Italian dialects and their difference from the Italian language

Italian dialects and their difference from the Italian language

Tatiana Osoblivaia


Language and Culture


To many, Italy is an incredibly diverse country. This is evidenced by the number of different dialects spoken throughout the country. These dialects differ from the standard language, known as Italiano Standard or Standard Italian. But what exactly are these dialects? How are they different from standard Italian, and which one should you learn? In this blog post, we'll take a look at some of the most common Italian dialects and highlight some of the differences between them and standard Italian.


Difference between Italian dialects and the Italian language

The first thing to note is that there is no single "Italian language." Instead, there are several distinct dialects spoken throughout the country. These include Tuscan-based (the most widely spoken), Venetian-based, Sicilian-based, Apulian-based, Neapolitan-based, Emilian-Romagnol-based, Ligurian-based, Lombardic-based, and Friulian-based varieties.

Each of these dialects has its own set of rules for how words should be pronounced and used in sentences. For example, in Tuscan-based Italian - the variety most closely associated with standard Italian - words tend to be short and simple. However, this isn't always the case in other dialects; for example, Venetian-based Italian tends to use longer words with more syllables than its Tuscan counterpart. Additionally, many of the local dialects will have their unique vocabulary or word usage that isn't necessarily found in other dialects or even in standard Italian.

Another important distinction between these dialects and standard Italian lies in grammar. While all varieties share certain aspects of syntax and structure - such as using masculine/feminine articles with nouns - there can be subtle differences between each one that could make it difficult for someone who only knows standard Italian to understand them fully. For instance, some regional dialects may opt to use a verb tense not typically seen in mainstream language or omit certain suffixes on noun endings.


A number of dialects in Italy

The exact number of dialects spoken in Italy is hard to determine due to the lack of a clear definition of what constitutes a "dialect". Generally speaking, 4 main groups can be identified: Northern Italian (including Lombardic and Venetian), Central Italian (including Tuscan and Romanesco), Southern Italian (including Sicilian), and Insular Italian (including Sardinian). Within these 4 main groups, there are numerous distinct dialects, such as Neapolitan and Calabrese in the South, Piedmontese in the North-West, and Emiliano-Romagnolo in the North-East. All told it is estimated that there are at least 20 different dialects spoken throughout Italy.


Where are Italian language dialects spoken?

Each region has its distinct dialect or variations thereof. In Northern Italy you may find Lombardic being spoken in Milan, Venetian around Venice, Piedmontese near Turin, Emiliano-Romagnolo around Bologna, and Ligurian near Genoa.

In Central Italy, you may encounter Tuscan around Florence and Romanescone near Rome. In Southern Italy, you can expect to hear Sicilian around Palermo or Calabrese on the toe of the boot while Sardinian is predominant on Sardinia Island with its specific language which cannot be described as an Italian dialect.


Unique linguistic features of Italian dialects

Every region has its unique linguistic characteristics which can include vocabulary words or even grammar rules not shared by other regions. For example, the verb "essere" (to be) is often used differently among various regions; for instance, in Milan, it is conjugated as "so" whereas other regions might use "sono" or "sona" instead. Another example could be found within vocabulary words; for instance "stufato" means stewed meat dish but only in central Italy whereas elsewhere it would refer to something else entirely.


List of the best-known dialects of Italy

Lombard dialect – Milanese dialect

The Lombard dialect is spoken in Milan and its surrounding areas. It is one of the most distinct dialects due to its unique pronunciations. For instance, “ti” (you) is pronounced as “tè” in Lombard, while “ci” (us) becomes “ce” when spoken in this dialect. Furthermore, Lombard has several different words for common items found in other dialects, such as “vetrina” instead of “scaffale” for shelf and “lampa” instead of “lampada” for lamp.

Venetian dialect – Veneziano dialect

The Venetian language or Veneto is an important regional language spoken by more than four million people throughout Northern Italy (including Venice). The Venetian dialect is also spoken in parts of Croatia, Slovenia, France, and Austria.

This particular dialect uses more nasal vowels than the standard language; for example, the word "il" (the) is often pronounced as "in". Additionally, many consonants have been changed to double consonants; for example, "bene" (good) becomes "beene". There are also some distinctive words used only in Venetian such as ‘viola' for purple or 'scarpa' for shoe instead of 'scarpe'.

Although Veneto is still considered to be part of Italian due to its grammar structure being derived from Latin, it has enough differences that it warrants being classified as its language altogether. Venetian has also been heavily influenced by German over time; it thus contains a lot of Germanic words that are not found elsewhere in Italy's other regional languages.

Tuscan dialect - Florentine dialect

The Tuscan dialect is spoken mainly in Tuscany but can also be heard in parts of Umbria, Lazio, Marche, and northern Sardinia. In Florence, it developed its peculiarities concerning vocabulary and pronunciation compared to other regions.

