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Michael San Filippo

Neapolitan Officially A Language

By November 9, 2008

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Confirming what many have known for centuries, the regional government of Campania has officially declared Neapolitan a language. "Mo' Puttimo Parlà..." read the headlines of Il Brigante, in reporting on the legislative act titled: "Norme per lo studio, la tutela e la valorizzazione della lingua napoletana, dei dialetti e della tradizione popolare."

The initiative is meant to protect Nnapulitano, promote the education of the language, and preserve local culture and traditions. One suggestion is to provide laptops to schoolchildren with the user interface in Neapolitan [for instance, the menu commands or browser].


November 13, 2008 at 3:34 pm
(1) Bob Mazzo says:

I’ve always been fascinated by the Italian dialects, esp. from Napoli and Sicilia. I learned a few dialect phrases from Urbino many years ago (i.e. “Gim subit” or “Andiamo subito”). The song ‘Anema e Core’ I believe has some Nap. dialect in there…beautiful dialect indeed. – Bob

November 13, 2008 at 7:00 pm
(2) marianna ricci says:

is giuseppe garibaldi rolling in his grave? he fought long & hard for the unification of italy…& won! now, are they trying to branch off into little “pods” again?…w/ each a different language? it was my understanding that 1 language was adopted to become the official “lingua d’italia”. this blog is wonderful…i love it & all of you “italophiles”, too! amore, marianna

November 13, 2008 at 10:17 pm
(3) About.com Italian Language SiteGuide says:

“…are they trying to branch off into little “pods” again?…w/ each a different language?”

No. On the contrary, this initiative is an attempt to keep alive a wonderful example of the rich and diverse Italian patrimony – the Neapolitan language. As you pointed out, Italian is the national language of Italy, but there are many dialects and local languages in Italy.

See the article “You’re In Italy, Speak Italian!” for further discussion about dialetti italiani—a phrase often used to describe two phenomena: Dialects of Italian (regional varieties) and dialects of Italy (distinct local languages).

November 14, 2008 at 11:37 pm
(4) Gino Federici says:

As a born and raised Italian singer from Torino and naturalized American I must say that the Napolitan language has a romance all of its own. I sing Napolitan songs on my CDs and I marvel at the depth of classics like “Mala Femmena” “I’ te vurría vasá” “Dicitencello vuie”

Beautiful. Yes, Napolitan is truly a language
of the heart. Visit http://www.ginofederic.com

November 15, 2008 at 5:52 am
(5) Gennaro says:

perhaps only a few people know that naples was the most civilized city of europe and that its problems came from barbaric invasions and from spain and french dominations and even by unification… it’s true giuseppe garibaldi fought hard for the unification, but that meant the sack of this rich city and its kingdom. then no wonder if you can find in naples traces of a great civilization

November 15, 2008 at 9:24 am
(6) Michael Corrigan says:

Hmm… seems like it was already considered a language. See


November 15, 2008 at 12:03 pm
(7) john raguso says:

When I was growing up in New York, my family spoke Neapolitan. But because they were embarrassed by their humble dialect, they didn’t teach it to me.So, to this day,I can’t understand Neapolitan.My family would talk among themselves in it if they didn’t want me to know what were saying.
So I studied standard Italian in school.But, when I asked my Italian professor about how to learn dialect, he was almost scandalized. So I still can’t understand this mysterious dialect. I’ve recently located my long lost relatives in Southern Italy, but I hesitate to go there and introduce myself because I know that they, too, will speak Neapolitan among themselves, leaving me out of the conversation. I will feel like an outsider.
Why are there so few good language instruction texts and CD’s for leaning this dialect? Maybe now that it is an official “language”, more authors will come forth with the courage to write beginners textbooks for basic Neapolitan.

November 15, 2008 at 1:23 pm
(8) Corsicano says:

I greatly enjoy dialects of the several languages I’ve studied and I’m happy to see new vigor for the Neapolitan dialect. What terrific songs!

Asking half facetiously and half not, I wonder if the Italian-American-Neapolitan slang from the TV classic, “The Sopranos will find a niche somewhere in the resurgent movement. I hope so.

November 15, 2008 at 1:42 pm
(9) Minimino says:

I’d love to see this come true — computer interfaces [take that IBM!] in Neapolitan, school & university taught in Nabuletanu. In a generation, that would give the Liga Nord what it has been waiting for: the lopping of everything and -body just south of Rome, and Italy will return to it medieaval past.

