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Australitalian Vocabulary

This page is the text for an informal presentation I gave to a group of students and teachers of Italian, on Friday 15 February 2008. The presentation is based on the book Vocabolario Australitaliano by Franko Leoni (1991). Unfortunately this book is out of print. I found a copy at the Adelaide Uni Library (Barr Smith Library). I'm quoting from it so that people can read at least some of it via the web.

The original Italian version of the presentation is also available on this site.


1. What is Australitalian?

Australitalian is a linguistic hybrid. It developed within the Italian migrant community living in Australia. Leoni maintains that it isn't a dialect:

"A dialect is a particular idiom which is used for the day to day communication needs of the people of one particular region or town, an idiom which differs, to a varying degree, from the language common to all the inhabitants of a nation." [Leoni, p xviii]

"... although one can find examples of Australitalian in print, it was born, developed and is establishing itself as a predominately spoken language, a language dictated by necessity and as a consequence of mainly oral communications." [Leoni, p xix]

2. Classification of Australitalian words

2.1 Anglicisms

"Anglicisms are English words or phrases which have been incorporated in Australitalian as straightforward linguistic borrowings, such as 'Muvi' (movie or cinema) and 'Andiman' (handyman); such borrowings seem unavoidable, the first because it has a certain attractive conciseness, the second because it contains nuances of meaning which the equivalent Italian term is unable to render." [Leoni, p xix]

2.2 Simple Adaptation

"Another type of borrowing ... 'Simple adaptation' ... These words must still be considered anglicisms, but they are considerably more justifiable in view of the fact that the words have been gradually acquiring nuances, first in Australian and then later in Australitalian itself, such as that no Italian terms exist which can adequately convey their meaning. Such is the case with 'Fensa' or 'Fenza' (fence) which certainly has a different meaning from the Italian 'Steccato' or 'Recinto'; [other examples include] 'Bisinnes' (business cf. Italian 'Negozio' or 'Bottega') and 'Farma' (farm cf. Italian 'Fattoria' or 'Tenuta')" [Leoni, p xx]

2.3 Phonetic Adaptation

"Phonetic adaptation refers ... to the phonological, and also semantic adaptation of words, either Italian or English. Here we find words such as 'Traslazione' for 'Traduzione', 'Accusazione' for 'Accusa' and so on. It would seem that this arises from the strong conceptual similarity between the English and Italian terms, stemming from their common Latin origin, and which renders the substitution of one for the other easily understood." [Leoni, p xx]

2.4 Substitution

"... a grouping of Australitalian terms which are graphically and phonetically identical to common Italian words, but which in fact have completely different meanings, due to the purely coincidental similarity between certain English and Italian words. Terms such as 'Carro' (car) which means 'cart' in Italian ... 'Fattoria' (factory cf. Italian 'Azienda') ... and 'Forma' (form cf. Italian 'Formulario' or 'Questionario')." [Leoni, p xx]

2.5 Neologisms

"... true neologisms, coined from words which are specifically Australian, reflecting the peculiarly Australian way of life, for which Italian has no single corresponding term (and often not even such a concept). [Examples include the] verb 'Ringobarcare' (to ringbark) ... 'Tieibi' (T.A.B.) ... and 'Billi' (billy) and its variants 'Billican' and 'Billicanno'." [Leoni, p xx]

2.6 Idiomatic Expressions and Phrases

"... Australitalian can at times affect also the syntax of the Italian language. This occurs in cases where Australitalian has borrowed English idiomatic expressions and phrases rather than single words. Such expressions as 'Luccare bene/male' (to look good/bad) for 'avere una buona/brutta cera', and 'Morire per...' (to be dying for...) for 'Avere un gran desiderio di...', can obviously not be substituted one for the other without some syntactic adjustments being made. [Some cases] seem to have arisen either from laziness or out of ignorance of the appropriate Italian terms. [Leoni, p xx-xxi]

