In Italian-speaking contexts, Milanese (like most of the other non-Italian language varietes spoken within the borders of the Italian Republic) is often generically called a "dialect". This is often incorrectly understood as to mean a dialect of Italian, which actually is not the case. Milanese and Italian are different languages and are not mutually intelligible. Milanese is a particular (and prestigious) Lombard variety and is intelligible to speakers of other Lombard varieties.
Various dictionaries, a few grammars, extensive literature and a recent translation of the Gospels are available.
Partly because of the unofficial status of Milanese, several different orthographic conventions have developed.
The oldest still in use, and probably the most widely used, is the convention adopted by the Milanese writer Carlo Porta. Typical of this system is the trigraph oeu for the vowels /ö/ and /ö/.
More recent conventions often try to
- simplify the rules (which are sometimes not very immediate in the Porta system)
- make correct reading of Milanese easier for native Italian speakers
- reduce the gap between the written forms of Milanese and of other Lombard dialects
A lot of the alternative systems use ü and ö instead of u and oeu, in order to avoid confusion between Milanese and Italian vowels. They also generally reduce the number of accents involved, often removing ^.
A comparison with Italian
There are so many differences between Milanese and standard Italian that they may be incomparable. However, the comparison is made quite natural by the fact that speakers of Milanese are usually also speakers of Italian.
- More vowels are found in Milanese than there are in Italian. In particular, Milanese adds /ö/, /ü/ and others; moreover, vowel length plays a role in Milanese.
- While almost every Italian word of more than one syllable ends in a vowel, consonant endings are extremely common in Milanese. A consequence is that many words that are paroxytone in Italian become oxytone in Milanese.
- While Italian subject pronouns derive directly from their Latin counterparts, subject pronouns in Milanese derive from Latin dative pronouns. This makes Milanese subject pronouns resemble Italian object/dative pronouns: mi (Italian mi), ti (Italian ti), lu (Italian lui), lee (Italian lei), numm (Italian noi), viálter (Italian voi), lór (Italian loro).
- Subject pronouns are doubled in the 2nd and 3rd persons singular. Singular "you are" (Italian tu sei) becomes ti te seet in Milanese; here the first ti is the actual subject pronoun (which is optional), while the second te, normally a dative pronoun, is used to reinforce the subject and is compulsory (it's interesting to mention that the -t suffix of the 2nd person of verbs also derives from Latin "te", for a notable total of three subject pronouns per verb).
- The negation is postponed after the verb. This means that where Italian has non sei for "you are not", Milanese allows either of ti te seet no or ti te seet minga. Minga is an alternative negational adverb (probably derived from the Latin word mica, meaning "crumb"), various forms of which are common in other Italian dialects and even Italian itself, where non <verb> mica is common slang for reinforcing negations. Also consider French pas and Tuscan punto for examples of negations made by using words that all designate "something small" generically. Statistically, minga and no are about equally as common in Milanese, and they are usually interchangeable, although a Milanese speaker will sometimes find that one "sounds better" in a sentence than the other.
From the Holy Bible, Luke 2, 1-7 (for an English vesion see http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/search/?q=luke+2)
Very close to the traditional orthography.
2:1 In chi dì là, on decrett de Céser Augùst l'ordinava che se fasess on censiment de tutta la terra. 2 Sto primm censiment l'è staa faa quand Quirini l'era governador de la Siria. 3 Tucc andaven a fass registrà, ciaschedun in la soa città. 4 Anca Giusepp, che l'era de la cà e de la famiglia de David, da la città de Nazareth e da la Galilea l'è andaa sù in Giudea a la città de David, ciamada Betlemm, 5 per fass registrà insèma a Maria, soa sposa, che l'era incinta. 6 Ben, pròppi intanta che se trovaven in quell sit, s'hinn compii per lee i dì de partorì. 7 L'ha mettuu al mond el sò primm, l'ha faa sù in di fass e l'ha miss giò in d'ona gruppia perchè gh'era minga de post per lor in la locanda. (Circolo Filologico Milanese, I Quatter Vangeli de Mattee, March, Luca e Gioann in dialett milanes, Milan 1995)
The same text in an alternative orthography, which could be used to render all Lombard varieties. Long vowels (both phonologically and phonetically long) are written double, word-internal consonants are never doubled (in accordance with pronunciation), and final devoicing of obstruents is rendered orthographically.
2:1 In chi dí lá, un decrètt de Céser August l urdinava che se fasèss un censiméent de tüta la tèra. 2 Stu primm censiméent l è staa faa quaant Quirini l éra guvernaduur de la Siria. 3 Tücc andaven a fass registrá, ciaschedün in la súa citá. 4 Anca Giüsèpp, che l éra de la cá e de la famíglia de Davit, da la citá de Názareth e da la Galiléa l è andaa sü in Giüdéa a la citá de Davit, ciamada Betlèmm, 5 per fass registrá insèma a María, súa spusa, che l'éra incinta. 6 Bén, pròpi intanta che se truvaven in quèll siit, s'inn cumpii per lée i dí de parturí. 7 L'a mettüü al muunt el sò primm, l a faa sü in di fass e l a miss giò in d'una grüppia perchè gh'éra minga de pòst per luur in la lucanda.