NOVEMBER 18, 2013
As the Paleo-Venetians wrote and as the Venetians write

Over the millennia and in the past centuries Europe was the destination of peoples who emigrated from east to west. Among these, the ancient Venetians, those that scholars call Paleoveneti (pàlaios, in fact in Greek means ‘ancient’); They define them in this way to distinguish them from modern Venetians, that is, from us.

A group of ancient Venetians, coming from the east, settled in our territory about 1000 years before Christ, that is about 3000 years ago. Northern Italy in the first millennium before Christ was inhabited, in the central and western part, mainly by Celtic populations (the famous Gauls), while the eastern part was occupied, as well as by the Paleoveneti, by the so-called Reti (roughly from the Venetian Prealps up ). Traces of paleo-Venetian settlements have been found in a large area that goes from the Adige to the Tagliamento. The place where the greatest number of archaeological finds was found is that of Este, south of Padua.

The civilization of the ancient Venetians had autonomy for at least seven or eight centuries, until it came into contact with the power of Rome. Rome, founded according to tradition in 753 a. C., from a small Lazio village inhabited by shepherds and farmers, was becoming an increasingly powerful city and, little by little, it extended its hegemony over central and southern Italy and then over northern Italy.

The Venetians came into contact with the Romans about three centuries before Christ, they became faithful allies and they always remained faithful to this alliance, actually accepting its superiority and dominance. They had no objection, for example, when the Romans transferred 3000 veterans and their families to their territory, founding the city of Aquileia (181 BC, i.e. about 2200 years ago), or when, about 100 years later, they founded other colonies in the areas of Asolo, Cittadella, Camposampiero, Altino …
In short, at 181 BC the end of the independence of our paleo-Venetian ancestors is traced back, who became full Roman citizens in 49 BC, together with all the inhabitants of northern Italy; finally, in 42 AD, the X Regio Venetia and Histria was established, a maxi-region corresponding, roughly, to the territories of the Tre Venezie and Istria.
Such was the integration that gradually the Venetians abandoned the ancient language and peacefully adopted Latin, that is, the language of those who held political and cultural power.
This also happens to us, and we see it day by day, when we witness the progressive abandonment of the dialect. Speaking to each other and to the good we generally use the dialect, although bastardized with Italian forms and terms, while with children it is now a rare beast who speaks it. Even the poor grandparents, who grew up on polenta and dialect and chew Italian with difficulty like a second language, adapt to the new situation.

What language was that of the Paleoveneti?

It was a language of Indo-European lineage, the same to which some languages ​​of India belong, the Germanic languages ​​(German, English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, etc.), the Celtic ones (Welsh, Scottish, Irish, etc.), the Slavic ones (Russian, Bulgarian, Polish, etc.), Albanian, Greek, Iranian. Latin is also of the same lineage, from which the so-called neo-Latin or Romance languages ​​are derived: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian and of course Italian with its dialects, including ours.

How did we get to know how much we know about the speech of our Venetian ancestors?

From the inscriptions on bronze sheets and other metal objects, on ceramic artefacts and, later, on those carved on stone (stone inscriptions).
Those at our disposal are now several hundred and are kept, together with other finds of Venetian origin, in various museums in our region, of which the most important is that of Este. Only in the last century have they been systematically studied and deciphered, especially by scholars of the University of Padua of the caliber of G. B. Pellegrini and A. L. Prosdocimi. The inscriptions, together with the other archaeological finds, have introduced us to many aspects of the life and social organization of our Venetian ancestors.

How did these blessed Venetians write?

Let’s look at the inscription below, which was engraved on a bronze cup from the 4th century BC. , currently kept in the National Museum of Este.

As you can see, the writing goes from right to left, does not go head to head, but turns upwards continuing from left to right without interruptions or intervals between one word and another and without punctuation. It is called “boustrophedical”, because it is compared to the path that the oxen take when they plow.
Instead, we write from left to right and wrap as soon as the line is finished.
The alphabet that the Ve

neti they used had borrowed from the Etruscans, adapting it to their language which was not, however, that of the Etruscans. They had to add, for example, the letter “o” that the Etruscans did not have.

We have said that the oldest writings were on bronze sheets or ceramic objects and that the most recent ones were on tombstones, that is, on stone, and the stone material tells us of the slow abandonment by the Venetians of their native language to adopt the Latin, the language of the Roman allies-rulers. There we discover that the oldest inscriptions were strictly in Venetian language and characters; subsequently inscriptions in Latin characters will begin to appear, but in the Venetian language. In the closest to us, language and writing are exclusively Latin: they indicate that our ancestors, in addition to political independence, had now lost another important treasure: their own language.

Is there anything left of the ancient language of our Paleoveneti ancestors in today’s languages?

Many scholars believe that the use of the interdental can be traced back, that is, the sound that is obtained by putting the tongue between the teeth and which is present in terms such as zhuc (pumpkin), zhavàta (ciabatta), zhavariàr (raving) , zhiésa (hedge), etc. Now it appears relegated, even in the Treviso area, to some peripheral area, almost everywhere replaced by the “deaf”, because it is marked by a negative connotation: keeping it gives the impression of being rough and retrograde. Yet it is safely used in foreign languages ​​such as English (thing, think, three, etc. ..) or in Spanish (cabeza, corazon, cerbeza, etc.).
The names of certain cities, which have one feature in common, are also traced back to the Paleo-Venetian substratum: they are words proparoxiton or sdrucciole, that is, they have an accent on the third to last syllable, such as Asolo, Abano, Enego, Padua.
It should be known that place names (topònimi) are those that best withstand the test of time and are rarely radically replaced: at most they can undergo some changes in correlation with the evolution of the linguistic habits of the speakers. Thus, for example, the ancient Acelum evolved in Asolo through various passages that the scholar Luigi Melchiori has identified as follows: Àcelum / Àcelo> Àselo> Àslo <Àsolo1.