2.7 Crasis (Contractions)

"... a linguistic phenomenon which has given rise to some of the more curious and creative words of Australitalian. This particular phenomenon, know as crasis, is the fusion, voluntarily or involuntarily, of two words (Italian and/or English) or of several syllables, into a single word which often keeps, and indeed tends to increase, the phonetic expressiveness of the two original terms. Words such as 'Infamoso' (Infame - Infamous), 'Traduzionario' (Traduzione - Dizionario), and 'Disqualificare' (Disqualify - Squalificare) have all been formed in this way." [Leoni, p xxi]

3. Why did Australitalian develop?

"The needs of the migrant to communicate with other migrants who might speak a different dialect is certainly not the only motive behind the formation of Australitalian, although it is obviously one factor. A certain amount of linguistic laziness and cultural limitations are, I think, others. Moreover one must undoubtedly admit the attraction of using an English word in place of an Italian one in cases where the former is either more attractive in sound, more convenient to use, more concise or even simply more phonetically expressive... However it is likely that the majority of the terms borrowed were known to the Italian migrant only in his own regional dialect, so that the need to make himself understood to migrants from other regions of Italy forced him to use Australitalian as a common linguistic denominator, a 'Lingua Franca' between the often enormously different Italian dialects." [Leoni, p xxi]

4. A selection of Australitalian words

(from the book by Leoni, with my suggestions in italics)

accontante = accountant (ragioniere)
aftarnu = afternoon (pomeriggio)
aghen = again (di nuovo/ancora)
aiuei = highway (autostrada)
bacchiard = backyard (cortile su retro)
baichi = bikie (motociclista)
bancare = to bank (depositare)
barbechiù = barbecue (grigliata -> barbecue)
basdraiva = bus driver (autista d'autobus)
bebisitta = babysitter (bambinaia -> baby-sitter)
beica = baker (panettiere)
bettare = to bet (scommettere)
bicia = beach (spiaggia)
bilda = builder (costruttore)
billa = bill (conto)
bisi = busy (occupato)
bisinnes/bisnes/bissinesse = business (affare)
blaggia = bludger (nullafacente)
blocco = block (lotto)
bricleia = bricklayer (muratore)
broc = broke (rovinato)
buccare = to book (prenotare)
cappatì = cup of tea (tazza di tè)
carro = car (macchina)
chemista = chemist (farmacista)
chettel = kettle (bollitore)
chiucamba = cucumber (cetriolo)
cianza = chance (probabilità)
ciargiare = to charge (ricaricare/addebitare)
ciche = cheeky (impertinente)
cip = cheap (a buon mercato)
clina = cleaner (pulitore)
clubba = club
cocroccia = cockroach (scarafaggio)
cocumero = cucumber (cetriolo / cocomero = pumpkin)
compiuta = computer (calcolatore -> computer)
contrattore = contractor (imprenditore)
cresi = crazy (matto)
cricchet = cricket (cricket)
crossare = to cross (attraversare)
crucc = crook (imbroglione)
crucco/a = crook (malato)
deiof = day off (giornata di libertà)
derti = dirty (sporco)
diggare = to dig (scavare)
disciauoscia = dishwasher (lavastoviglie)
disconto = discount (sconto)
disordine = disorder (indisposizione)
dolblaggia = dolebludger (parassita)
dota = daughter (figlia)
draia = dryer
draiva = driver (autista)
draivare = to drive (guidare)
draivuei = driveway (strada carrabile)
droga = drug (medicina)
educare = to educate (istruire)
educazione = education (istruzione)
endi = handy (comodo)
eniau = anyhow (in qualunque modo)
eniuei = anyway (comunque)
ercondisciona = airconditioner (condizionatore d'aria)
eschi = esky (ghiacciaia)
espensive = expensive (caro)
faia = fire (fuoco)
fain = fine (multa)
fanni = funny (divertente)
farma = farm (fattoria)
farmista = farmer (coltivatore)
fattoria = factory (azienda industriale)
fensa = fence (recinto)
fissare = to fix (aggiustare)
forma = form (formulario)
fri = free (libero)
frigge = fridge (frigorifero)
frisa = freezer (congelatore)
frisare = to freeze (congelare)
funzione = function (cerimonia/festività)
ganga = gang (squadra)
gatta = gutter (grondaia)
gheit = gate (cancello)
gherla = girl (ragazza)
gherlafrend = girlfriend (amica)
giobba = job (lavoro)
giocare = to play (suonare)
giusto = just (appena)
gringrossa = greengrocer (ortolana)
iarda = yard (cortile)
iè = yes (sì)
inaf = enough (abbastanza)
ingaggiamento = engagement (fidanzamento)
isi = easy (facile)
lacchi = lucky (fortunato)
leibai = lay-by (compera a rate)
lesi = lazy (pigro)
libreria = library (biblioteca)
licenza = licence (patente)
loccare = to look (chiudere a chiave)
lonmoa = lawnmower (falciaerba)
luccare = to look (guardare)
managgere = manager (direttore)
mani = money (soldi)
marchetta = market (mercato)
margerina = margerine (margarina)
mascina = machine (macchina)
meibi = maybe (forse)
microuei = microwave (microonda)
mobaile = mobile (telefonino)
moschito = mosquito (zanzara)
muvi = movie (cinema)
nais = nice (bello)
namba = number (numero)
neiba = neighbour (vicino)
nius = news (notizie)
noti = naughty (cattivello)
occhei = okay (va bene)
olidei = holiday (vacanza)
omiunit = home unit (appartamento)
omuorca = homework (compito)
otello = hotel (albergo)
ovartaim = overtime (lavoro straordinario)
parcare = to park (parcheggiare)
parti = party (festa)
petrolio = petrol (benzina)
pipol = people (gente)
plamma = plumber (idraulico)
plenti = plenty (in abbondanza)
plis = please (per favore)
pusciabaica = pushbike (bicicletta)
pusciare = to push (spingere)
quic = quick (rapido)
rabiscio = rubbish (immondizie)
ringare = to ring (telefonare)
saccare = to sack (licenziare)
sannuicce = sandwich (tramezzino)
schinni = skinny (magro)
sciffetare/sciftare = to shift or move (muovere/spostare - move an object, trasferirsi - as in moving residence)
scioppo = shop (negozio)
scrudraiva = screwdriver (cacciavite)
seconand = second hand (di secondo mano)
sinc = sink (lavandino)
smesciare = to smash (fracassare)
spreiare = to spray (spruzzare)
stoppare = to stop (fermare)
supamarchetta = supermarket (supermercato)
tenca = tank (serbatoio)
tencchiu = thank you (grazie)
ticchetta = ticket (biglietto)
ticcia = teacher (insegnante)
trabel = trouble (difficoltà)
tracchi = truckie (guidatore)
tracco = truck (camion)
traiare = to try (provare)
uoscia = washer (guarnizione)
uosciamascina = washing machine
uva = hoover (aspirapolvere)
vacuumclina = vacuum cleaner (aspirapolvere)

