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Parliamo Romanesco! Posted by on Apr 18, 2017 in Italian Language

Last week I wrote an article based on the poem La Margherita (The Daisy) by the Italian writer Trilussa. The poem is written in the musical Romanesco dialect which was Trilussa’s preferred means of expressing himself.

Roma, Piazza della Repubblica di sera. Photo CC by Pasgabriele.

If you have a reasonable grounding in the Italian language, Romanesco isn’t too difficult to read. You just need to be able to recognise its basic traits. Let’s take another look at the poem and focus on the Romanesco elements. I’ve highlighted these in purple, and given explanations below, including a general overview of the dialect’s basic characteristics.

La Margherita – The Daisy

Una bella Margherita
che fioriva in mezzo a un prato
fu acciaccata da un serpente,
da un serpente avvelenato.
— Se sapessi — disse er fiore —
tutto er male che me fai!
E er dolore che me dai
quanta gente lo risente!
Certamente nu’ lo sai!
Ogni donna innammorata,
che vô legge la fortuna,
ner vedemme m’ariccoje
pe’ decide da le foje
,
che me strappa una per una,
s’è infelice o fortunata:
e vô vede se l’amore
se conserva sempre eguale,
e me chiede se l’amante
je vô bene o je vô male…
Io, pe’ falla più felice,
pe’ levalla da le pene,
fo der tutto che la foja
che je dice “Me vô bene”
sia quell’urtima che sfoja.
Dove c’è la Margherita
c’è er bon core e la speranza,
c’è la fede, c’è l’amore
ch’è er più bello de la vita… —
Ogni fiore a ‘ste parole
rispettoso la guardò,
e perfino er Girasole
piantò er sole e s’inchinò
A beautiful Daisy
flowering in a meadow
was crushed by a snake,
by a poisonous snake.
“If you only knew – said the flower –
all the harm you do to me!
The pain you give me
and how many people will be affected by it!
Certainly you don’t know!
Every woman in love,
who wants to read her fortune,
picks me when she sees me
so as to decide from my petals,
which she pulls one by one,
whether she’s unhappy or lucky:
and wants to see if love
remains unchanged,
and she asks me if her lover
loves her or hates her …
I, to make her happier,
to take away her pain,
do all I can to ensure that the petal
which says “He loves me”
is the last one she pulls.
Where the Daisy is
there’s kindness and hope,
there’s faith, there’s love
which is the best of life … ”
Every flower at these words
looked at her with respect,
and even the Sunflower
turned from the sun and bowed down.

—-

The Basics of Romanesco

Romanesco has a very specific tonality that distinguish it from the other dialects of central Italy. Here’s a brief guide to the main characteristics of ‘er Romano de Roma‘ (the Roman from Rome) as the Romans say.

Two main traits of this dialect are the transformation of the consonant ‘l‘ into an ‘r‘, and of the vowel ‘i‘ into an ‘e‘. The Italian definite article ‘il‘ (the) perfectly illustrates this, becoming ‘er‘ in Romanesco.

Another specific characteristic of Romanesco is the way in which words tend to be truncated, particularly the ‘-re‘ endings in infinitives such as leggere (to read) which becomes legge, and vedere (to see) which becomes vede.

In certain cases the Romans add an extra consonant, such as the double ‘m’ in the word innammorata below.

Finally, the sound ‘gli‘ becomes ‘je‘ (pronounced ye as in ‘yes’)

Vocabulary

er = il (the)

me = mi (me)

nu’ = non (not)

innammorata = innamorata (in love, n.b. the double ‘m’ in Romanesco)

vô legge = vuole leggere (wants to read)

ner vedemme m’ariccoje/pe’ decide da le foje= nel vedermi mi raccoglie per decidere dalle foglie (picks me when she sees me
so as to decide from my petals
)

vede = vuole vedere (wants to see)

se = si (itself)

se l’amante je vô bene o je vô male = se l’amante gli vuole bene o gli vuole male (if her lover loves her or hates her … technically, this should be ‘le vuole bene‘ ‘he loves her’ instead of ‘gli vuole bene‘ ‘he loves him’. This is another typical characteristic of the dialect).

pe’ falla = per farla (to make her)

pe’ levalla da le pene = per levarla dalle pene (to take away her pain)

fo der tutto che la foja = faccio di tutto che la foglia (do all I can to ensure that the petal)

che je dice “Me vô bene” = che le dice “Mi vuole bene” (which says to her “He loves me”)

urtima = ultima (last)

sfoja = sfoglia (to pull the leaves off, literally: ‘unleaf’)

er bon core = il buon cuore (kindness, literally: ‘the good heart’)

er più bello de la vita = il più bello della vita (the best of life)

‘ste = queste (these)

Let’s finish with a Roman proverb: L’amore nunn’è bbello si nun’è litigarello = in Italian: l’amore non è bello se non è un po’ litigioso (love is not beautiful unless it’s a bit argumentative).

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Comments:

  1. Colleen Watson:

    Thank you so much. I enjoy every post. This one is particularly interesting. We live about 90Km north of Rome and I’m sure the dialect in our village is very similar to this.

  2. Joe:

    Similar to the dialect of its neighbors in Abruzzo

    • Serena:

      @Joe Salve Joe! Sì, l’abruzzese è molto simile al romanesco (d’altronde sono confinanti), e tutti e due non sanno usare il congiuntivo!
      Saluti da Serena

  3. Ashley:

    I am new to reading your blog, but I really enjoyed the side by side translation. I am brand new to Italian, so most reading exercises I find are frustrating because I have to look up so many words on Google Translate. It was fun to read the Italian sentence and pick out all of the words I know and then be able to look to the side and see what the line should mean.

    Thanks for all your work!

    • Geoff:

      @Ashley Salve Ashley, welcome to our blog, and thanks for your comment.

      A presto, Serena e Geoff


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