Italian languages of Toronto



Corner of College and Clinton streets in Little Italy, Toronto.

Languages of Italy

Italy is home to a large and diverse range of dozens of languages. Many of these are Romance languages descended from Latin, including the current Standard Italian which was derived from the Florentine variety of Tuscan. Commonly referred to as “dialects” of Italian, many of these varieties are distinct languages. Other Italian languages have different origins, including the Greek dialects spoken in southern Italy and the Germanic and Slavic dialects of northern Italy.

Endangered Italian languages 

Many of Italy’s minority languages are endangered. It is difficult to state a precise number given the different methods of endangerment classification and the blurry boundaries between languages and dialects. Based on their methods, UNESCO defines 31 languages of Italy as threatened to some degree (from vulnerable to severely endangered). This number would be higher if we included small varieties of regional languages as spoken in a single village.

Italian languages in Toronto

The Italian community has long been one of Toronto’s largest heritage communities. Immigration from Italy to Toronto was at its peak during the early twentieth century, with the majority of immigrants coming from the southern part of the country. According to the most recent census, almost 500,000 Torontonians (and almost 900,000 Ontarians) identify their ethnic origin as Italian. Over 70,000 Torontonians report “Italian” as their mother tongue, and dozens of regional languages are also spoken here. Evidence of the presence of this large settlement can be seen all over the city, from Italian restaurants and festivals to Italian newspapers and community groups representing a variety of different regions.

ELAT’s Italian languages project

Given the large and diverse Italian population in our city, Toronto is an excellent place to undertake documentation of many of Italy’s minority and endangered languages. We have already completed recordings of twelve different languages – as indicated in the map to the right and listed below – with plans for more. We will be updating this list and adding links to new videos on an ongoing basis. If you are a speaker of one of Italy’s minority languages and are interested in participating in our documentation project, please contact us.

  • Agrigentino, a variety of Sicilian
  • Cellese, a variety of Francoprovençal
  • Cepranese, a variety of Ciociaro
  • Cosentino, a variety of Calabrese
  • Fossacesiana, a variety of Abruzzese
  • Friulian, a Romance language of Northeast Italy
  • Genoese, a variety of Ligurian
  • Limosanese, a variety of Molisano
  • Morconese, a variety of Campano
  • Offidano, a variety of Marchigiano
  • Pretarolo, a variety of Abruzzese
  • Santonofrese, a variety of Calabrese
  • Senese, a variety of Tuscan
  • Solerino, a variety of Piedmontese


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