5. Example Australitalian phrases

(from the book by Leoni, with my suggestions in italics)

  • Ho prestato il suo carro e gliel'ho smesciato.
  • Un polisman lo ha preso spidin e la corte gli ha dato una forte fain.
  • Quell'ossi è sempre stato un blaggia.
  • Starta la giobba plis, niente fulinabout!
  • Quel baichi sono tutti dei derti blaggia.
  • E meglio un bosso ossi che uno germanese.
  • Quella gherla è proprio una biuti.
  • Dopo solo un anno nel bisinnes è già broc.
  • Con due tomati ed un chiucamba ci facciamo una bella salad.
  • Se fai il cichi col nuovo bosso ti sacca in notaim.
  • La mia dota più vecchia è orrait, l'altra è cresi.
  • Mi sentivo così crucco che ho preso un deiof.
  • Ho comprato un cartone di fags al diutifri.
  • Il tuo fiansè altro non è che un bladi dolblaggia!
  • Aveva un'esteit di tre mila eica che ha poi suddiviso in dodici blocchi.
  • Per essere buoni farma oggi si deve essere andiman in tutto.
  • La mia dota è piuttosta fassi con il suo fiansè.
  • Abbiamo un frigge con una frisa enorme.
  • John ha traiato ringare il suo fratello in legge, ma era andato al scioppo.
  • Meit, è occhei parcare il mio carro sul tuo draivuei?



Australitaliano related links: