Northern Italian language

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Northern Italian or North Italian, also called Padanian or rarely Cisalpine, is a variety of the Romance languages spoken approximately in Northern Italy and in adjacent territories such as Italian Switzerland, San Marino, Monaco and part of Istria (Croatia).

All specialists of the Romance languages agree on the existence of "Northern Italian" but they disagree on its accurate definition. It can be considered either:

  • As a group of dialects belonging to the Italian language: this is the vision of traditional Romance linguistics.[1]
  • As a Romance language, distinct from Italian.[2]
  • As a group of languages, each 'dialect' being considered as a single language.

The main regional varieties (or 'dialects' or 'languages') which compose Northern Italian are the following:

  • Linguist Geoffrey Hull thinks, in an uncommon conception, that the three Rhaeto-Romance languages (Friulian, Ladin and Romansh) should be also included in the list of Northern Italian dialects.[3]
  • The Gallo-Italic dialectal group is only a part of Northern Italian. But a lot of people believe erroneously that "Gallo-Italic" is a synonym of the whole Northern Italian language.

Northern Italian is spoken daily by a large population, especially in Italy, Switzerland and San Marino. Nonetheless it has no official recognition. The Monégasque variety of the Ligurian dialect is taught in Monaco's primary schools but is not an official language. Everywhere, Northern Italian is dominated by official languages such as Italian (in Italy, Switzerland and San Marino), French (in Monaco) and Croatian (in Croatia).

Language consciousness is quite ambiguous: most Northern Italian speakers consider they speak a 'dialect' of Italian but a lot of regional cultural movements view those 'dialects' as 'languages'. The consciousness of a Northern Italian linguistic unity is weak.

Piedmontese is the only variety which enjoys a steady codification and an emerging standard. Other varieties are barely or not codified. Intents of a united Northern Italian codification remain experimental.


  1. PELLEGRINI G.B. (1975) "I cinque sistemi dell'italoromanzo", Saggi di linguistica italiana (Turin: Boringhieri), pp. 55-87.
  2. HULL Geoffrey (1982) The linguistic unity of Northern Italy and Rhaetia [PhD thesis], Sydney: University of Sydney, 2 vol.
  3. HULL Geoffrey (1982) The linguistic unity of Northern Italy and Rhaetia [PhD thesis], Sydney: University of Sydney, 2 vol.