Calabrian dialects

Calabrian dialects
Calabrian dict in Vallata dello Stilaro variant. Cu on da sapa e ruggia leva u saccu randa

The primary languages of the Calabria region are Standard Italian and many regional varieties of the Italo-Dalmatian group collectively known as Calabrian (Italian: calabrese). In addition, there is a significant Calabrian version of the Griko language and pockets of Occitan and Arbëresh.


Calabrian (Calabrese)

Calabrian (it: Calabrese) is the name given to a number of dialects spoken in the Calabria region of Italy. The various dialects of Calabria are part of a strong continuum that are generally recognizable as Calabrian, but that are usually divided into two different language groups. In the northern one-third of the region, the Calabrian dialects are often classified typologically with Neapolitan language (it: Napoletano-Calabrese) and are called Northern Calabrian or just Cosentino[1]. In the southern two-thirds of the region, the Calabrian dialects are more closely related to Sicilian, grouped as Central and Southern Calabrian or simply Calabro, and are usually classified as part of Extreme Southern Italian (Italiano meridionale-estremo) language group[2]. The Amantea-Cirò line is generally considered an approximate demarcation between the Neapolitan and Sicilian language groups.

The linguistic division roughly corresponds with the historic administrative division already in place since medieval times: Calabria Citeriore (or Latin Calabria) and Calabria Ulteriore (or Greek Calabria). It must be noted this is a broad generalization and many communities in the more central parts of the region exhibit features of both language groups.

The dialects of Calabria have been extensively studied, catalogued and commented upon by German philologist Gerhard Rohlfs. From the mid-1920s to the mid-1970s, he traveled the region extensively and assembled a very extensive, multi-volume dictionary.

English Southern Calabrian Northern Calabrian Italian
tomorrow rumàni crai / dumàni domani
in the meantime asciatàntu / shramènti interimme frattanto
the day before last avantèri nustierzu ieri l'altro
to yawn sbadigghjàri alare sbadigliare

Central and Southern Calabrian

Dialetti italiani meridionali estremi.jpg

The areas where Central- Southern Calabrian (calabbrìsi or calavrìsi, in Sicilian) is spoken corresponds generally to the provinces of Reggio Calabria, Vibo Valentia, Catanzaro and the southern part of Crotone (Crotone, Isola di Capo Rizzuto, Cutro and vicinity). The term Sicilian-Calabrian is also used to distinguish the group from the Northern Calabrian group.

The primary roots of the dialects are the two ancient classical languages: Greek and Latin.[3] Southern and Central Calabrian dialects are strongly influenced by a Greek substratum and ensuing levels of Latin influence and other external Southern Italian superstrata, in part hindered by geography, resulted in the many local variations found between the idioms of Calabria.[4] Nonetheless, the dialects have a rich and varied influence from other languages, thanks to the domination and influx of different cultures. As a result French, and, to a lesser extent, Spanish have left a strong imprint.

Central-Southern Calabrian Phonetic Greek Italian French English
batràci vátrakhos ranocchio grenouille frog
zinnapòtamu kynopotamus lontra loutre otter
bampurìddha / lampurìdda / vampurìddha lampurida lucciola ver luisant firefly
purtuàllu portocâli arancia orange orange
'nnàca nàke culla berceau cradle
tuppitiàri typto battere battre to hit

French vocabulary entered the region via the kingdoms of the Normans and the Angevins in Calabria.

Central-Southern Calabrian French Italian English
'ccattàri acheter comprare to buy
'nduja andouille salsicciotto type of sausage
buccirìa boucherie macelleria butcher's
arrocculàri reculer rotolare to recoil
ràggia rage rabbia anger
sciarabàllu carriole (char à bancs) veicolo sbatacchiato charabanc
travagghiàri travailler lavorare to work

Other words derived from Spanish, Catalan and Occitan :

  • capezza : cabeza (Spanish) : head
  • cucchiàra : cuchara (Spanish) : spoon
  • palumba : paloma (Spanish) : dove
  • scupetta : escopeta (Spanish) : rifle
  • muccatùri : mocador (Catalan) : tissue
  • prèscia : pressa (Catalan) : precipitation
  • timpa : timba (Catalan) : abrupt
  • addhumàri : allumar (Occitan, French, Provençal) : light up


Êssiri (to be)

