Lombard language

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Lombard/Lumbaart (WL), Lombard (EL)
Native to Italy, Switzerland
Region Italy:[1][2][3]
Canton Ticino
Native speakers
3.6 million (2002)[4]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 lmo
Glottolog lomb1257[5]
Linguasphere 51-AAA-oc & 51-AAA-od
Lombard language situation map.svg
Idioma lombardo.PNG
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Lombard (native name lumbàart, lumbard or lombard, depending on the orthography; pronunciation: [lum'ba:rt]) is a language[6] belonging to the Cisalpine or Gallo-Italic group, within the Romance languages[7]. It is a cluster of homogeneous varieties used by at least 3,500,000 native speakers in Northern Italy (most of Lombardy and some areas of neighbouring regions, notably the eastern side of Piedmont) and Southern Switzerland (cantons of Ticino and Graubünden)[7].


Lombard is considered a minority language, structurally separated from Italian, by the Ethnologue reference catalogue and by the UNESCO Red Book on Endangered Languages. However, Italy and Switzerland do not recognize Lombard speakers as a linguistic minority, the same as for most other minority languages in Italy[8], which are normally[citation needed] considered Italian dialects in spite of the fact that they belong to different subgroups of the Romance language family, and their historical development is in no way derived from Italian[9]. That fact is being obscured, to some extent, both by the use of Italian orthography to write the languages and by influence from Italian.


Historically, the vast majority of Lombards spoke only Lombard[10], with the rise of Standard Italian throughout Italy and Switzerland, one is not likely to find wholly monolingual Lombard-speakers, who cannot understand Italian, but a small minority may yet be uncomfortable speaking it. Surveys in Italy find that all Lombard speakers also speak Italian, and their command of each of the two languages varies according to their geographical position as well as their socio-economic situation, the most reliable predictor being the speakers' age[11].


Lombard is from the Gallo-Italian subdivision of the Italo-Romance group that shares common features with Gallo-Romance languages and other Western Romance languages.


The varieties of the Italian provinces of Milan, Varese, Como, Lecco, Lodi, Monza, Pavia and Mantua belong to the Western subgroup, and the ones of Bergamo, Brescia and Cremona are Eastern. All the varieties spoken in the Swiss areas (both in canton Ticino and canton Graubünden) are Western, and both Western and Eastern varieties are found in the Italian areas.

The varieties of the Alpine valleys of Valchiavenna and Valtellina (province of Sondrio) and upper-Valcamonica (province of Brescia) and the four Lombard valleys of the Swiss canton of Graubünden, although they have some peculiarities of their own and some traits in common with Eastern Lombard, should be considered Western[citation needed]. Also, dialects from the Piedmontese provinces of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and Novara, the Valsesia valley (province of Vercelli), and the city of Tortona are closer to Western Lombard than to Piedmontese.[citation needed]


The Lombard variety with the oldest literary tradition (from the 13th century) is that of Milan, but now Milanese, the native Lombard variety of the area, has almost completely been superseded by Italian from the heavy influx of immigrants from other parts of Italy (especially Apulia, Sicily, and Campania) during the fast industrialization after the Second World War.

Ticinese is a comprehensive denomination for the Lombard varieties spoken in Swiss Canton Ticino (Tessin), and the Ticinese koiné is the Western Lombard koiné used by speakers of local dialects (particularly those diverging from the koiné itself) when they communicate with speakers of other Lombard dialects of Ticino, Grigioni, or Italian Lombardy. The koiné is similar to Milanese and the varieties of the neighbouring provinces on the Italian side of the border.

There is extant literature in other varieties of Lombard, for example La masséra da bé, a theatrical work in early Eastern Lombard, written by Galeazzo dagli Orzi (1492–?) presumably in 1554.[12][not in citation given]


Standard Italian is widely used in Lombard-speaking areas. However, the status of Lombard is quite different between the Swiss and Italian areas, which justifies the view that the Swiss areas have now become the real stronghold of Lombard.

In Switzerland[edit]

The LSI, published in 2004

In the Swiss areas, the local Lombard varieties are generally better preserved and more vital than in Italy. No negative feelings are associated with the use of Lombard in everyday life, even with complete strangers, some radio and television programmes, particularly comedies, are occasionally broadcast by the Swiss Italian-speaking broadcasting company in Lombard. Moreover, it is common for people from the street to answer in Lombard in spontaneous interviews. Even some television ads in Lombard have been reported, the major research institution working on Lombard dialects is located in Bellinzona, Switzerland (CDE - Centro di dialettologia e di etnografia, a governmental (cantonal) institution); there is no comparable institution in Italy. In December 2004, the CDE released a dictionary in five volumes, covering all the Lombard varieties spoken in the Swiss areas.[13]

In Italy[edit]

Today, in most urban areas of Italian Lombardy, people under 40 years old speak almost exclusively Italian in their daily lives because of schooling and television broadcasts in Italian. However, in Periferic Lombardy (Valtellina, Lake Como, Bergamo, Brescia, Lodi), Lombard is still vital.

