an introduction to the
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- DIPHTHONGS AND TRIPHTHONGS
Three vowels within one same syllable are not compatible with the roman pronounciation, whose rhytmic pace tends towards regular sounds. Therefore, diphthongs and triphthongs are shortened, in accordance with the dialect's trend:
my / mine
your / yours
his / her / hers
i libri tuoi
i miei parenti
mia or mii
tua or tui
sua or sui
li libbri tua (or li libbri tui)
li parenti mia
Sometimes this rule also applies to the plural pronouns nostri (our, ours) and vostri (your, yours), mostly due to a phonetic resemblance with the previous ones rather than because they are not easy to pronounce:
i soldi vostri
i nostri amici
li sordi vostra, but often also li sordi vostri
l'amichi nostra, and more often l'amichi nostri
Other words containing three-vowel syllables, or simply the diphthong ...uo..., are often shortened by dropping the vowel immediately before the one carrying the stress:
Note how in these cases the roman spelling uses an "ò", with grave accent.
In other cases, the word is partially modified:
Sometimes other diphthongs too are broken up, if the sound of the vowels they are made of makes an evident contrast (for instance, the diphthongs "...au...", "...io...", etc.); this is done by inserting a consonant between them.
Lastly, in some cases the vowel not carrying the stress is dropped from the diphthong:
However, the aforesaid change does not occur often, and many other words, such as piede (foot), bianco (white), fiato (breath), etc., remain unchanged (see also CHANGE OF I INTO R)
- HOW TO PRONOUNCE CLUSTERS "CE" AND "CI"
In pronouncing the two clusters ce and ci, the sound of "c", which in Italian is similar to English "ch", in roman sounds more like "sh".
In some texts, even the spelling of these clusters is changed into sce and sci, which is the closest rendering of these sounds in standard Italian.
sometimes spelt scena, always pronounced "sheh-nah"
sometimes spelt asceto, always pronounced "ah-sheh-toh"
sometimes spelt piascere, always pronounced "pyah-sheh-reh"
Also in the cluster ci letter "c" has a similar "sh" sound, compared to the standard Italian one, but it is never spelt sci:
veloci, pronounced "veh-loh-shyh"
acido, pronounced "ah-shyh-doh"
cipolla, pronounced "shyh-pol-lah"
When ci is used as a pronoun, it turns into ce, but it has a less "slippery" sound than in the previous cases, i.e. it sounds as English "cheh", and it is never spelt "sce".
he sees us but cannot hear us
it takes courage
I don't believe this
ci vede ma non ci sente
ci vuole coraggio
non ci credo
ce vede ma nun ce sente
ce vo' ccoraggio
nun ce credo
Another case in which clusters ce and ci never have a "sh" sound is when due to the roman pronounciation the "c" is doubled:
to go there
if we come (there)
why are you asking us?
se ci veniamo
perché ce lo chiedete?
si cce venìmo
perché cce lo chiedete?
- CHANGES OF LETTERS AND CLUSTERS
In many words a change of letter occurs, when their sound does not suit the roman pronounciation standards.
- CHANGE OF L INTO R
In words where "l" comes before a consonant, the former turns into "r" (always pronounced with a strong and rolled sound):
tall / high
This is also true for monosyllabic words ending with "l":
In certain cases "l" changes into "r" also when a consonant comes before it, either single or double:
This change never occurs when the "l" is double: words such as palla (ball), collo (neck), ballo (dance), etc., remain unchanged.
The word altro (other) is an exception, because it changes into antro, using "n" as a replacement, although in modern roman an alternative form, artro, also exists.
Its feminine and plural forns change accordingly:
other (masc. singular)
other (fem. singular)
other (masc. plural)
other (fem. plural)
- CHANGE OF CLUSTER ND INTO NN, AND OF LD INTO LL
These clusters change for an easier pronounciation:
In a similar way, caldo (hot) usually turns into callo (but due to the aforesaid change of "l" into "r" it could seldom become cardo ). The change also takes place in other compound words that contain "caldo" or "calda":
riscallato or ariscallato
callaro (see also CHANGE OF I INTO R)
callarroste (also called callalésse)
In other words, instead, the clusters "ld" turns into "rd", according to the rule previously discussed:
- CHANGE OF I INTO E (AND VICE-VERSA)
In many monosyllabic words the vowel "i" turns into "e":
The words dito, dita (finger, fingers) in roman change into deto, deta.
the (masc. singular)
er (and "l" turns into "r", as previously said)
The vowel "i" changes into "e" also in the following pronoun particles:
me / to me
you / to you
him / to him
us / to us
you / to you
je (see CHANGE OF GL INTO J)
ce (as already said)
Also si (it), used as a reflexive pronoun, turns into se.