The current Italian and Venetian alphabets.

In elementary school we were taught that the Italian alphabet consisted of 21 letters, from “a” to “zeta”. Now three more are normally added: the “J”, the “X” and the “Y”, which are usually used for the transcription of foreign words, even if the “j” was already used in the past to indicate the consonant i in words like jeri, tray / vassoj, frantojo / frantoj, gioja etc.
To come to us. In our Venetian languages ​​there are sounds or phonemes that have no parallel in the Italian language. Anyone who has the pleasure of writing in dialect or transcribing ancient sayings, stories or other, always in dialect, finds himself in difficulty in front of this stumbling block. How to regulate? The Veneto regional council, in order to bring order to this problem, appointed in 1994 a scientific commission coordinated by prof. Manlio Cortelazzo. The result was the creation and publication in 1995 of the manual “Grafia Veneta Unitaria”, which examines all the methods used to represent the various phonemes or sounds by the writer in Veneto and also recommends the preferred version. One of the criteria followed by the commission was to “move away as little as possible from the graphic habits of Italian”. In practice: use as much as possible the keys present in a normal typewriter and, more recently, in a computer keyboard.
Also taking into account the indications that prof. Cortelazzo gives on page 53 of the text “Noi Veneti”, published in 2001 on behalf of the Veneto Region, I propose to transcribe the dialectal sounds that are missing in Italian as in the attached diagram.
Did I complicate your life with my indications? If you don’t follow them to the letter, that’s okay!
At this point we just have to use our native dialect to transcribe our memories (stories, sayings, proverbs, nursery rhymes, riddles, lost traditions, etc.) or to create something new: stories, poems, reflections.

Notes: 1- L. Melchiori in “La Valcavasia”, Crespano del Grappa 1983, pp. 88-91; 2- The two tables on the writing of the Paleoveneti were taken from “History and legend of the Venetians” by Anselmi, Bellò, Turri – Typography Editrice Trevigiana, 1987.


  • deaf interdental (the sound that is pronounced by placing the tongue between the teeth and is now used only in some rustic speech): zh (eg: pèzha, zhuc, zhiésa, etc.).
  • sound interdental (In some dialects this d is still preserved, which is always pronounced by putting the tongue between the teeth): dh (ex .: mèdho, ròdha,

cròdha, órdho, etc. ).

  • “c” palatal at the end of a word: c ‘(It is now only present in some rustic dialects in terms such as spotac’, gric ‘, téc’, snaric ‘, fantòc’, etc.).
  • so-called evanescent “L”. Cortelazzo advised to use a crossed out “L”, like this: l
    However, it does not even exist in the particular symbols of Microsoft Office Word, so it may be okay to use an ‘e’ (such as in baear, baeanzha) or put ‘lh’ (balhar, balhanzha). And if you put a normal “L”, it’s not a tragedy.
  • The s between vowels is heard by the Venetians as sonorous: césa, morósa, griso, etc. In other positions, you can put a small sign above, like this: s (see salo, bear, garas). It is found between the symbols of Word, while there is no “s” with a dot above, suggested by Cortelazzo.).
  • The x was used, and some still use it, to indicate the sonorous “s” especially in the third person of the dialectal form of the verb to be: el xé, la xé, i xé, le xé.
  • deaf s between vowels. Even if the double does not exist in the Venetian dialects, it is appropriate to use -ss- to indicate the deaf between vowels; eg: spessegar, còssa, tax, etc.
  • sc In terms like vis-cio, s-hello, s-césa, s-cèt, s-ciantizh, etc., it is advisable to separate the s from the c with a dash, because otherwise we would have the swarm “sc”, foolish, slip, which does not exist in the Venetian dialects.


If the words end in a consonant, there is usually no need to put the accent, because they are almost always truncated words, that is, the voice is placed on the final syllable (eg: magnar, cosir, vassor, etc.). It is appropriate to put it only if the word ends in a consonant, but the voice is pressed in another position, that is, on the penultimate or the third to last syllable, such as in làres, ìndes, àmol, térmen, etc.
In words that end in a vowel, it is not necessary to put the accent if the voice hits the penultimate syllable; you could put it, if the accent falls on the third last as in: fémena, òstrega, ètego, ànara / àrena, pèrtega etc.


In the tonic position, that is when the accent falls, we distinguish between and and or open and and or closed:

  • E open (grave accent): è, as in spècio, vècio, mèio, madègo, etc. It is found in the computer keyboard.
  • E closed (acute accent): é, as in récia, técia, fémena, aséo, etc. This is also found on the computer keyboard.
  • O open (grave accent): ò, as in mòro, tòro, bròsa, stròpa, etc. There is in the keyboard.
  • O closed (acute accent): ó, as in da lóndi, stracantón, lónc / lóngo, lóra, strucón, etc. It is not found on the computer keyboard, but among the symbols.
    Rule that applies to get to ‘symbols’: whoever has “Word 2007” or “Word 2010” must click on ‘insert’, then click on “O Symbol”. Entering there, he finds what he needs among the many symbols present.

article by Daniele Cunial for the magazine of the Trevisani nel Mondo Association

Daniele Cunial, born in Possagno in 1946, graduated in literature in Padua with prof. Manlio Cortelazzo, teacher of dialectology, with a thesis on “The Venetian terminology of the furnace”. For many years he was a teacher and head teacher in first and second grade secondary education institutions. He has always been interested and continues to be interested in linguistic issues, as well as in Venetian languages ​​and traditions, in particular those of the Pedemontana del Grappa, on which he has published various contributions.

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