Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Importance of Dialect in Cultural Identity

Part 2

While in Venice, I realized I should start using a few statements when in restaurants and bars, not to mention local shops. Phrases like, "Ciò" for a "Yes" and "Quanto xè?" to ask "How much is it?" came in handy to show that I was local, too. My blue eyes and freckles had me looking like a tourist, so it was important not to be taken advantage of by the Venetian merchants. Select dialect use did the trick of establishing my status and warning vendors that they should watch what they try to do, say and charge me.

A few years later, I moved to Padua, a city about 25 miles west of Venice. Once in the new adopted city, I noticed that dialect was being used far less often. The accent was also a bit different and the little reading I have done shows that writing dialect changes, too.

Venetians consider variants on dialect spoken in the countryside towns, like Dolo and Chioggia, and cities, like Padua and Treviso, as not very refined in their language construction and accent. I disagree because listening to certain sailors and gondoliers is not what I consider eloquent! As everything in life, it depends on who is doing the talking. An educated Paduan is going to talk better than an ignorant Venetian.

Paduans who consider themselves the least bit educated just don't speak dialect, not even at home. They think it makes them sound un-refined. I find this unfortunate because that means that only a few truly uneducated people are continuing to use this language. This means that no one is trying to use more sophisticated versions of it. Dialect is becoming something crude and rude.

(discussion to continue)

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