lombard / lumbart
Native toItaly, Switzerland



Native speakers
3.8 million (2002)[5]
Language codes
ISO 639-3lmo
Linguasphere51-AAA-oc & 51-AAA-od
Lombard language in Europe.png
Mappa Dialetti lombardi.svg
Detailed geographic distribution of Lombard dialects
Legend: L01 – Western Lombard; L02 – Eastern Lombard; L03 – Southern Lombard; L04 – Alpine Lombard
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Lombard (native name: lombard[N 1] / lumbáart,[N 2] depending on the orthography; pronounced [lũˈbɑːrt] or [lomˈbart]) is a Gallo-Romance language,[6] consisting in a linguistic continuum[7][8] spoken by millions of speakers in Northern Italy and Southern Switzerland, including most of Lombardy and some areas of neighbouring regions, notably the eastern side of Piedmont and the western side of Trentino, and in Switzerland in the cantons of Ticino and Graubünden.[7] Lombard dialects are also heard in Santa Catarina in Brazil.[4][8]


The most ancient linguistic substratum having left its mark on this language is that of the ancient Ligures.[9][10] Available information about this variety is extremely vague and limited.[9][10] This is in sharp contradistinction to the picture that can be drawn about the group which replaced the Ligures, the Celts.[11] Contributions from the Celts to local languages were self-evident, so that Lombard language is still classified as a Gallo-Romance language (from ancient Romans name for Celts, Gauls).[9]

Roman domination shaped dialects spoken in ancient Lombardy, such that lexicon and grammar of this language find their origin in the Latin language.[11] This influence was not yet homogeneous;[9] idioms of different areas were influenced by previous linguistic substrata and each area was marked by a stronger or weaker characterisation in comparison to Ligure or ancient Celtic languages.[9]

The Lombardic language left clear traces too, as it was the variety spoken by Lombards (or Longobards), a Germanic population which dominated a large section of Italy, including Lombardy, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Lombardic had acted as a linguistic superstratum over Lombard, since the Lombards did not impose their language on the population. Lombardic left traces without Germanicizing the local language, such that Lombard preserved its Romance nature.[12]


Lombard is considered a minority language, structurally separate from Italian, by Ethnologue and by the UNESCO Red Book on Endangered Languages. However, Italy and Switzerland do not recognize Lombard speakers as a linguistic minority. In Italy this is the same as for most other minority languages,[13] which are normally[citation needed] considered Italian dialects—despite the fact that they belong to different subgroups of the Romance language family, and their historical development is not derived from Italian.[14]


A Lombard speaker, recorded in Italy
A Lombard speaker, recorded in Italy
A young man speaking Eastern Lombard, recorded in Ecuador
A young man speaking Eastern Lombard, recorded in Ecuador
A Lombard speaker
A Lombard speaker

Historically, the vast majority of Lombards spoke only Lombard.[15] With the rise of Standard Italian throughout Italy and Switzerland, one is not likely to find wholly monolingual Lombard speakers, but a small minority may still be uncomfortable speaking the dominant Italian. 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 was found to be the speaker's age: studies have found that young people are much less likely to speak Lombard as proficiently as their grandparents did.[16] In fact, in some areas, elderly people are more used to speaking Lombard rather than Italian, even though they know the latter as well as the former.


Chart of Romance languages based on structural and comparative criteria
Chart of Romance languages based on structural and comparative criteria

Lombard belongs to the Gallo-Italic (Cisalpine) group of Gallo-Romance languages, which belongs to the Western Romance subdivision.[17]


Traditionally, the Lombard dialects have been classified into the Eastern, Western, Alpine, and Southern Lombard dialects.[18]

The varieties of the Italian provinces of Milan, Varese, Como, Lecco, Lodi, Monza and Brianza, Pavia and Mantua belong to Western Lombard, and the ones of Bergamo, Brescia and Cremona are dialects of Eastern Lombard. 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]. Alternatively, following the traditional classification, the varieties spoken in parts of Sondrio, Trento, Ticino and Grigioni can be considered as Alpine Lombard,[19] while those spoken in southern Lombardy such as in Pavia, Lodi, Cremona and Mantova can be classified as Southern Lombard.[20]


Main article: Western Lombard literature

The Lombard variety with the oldest literary tradition (from the 13th century) is that of Milan, but Milanese, the native Lombard variety of the area, has now 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.[21][failed verification]


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

In Switzerland

The LSI, published in 2004
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.[N 2]

In Italy

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 rural areas, Lombard is still vital and used alongside Italian.