November 15, 2008 at 2:58 pm
(10) marianna ricci says:

i was under the impression that the sopranos spoke a sicilian dialect. am i wrong? most, if not all, of the mafia were of sicilian extraction. i seem to recall that in 1 of the g-father movies, carlo, who was married to connie, was garroted & no one was sorry b/c “after all, he was just a napolitano”!

November 15, 2008 at 4:16 pm
(11) Kodon says:

Tony Soprano’s family was from Avellino (in Campania). I specifically remember an episode where he brings a wine from Avellino to a dinner and talks about how it was from where his family was from. (My family as well!) Mafia is from Sicily. Naples has Camorra. Language-wise, I knew ALL the slang they used. That always amazed me. (No gangsters in the family though!)

November 15, 2008 at 4:46 pm
(12) About.com Italian Language SiteGuide says:

The characters in “The Sopranos” don’t speak Italian, they use mobspeak, a street language that employs bastardized Italian—American forms of Italian words. According to William Safire in “Come Heavy,” the characters’ dialogue consists of “one part Italian, a little real Mafia slang, and a smattering of lingo remembered or made up for the show by former residents of a blue collar neighborhood in East Boston.”

See: The Sopranos? Fuhgeddaboutit! for more about the elentlessly foulmouthed fictional Mafia family with the surname of Soprano.

FYI: Please keep comments on-topic – this blog post relates specifically to the Neapolitan language and efforts to preserve the culture and traditions related to it, not organized crime. Everyone is welcome to visit the About.com Italian Language forums, where there are myriad topics related to th Italian language, including grammar, culture, dialects, and proverbs.

November 15, 2008 at 8:57 pm
(13) marianna ricci says:

OK, kodon, you’ve cleared up my misconception that the sopranos spoke sicilian. i, quite naturally thought that they did b/c of my previous viewing of all of the g-father movies. what is “camorra”?…would it be considered to be the counterpart of the mafia?…& if so, are the 2 associated in any way? i’m learning a lot of stuff today. i hope these blogs will continue. it’s great to have these discussions…we all have some ideas to share. amore,abbraci e baci a tutti, marianna

November 15, 2008 at 9:06 pm
(14) About.com Italian Language SiteGuide says:

I’d prefer that we didn’t let organized crime take over a perfectly legitimate blog post. They’re already threatening to take over italy (see this message thread on the About.com Italian Language Forums: The Mafia Is Italy’s Biggest Business).

But here goes – organized crime in Italy (the mafia) goes by the following terms:
Cosa Nostra (Sicilia)
Camorra (Napoli)
‘Ndrangheta (Calabria)
Sacra Corona Unita (Puglia)

Please continue the organized crime discussion on the forums, not here. Don’t threadjack this discussion, which is about the Neapolitan language.

November 15, 2008 at 10:09 pm
(15) marianna ricci says:

OK, point well taken. amore, M

November 17, 2008 at 3:20 pm
(16) Rasna says:

Garibaldi was forced to take Naples he did want to by-pass but Cavour insisted as it was on the mainland. As far as a dialect as is true of many dialects most are rather crude sounding if you speak Italian. Don’t say they don’t sound crude caue they are in chopping letters off as though chewing when speaking

November 18, 2008 at 1:26 am
(17) john raguso says:

it’s not a question of whether napulitano sounds crude to you or not. This language is an ancient one, and has a literature. More important, it is actually used everyday by people. That makes it worthy of studying, especially for those who are interested in linguistics.

November 18, 2008 at 10:27 am
(18) Rasna says:

Just becausen something is ancient doesn’t make it good and pleasant to the ear. The more ancient would be the Greek & Latin combo they spoke. The antiquity of an error does not insure its perpetuity. Listen to beautiful Italian sounds then listen to the same words in dialect or accented by the region.

November 18, 2008 at 3:27 pm
(19) john raguso says:

Beauty is always in the eyes (or ears) of the beholder. I am aware of how beautiful Italian sounds since I have studied it and have mastered it’s sounds. But it is no more beautiful than any other language,whether it is Neapolitan or Cantonese. How you or I feel about it’s beauty is irrelevant.

And, yes, antiquity is important! It is it’s own reason for existing. It will always be the subject of ethnologists, anthropologists and linguists.

