Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ancient Camunic language and modern Camunian dialect

The ancient Camunian language, and the more modern Camunian dialect, are two different languages. However, the modern dialect likely developed from the ancient language. The Camonica Valley is one of the most remarkable regions in European history. So small, yet able to maintain an incredible cultural continuity for thousands of years. For example, some Rosa Camuna images, as well as other ancient symbols, have been dated at six or eight thousand years, while others are dated at fifteen hundred to two thousand years. The language seems to follow this similar pattern. Also, big upheavals, such as the invasions and/or influence of Gauls, Etruscans, Langobards, Romans, Napoleon, Venetians, and Austrians, over thousands of years, did not interrupt this process.

Camunic language (from Wikipedia; with images):

"The camunic language is an extinct language, spoken in the I millennium BC in some valleys of the Central Alps (Valcamonica, Valtellina) and not deciphered.

"The epigraphic corpus is carved on the rock, as similar as the rock engravings of Valcamonica, in one variant of the north-Etruscan alphabet, known as camunian alphabet or alphabet of Sondrio.

"It is possible that the language was related to camuna Rhaetian language; its name derives from the people of the Camunni, who lived during the Iron age in Val Camonica and was the author of much of the stone carvings in the area.

"Today there are known at least 170 inscriptions in camunian alphabet, that are written in lines even from right to left than left to right. The iscriptions are formed mainly by one or two words, and many are those ending in "-au".

"Were found few alphabetaries (a series of letters aligned to forming an alphabet) in Nadro (Zurla and Foppe localities) and in Piancogno, next to the Annunciata. These alphabetaries presents variants of each other, but allow us to date the inscriptions from the 4th to 5th century BC to 100 BC-50 AD)."

Another area which we have covered in the past is the alphabet of the ancient Camunni. In the link is the information sent to us from Naddeo Michelangelo. For further reading on this subject of ancient text, see his website at For a look at the characters of the ancient alphabet of the Camunni, see the following link at Wikimedia Commons.

The modern Camunian dialect is a variation of the "Eastern Lombard" dialect, which is eastern Lombardy. As we have pointed out before, and stated on this Wikipedia page: In Italian-speaking contexts, Eastern Lombard is often generically called a "dialect". This is often incorrectly understood as to mean a dialect of Italian, which actually is not the case, it's not a dialect but a language. Eastern Lombard and Italian are different languages and are not mutually intelligible. Eastern Lombard is, in turn, a sub-branch of the Lombard language.

Mauro Fiora has assembled an online Italian-Camunian translator, which has the lists of words by letter, as well as a Babelfish-syle translator. Needless to say, and please look for yourself, "Italian" (Tuscan) and Camunian are as different as English and Polish. What is further remarkable, is that the village of Sonico, and it's immediate surrounding area, speak even a sub-branch of the Camunian dialect!

I wanted to give just a few examples of Camunian words. First, Al Camònega stands for Valle Camonica, with the "Al" meaning "Valley." As with many words, it's different in "Sonican," ..... "Valàr." Also remarkable is that about half the words do not end in a vowel. Many resemble ancient Germanic or Celtic words, but have a unique flavor of their own, very different than the European regional languages that we may be familiar in the English speaking world: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, etc.

One way to get a real sense of the language is to go to the Italian Wikipedia link: Comunità Montana di Valle Camonica. Then see the list of Camunian villages down on the right side. Click each one, taking you to that respective page, where you can see at the top along with the Italian name.... the Camunian name of that village. In other words, the REAL name. For example, lets take the first one: Angolo Terme. The proper Camunian name is Angól. Monno is Mòn, Gianico is Janec, Borno is Búren, etc.

On the Italian Logos translation website, which seems to be still in the developmental stage, one can search various words in many different languages. Included in these are "Bresciano," "Bergamasco," "Bolognese," "Furlan," as well as other variations of French and others. The translated word, for example, of "family" is family (Engish), famiglia (Italian), familia (Spanish), famille (French), familie (German), familje (Albanian), famija (Brescian), famigghia (Sicilian & Calabrese), famèe (Furlan), and numerous other words in numerous other sub-branches of French, German, etc. "Bresciano" is basically Eastern Lombard, and family in Camunian is famìa. In fact, in Sonican it is Baghècc.

On the television program 'Cake Boss' on the Learning Channel, the show begins with the proprietor of the Hoboken bakery, Buddy Valestro, a Sicilian-American, proclaiming "Mia Famiglia!" Actually, that's TUSCAN. The Sicilian word for "family," as we covered above, is "famigghia." It sort've makes me feel like using the word baghècc just to disagree with the forced paradigm.

I searched the word "market," which earlier had brought me a number of interesting linguistic variations, but it's not working now. In Bresciano, it was "mercàt," (same as in Camunian), as opposed to the Italian "mercato." This is no small potatoes. A language is the birthright of a people! I'm not referring to the United States, as we, or our recent ancestors, accepted the English language.

The Italian book entitled 'Vocabolario Bresciano-Italiano' by Giovanni Battista Melchiori is a more official source for the Bresciano/Camuno dialect of the Lombard language.

[4/12/10 NOTE: Apparently the word "family" is translated as "famija" in all of the Lombard dialects, except Camunian which is "famìa." Also the sub-Camunic variant of "family" is "baghècc" in Sonican, as was covered.

Lastly, I couldn't help but add one other word that really drives home the variations down to Camunian, and Sonican. The word "council" is "consiglio" in standard Italian (Tuscan), "Consèi" in Brescian/Camunian, and "Fabrisiér" in Sonican!

I couldn't easily search out what the word is in Lombard or East Lombard, but we can plainly see that one little community of villages (Sonico) can literally develop it's own language over centuries of continuity. How do we know that this tiny regional dialect wasn't some surviving remnant of ancient Camunian, ancient Langobard, Celto-Alpine, etc?]