GEPHRAS is the acronym for “Genoese phrasemes”. By “phrasemes” we refer primarily to collocations and idioms; that is, respectively, semi-fixed (eventually partly idiomatic) and fixed (idiomatic) word combinations (cfr. Konecny / Autelli 2012). The GEPHRAS project is dealing with identifying and collecting Genoese phrasemes and with translating them into Italian. The collected phraseological material is inserted in a bidirectional database and published in form of a free accessible online dictionary.
For the moment, the material included in our dictionary is represented by the phrasemes of 100 basic nouns starting by one of the first three letters of the Genoese alphabet: A, B, and C (including also Æ and Ç as mere variations of the letters A and C). These 100 words have been selected on the basis of their frequency in the speech – being common in everyday usage – and for the number of collocations and idioms that they are supposed to cover.
GEPHRAS is the first lexicographic project to scientifically collect the collocations and idioms of a local Romance variety of Italy in comparison with their equivalents in the common official language (Italian). On this basis, we intend to propose our work as a pioneering (although perfectible) model for further studies in the field. Secondly, we mean to create a lexicographic work able to make up, even though to a very limited extent, to one of the major limitations of historic and modern Genoese dictionaries: i.e. their incapability to represent the local language according to its actual usage. Furthermore, as is explained below in more detail, our project was born in the hope to contribute to the preservation of Genoese, that we cherish as a fundamental part of the Ligurian identity and culture.
As stated above, our project regards two particular kinds of phrasemes, i.e. collocations and idioms. As for the first category, though, we sometimes include also arguable word combinations with a lower degree of lexical restriction, such as ægua freida ‘cold water’ or spussâ d’aggio ‘to stink of garlic’. This choice is both due to the didactic purposes pursued by our project as well as due to our intention of contributing to the preservation of the language: we think it is important, to our possible users, offering them a slight more complete range of combinations than just the more restricted ones.
The primary source for the extraction of our phrasemes is represented by the traditional dictionaries of Genoese (that is, from the one published by Olivieri in 1841 to the one by Gismondi in 1955) and some modern lexicographic works, perused in case they include a significant amount of further material. Moreover, we have decided to consult part of the many popular publications aimed at testifying specific elements (generally popular sayings) which are not comprised in the works mentioned above. Finally, significant part of the material is added thanks to the linguistic competence of some members of the research team.
The phrasemes, both the Genoese and Italian ones, can be searched for through a specific field on the project website. The users are able to choose whether simply typing the word(s) they wish to find material about or selecting a specific structural type of phraseme, according to the categories included in the database. In order to help users find the word(s) or combination(s) they are interested in, an automatic completion of the search term(s) is incrementally presented as the mask is filled. If wished, it is also possible to use an asterisk (*) as a wild card for a letter or a part of a word whose spelling the user is not sure about.
Following the more recent classification of the Ligurian varieties in scientific literature (cf. Toso 2002), by Genoese we mean the ensemble of varieties that share most part of the innovation traits originated in the capital and spread throughout the nearby territories: more specifically, such varieties are spoken today along the coast from Noli to Moneglia and in most of the relative countryside. According to this definition, Genoese is not only the most widespread Ligurian variety in terms of percentage, but also the only one to have developed a long and uninterrupted literary tradition throughout the centuries since its medieval origins (cf. Toso 2009).
For reasons of uniformity, all linguistic elements comprised in the dictionary are based on the form they have in the dialect of the city of Genoa: for instance, we write mæña ‘shore’ and not maiña or maina, even though the latter two forms would correspond to the consistent spelling of certain local versions of the same word. According to this choice, the pronunciation of each phraseme reflects the one used in the capital.
Being aware of the large literary tradition of Genoese and its importance, we have decided to adopt the spelling of literary Genoese according to its general modern criteria. Some more specific characters, however, refer to a recent collective proposal published in 2015, in which took part, for the first time, scholars as well as journalists and writers concerned about a constructive promotion of the language. A scientific presentation of this work is currently being carried out (cf. Autelli / Lusito / Toso in project).
As many local varieties of Northern Italy, and despite a new-born interest during the last years, Genoese has unfortunately been living for decades a deep crisis in the social and even familiar sphere: this is the reason why the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger classifies Ligurian – that is, the totality of Romance varieties spoken in the region – as “definitely endangered”. With the GEPHRAS project, we therefore mean to offer a reliable tool for supporting people who wish to start learning Genoese or, in case of those already able to speak it, to broaden their knowledge of the language.
In order to help learn and preserve Genoese, every entry of our dictionary includes one drawing which illustrates a selected Genoese phraseme. The drawings show both the literal and the phraseological meaning, in order to let the users visualise the conceptualizations, i.e. the “mental images” behind the phrasemes, and consequently remember how they are composed (similarly as in Konecny / Autelli 2012).
Having the possibility of counting on the support of the Genoese-speaking community is for us of utmost importance. Any person can propose additions or modifications to the database, as well as offer general suggestions or give personal feedback, by simply sending an e-mail to email@example.com. The GEPHRAS team will then decide which proposals to accept in order to improve the dictionary’s quality and completeness. We are looking forward to your cooperation!
Except for Prof. Fiorenzo Toso from the University of Sassari, the Berio library of Genoa, the Italien-Zentrum, the Institute for Computer Science and the Institute for Translation and Interpreting Studies of the University of Innsbruck cooperate with the project.
AUTELLI, Erica; LUSITO, Stefano; TOSO, Fiorenzo (in project). La grafia genovese nei secoli: verso un modello standard.
GISMONDI, Alfredo (1955). Nuovo vocabolario genovese-italiano. Genova: Fides.
KONECNY, Christine; AUTELLI, Erica (2012). «Italienische Kollokationen. Wortverbindungen der italienischen und deutschen Sprache im Vergleich. Ein Forschungsprojekt.» In http://www.kollokation.at.
OLIVIERI, Giuseppe (1841). Dizionario domestico genovese-italiano. Genova: Ponthenier e F.
TOSO, Fiorenzo (2002). «Liguria». In I dialetti italiani: storia, struttura, uso, Manlio Cortelazzo, Carla Marcato et al. (eds.). Torino: UTET, pp. 198-225.
TOSO, Fiorenzo (2009). La letteratura ligure in genovese e nei dialetti locali. Recco: Le Mani.