November 18, 2008 at 5:03 pm
(20) Rasna says:

We agree as to the sound of the language spoken as it should be. Antiquity is only for study not a practical us of language, however, when one must communicate with people outside your region it is necessary to speak the common language. No comment about Garibaldi’stance on taking Naples?

November 27, 2008 at 4:37 am
(21) Antonio Colandrea says:

Sorry, Rasna, but You can’t say that the language used for immortal songs (like “‘o sole mio” or “malafemmena” just to say the first that come in my mind) is a “hard language”!!

Neapolitan language is so musically perfect, used in songs that have such soft and romantic, and happy spirit…

How can You say that it’s a “hard” language?
German is! Russian is! But Neapolitan has the same basis of spanish, italian or french language, three of the most used languages for songs… This should mean something, no?

And then it’s right to let it be a full language, because it’s actually spoken by millions of people in Campania and all over the world (I used to speak Neapolitan with my teachers too!!!), so…

December 24, 2008 at 10:15 pm
(22) Joe T. says:

I have mixed feelings about this. My father was from Tuscany and my mother is from Campania. Her mother spoke the Neapolitan dialect.

Certainly, Neapolitan has a lot of different features as compared with mainstream Italian (based on Tuscan).

However, by the same token, Appalachian English, spoken by rural people in many mountain communities of the East-Central USA, which differs greatly from Standard American English, would be considered a different language. Appalachian English is not slang, and it has a standard set of rules. Likewise, “Ebonics” which is a standard, rules-based form of African-American English.

Looking at Neapolitan (the words, the spellings, the orthography, and the etymologies), you have to admit that it is just about as close to Standard Italian as Appalachian is to Standard American English, or, say, the Scots or Cockney dialects of English are to the Queen’s English in Britain.

Comparing Neapolitan with Italian, there are enough similarities to say that the two are part of a single linguistic continuum.

If Neapolitan is a real language, then other regional dialects like Appalachian English and Ebonics should be considered languages.

If on the other hand, these dialects cannot be considered true languages, then I think neither can you separate regional Italian dialects like Neapolitan, Abruzzese, Piemontese, etc. from the mainstream Italian and bestow on them a separate status.

Looking at Neapolitan (the words, the spellings, the orthography, and the etymologies), you have to admit that it is just about as close to Standard Italian as Appalachian is to Standard American English, or, say, the Scots or Cockney dialects of English are to the Queen’s English in Britain.

March 17, 2009 at 1:02 pm
(23) luca says:

yeaaaah finally i can speak my favorite language!!!!!
seeeeee finalment’ mo’ poz’ parla’ ‘a lingua che m’ piace e’ cchiu’

August 11, 2009 at 9:16 am
(24) Kevin McNaughton says:

I was brought up speaking Scots Gaelic and Neapolitan. I learned English and Italian when we came to live in london, from the Isle of Skye. Neapolitan has always been a language to me, with a musical and literary culture going back to the Reanaissance, to my knowledge. It also has its own school or style of harpsichoerd building, cooking, opera, oratorio etc etc. Those who deny that Neapolitan is a language, also deny Neapolitan contributions to Italian and therefore world civilization. This is similar to the Anglophiles who deny Celtic civilization, here in the UK! (after all, those who are insecure of their own cultural standing have to sneer at others who are secure culturally.) All the dialects and languages add to the richness of Italy. After all, the concept of “Italy” is a relatively recent construct, compared to England, Scotland or France, say. It may seem ancient to some people, but really, a hundred and fifty years is nothing compared to more than a thousand for the nation of England, for instance. And pleaase correct me if I am wrong, but the Greek city of Neapolis is as old, if not older than Rome itself! Oh Yes! I speak Neapolitan as my mother is a Clerkenwell Italian, whose parents are from Ravello, and gaelic as my father was a Highlander. As children we were loved and fussed in Gaelic by dad, and Neapolitan ,by mum, who both spoke English to each other so that my sister and I could not understand!