Instead the conjunction se (if, whether) changes into si:
if they turn round
they are sold
do you know whether he's coming?
se si girano
sai se viene?
si se ggireno
sai si vviene?
- CHANGE OF S INTO Z
When a word begins with "s" + vowel, the "s" sounds more emphatic and turns into "z" (always pronounced as "ts") if the previous word ends with a consonant (likely "n" or "r", such as er, in, cor, sur, per, etc.):
in the sitting-room
with the sauce
Such change of "s" into "z" (whose sound is always "ts", never "ds") corresponds to the strengthening of the first consonant of the word obtained by doubling it, as described in the following paragraph.
It should be noted that in modern times the use of spelling "z" instead of "s" has become an obsolete custom, and is now almost extinct, although in the spoken language its emphatic pronounciation has remained unchanged.
The same change often takes place also inside the word:
to cheer up
perzica (i.e. persica, with "s" turned into "z")
- CHANGE OF GLI AND LI INTO J
For the sake of an easier pronounciation, the cluster "gli" turns into "j" (which is always pronounced as "y" in yolk, yell, yawn, etc., i.e. with a rather "slippery" sound). This occurs in other central Italian dialects, as well.
him/to him ~ her/to her ~ it/to it
consijo, or conzijo (see previous change)
je (see above, CHANGE OF I INTO E)
In a limited number of words, also cluster "li" followed by a vowel ("lia", "lio", etc.) changes into "j" when its original sound is rather close to that of "glia", "glio" etc.:
itajano (often, but not always)
- CHANGE OF I INTO R
In the following Italian clusters "...aio", "...aia", "...aie", "...ai" (more correctly "...aii", or "...aî"), the roman dialect changes "i" into "r". Such suffixes are often used to indicate a working activity:
cucchiaro (see also the DIPHTHONGS paragraph)
However, there are some exceptions; for instance, guaio (mishap) does not change at all, the same for buio (dark), noia (boredom), etc.
Also in the case of Italian clusters such as ...iolo, ...iola, ...ioli, ...iole, the "i" turns into "r", but only in words expressing a job or work: for instance vinaiolo (wine-maker) becomes vinarolo. This change does not occur in other cases: for instance, paiolo (cauldron) remains unchaged.
In roman, such ending ...rolo, ...rola, etc., is commonly used for words expressing a working category also if the equivalent Italian word does not end with ...iolo, ...iola, etc.:
fruttarola (as to say "fruttaiola")
pesciaroli (as to say "pesciaioli")
stracciarolo (as to say "stracciaiolo")
pollarolo (as to say "pollaiolo")
The suffix ...olo is also taken by some adjectives which describe a person who does a certain action: for instance, cagnarolo is he who makes a loud and disturbing noise (which in roman is called cagnara), whereas no equivalent form (such as "cagnaiolo") exists in Italian.
- CHANGE OF CLUSTERS GIO - GIA INTO CIO - GIO OR GGIO - GGIA
When the clusters gio and gia follow a vowel they are sometimes replaced by cio and cia (both pronounced with the aforesaid "sh" sound).
In other cases, instead, gio and gia double their first letter, thus turning into ggio and ggia.
The form with double "g" may also be used as an alternative in cases where gio and gia are turned into cio and cia, although the latter would sound more traditional.
faciòlo (pronounced "fah-shòh-loh"), or faggiolo
adacio (pronounced "ah-dah-shoh"), or adaggio
Ambròcio (pronounced "Ahm-bròh-shoh"), or Ambroggio
bucìa (pronounced "boo-shýh-ah"), or buggìa
It is interesting how the etymology of the word fròcio, which in Rome (and in most other parts of Italy) has the meaning of "queer", according to various scholars sprung from frogia, an archaic term for "nostril", following the aforesaid phonetic corruption. The reason for such curious anatomical relation dates back to the times when Rome's police was the papal Swiss Guard. Nicknamed giannizzeri or sguizzeri by the common people (whose feeling towards them was not too friendly), these soldiers often had wider nostrils than the Mediterranean standard, and sexual preferences that the local plebs reputed ...unusual.