A certain revival of the use of Lombard has been observed in the last decade. The popularity of modern artists singing their lyrics in some Lombard dialect (in Italian rock dialettale, the best known of such artists being Davide Van de Sfroos) is also a relatively new but growing phenomenon involving both the Swiss and Italian areas.[citation needed]

Lombard is spoken in Campione d'Italia, an exclave of Italy surrounded by Swiss territory on Lake Lugano.


The following tables show the sounds used in all dialects of Lombard.


Consonant phonemes[22]
Bilabial Labiodental Dental Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɲ (ŋ)
Stop voiceless p t k
voiced b d ɡ
Affricate voiceless t͡s t͡ʃ
voiced d͡z d͡ʒ
Fricative voiceless f s ʃ
voiced z ʒ
Trill r
Approximant central ʋ j w
lateral l (ʎ)

In Eastern Lombard, /dz/, /z/ and /ʒ/ merge to [z] and /ts/, /s/ and /ʃ/ to [s]. The last sound is often further debuccalized to [h].


Vowel phonemes[22]
Front Central Back
Unrounded Rounded
High i iː y yː u uː
Mid e eː ø øː (œ)[23] o
ɛ ɔ
Low a aː

In Western varieties, vowel length is contrastive (e.g. Milanese andà "to go" vs andàa "gone"),[22] but Eastern varieties normally use only short allophones.

When two repeating orthographic vowels that are separated by a dash, that prevents them from being confused with the long vowel, such as a-a in ca-àl "horse".[22]

Western long /aː/ and short /ø/ tend to be back [ɑː] and lower [œ], respectively. /e/ and /ɛ/ may merge to [ɛ].

See also


  1. ^ Classical Milanese orthography
  2. ^ a b "Lessico dialettale della Svizzera italiana (LSI)" [Dialectical Lexicon of Italian Switzerland (LSI)], Centro di dialettologia e di etnografia (in Italian), archived from the original on 2005-11-23


  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. ^ a b Spoken in Botuverá, in Brazil, municipality established by Italian migrants coming from the valley between Treviglio and Crema. A thesis of Leiden University about Brasilian Bergamasque: [1].
  5. ^ Lombard at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  6. ^ "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: LMO". Identifier: LMO - Language(s) Name: Lombard - Status: Active - Code set: 639-3 - Scope: Individual - Type: Living((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  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. ISBN 9781316352410. Archived from the original on 2017-04-21. 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. ^ a b Bonfadini, Giovanni. "lombardi, dialetti" [Lombard dialects]. Enciclopedia Treccani (in Italian).
  9. ^ a b c d e Agnoletto, p.120
  10. ^ a b D'Ilario, p.28
  11. ^ a b D'Ilario, p.29
  12. ^ "Il milanese crogiuolo di tanti idiomi". Archived from the original on 2017-09-24.
  13. ^ Coluzzi, P. (2004). Regional and Minority Languages in Italy. 'Marcator Working Papers', 14.
  14. ^ von Wartburg, W. (1950). "Die Ausgliederung der romanischen Sprachräume", Bern, Francke.
  15. ^ De Mauro, T. (1970) Storia linguistica dell'Italia unita (Second Edition), Laterza, Berkeley.
  16. ^ 2006 report Archived 2010-07-04 at the Wayback Machine by the Italian institute for national statistics.(ISTAT)
  17. ^ Tamburelli, Marco; Brasca, Lissander (2018). "Revisiting the classification of Gallo-Italic: a dialectometric approach". Digital Scholarship in the Humanities. 33 (2): 442–455. doi:10.1093/llc/fqx041.
  18. ^ "Lingua lombarda". Lingua Lombarda (in Italian). Circolo Filologico Milanese.
  19. ^ "Lombardo alpino". Lingua Lombarda (in Italian). Circolo Filologico Milanese.
  20. ^ "Lombardo meridionale". Lingua Lombarda (in Italian). Circolo Filologico Milanese.
  21. ^ 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" Valentina Grohovaz (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 (Google Books).
  22. ^ a b c d Sanga, Glauco (1984). Dialettologia Lombarda (in Italian). University of Pavia. pp. 283–285.
  23. ^ [œ] occurs in most areas of the language but can overlap in usage with [ø], as they both share the same trigram (oeu).