At home with the Lombards

I speak Lombardic

A new school year starts today, and Lombardic won’t certainly be among the foreign languages to be studied; but what is the position of this language compared to Italian?

In the articles published in this column we have repeatedly spoken about the lack of written sources and also about how the Lombards entrusted their wealth of knowledge and customs to oral transmission. A lack of sources also with regard to texts written in this language.

The Lombards were of course a foreign people to the Italics when they entered the peninsula in 568. The Greek-Gothic war had ended just fifteen years earlier and had left Italy devastated, depopulated and impoverished. The Lombards, strong and well armed, were met with practically no resistance.

At first they replaced the remaining Roman elite, but soon the two ethnic groups started to merge. Lombard laws came to be an alternative to Roman law, and when in 643 Rotari decided to collect them in writing, he had them written in Latin. There are, however, some Lombard words that have no Latin counterpart, specific terms that we still know, such as feud and weregild.

People were still speaking Latin at the time; certainly it was no longer the classical, cosmopolitan Latin that had ruled the world, but a language that had evolved to become the so-called Vulgar Latin; this was the language that received the Lombard inputs: not the high, incorruptible Latin of the learned, but the language of the common people.

Still today, both in Italian and in the regional dialects, many Lombard words are still in use, mainly words of common use, part of our fundamental lexicon indeed. Very humble words, which define tools, craftsmanship, breeding, body parts, relationships and clashes.

But the Lombards also left us a series of proper names, such as Adelmo, Adolfo, Alberto, Aldo, Armando, Bernardo, Filiberto, Guido, Leopoldo, Matilde, Rodolfo, and Ubaldo.

Happy Monday with the Lombards!

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