Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Piedmontese Language

Provinces in Piedmont
We were recently in Piedmont for several days visiting family. We spent all of our time in the Cuneo province of Piedmont. One of our mothers who had never been to Italy was with us. She could speak Piedmontese well, remembering it from her childhood when it was spoken by Piedmontese immigrants in and around the Los Angeles area. The relatives we visited were surprised that someone from America could speak this language.

The Piedmontese language is still considered by some to be a dialect of Italian. In any case, there are enough similarities to the Italian language that after a few days we were starting to get the hang of it. A characteristic which sticks out for me is an aspect officially called the velar nasal N-sound where words come out sounding like the “ing” in “going”. Also, in comparison to Italian, Piedmontese seems to leave off the lasts syllable many in words: “adesso” (now) is “adess” and “giusto” (correct; right) becomes “giust”. There is also a noticeable French influence; “buon” (good) becomes “bon” and “sorella” (sister) is “seur” (pretty close to French).

Mom would speak to relatives in Piemontese, relatives would speak to us in Italian, and we would speak to Mom in English. It was all a great workout for the brain. The relatives were able to even peg her accent as “southern” Piemontese as there is a high degree of variability within Piemonte in how the language is spoken.

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