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Native toItaly
RegionAbruzzo, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Lazio, Marche, Molise
EthnicityMezzogiorno Ethnic Italians
Native speakers
5.7 million (2002)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-2nap
ISO 639-3nap
Glottologneap1235  Continental Southern Italian
sout3126  South Lucanian = (Vd) Lausberg
Neapolitan languages-it.svg
Intermediate Neapolitan dialects
Romance languages.png
Neapolitan as part of the European Romance languages[image reference needed]

Neapolitan (autonym: ('o n)napulitano [(o n)napuliˈtɑːnə]; Italian: napoletano) is a Romance language of the Italo-Dalmatian group spoken across much of mainland Southern Italy (except for southern Calabria and southern Apulia),[2][3][4] and spoken in a small part of Central Italy (the province of Ascoli Piceno in the Marche). It is named after the Kingdom of Naples, which once covered most of the area, since the city of Naples was its capital. On 14 October 2008, a law by the Region of Campania stated that Neapolitan was to be protected.[5]

The term "Neapolitan language" is used broadly in this article to refer to the group of closely-related Romance dialects found in southern continental Italy, as described above. However, as the term itself implies, in contexts ranging from colloquial speech to academic linguistics, Neapolitan, napulitano or napoletano may refer instead to the specific Romance varieties spoken natively in Naples and the immediately surrounding Naples metropolitan area.[6][7]


A Neapolitan speaker, recorded in Italy.
A speaker of an Abruzzese dialect in Crecchio, 162 kilometres (101 mi) north of Naples, which is a discrete variety of Neapolitan

In the broad view adopted here, the Neapolitan dialects are distributed throughout most of continental southern Italy, historically united during the Kingdom of Naples and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, specifically southern Lazio (Gaeta and Sora districts), southern Marche, Abruzzo, Molise, Basilicata, Campania (Naples), northern and central Apulia, and northernmost Calabria. The dialects are part of a varied dialect continuum, so the varieties in southern Lazio, Marche, Abruzzo, Molise, Apulia, Lucania and Calabria can typically be recognizable as regional groups of dialects. In western Abruzzo and Lazio, the dialects give way to Central Italian dialects such as Romanesco. The dialects in central Calabria and southern Apulia give way to the Sicilian language.

Largely due to massive Southern Italian migration in the late 19th century and 20th century, there are also a number of Neapolitan speakers in Italian diaspora communities in the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and Venezuela. However, in the United States, traditional Neapolitan has had considerable contact with English and the Sicilian languages spoken by Sicilian and Calabrian immigrants living alongside Neapolitan-speaking immigrants and so the Neapolitan in the US is now significantly different from the contemporary Neapolitan spoken in Naples. English words are often used in place of Neapolitan words, especially among second-generation speakers. On the other hand, the effect of Standard Italian on Neapolitan in Italy has been similar because of the increasing displacement of Neapolitan by Standard Italian in daily speech.

The following dialects constitute Neapolitan; numbers refer to the map:[8]

  1. Abruzzese and Southern Marchigiano:
    Ia. Southern Marchigiano (Ascoli Piceno).
    Ib. Teramano (province of Teramo; northern province of Pescara: Atri, Abruzzo).
    Ic. Abruzzese Eastern Adriatico (Southern province of Pescara: Penne, Francavilla al Mare; province of Chieti).
    Id. Western Abruzzese (southern part of province of L'Aquila: Marsica, Avezzano, Pescina, Sulmona, Pescasseroli, Roccaraso).
  2. Molisan (Molise)
  3. Apulian (Pugliese):
    IIIa. Dauno (western province of Foggia: Foggia, Bovino).
    IIIb. Garganico (eastern province of Foggia: Gargano).
    IIIc. Barese (province of Bari; western province of Taranto (includes Tarantino dialect); and part of the western province of Brindisi).
  4. Campanian (Campania),
    IVa. Southern Laziale (southern part of province of Frosinone: Sora, Lazio, Cassino; southern part of Province of Latina: Gaeta, Formia).
    IVb. Naples dialect (Neapolitan proper: Naples and the Gulf of Naples).
    IVc. Irpinian (province of Avellino) and Arianese (Ariano Irpino).
    IVd. Cilentano (southern part of province of Salerno: Vallo della Lucania).
  5. Lucanian and Northern Calabrian:
    Va. Northwestern Lucanian (northern province of Potenza: Potenza, Melfi).
    Vb. Northeastern Lucanian (province of Matera: Matera).
    Vc. Central Lucanian (province of Potenza: Lagonegro, Pisticci, Laurenzana).
    Vd. Southern Lucanian. The Lausberg area; archaic forms of Lucanian with Sardinian vocalism (described in Lausberg 1939). It lies between Calabria and Basilicata (Chiaromonte, Oriolo).[citation needed]
    Ve. Cosentian (province of Cosenza: Rossano, Diamante, Castrovillari). With transitional dialects to the south of Cosenza, where they give way to Sicilian group dialects.