Present Imperfect Past simple Subjunctive present Subjunctive imperfect
(J)èu sugnu êra fùja chi fùssi fùssi
Tu(ni) êri fùsti chi fùssi fùssi
Iddhu, Iddha êsti êra fu' chi fùssi fùssi
Nu(i) símu êrumu fùmmu chi fùssimu fùssimu
Vu(i) síti êru fùstu chi fùstu fùssivu
Iddhi sunnu êrunu fúru chi fùssiru fùssiru

Aìri (to have)

Present Imperfect Past simple Subjunctive present Subjunctive imperfect
(J)èu haju aìva èppi chi aìssi aìssi
Tu(ni) hai aívi aìsti chi aìssi aìssi
Iddhu, Iddha havi aìva èppi chi aìssi aìssi
Nui aìmu aìvumu èppimu chi aìssimu aìssimu
Vui aíti aìvu aistu chi aìssivu aìssivu
Iddhi hannu aìvunu èppiru chi aìssiru aìssiru


  • Reggino dialect (u 'rriggitànu, in Reggino) is the dialect with the most speakers[5], and cites Reggio Calabria as its cultural centre. This dialect is very similar to the dialect of Messina in Sicily.
  • Dialects of the Chjàna spoken in the plains of Gioia Tauro, a micro-region situated north of Aspromonte.
  • Locride dialects, spoken on the east coast of the Province of Reggio Calabria.
  • Catanzaro dialect.
  • dialects of the Alto-Jonica, used in the area of the Gulf of Squillace, similar to the dialect spoken in Catanzaro

Comparison of the Central and Southern Calabrian Dialects

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Tutti gli esseri umani nascono liberi ed eguali in dignità e diritti. Essi sono dotati di ragione e di coscienza e devono agire gli uni verso gli altri in spirito di fratellanza.

Reggino Piana di Gioia Tauro Locride Catanzaro Alto Jonica
"Tutti i cristiàni "Tutti l'omani "Tutti i perzùni "Tutti l'omini "Tutti l'uamini
nàsciunu libberi nascinu libbèri nèsciunu lìbberi nescianu libberi nascianu libberi
e ntâ stessa manèra e â stessa manera e ntâ stessa manèra e sunnu e su
ill'authri dil'atri dill'atti i stessi i stessi
pi dignità e diritti. pe dignità e diritti. pe dignità e diritti. pe' dignità e diritti. pe' dignità e diritti.
Iddhi ndànnu Tutti ndànnu Iji ndànnu Ognunu ava u cerveddhu Ognunu tena u cerivìaddru
ognunu u so ciriveddhu ognunu u so cervèllu ognunu u cervèju soi e a raggiuna sue e a raggiune sua
mi 'rraggiùnunu pemmu reggiùnanu soi pemmu raggiùnanu e a cuscenza sua e a cuscìanza sua
e 'ndannu mi càmpunu e ndànnu pemmu càmpanu e ndànnu u càmpanu e ava ma si cumporta e s'ha de comportare
unu cull'authru unu cu l'atru unu cull'attu cull'atri propriu cull'atri propriu
comu mi sùnnu fràti comu frati figgji comu frati figgji comu si fhussèranu cùamu si fòranu
râ stessa matri." dâ stessa mamma." dâ stessa matri." i frati soi." frati sui."

Northern Calabrian (Cosentino)

The Northern Calabrian dialects (calabbrìse or calavrìse, in Neapolitan) are similar to other Southern Italian dialects and are significantly different from the dialects of southern Calabria. Linguistically, they are considered part of the Neapolitan group[6]. The dialects of the northern fringes of the Province of Cosenza give way to Campanian and Lucanian dialects; however, the majority of the province speaks the Cosentino dialect (u cusindinu). It is also spoken in the northern portion of the Province of Crotone and extreme north-western Province of Catanzaro.

One great aspect of Northern Calabrian is that the use of the preterite is almost absent, in great contrast to the Sicilian type dialects of the south. In Cosentino, the norm is he (or haju) pigliatu or signu jutu (literally "I took" and "I went"); whereas the preterite (distant remote tense) pigghiai or ivi would be more common in the rest of Calabria. Other aspects are the phonetic modifications similar to other Neapolitan dialects, such as where -nt is pronounced -nd (praticamente becomes praticamende), and v is usually pronounced b. In addition, spoken Cosentino is noted for its "soft" truncation of end syllables at the termination of sentences, and for the typical T/C sound in words such as ccjù (more) or cjanu (slow). As a transitional dialect between Sicilian and Neapolitan, Cosentino shares many sounds, words and features unique to each of the Sicilian and Neapolitan groups.

