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Roman dialect

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Roman dialect

This article is about the Italian dialect. For the vegetable, see Romanesco broccoli. For the Renaissance and Baroque dance and associated chord progression, see Romanesca. For the architectural style, see Romanesque architecture.

Native to Italy
Region Lazio
Native speakers 3 million  (date missing)
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Linguist List
Linguasphere 51-AAA-rab
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Romanesco or Romanesque is a regional language or sociolect subsumed within the Italian language spoken in Rome. It is part of the Central Italian dialects and is thus genetically closer to the Tuscan dialect and Standard Italian.

There exist a few notable grammatical and idiomatic differences from Standard Italian. Rich in expressions and sayings, Romanesco is used for informal communication by most natives of Rome, often in a mix with Italian.


As shown by several medieval manuscripts, the medieval Roman dialect was more similar to southern dialect, such as those spoken in Naples. In the 16th century, it received a strong influence of the Tuscan dialect (from which modern Italian derives) after the immigration of people from that region in the wake of the Sack of Rome (1527). Therefore current Romanesco has grammar and roots rather different from other dialects in the Latium region; further, usually Romanesco is fully understandable for other Italian speakers.

Romanesco also influenced the dialect of the area of modern Latina, which was reclaimed in the early 1920 and mostly populated by immigrants from northern Italy: it became the local dialect as it was spoken by the small but influential clerical bourgeoisie coming from Rome.


Before Rome became the capital city of Italy, Romanesco was spoken only inside the walls of the city, while the little towns surrounding Rome had their own dialects; nowadays these dialects have almost disappeared and they have been replaced with a kind of Romanesco, which therefore is now spoken in an area larger than the original one, as well as slightly pervading the everyday language of most of the immigrants that live in the city.


Romanesco pronunciation is very similar to Standard Italian. In this dialect the letter "J" is still used and is pronounced as an "I". This letter appears between two vowels or at the beginning of a word followed by a vowel. It substitutes the Italian "gl-" sound [ʎ]. Examples: between two vowels figlio [ˈfiʎːo]) is fijo [ˈfijo], meaning "son".

The letter "C" followed by -e or -i makes a sound between [tʃ] and [ʃ]. For example, cielo is the same word in both Romanesco and Standard Italian, but in the first case it would be pronounced [ˈʃɛlo] instead of [ˈtʃɛlo] (when following a vowel) .

Geminate [r] ("rolled r" or alveolar trill) does not exist. In Romanesco words like birra (Italian for "beer") or terra ("ground") respectively become bira and tera. This phenomenon has developed recently, as it was not present in the 19th century Romanesco.

Noteworthy figures

Today, Romanesco is generally considered more of a regional idiom than a true language or dialect. Classical Romanesco, that reached the high literature with Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, has disappeared.

Romanesco Proper, spoken in the city of Rome and the immediate surrounding areas, is somewhat different from the rest of the Romanesco dialects.

External forces such as immigration and the dominance of Italian are playing a role in the transformation.

Ma nun c'è lingua come la romana

Pe' dì una cosa co' ttanto divario

Che ppare un magazzino de dogana.

"Le lingue der monno"

- G.G. Belli

But there is no language like the Roman one

To express a concept with so many variants

So that it seems a customs warehouse.

"Languages of the world"

- G.G. Belli


  • aò, anvedi chi stà a 'rivà! (Italian: ehi, guarda chi sta arrivando!) English: hey, look who's arriving!
  • stò a 'nnà ar cinema co' l'amici mia (Italian: sto andando al cinema con i miei amici) English: I'm going to the cinema with my friends
  • ieri me sò ppijato 'na bira ar bare (Italian: ieri ho preso una birra al bar) English: yesterday I had a beer at the bar
  • ma nô sapevi che tu' fija n'è 'nnata a scola? (Italian: ma non lo sapevi che tua figlia non è andata a scuola?) English: didn't you know that your daughter hasn't gone to school?

Romanesco was the language of the satirical Pasquinades on the talking statues of Rome.

Famous Romanesco speakers

See also

  • Belli's The Sovrans of the Old World (1831)


External links

  • A description of the Roman dialect
  • (Italian) Lucio Felici, , in "Capitolium", 1972 (XLVII), n° 4, pp. 26–33 (it is a summary of the history of Romanesco from the origin to nowadays).
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