The southernmost regions of Italy—most of Calabria, southern Apulia, and southern Salerno (Cilento region) as well as Sicily—are home to Sicilian rather than Neapolitan.


Giambattista Basile (1566–1632), author of a collection of fairy tales in Neapolitan that includes the earliest known versions of Rapunzel and Cinderella
Giambattista Basile (1566–1632), author of a collection of fairy tales in Neapolitan that includes the earliest known versions of Rapunzel and Cinderella

Neapolitan is a Romance language and is generally considered one of the Italo-Romance branch of the Italo-Dalmatian languages.[9] There are notable differences among the various dialects, but they are all generally mutually intelligible.

Italian and Neapolitan are of variable mutual comprehensibility, depending on affective and linguistic factors. There are notable grammatical differences, such as Neapolitan having nouns in the neuter form and a unique plural formation, as well as historical phonological developments, which often obscure the cognacy of lexical items.

Its evolution has been similar to that of Italian and other Romance languages from their roots in Vulgar Latin. It may reflect a pre-Latin Oscan substratum, as in the pronunciation of the d sound as an r sound (rhotacism) at the beginning of a word or between two vowels: e.g. doje (feminine) or duje (masculine), meaning "two", is pronounced, and often spelled, as roje/ruje; vedé ("to see") as veré, and often spelled so; also cadé/caré ("to fall") and Madonna/Maronna). Another purported Oscan influence is the historical assimilation of the consonant cluster /nd/ as /nn/, pronounced [nː] (this is generally reflected in spelling more consistently: munno vs Italian mondo "world"; quanno vs Italian quando "when"), along with the development of /mb/ as /mm/~[mː] (tammuro vs Italian tamburo "drum"), also consistently reflected in spelling. Other effects of the Oscan substratum are postulated, but substratum claims are highly controversial. As in many other languages in the Italian Peninsula, Neapolitan has an adstratum greatly influenced by other Romance languages (Catalan, Spanish and Franco-Provençal above all), Germanic languages and Greek (both ancient and modern). The language had never been standardised, and the word for tree has three different spellings: arbero, arvero and àvaro.

Neapolitan has enjoyed a rich literary, musical and theatrical history (notably Giambattista Basile, Eduardo Scarpetta, his son Eduardo De Filippo, Salvatore Di Giacomo and Totò). Thanks to this heritage and the musical work of Renato Carosone in the 1950s, Neapolitan is still in use in popular music, even gaining national popularity in the songs of Pino Daniele and the Nuova Compagnia di Canto Popolare.

The language has no official status within Italy and is not taught in schools. The University of Naples Federico II offers (from 2003) courses in Campanian Dialectology at the faculty of Sociology, whose actual aim is not to teach students to speak the language but to study its history, usage, literature and social role. There are also ongoing legislative attempts at the national level to have it recognized as an official minority language of Italy. It is a recognized ISO 639 Joint Advisory Committee language with the language code of nap.

