Thursday, June 28, 2012

Accents and Dialects

Italian is relatively easy to spell. The language is written as it is spelt, unlike English. The ‘ough’ words come to mind – thought, bough, dough, cough, through. This gives rises to the ‘wog’-like accent of saying every letter in English

Salvatore was an expert with the Italian/English accent and could always make me laugh with his Italian pronunciation of English words where every letter is pronounced. The suburb where the Nescis lived when they first arrived in Australia was  Glebe or Gleebay (pronounce the bay a little shorter) or the suburb they moved to =  Five Dock or FiveeeDuck. The street where friends lived was PinenavenNEW. Changing the order of adjectives was always a problem.  Nonna’s ‘ball meats” became the family parlance and jokes about Italians always had lines with the wrong placement of swear words such as “It’s a hot day, bloody!” or “at’sa no good, fuckin”

The Italians who came to Australia after WW2 have kept the dialects alive . When the next generation went back to Italy to visit ‘the old country’ they found that everybody spoke Italian not Calabrese. Salvatore was an Italian teacher for many years and taught Italian to mainly second generation Italians who only spoke dialect at home.

I love the dialects and have a particular fondness for the Neapolitan dialect and the songs by the great Roberto Murolo.

It seems that some of the dialects are making a comeback. In the north of Italy , in the Veneto region and in particular around Lago di Garda (where my brother-in-law has a house) the young still speak the dialects. On a walk along the lake one can hear different dialects from village to village.  Recently, my brother-in-law was hosting the son of a friend of  from Verona. My daughter and I took him to the Sydney NY’s Eve fireworks and we had a long talk about dialects whilst waiting for the midnight fireworks to explode. He comes from an upper middle class, professional family who frown on the use of dialect. However. this educated young man uses the local Veronese dialect as a type of street language which has now become ‘cool’.  I couldn’t help imaging a scene from Romeo and Juliet with the cocky young men talking about their exploits or simply making sure no-one else understood what they were saying.

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