GEPHRAS is an acronym for “Genoese phrasemes”. By “phrasemes” we primarily refer to collocations and idioms. These include semi-fixed (sometimes partially idiomatic) and fixed (idiomatic) word combinations (cfr. Konecny / Autelli 2012). The aim of the GEPHRAS project is to identify and collect Genoese phrasemes and translate them into Italian. The collected phraseological material is inserted into a bidirectional database and published in form of a freely accessible online dictionary.
For the moment, the material in our dictionary includes the phrasemes of 100 basic nouns starting with 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 were selected based on their frequency in speech – being common in everyday usage – and the number of collocations and idioms that they appear in.
GEPHRAS is the first lexicographic project to scientifically collect the collocations and idioms of a local Romance variety of Italy (Genoese) and their equivalents in the common official language (Italian). Based on this, our work can be considered as a pioneering (although perfectible) model for further studies in the field. Secondly, we intend to create a dictionary capable of making up for one of the major limitations of historic and modern Genoese dictionaries (at least to a limited extent): i.e. their inability to represent the local language according to its actual usage. Furthermore, as is explained in more detail below, our project was born in the hopes of contributing to the preservation of Genoese, which we cherish as a fundamental part of the Ligurian identity and culture.
As stated above, our project regards two particular kinds of phrasemes: collocations and idioms. However, the first category sometimes also includes 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 was made both due to the didactic purposes pursued by our project as well as our intention to contribute to the preservation of the language. Consequently, we think it is important to offer our potential users a slightly more extensive range of combinations than just the more restricted ones.
We primarily extracted the phrasemes used in our dictionary from traditional Genoese dictionaries (ranging from the one published by Olivieri in 1841 to Gismondi’s from 1955) and some modern lexicographic publications, which we chose to consult in case they included a significant amount of further material. Furthermore, we decided to have a closer look at some of the many popular publications aimed at testifying specific elements (generally popular sayings) which are not comprised in the publications mentioned above. Finally, we were able to add significant parts of the material thanks to the linguistic competence of some members of the research team.
The phrasemes, both the Genoese and Italian ones, can be searched for using the search box at the top of the project’s website. The users can choose between 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, possible automatic completions of the search term(s) are offered while filling them in. It is also possible to use an asterisk (*) to replace letters or a part of a word, if the user is not sure about a term’s spelling.
In accordance with the most recent classification of Ligurian varieties in scientific literature (cf. Toso 2002), the “Genoese” we refer to includes the ensemble of varieties that share most of the innovative traits originating in the capital, which spread throughout the nearby territories: more specifically, the varieties spoken along the north-western coast of Italy, from Noli to Moneglia, and in most of the bordering regions today. 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 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 correspond to how the word is pronounced in some local sub-varieties. According to this choice, the pronunciation of each phraseme within the dictionary reflects the one used in the region’s 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, are based on a recent collective proposal published in 2015, in which, for the first time, scholars as well as journalists and writers concerned about the constructive promotion of the language cooperated. A presentation of this publication based on scientific criteria is currently in progress (cf. Autelli / Lusito / Toso in progress).
Like many local varieties of Northern Italy, Genoese has unfortunately been experiencing a serious crisis in the social as well as the familial sphere for decades, despite a new-born interest in it during the last years. For this reason, the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger classifies Ligurian – the totality of all Romance varieties spoken in the region – as “definitely endangered”. We therefore intend to offer the GEPHRAS project as a reliable tool for supporting people who wish to start learning Genoese, or give those who already speak it the opportunity 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 (similar to Konecny / Autelli 2012).
Being able to count on the support of the Genoese-speaking community is of utmost importance to us. Anyone 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!
Prof. Fiorenzo Toso from the University of Sassari, the Berio library of Genoa, the Italien-Zentrum, the Institute for Computer Science as well as the Institute for Translation and Interpreting Studies at the University of Innsbruck all 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.