Here is the IPA pronunciation of the Neapolitan spoken in the city of Naples:

English Neapolitan (Naples) IPA
Our Father who art in heaven, Pate nuoste ca staje 'n cielo, [ˈpɑːtə ˈnwostə ka ˈstɑːjə nˈdʒjeːlə]
hallowed be thy name santificammo 'o nomme tuojo [sandifiˈkamm(ə) o ˈnommə ˈtwoːjə]
Thy kingdom come, faje venì 'o regno tuojo, [ˈfɑːjə vəˈni o ˈrɛɲɲə ˈtwoːjə]
Thy will be done, sempe cu 'a vuluntà (t)toja, [ˈsɛmbə ˈkɑː vulunˈda (t)ˈtɔːjə]
on earth as it is in heaven. accussì 'n cielo accussì 'n terra. [akkusˈsi nˈdʒjeːlə akkusˈsi nˈdɛrrə]
Give us this day our daily bread Fance avé 'o ppane tutte 'e juorne [ˈfandʒ aˈve o pˈpɑːnə ˈtutt e ˈjwornə]
and forgive us our trespasses liévace 'e diébbete [ˈljeːvəʃ(ə) e ˈrjebbətə]
as we forgive those who trespass against us, comme nuje 'e llevamme a ll'ate, [ˈkommə ˈnuːjə e lləˈvammə a lˈlɑːtə]
and lead us not into temptation, nun ce fa spantecà, [nun dʒə ˈfa ʃpandəˈka]
but deliver us from evil. e lliévace 'o mmale 'a tuorno. [e lˈljeːvəʃ(ə) o mˈmɑːl(ə) a ˈtwornə]
Amen. Ammèn. [amˈmɛnn(ə)]

Alphabet and pronunciation

Neapolitan orthography consists of 22 Latin letters. Much like Italian orthography, it does not contain k, w, x, or y even though these letters might be found in some foreign words; unlike Italian, it does contain the letter j. The following English pronunciation guidelines are based on General American pronunciation, and the values used may not apply to other dialects. (See also: International Phonetic Alphabet chart for English dialects.)

All Romance languages are closely related. Although Neapolitan shares a high degree of its vocabulary with Italian, the official language of Italy, differences in pronunciation often make the connection unrecognizable to those without knowledge of Neapolitan. The most striking phonological difference is the Neapolitan weakening of unstressed vowels into schwa (schwa is pronounced like the a in about or the u in upon). However, it is also possible (and quite common for some Neapolitans) to speak standard Italian with a "Neapolitan accent"; that is, by pronouncing un-stressed vowels as schwa or by pronouncing the letter s as [ʃ] (like the sh in ship) instead of /s/ (like the s in sea or the ss in pass) when the letter is in initial position followed by a consonant, but not when it is followed by a dental occlusive /t/ or /d/ (at least in the purest form of the language) but by otherwise using only entirely standard words and grammatical forms. This is not Neapolitan properly, but rather a mere difference in Italian pronunciation.

Therefore, while pronunciation presents the strongest barrier to comprehension, the grammar of Neapolitan is what sets it apart from Italian. In Neapolitan, for example, the gender and number of a word is expressed by a change in the accented vowel, whereas in Italian it is expressed by a change in the final vowel (e.g. luongo [ˈlwoŋɡə], longa [ˈloŋɡə]; Italian lungo, lunga; masc. "long", fem. "long"). These and other morpho-syntactic differences distinguish the Neapolitan language from the Italian language and the Neapolitan accent.

Neapolitan has had a significant influence on the intonation of Rioplatense Spanish, of the Buenos Aires region of Argentina, and the whole of Uruguay.[10]


While there are only five graphic vowels in Neapolitan, phonemically, there are eight. Stressed vowels e and o can be either "closed" or "open" and the pronunciation is different for the two. The grave accent (à, è, ò) is used to denote open vowels, and the acute accent (é, í, ó, ú) is used to denote closed vowels, with alternative ì and ù. However, accent marks are not commonly used in the actual spelling of words except when they occur on the final syllable of a word, such as Totò, arrivà, or pecché, and when they appear here in other positions, it is only to demonstrate where the stress, or accent, falls in some words. Also, the circumflex is used to mark a long vowel where it wouldn't normally occur (e.g. "you are").