October 12, 2009 at 3:09 am
(25) anne capuano macri says:

Having been born and raised in Brooklyn NY by Neapolitan parents- I always remembered them speaking in Italian to each other, not to the children-
I recently returned from a visit to Naples and found that the Neapolitan dialect was a language which was fine with me-found that I could communicate pretty good-also found the Castel Capuano in the heart of Naples which was pretty neat-
Let’s keep Neapolitan language going for future generations-

October 13, 2009 at 7:39 am
(26) Nancy Fiocco says:

I am Italian Australian,
I am 84 ,my first language was Sicilian,I have tried to learn Italian. My Australian friends who have learnt Italian with me say they do not understand me unless i speak slowly. But my best compliment i have ever received was when i visited Sicily.
Someone said’ i don’t you but i can tell you are from our town by you dialect’” I felt very proud

December 5, 2009 at 1:07 am
(27) Caterina says:

I’m first generation here and my father is from Benevento and my mother from Ascoli Piceno …. I tried to learn the “Alto Italiano” (as my mother calls it) .. but upon my visiting Italy I reverted into the dialect of my youth .. neopolitan … that dialect flows easily off the tongue and I love the way it sounds … however, my question is .. does anyone know where I can officially brush up on my Neopolitan?

December 22, 2009 at 8:37 pm
(28) John says:

Personally, I find the general intonation of the Neopolitan language to sound a lot like Portuguese, and the articles ‘o’ and ‘a’ as well.

October 14, 2010 at 10:03 am
(29) Sapio decendant says:

I would love to learn the Napolitan dialect. My mother was born in Napoli near the NATO base. My grandmother was from Bangioli(sorry if I mispelled) and grandfather was a Norwegian American stationed there. My grandmother and great grandmother spoke to me in the Napolitan dialect as a child but I forgot everything as after they passed I never heard it again. I wish there was as a CD I could find to teach me. I am learning standard Italian at this point but I enjoy listening to the Napolitan way of speaking, when I visited my relatives who are still in Agnano I understood most of what they said, it comes back to you fast. Anyone have family from Agnano or Bangioli area?

December 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm
(30) Chuck says:

Regarding Joe T.’s comment on comparing Neopolitan to Appalachian-

Modern Italian has only existed for just over 100 years. Italian is based heavily on the Tuscan dialect and a mixture of every dialect in the peninsula. Then, verbs were changed to simulate latin and to appear more scholarly and sophisticated. All in all, Italian is an artificial language like Esperanto.

If you read Dante in its original Tuscan, you will see how similar it is to Neopolitan, as well as beautiful.

Neopolitan is a natural language that took hundreds of years to develop. It is a real language and by comparing it to Appalachian English is a real insult to the people and culture of the Campania region of Italy.

Furthermore, Josef (Giuseppe) Garibaldi was a French Revolutionary like Che Guevara, fighting wars all over the world. He was born in Nice, France.

If you look closely at Italian culture, you will realize, it doesn’t really exist. There are only regional cultures, foods, and languages that tell you the history of the peninsula and islands.

I have lived in Naples for 2 years. I love Naples, the people, culture, and above all, the language and music.

June 2, 2011 at 8:17 am
(31) Merkit says:

Napulitano is a worthy language with a venerable history. It is not a dialect, although it is described as a dialetto in Italian. There is a large body of literature in Neopolitan. The first Operas were performed in Neopolitan as well. Due to Spanish occupation and the importance of Naples in Italian history, Napulitano like dialects were spoken as far as Rome until a few centuries ago, making Romanesco’s ascendancy a later event. My advice is to learn standard Italian first. The reason for this is there is more material that will teach you to speak Napulitano (or Sicilian, Liguriano, Veneto, etc) in the Italian language then in any other. Also, Napulitano and Italian are quite close, as is Spanish if you have some of that. Best of luck…

October 21, 2011 at 6:03 am
(32) Rita says:

Hello, this is a fascinating discussion. I lived in Naples for a couple of years in the early nineties. It was a groundbreaking experience for me. I love the neapolitan language to listen and mainly understand it (being of Italian descent) but would not attempt to speak it as it sounds very fake from me.

I have a question and wonder if anyone could help. I am writing some stories loosely based on my Naples experience. Does anyone know how to say, “move your scooter out of the way” in neapolitan. And also, does anyone know if there is such a thing as a neapolitan dictionary.
Mille grazie!

September 18, 2012 at 4:09 pm
(33) Maida Maldonado says:

I just recently learned about my Napolitano ggggrandfather, I’am sooo proud to have Italian ancestor it made me cry tears of joy. I’am Spanish American.

January 13, 2014 at 1:15 am
(34) Mario says:

The Sicilian and Neapolitan dialects are awful. It’s nice to hear them on mob movies and in songs, but to speak them or try to learn them is like learning a different language. They are hideous bastardizations of true Italian.

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