Enrico Brignano is a comedian from Rome whose ten-minute Dialetti italiani is a tour de force of mimicry. Once he stopped speaking standard Italian I couldn’t understand more than a word here and there, but his stage presence is compelling enough that I didn’t care. He goes from north to south, and your reward for sticking it out is a simultaneous performance as Godfather and cat. (Hat tip to IndigoJones.)


  1. Nice find! Maybe he covers a couple dialects here. Except, of course, when he’s doing ‘dialectical impressions’ of a few of Italy’s languages.

  2. I’m a native Italian speaker so maybe you’d like to know that most of what he says is actually gibberish, he just throws in some heavily accented “key” Italian words here and there that play on the stereotypes associated with the various Italian dialects (btw, the “Godfather” gets the only intelligible sentences). It’s amazing how smoothly he moves from one regional accent to the next, in a geographical sequence, e.g. from the Alps to the Po Valley, Lombardy, Liguria, Piedmont, Emilia, Romagna and then on to various regions in central Italy, southern Italy, Sicily and Sardinia (Sardinian is easy to spot, with all the “u” sounds); incidentally, very likely you guessed that the final accent is meant as a joke, as it is some kind of Arabic, but quite common in Italy nowadays because of all the immigrants from Northern Africa.

  3. There’s also an eight minute version without the intro but with each region identified.

  4. Licia: Yes, I did get that, but thanks for relieving me of my feeling bad about not understanding what he was saying!
    BWA: Thanks, that’s great.

  5. @Licia: You say, “the final accent is meant as a joke, as it is some kind of Arabic, but quite common in Italy nowadays because of all the immigrants from Northern Africa. ”
    That is interesting as I am not aware of an Arabic variety that routinely puts stress on the final syllable. Sometimes it can occur, but Arabic stress is weight sensitive and can fall on any of the final 3 syllables (although this varies by dialect).

  6. At the very start of the Sicilian section (BWA’s link), he says several times in succession what sounded like the Spanish ven acá, “come here”. Can this be ? The RAE doesn’t have an entry for acá, but it occurs in Mexican Spanish at least, where I know it from.

  7. Yes, I noticed that as well; I presumed it was a coincidence, but it definitely sounded Spanish. (Another section sounded quite Portuguese.)

  8. Speaking of Spanish – does anyone know of a good electronic (installable CD) Spanish-Spanish dictionary for practical use ? There don’t seem to be many of them. The RAE is available, but the entries there are too brief and stiffly formulated for my taste.
    The best printed dictionary I had once was the Clave, with an intro by Gabriel Marcía Márquez.

  9. Acá is definitely a word in Spanish, used in both Spain and Spanish America. “Ven acá” is more idiomatic then “ven aquí,” since “acá” implies movement. The distinction between acá and aquí is similar to that between allí and allá.
    It is in the Real Academia:á

  10. Jonathan Mayhew says

    And by the way, I loved the video; it is humorous even if you don’t know the dialects being parodied. I don’t speak Italian, but I understood the intro fine and then understood that most of the parody section was babble.

  11. It is in the Real Academia
    Well I’ll be damned, so it is. Usually when you enter a word at the RAE without the required accent mark (as I did by entering “aca”), the response contains similar words, including one bearing the required accent. When I entered “aca”, I got a list of things (including endings like -aco), but no acá.
    This up-front insistence on the accent is the kind of pedantry that I dislike about the online RAE.

  12. Jonathan Mayhew says

    Yes, that’s pedantic in a rather dumb way.

  13. @ GeorgeW: I am not familiar with Arabic at all, but what you get in the video is exactly what Arabic sounds like to Italian ears.
    @ Grumbly Stu and Jonathan Mayhew: what you hear is the Sicilian equivalent of standard Italian “vieni qua” (come here). You mentioned Spanish, so I might add that also in Italian “qua” /kwa/ is slightly less specific than “qui” /kwi/ (cf Spanish aquí/acá) and there is a similar distinction between “lì” and “là” (allí/allá).

  14. Thanks, Licia !

  15. Licia currently has a post up about l’itanglese

  16. The original link was removed for violating terms of service, so I substituted one that works — I don’t know if it’s the same performance.

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