still considered a dialect.[3] Today it has a certain official status recognized by the Piedmont regional government, but not by the national government.[3]

Piedmontese was the first language of emigrants who, in the period from 1850 to 1950, left Piedmont for countries such as France, Brazil, the United States, Argentina, and Uruguay.


The first documents in the Piedmontese language were written in the 12th century, the sermones subalpini, when it was extremely close to Occitan. Literary Piedmontese developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, but it did not gain literary esteem comparable to that of French or Italian, other languages used in Piedmont. Nevertheless, literature in Piedmontese has never ceased to be produced: it includes poetry, theatre pieces, novels, and scientific work.[4]

Current status

In 2004, Piedmontese was recognised as Piedmont's regional language by the regional parliament,[5][6][7] although the Italian government has not yet recognised it as such. In theory, it is now supposed to be taught to children in school,[8] but this is happening only to a limited extent.

The last decade has seen the publication of learning materials for schoolchildren, as well as general-public magazines. Courses for people already outside the education system have also been developed. In spite of these advances, the current state of Piedmontese is quite grave, as over the last 150 years the number of people with a written active knowledge of the language has shrunk to about 2% of native speakers, according to a recent survey.[9] On the other hand, the same survey showed Piedmontese is still spoken by over half the population, alongside Italian. Authoritative sources confirm this result, putting the figure between 2 million (Assimil,[10] IRES Piemonte[11] and 3 million speakers (Ethnologue[12]) out of a population of 4.2 million people. Efforts to make it one of the official languages of the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics were unsuccessful.



Labial Dental/
Palatal Velar
Stop voiceless p t k
voiced b d ɡ
Affricate voiceless t͡ʃ
voiced d͡ʒ
Fricative voiceless f s
voiced v z
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Trill r
Approximant plain j w
lateral l

The /w/ sound occurs as the sound of /v/ in word-final position. When occurring intervocalically between an a [a] or an o [u], /v/ is pronounced as a non-syllabic [].[13][14]


Front Central Back
Close i y u
Mid e ø ə
ɛ ɔ
Open a

Allophones of /a/ are [ɑ, ɒ] in stressed syllables.


Piedmontese is written with a modified Latin alphabet. The letters, along with their IPA equivalent, are shown in the table below.

Letter IPA value Letter IPA value Letter IPA value
A a/a/, [ɑ] H h P p/p/
B b/b/ I i/i/ or (semivocalic) /j/ Q q/k/[lower-roman 1]
C c/k/ or //[lower-roman 2] J j/j/ R r/r/~/ɹ/
D d/d/ L l/l/ S s/s/, /z/[lower-roman 3]
E e/e/ or /ɛ/[lower-roman 4]M m/m/T t/t/
Ë ë/ə/ N n/n/ or /ŋ/[lower-roman 5] U u/y/, or (semivocalic) /w/, /ʊ̯/
F f/f/ O o/ʊ/, /u/ or (semivocalic), /ʊ̯/ V v/v/, /ʋ/, or /ɥ/[lower-roman 6]
G g/ɡ/ or //[lower-roman 2] Ò ò/ɔ/ Z z/z/
  1. Always before u.
  2. Before i, e or ë, c and g represent /tʃ/ and /dʒ/, respectively.
  3. s is voiced [z] between vowels, at the end of words, immediately before nasal/voiced consonants.
  4. e is /e/ or /ɛ/ in open syllables and just /e/ in closed.
  5. Before consonants and at the end of words, n represents the velar nasal /ŋ/.
  6. v is generally /v/, /ʋ/ before dental consonants and between vowels, /ɥ/ ([f] by some speakers) at the end of words.

Certain digraphs are used to regularly represent specific sounds as shown below.

Digraph IPA value Digraph IPA value Digraph IPA value
gg// gh/ɡ/ cc//
gli/ʎ/[lower-alpha 1] ss/s/ gn/ɲ/
sc/sk/, /stʃ/ sc, scc/stʃ/ eu/ø/
sg, sgg/zdʒ/
  1. Represents /ʎ/ in some Italian loanwords.

All other combinations of letters are pronounced as written. Grave accent marks stress (except for o which is marked by an acute to distinguish it from ò) and breaks diphthongs, so ua and are /wa/, but ùa is pronounced separately, /ˈya/.


