Ligurian language (Romance)

This article is about the modern Ligurian language. For the distantly-related ancient language, see Ligurian language (ancient).
Lìgure, Zenéixe
Pronunciation ,
Native to Italy (Liguria, Piedmont, Tuscany, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Sardinia)
France (Alpes Maritimes and Bonifacio, Corse-du-Sud)
Monaco, Argentina (in the neighborhood of La Boca in Buenos Aires).
Native speakers
500,000  (2002)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 lij
Glottolog ligu1248[2]
Linguasphere 51-AAA-oh & 51-AAA-og

Ligurian is a Gallo-Romance language spoken in Liguria in Northern Italy, parts of the Mediterranean coastal zone of France, Monaco and in the villages of Carloforte and Calasetta in Sardinia. Genoese (Zenéixe), spoken in Genoa, the capital of Liguria, is its most important dialect. The language belongs to the Gallo-Italic group of Romance languages.

Ligurian has almost 500,000 speakers, and is still widely spoken by many in Genoa and in many of the small towns and villages in the region. There are also many groups dedicated to the preservation of the language such as Associazione Culturale O Castello in Chiavari, which offers Ligurian (Genovese) language courses. Notable native speakers of Ligurian include Niccolò Paganini, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Christopher Columbus, Eugenio Montale, Giulio Natta, Italo Calvino, and Fabrizio De André. There is also a popular musical group, Buio Pesto, who compose songs entirely in the Genoese subdialect.

There is, however, a long literary tradition of Ligurian poets and writers that goes from the 13th century to the present, such as Luchetto (the Genoese Anonym), Martin Piaggio and Gian Giacomo Cavalli.

Geographic extent

Besides Liguria (Ligurian Ligùria), the language is traditionally spoken in coastal, northern Tuscany, southern Piedmont (part of the province of Alessandria), western extremes of Emilia-Romagna (some areas in the province of Piacenza), in northern and southern west parts of Sardinia (Italy), the Alpes-Maritimes of France (mostly the Côte d'Azur from the Italian border to and including Monaco), and parts of Corsica (France). It has been adopted formally in Monaco as the Monegasque language; or locally, Munegascu.

The Mentonasc dialect, spoken in the East of the County of Nice, is considered to be a transitional Occitan dialect to Ligurian; conversely, the Roiasc and Pignasc spoken further North in the Eastern margin of the County are Ligurian dialects showing Occitan influences.

In Italy, the language has given way to Standard Italian and in France to French.

Linguistic structure

Ligurian exhibits distinct Italian features, while also having features of other Romance languages. No link between Romance Ligurian and the Ligurian language of the ancient Ligurian populations, in the form of a substrate or otherwise, can be demonstrated by linguistic evidence. There are, however, toponomastic derivations from ancient Ligurian.


Variants of the Ligurian language are:


The Ligurian alphabet has:

  • 7 vowels: a, e, i, ò (IPA: [ɔ]), o [u], u [y], æ [ɛ], plus the group eu [ø].
  • 18 consonants: b, c, ç, d, f, g, h, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, x, z.
  • It uses the umlaut (¨), circumflex (^), acute (´), and accent (`) on most vowels when the full pronunciation key is given in the official spelling. It also uses the c-cedilla (ç).


  • a péia: pear (It. and Ro. păr Sp. pera, Pt. pêra)
  • o méi: apple (It. mela Ro. măr)
  • o belìn or belàn (used as an exclamation, lit. 'penis' similar with)
  • o çetrón: orange (cf. Fr. citron 'lemon'; replacing Gen. limón—cf. It. limone)
  • o fîgo: fig (It. fico Ro. fig Fr. figue, Gl. and Pt. figo)
  • o pèrsego: peach (It. pesca, Ro. piersică Fr. pêche, Cat. préssec, Gl. pexego, Pt. pêssego)
  • a franboâza: raspberry (Fr. framboise, Pt. framboesa)
  • a çêxa: cherry (It. ciliegia Ro. cireaşa, Fr. cerise, Pt. cereja)
  • o meréllo: strawberry
  • a nôxe: hazelnut (It. nocciola, Ro. nuc Fr. noisette, Pt. noz)
  • o bricòcalo: apricot (It. albicocca, Cat. albercoc, Pt. abricó)
  • l'ûga: grape (It., Sp. and Pt. uva Ro. uvă, auo)
  • o pigneu: pine nut (It. pinolo, Ro. nucă de pin Pt. pinho)
  • arvî: to open (It. aprire, Fr. ouvrir, Sp. and Pt. abrir)
  • serâ: to close (It. chiudere, Ro. închidere Sp. cerrar)
  • ciæo: light (cf. It. chiaro Ro. clar)
  • a cà: home, house (It., Sp. and Pt. casa; Ro. casă Cat. and Ven: 'Ca(sa))
  • l'êuvo: egg (It. uovo, Ro. ou Gl. and Pt. ovo)
  • l'éuggio: eye (It. occhio, Ro. ochi Fr. l'œil, Cat. ull, Gl. ollo, Pt. olho)
  • a bócca: mouth (It. bocca, Sp. and Pt. boca)
  • a tésta: head (It. testa Ro. ţeastă)
  • a schénn-a: back (It. schiena, Ro. spinare Cat. esquena)
  • o cû: arse (It., Sp. culo, Ro. cur Fr. and Cat. cul, Gal. and Pt. cu)
  • o bràsso: arm (It. braccio, Ro. braţ Fr. bras, Pt. braço)
  • a gànba: leg (It. gamba, Ro. gambă Fr. jambe, Cat. cama)
  • o cheu: heart (It. cuore, Ro. cor Fr. cœur)

See also


  1. ^ Ligurian at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Ligurian". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  • Jean-Philippe Dalbera, Les parlers des Alpes Maritimes : étude comparative, essai de reconstruction [thèse], Toulouse: Université de Toulouse 2, 1984 [éd. 1994, Londres: Association Internationale d’Études Occitanes]
  • Werner Forner, “Le mentonnais entre toutes les chaises ? Regards comparatifs sur quelques mécanismes morphologiques” [Caserio & al. 2001: 11-23]
  • Intemelion (revue), n° 1, Sanremo, 1995.

External links

  • Associazione O Castello (in Italian/ Ligurian)
  • Official Orthography and Alphabet (in Ligurian)
  • A Compagna (Italian)
  • Audio samples of several Italian dialects
  • GENOVÉ (English version) - Ligurian language & culture, literature, photos and resources to learn Ligurian (English)
  • GENOVÉ (Homepage in Ligurian and Spanish) (Spanish)
  • Ligurian poetry and prose
  • Ligurian dictionaries in Spanish and English to download for free
  • Firefox, a web browser in Ligurian
  • Opera, a web browser in Ligurian
  • Skype in Ligurian
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