For instance, Tuscan speakers pronounce vowels at the end of a word which Italians do not do; thus, they would say 'casa' while Italians would say 'case'. The Tuscan vocabulary also differs significantly from other regions - where an Italian speaker would use 'pensare', and Tuscan speakers would use 'pensà'.

Its pronunciation is quite distinct from that of standard Italian because it does not feature voiced consonants (words pronounced with a humming sound) or intervocalic sibilants (words pronounced with a hissing sound). Additionally, many words are shortened from their original forms to make them easier to pronounce—for example “padrone” is often shortened to “pà”.

This dialect has been heavily influenced by Latin and Ancient Greek, leading to a unique pronunciation that is distinct from other regional dialects.

The Tuscan language has also been used for centuries by some of Italy’s most renowned writers, including Dante Alighieri and Boccaccio. As such, it remains one of the most widely recognizable dialects in the country.

Sicilian dialect - Siciliano - Sicilianu

The Sicilian dialect is spoken mainly on the island of Sicily but can also be heard in southern Calabria and parts of southern Puglia. The Sicilian dialect comes from the southern region of Sicily and is considered to be one of the oldest Romance languages still in use today.

It has been strongly influenced by Latin and Arabic over time due to its location near North Africa, making it quite distinct from other Italian dialects. Additionally, Sicilian contains elements from Norman French, Spanish, German, and Greek; these various influences can be seen in loan words used throughout this particular dialect.

Sicilian also differs from standard Italian in terms of grammar; for instance, it uses different pronouns when talking about people or objects in certain cases. Additionally, Sicilian speakers often replace certain vowels with diphthongs or combine two words into one when speaking quickly; an example is "stasera" which combines "stasira" (this evening) into one word.

Moreover, Sicilian pronounces "c" as "g" before "e" and "i", so for example “casa” would be pronounced as “gasa” when speaking this particular dialect - a trait shared by many languages across Europe spoken around the Mediterranean Sea!

Neapolitan dialect – Napulitano dialect - Naples dialect - Napoli dialect

The Neapolitan dialect is spoken in Naples and its surrounding areas. It is known for its distinctive pronunciation and syntax; for example, Neapolitan speakers tend to drop final syllables when speaking quickly. This means that they will often say things like “niente" instead of "niente" (nothing). Additionally, Neapolitan tends to use double vowel sounds where standard Italian does not; for instance “parlare" becomes "parlaa". Neapolitan also has a larger vocabulary than standard Italian; for example, it uses different terms for common items such as bread ("pane") or cheese ("cacio").

Piedmontese dialect

The Piedmontese dialect is spoken mainly in northern Italy in the regions of Piedmont, Valle d'Aosta, Liguria, Lombardy, and Emilia-Romagna. In this dialect, vowels tend to be more open than in standard Italian, which makes it sound softer than other varieties. This variety also has a unique syllable structure, with words often ending in consonant clusters such as -ns or -mb. It also features many nasalized vowels and consonants not found in standard Italian.

Calabrese dialect

The Calabrian dialect is spoken mainly in Calabria, located in the southern part of Italy. The dialect can be divided into three distinct varieties: coastal, mountainous, and inland. The coastal variety includes such cities as Reggio di Calabria, while mountain varieties include Catanzaro and Cosenza. It is also spoken in parts of Sicily and Puglia. Common features shared by all these regions include a lack of definite articles (e.g., 'the' or 'a'), a preference for masculine nouns over feminine ones (e.g., 'il cane' instead of 'la cane'), and an abundance of regional terminology (e.g., 'stà' for 'sta', meaning 'is').

Abruzzo dialect

The Abruzzo dialect is found mainly in Abruzzo's four provinces - L'Aquila, Chieti, Pescara, and Teramo - but is also present in parts of Molise and Umbria. The dialect has its unique features; for example, it often uses Latin words rather than those derived from Italiano (e.g., 'climata' instead of 'temperatura'). It also has many interesting idiomatic expressions that are used frequently by locals but rarely heard elsewhere (e.g., ‘la mamma di tutti i mali’ meaning ‘the mother of all evils’). Additionally, certain suffixes are dropped when forming noun plurals (e.g., ‘pulce’ becoming ‘pulci’ instead of ‘pulcie’).

Italian may be just one language but it encompasses a variety of distinct dialects that each have their unique features. From Venetian with its heavy use of foreign words, to Neapolitan with its dropped syllables and a larger vocabulary, to Sicilian with its Greek influences - all three have something special that sets them apart from standard Italian.

If you're looking for a way to immerse yourself further in this beautiful language or improve your Italian translation skills then exploring some regional dialects can be a great way to do so! By understanding how different regions speak differently you can gain a deeper appreciation for how vast and diverse this incredible language is!



Our translations are performed by translators carefully selected to align with the subject matter and content of your project. They meet and exceed international quality standards. Upon request, we will provide you with a certificate attesting to the precision of our translations