Some of the characteristics of the Piedmontese language are:

  1. The presence of clitic so-called verbal pronouns for subjects, which give a Piedmontese verbal complex the following form: (subject) + verbal pronoun + verb, as in (mi) i von 'I go'. Verbal pronouns are absent only in the imperative form.
  2. The bound form of verbal pronouns, which can be connected to dative and locative particles (a-i é 'there is', i-j diso 'I say to him').
  3. The interrogative form, which adds an enclitic interrogative particle at the end of the verbal form (Veus-to…? 'Do you want to...?'])
  4. The absence of ordinal numerals higher than 'sixth', so that 'seventh' is col che a fà set 'the one which makes seven'.
  5. The existence of three affirmative interjections (that is, three ways to say yes): si, sè (from Latin sic est, as in Italian); é (from Latin est, as in Portuguese); òj (from Latin hoc est, as in Occitan, or maybe hoc illud, as in Franco-Provençal, French and Old Catalan and Occitan).
  6. The absence of the voiceless postalveolar fricative /ʃ/ (like the sh in English sheep), for which an alveolar S sound (as in English sun) is usually substituted.
  7. The existence of an S-C combination pronounced [stʃ].
  8. The existence of a velar nasal [ŋ] (like the ng in English going), which usually precedes a vowel, as in lun-a 'moon'.
  9. The existence of the third Piedmontese vowel Ë, which is very short (close to the vowel in English sir).
  10. The absence of the phonological contrast that exists in Italian between short (single) and long (double) consonants, for example, Italian fata 'fairy' and fatta 'done (F)'.
  11. The existence of a prosthetic Ë sound when consonantal clusters arise that are not permitted by the phonological system. So 'seven stars' is pronounced set ëstèile (cf. stèile 'stars').

Piedmontese has a number of varieties that may vary from its basic koiné to quite a large extent. Variation includes not only departures from the literary grammar, but also a wide variety in dictionary entries, as different regions maintain words of Frankish or Lombard origin, as well as differences in native Romance terminology. Words imported from various languages are also present, while more recent imports tend to come from France and from Italian.

A variety of Piedmontese was Judeo-Piedmontese, a dialect spoken by the Piedmontese Jews until the Second World War.

Lexical comparison

Lexical comparison with other Romance languages and English:

Piedmontese Italian French Spanish Portuguese Romanian Catalan English
cadregasediachaisesillacadeirascaun, catedrăcadirachair
pijéprendere, pigliareprendrecoger, tomar, pillarpegar, tomara luaprendreto take
surtìusciresortirsalirsaira ieșisortir/eixirto go/come out
droché/casché/tombécadere, cascaretombercaer, tumbarcair, tombarcăderecaureto fall
travajélavoraretravaillertrabajartrabalhara lucratreballarto work
ratavolòirapipistrellochauve-sourismurciélagomorcegoliliacratpenatbat (animal)
bòschboscoboisbosquebosquepădureboscwood (land)
monsùsignoremonsieurseñorsenhor, seudomnsenyorMr
madamasignoramadameseñorasenhora, donadoamnăsenyoraMrs
istàestateétéverano, estíoverão, estiovarăestiusummer


  1. Piedmontese on Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Piemontese". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. La Stampa. "Per la Consulta il piemontese non è una lingua". Retrieved May 14, 2010.
  4. University-level course material - physics and calculus (as consulted on 30 July 2010)
  5. Motion 1118 in the Piedmontese Regional Parliament, Approvazione da parte del Senato del Disegno di Legge che tutela le minoranze linguistiche sul territorio nazionale - Approfondimenti, approved unanimously on 15 December 1999
  6. Text of motion 1118 in the Piedmontese Regional Parliament, Consiglio Regionale del Piemonte, Ordine del Giorno 1118
  7. Piemontèis d'amblé - Avviamento Modulare alla conoscenza della Lingua piemontese; R. Capello, C. Comòli, M.M. Sánchez Martínez, R.J.M. Nové; Regione Piemonte/Gioventura Piemontèisa; Turin, 2001]
  8. Details on how schools can implement Piedmontese courses subsidized by the regional government by "Arbut", one organisation offering such courses Arbut - Ël piemontèis a scòla
  9. Knowledge and Usage of the Piedmontese Language in Turin and its Province Archived 2006-02-07 at the Wayback Machine, carried out by Euromarket, a Turin-based market research company on behalf of the Riformisti per l'Ulivo party in the Piedmontese Regional Parliament in 2003 (in Italian).
  10. F. Rubat Borel, M. Tosco, V. Bertolino. Il Piemontese in Tasca, a Piedmontese basic language course and conversation guide, published by Assimil Italia (the Italian branch of Assimil, the leading French producer of language courses) in 2006. ISBN 88-86968-54-X. assimil.it
  11. E. Allasino, C. Ferrer, E. Scamuzzi, T. Telmon Le Lingue del Piemonte, research published in October 2007 by Istituto di Ricerche Economiche e Sociali, a public economic and social research organisation.
  12. Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International ISO 639-3, pms (Piemontese) Retrieved 13 June 2012
  13. Brero, Camillo; Bertodatti, Remo (2000). Grammatica della lingua piemontese. Torino: Ed.
  14. Parry, Mair (1997). Piedmont. The dialects of Italy: London: Routledge. pp. 237–244.

Further reading

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