If the "g" of clusters gio and gia is double, they are not replaced by cio and cia, as in maggio (May), coraggio (courage), formaggio (cheese), etc., all of which remain unchanged.
Instead, when the same clusters follow consonant "n" (i.e. ...ngio, ...ngia ), they change according to the rule described in the next paragraph.
- INVERSION OF CLUSTER NG
The cluster ng followed by "i" or by "e" is often inverted into gn, sometimes strengthened, thus spelt ggn:
he / she cries
he /she / it pushed
squeeze / clasp (imperative plural)
piagne (or piaggne)
spigneva (or spiggneva)
strignete (or striggnete)
If ng is followed by "i" or "hi", due to the inversion the latter are dropped:
eaten (fem. singular)
squeeze / clasp (imperative plural)
magnata (or maggnata)
strigni (or striggni)
uggne (but also oggne)
Instead, if the cluster gn is followed by other vowels or by other clusters, it remains unchaged: vanga (spade) remains as it is, lungo (long) may change into longo or remain as in Italian, while Ungheria (Hungary) turns into Ungaria: in any case, the cluster ng is not inverted.
- CHANGE OF UO INTO O
The cluster uo is contracted into o. This sound is too... uncomfortable for the roman pronounciation, and it is shortened:
The real reason of this change, though, is the Latin reminiscence of Rome's dialect (some of the aforesaid words in Latin are cor, bonus, ovum, without a "u").
All these words are pronounced with a very open-sounded "o", whose grave accent is usually noted. In this way they can be easily told from other words spelt in an identical way, but with an acute "o", thus with a different meaning, such as vòto (empty) and vóto (vote; vow).
The aforesaid contraction does not occur in monosyllabic words, such as tuo (your, yours) and suo (his, her, hers), which remain unchaged (but only if they are not followed by the object possessed, see the paragraph ELISIONS).
- CHANGE OF O INTO U (AND VICE-VERSA)
In a certain number of cases, an "o" with a very closed sound in Italian turns into "u" in roman:
(local wine measure)
fujetta (note the change of "gl" into "j")
giucà (nowadays giocà is more common)
In other cases the opposite change occurs:
ogna , or oggna (see also INVERSION OF NG)
- CHANGE OF R INTO A DOUBLE CONSONANT
When "r" is the last letter of the infinitive tense of a verb, followed by the pronoun suffixes -mi, -ti, -lo, -la, -ci, -vi, -li, -le, or by the reflexive suffix -si, it usually changes into the same first consonant of the suffix, thus doubled. Also remember that all final vowels "i" turn into "e", as previously said.
to see you
to carry him / it
to wash oneself
to build for us
vedette (-ti becomes -te)
lavasse (-si becomes -se)
costruicce (-ci becomes -ce)
Only when the pronoun suffix is -gli, -le or the full pronoun loro (for all of these, the roman form is je), the "j" is not graphically repeated, but its sound is stronger, as if it had been actually doubled:
to build for him
to carry her / for her
to keep for them
to give him
to give them
costruije (pronounced as costruijje)
portaje (pronounced as portajje)
teneje (pronounced as tenejje)
daje (pronounced as dajje)
daje (same as above)
Another change concerns the verbs of the second conjugation whose stress is carried by the antepenultimate syllable, such as prèndere (to take), spìngere (to push), cuòcere (to cook), strìngere (to squeeze), crédere (to believe), pèrdere (to lose), etc. etc.
All these verbs simply drop the "r", without doubling the following consonant:
to take / fetch me
to ask you for
to believe in it
to lose oneself
to sell them (feminine)
to move it
mòvelo (see also CHANGE OF UO INTO O)
SUMMARY OF THE MAIN CHANGES
substitution L into R salto sarto I into E vi ve S into Z penso penzo ND into NN mandato mannato GLI or LI into J quaglia quaja I into R carbonaio carbonaro GIO - GIA into CIO - CIA fagiolo faciòlo GIO - GIA into GGIO - GGIA fagiano faggiano NG into GN attinge attigne UO into O cuoco còco O into U (and vice-versa) non nun R into a double consonant lavarle lavalle
an introduction to the ROMAN DIALECT
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