Bolognese dialect

Pronunciation [bulˈɲaiz]
Native to Italy
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog bolo1260[1]

Bolognese (in Bolognese: bulgnaiś [bulˈɲaiz]) is a dialect of the Emiliano language, spoken in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and along the border of Tuscany to the south.


Although the term dialect is commonly used in reference to all minority languages native to Italy, most of them are not mutually intelligible with Standard Italian and have developed independently from Vulgar Latin. Bolognese is no exception and so is a dialect of Emiliano-Romagnolo, not Italian.


Bolognese is a dialect of Emiliano-Romagnolo, one of the Gallo-Italic languages of the Romance family. It shares many common features with other Gallo-Italic languages such as Piedmontese, Lombard, Venetian, and Ligurian, and it is closer to them than to Italian.


"… I say, then, that perhaps those are not wrong who claim that the Bolognese speak a more beautiful language than most, especially since they take many features of their own speech from that of the people who live around them, in Imola, Ferrara and Modena I believe that everybody does this with respect to his own neighbours.... So the above-mentioned citizens of Bologna take a soft, yielding quality from those of Imola, and from the people of Ferrara and Modena, on the other hand, a certain abruptness which is more typical of the Lombards.... If, then, the Bolognese take from all sides, as I have said, it seems reasonable to suggest that their language, tempered by the combination of opposites mentioned above, should achieve a praiseworthy degree of elegance; and this, in my opinion, is beyond doubt true."
(Dante Alighieri, De Vulgari Eloquentia - Liber I, xv, 2-5)

Middle Ages

Bolognese evolved a group of Gallo-Romance languages sharing features with neighbouring northern Italian languages. It developed more distinctly into the Middle Ages as a dialecy of the Emiliano-Romagnolo language. During the High Middle Ages, a number of troubadours composing lyrical poetry were active in Bologna, especially during the 13th century. That served to raise cultural awareness to the possibility of composing songs, poems and other works in vernacular languages. One of the first references to Bolognese as a distinct language was made by Dante Alighieri, in his De Vulgari Eloquentia, written in the beginning of the 14th century.


During the boom of interest in linguistic diversity during the 19th century, a number of efforts were made to create vocabularies, grammars, and collections of axioms, folk tales, and literature. The first dictionary was compiled in 1901 by Gaspare Ungarelli, who also attempted to create a writing system using the Italian alphabet. A period of stigmatisation followed in the 20th century, where children were punished for speaking the dialect in school, as it was considered to be a sign of poor education and etiquette.

In 1964, Alberto Menarini proposed an alphabet with many of the same letters still used. In recent times, Bolognese has enjoyed a period of rebirth.


Here are some prominent features of Bolognese phonology:

The phonemes of Bolognese are realized phonetically very differently depending on the area in or around Bologna. Much free variation occurs in words from complex phonological processes.


Bolognese has 22 consonant phonemes:

Consonant phonemes of Bolognese
Bilabial Labio-
Dental Alveolar Labio-
Palatal Velar Labio-
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive p b t d k ɡ
Affricate t͡ʃ d͡ʒ
Fricative f v θ ð s z
Approximant l j w
Trill ɲ


  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Bologna Emiliano". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
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