Letter IPA Pronunciation guide
a /a/~[ɑ]
a is usually open and is pronounced like the a in father
when it is the final, unstressed vowel, its pronunciation is indistinct and approaches the sound of the schwa
e /ɛ/
stressed, open e is pronounced like the e in bet
stressed, closed e is pronounced like the a in fame except that it does not die off into ee
unstressed e is pronounced as a schwa
o /ɔ/
stressed, open o is pronounced like the o in often
stressed, closed o is pronounced like the o in closed except that it does not die off into oo
unstressed o is pronounced as a schwa
i /i/
i is always closed and is pronounced like the ee in meet
when it is initial, or preceding another vowel
u /u/
u is always closed and is pronounced like the oo in boot
when it is initial, or preceding another vowel


Letter IPA Pronunciation guide
p /p/
pronounced the same as the p in English spill (not as the p in pill, which is aspirated)
voiced after m
b /b/ pronounced the same as in English, always geminated when preceded by another vowel
t /t/
dental version of the English t as in state (not as the t in tool, which is aspirated)
voiced after n
d /d/ dental version of the English d
c /t͡ʃ/~[ʃ]
when followed by e or i the pronunciation is somewhere between the sh in share and the ch in chore, especially after a vowel
otherwise it is like the k in skip (not like the c in call, which is aspirated)
in both cases voiced after n
g /d͡ʒ/,
when followed by e or i the pronunciation is like the g of German, always geminated when preceded by another vowel
otherwise it is like the g in gum
f /f/ pronounced the same as in English
v /v/ pronounced the same as in English
s /s/
pronounced the same as in English sound unless it comes before a consonant other than /t d n r l/
pronounced as ds in lads after n
pronounced as English z before d or after n
pronounced sh when followed by a voiceless consonant (except /t/)
zh when followed by a voiced consonant (except /n d r l/)
z /t͡s/
unvoiced z (not occurring after n) is pronounced like the ts in jetsam
voiced z is pronounced like the ds in lads after n
j /j/ referred to as a semi-consonant, is pronounced like English y as in yet
l /l/ pronounced the same as in English
m /m/ pronounced the same as in English
n /n/ pronounced the same as in English; if followed by a consonant, it variously changes its point of articulation
r /r/~[ɾ] when between two vowels it is sounds very much like the American tt in butter but in reality it is a single tic of a trilled r
when at the beginning of a word or when preceded by or followed by another consonant, it is trilled
q /kʷ/ represented by orthographic qu, pronounced the same as in English
h h is always silent and is only used to differentiate words pronounced the same and otherwise spelled alike (e.g. a, ha; anno, hanno)
and after g or c to preserve the hard sound when e or i follows (e.g. ce, che; gi, ghi)
x /k(ə)s/ pronounced like the cks in backs or like the cchus in Bacchus; this consonant sequence does not occur in native Neapolitan or Italian words

Digraphs and trigraphs

The following clusters are always geminated if vowel-following.

Letter IPA Pronunciation Guide
gn /ɲ/ palatal version of the ni in the English onion
gl(i) /ʎ/~[ʝ] palatal version of the lli in the English million, most commonly realized like a strong version of y in the English yes.
sc /ʃ/ when followed by e or i it is pronounced as the sh in the English ship


Definite articles

The Neapolitan classical definite articles (corresponding to the English word "the") are la (feminine singular), lo (masculine singular) and li (plural for both), but in reality these forms will probably only be found in older literature (along with lu and even el), of which there is much to be found. Modern Neapolitan uses, almost entirely, shortened forms of these articles:

Before a word beginning with a consonant:

Singular Plural
Masculine/Neuter ’o ’e
Feminine ’a

These definite articles are always pronounced distinctly.

Before a word beginning with a vowel, l’ or ll’ are used for both masculine and feminine, singular and plural. Although both forms can be found, the ll’ form is by far the most common.

It is well to note that in Neapolitan, the gender of a noun is not easily determined by the article, so other means must be used. In the case of ’o, which can be either masculine singular or neuter singular (there is no neuter plural in Neapolitan), the initial consonant of the noun is doubled when it is neuter. For example, the name of a language in Neapolitan is always neuter, so if we see ’o nnapulitano we know it refers to the Neapolitan language, whereas ’o napulitano would refer to a Neapolitan man.

Likewise, since ’e can be either masculine or feminine plural, when it is feminine plural, the initial consonant of the noun is doubled. For example, consider ’a lista, which in Neapolitan is feminine singular for "list." In the plural, it becomes ’e lliste.