Like Central-Southern Calabrian, the vocabulary owes greatly to Arabic, French and especially Spanish:

  • tavùtu : tambùtu (Central and Southern Calabrian): tabut (Arab)
  • accattàre : 'ccattàri (Central and Southern Calabrian): acheter (French): to purchase
  • abbuscà : buscar (Spanish) : to seek
  • buttija: bouteille (French): bottle
  • sparagno: épargne (French): savings
  • relogge: reloj (Spanish): clock


Êsse (to be)

Present Imperfect Past simple Subjunctive present Subjunctive imperfect
Iu signu êra signu statu fossa
Tu(ni) êri sì statu fossi
Iddru, Iddra è êra è statu fossa
Nua símu êramu simu stati fossimu
Vua síti êrati siti stati fossati
Iddri(o Loro) êranu sù stati fòssaru

Avì (to have)

Present Imperfect Past simple Subjunctive present Subjunctive imperfect
Iu haju avìa he (haju) avutu avissa
Tu(ni) ha' avii ha' avutu avissi
Iddru, Iddra avìa hà avutu avissa
Nua avìmu avìamu hamu avutu avìssamu
Vua avíti avìati hat'avutu or avít' avutu avvissati
Iddri hannu avìanu hannu avutu avissaru

Comparison of Northern and Southern Calabrian

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Tutti gli esseri umani nascono liberi ed eguali in dignità e diritti. Essi sono dotati di ragione e di coscienza e devono agire gli uni verso gli altri in spirito di fratellanza.

Reggino Cosentino
"Tutti i cristiàni "Tutti i ggìenti
nàsciunu libberi nascianu libberi
e ntâ stessa manèra e 'gguali
ill'authri all'àtri
pi dignità e diritti. ppì ddignità e diritti.
Iddhi ndànnu Ognunu
ognunu u so ciriveddhu tena cirbìeddru
mi 'rraggiùnunu raggiune e cuscìenza
e 'ndannu mi càmpunu e s'ha de cumbortà
unu cull'authru cull'atri
comu mi sùnnu fràti cumu si li fòssaru
râ stessa matri." frati."


  • Gerhard Rohlfs, Nuovo Dizionario Dialettale della Calabria, Longo, Ravenna, 1990;
  • Gerhard Rohlfs, Dizionario dei Cognomi e Soprannomi in Calabria, Longo, Ravenna, 1979;
  • Gerhard Rohlfs, Dizionario toponomastico ed Onomastico della Calabria, Longo, Ravenna, 1990;
  • Giuseppe Pensabene, Cognomi e Toponimi in Calabria, Gangemi, Reggio Calabria, 1987;
  • G. Amiotti - M. Vittoria Antico Gallina - L. Giardino, I Greci nel sud dell'Italia, Amilcare Pizzi, Milano, 1995;
  • Domenico Caruso, Storia e Folklore Calabrese, Centro Studi S. Martino, 1988;

Other languages in Calabria

  • Greek-Calabrian dialect, a version of Italian-Greek used in Calabria, which is a subdivision of Griko language (Grecanic language), a general classification for the Italian-Greek languages in Italy. The Greek of Italy and that of Corsica are probably separate languages (R. Zamponi 1992).[7]
  • Occitan language, a local variety of the Occitan language spoken in certain communities (such as Guardia Piemontese).[8]
  • Arbëresh language, a dialect of the Albanian language.[9]

See also


  1. ^ Ethnologue report for Napoletano-Calabrese;
  2. ^ Ethnologue report for Sicilian.
  3. ^ Gerhard Rohlfs, Nuovo dizionario dialettale della Calabria - Le fonti del lessico calabrese, 1977 (945 pages)
  4. ^ The Languages of Italy, Giacomo Devoto ISBN 0226143686
  5. ^ Cesare Morisani, Vocabolario del dialetto di reggio Calabria colle corrispondenti parole italiane, 1991, Sala Bolognese : Forni (228 pages).
  6. ^ Ethnologue report for language code:nap
  7. ^ Ethnologue report for Greek;
  8. ^ Ethnologue report for Franco-Provençal;
  9. ^ Ethnologue report for Albanian, Arbëreshë;

External links

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