That is from a number of historical and social reasons: its usage has been historically discouraged by Italian politicians, probably as it was regarded as an obstacle to the attempt to create a 'national identity' because speaking a nonstandard variety is a sign of poor schooling or a low social status.[citation needed]

Now, the political party most supportive of Lombard (and of the varieties of Northern Italy in general) is the Northern League[citation needed] (in the past, on the other hand, the leftist parties were the ones giving support to local varieties).[citation needed] Thus, speaking a dialect of some minority languages might be politically controversial in Italy.[citation needed]

A certain revival of the use of Lombard has been observed in the last decade, when the use of Lombard has become a way to express one's local identity and to distance oneself from Roman-oriented mainstream Italian culture, the popularity of modern artists singing their lyrics in some Lombard dialect (in Italian "rock dialettale", the most well-known of such artists being Davide Van de Sfroos) is also a relatively new but growing phenomenon involving both the Swiss and Italian areas.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Minahan, James (2000). One Europe, many nations: a historical dictionary of European national groups. Westport. 
  2. ^ a b Moseley, Christopher (2007). Encyclopedia of the world's endangered languages. New York. 
  3. ^ a b Coluzzi, Paolo (2007). Minority language planning and micronationalism in Italy. Berne. 
  4. ^ Lombard at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  5. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Lombard". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  6. ^ "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: LMO". Identifier: LMO / Name: Lombard / Status: Active / Code set: 639-3 / Scope: Individual / Type: Living  horizontal tab character in |quote= at position 12 (help)
  7. ^ a b Jones, Mary C.; Soria, Claudia (2015). "Assessing the effect of official recognition on the vitality of endangered languages: a case of study from Italy". Policy and Planning for Endangered Languages. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 130. Lombard (Lumbard, ISO 639-9 lmo) is a cluster of essentially homogeneous varieties (Tamburelli 2014: 9) belonging to the Gallo-Italic group. It is spoken in the Italian region of Lombardy, in the Novara province of Piedmont, and in Switzerland. Mutual intelligibility between speakers of Lombard and monolingual Italian speakers has been reported as very low (Tamburelli 2014), although some Lombard varieties, Milanese in particular, enjoy a rather long and prestigious literary tradition, Lombard is now mostly used in informal domains. According to Ethnologue, Piedmontese and Lombard are spoken by between 1,600,000 and 2,000,000 speakers and around 3,500,000 speakers respectively, these are very high figures for languages that have never been recognised officially nor systematically taught in school 
  8. ^ Coluzzi, P. (2004). Regional and Minority Languages in Italy. 'Marcator Working Papers', 14.
  9. ^ von Wartburg, W. (1950). "Die Ausgliederung der romanischen Sprachräume", Bern, Francke.
  10. ^ De Mauro, T. (1970) Storia linguistica dell'Italia unita (Second Edition), Laterza, Berkeley.
  11. ^ 2006 report by the Italian institute for national statistics.(ISTAT).
  12. ^ See Valentina Grohovaz, Produzione e circolazione del libro a Brescia tra Quattro e Cinquecento: atti della seconda Giornata di studi "Libri e lettori a Brescia tra Medioevo ed età moderna" : Brescia, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, 4 marzo 2004, published by "Vita e Pensiero" in 2006, ISBN 88-343-1332-1, ISBN 978-88-343-1332-9. Preview in Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=w3L02qPzC9kC&pg=PA144&lpg=PA144&dq=la+mass%C3%A9ra+de+b%C3%A9&source=bl&ots=q9fVclBEXj&sig=ChQR4Tt4VpSuUNe3VBFWVg7Qr0E&hl=it&ei=w4jMSoqGLsSksAbLwNHrDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4#v=onepage&q=&f=false
  13. ^ LSI, CDE, 2004


  • Bernard Comrie, Stephen Matthews, Maria Polinsky (eds.), The Atlas of languages: the origin and development of languages throughout the world. New York 2003, Facts On File. p. 40.
  • Brevini, Franco - Lo stile lombardo: la tradizione letteraria da Bonvesin da la Riva a Franco Loi / Franco Brevini - Pantarei, Lugan - 1984 (Lombard style: literary tradition from Bonvesin da la Riva to Franco Loi )
  • Glauco Sanga: La lingua Lombarda, in Koiné in Italia, dalle origini al 500 (Koinés in Italy, from the origin to 1500), Lubrina publisher, Bèrghem.
  • Claudio Beretta: Letteratura dialettale milanese. Itinerario antologico-critico dalle origini ai nostri giorni - Hoepli, 2003.
  • G. Hull: the linguistic unity of northern Italy and Rhaetia, PhD thesis, University of Sidney West, 1982
  • Jørgen G. Bosoni: «Una proposta di grafia unificata per le varietà linguistiche lombarde: regole per la trascrizione», in Bollettino della Società Storica dell’Alta Valtellina 6/2003, p. 195-298 (Società Storica Alta Valtellina: Bormio, 2003). A comprehensive description of a unified set of writing rules for all the Lombard varieties of Switzerland and Italy, with IPA transcriptions and examples.
  • Tamburelli, M. (2014). Uncovering the ‘hidden’ multilingualism of Europe: an Italian case study. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 35(3), 252-270.
  • NED Editori: I quatter Vangeli de Mattee, March, Luca E Gioann - 2002.
  • Stephen A. Wurm: Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger of Disappearing. Paris 2001, UNESCO Publishing, p. 29.
  • Studi di lingua e letteratura lombarda offerti a Maurizio Vitale, (Studies in Lombard language and literature) Pisa: Giardini, 1983
  • A cura di Pierluigi Beltrami, Bruno Ferrari, Luciano Tibiletti, Giorgio D'Ilario: Canzoniere Lombardo - Varesina Grafica Editrice, 1970.

External links[edit]