There can also be problems with nouns whose singular form ends in e. Since plural nouns usually end in e whether masculine or feminine, the masculine plural is often formed by orthographically changing the spelling. As an example, consider the word guaglione (which means "boy" or "girl" in the feminine form):

Singular Plural
Masculine ’o guaglione ’e guagliune
Feminine ’a guagliona ’e gguaglione

More will be said about these orthographically changing nouns in the section on Neapolitan nouns.

A couple of notes about consonant doubling:

Indefinite articles

The Neapolitan indefinite articles, corresponding to the English a or an, are presented in the following table:

Masculine Feminine
Before words beginning with a consonant nu na
Before words beginning with a vowel n’

Verbal conjugation

In Neapolitan there are four finite moods: indicative, subjunctive, conditional and imperative, and three non-finite modes: infinitive, gerund and participle. Each mood has an active and a passive form. The only auxiliary verbs used in the active form is (h)avé (Eng. "to have", It. avere), which contrasts with Italian, in which the intransitive and reflexive verbs take èssere for their auxiliary. For example, we have:

Nap. Aggio stato a Nnapule ajere. AUX-HAVE-1st-SING-PRES "be"-PART-PAST "in"-PREP "Naples"-NOUN "yesterday"-ADVERB
It. Sono stato a Napoli ieri. AUX-BE-1st-SING-PRES "be"-PART-PAST "in"-PREP "Naples"-NOUN "yesterday"-ADVERB
Eng. I was in Naples yesterday.

Doubled initial consonants

In Neapolitan, many times the initial consonant of a word is doubled. This is called raddoppiamento sintattico in Italian as it also applies to the Italian phonology.

However, when there is a pause after the "trigger" word, the phonological doubling does not occur (e.g. tu sî (g)guaglione, [You are a boy], where is a "trigger" word causing doubling of the initial consonant in guaglione but in the phrase ’e do sî, guaglió? [Where are you from, boy?] no doubling occurs). Neither does doubling occur when the initial consonant is followed by another consonant (e.g. ’o ttaliano [the Italian language], but ’o spagnuolo [the Spanish language], where ’o is the neuter definite article). This is what happens phonologically, and no orthographic change is required. The same thing happens in Italian, where multiple words trigger first-consonant doubling, e.g. la casa but a (c)casa, io e (t)te, etc.

Words that trigger doubling in pronunciation

See also


  1. ^ Neapolitan at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Minahan, James (2002). Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: L-R. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 1348. ISBN 978-0-313-32111-5.
  3. ^ "Le napolitain : une langue majoritaire minorée - Mescladis e còps de gula". (in French). 9 March 2007. Retrieved 28 March 2022.
  4. ^ The Guardian for the list of languages in the Unesco site.
  5. ^ "Tutela del dialetto, primo via libera al Ddl campano" Archived 27 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine ("Bill to protect dialect green-lighted") from Il Denaro, economic journal of South Italy, 15 October 2008 Re Franceschiello. L'ultimo sovrano delle Due Sicilie
  6. ^ Ledgeway, Adam. 2009. Grammatica diacronica del napoletano. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, pp. 3, 13-15
  7. ^ Radtke, Edgar. 1997. I dialetti della Campania. Roma: Il Calamo. pp. 39ff
  8. ^ Carta dei Dialetti d'Italia Archived 3 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine (Mapping of dialects of Italy) by Giovan Battista Pellegrini, 1977 (in Italian)
  9. ^ Hammarström, Harald & Forkel, Robert & Haspelmath, Martin & Nordhoff, Sebastian. 2014. "Italo-Dalmatian" Glottolog 2.3. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
  10. ^ Colantoni, Laura, and Jorge Gurlekian."Convergence and intonation: historical evidence from Buenos Aires Spanish", Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, Volume 7, Issue 02, August 2004, pp. 107–119, Cambridge Journals Online
  11. ^ Canepari, Luciano (2005), Italia (PDF), Manuale di fonetica, Lincom Europa, pp. 282–283, ISBN 3-89586-456-0, archived from the original (PDF) on 6 June 2011 (in Italian)

Additional sources

First public document in Neapolitan Language of the XXI century according to a text of Dr.Verde; the touristic Map of the III Municipality of Naples in Neapolitan Language: