NEAPOLITAN IS A LANGUAGE
Few people know this, but the UNESCO recognizes the Neapolitan (nnapulitano) as a real language, and not only as a dialect.
According to UNESCO, it is the most widely spoken language of Southern Italy, the most spoken after the Italian language, and immigrants aside, it is estimated to be from 7.5 to 11 million people who know this idiom.
But this is easily explained if we think that this dialect was the official language at the time of the Kingdom of Naples, which replaced even Latin in official documents by a special decree of King Alfonso of Aragon in 1442. Kingdom which at that time included the territories of Campania, Basilicata, Abruzzi, Marche, Molise, northern Calabria, northern Puglia, southern Lazio, and part of Umbria.
It was a language and we still have to think about it this way, given that it still retains its dignity and is spoken and known by a so large number of people.
Then, do not forget that it has always been one of the most exported and known “Italian dialects” abroad, thanks to the classic Neapolitan song, one of the greatest artistic expressions of Western culture that for more than a century spreads the beauty of this language throughout the world. The Neapolitan (like Sicilian) has a rich literary tradition, a Romance language (meaning a language derived from Latin) so melodic that even the authors of the lyric genre relied on it for more catchy musical works.
However, the UNESCO also included the Neapolitan language among the most “vulnerable” ones, as, indeed, all the other dialects in Italy are. The Neapolitan idiom is not at risk of extinction, as the other dialects, and its classification as “vulnerable” comes rather by the grammar, phonetics and spelling’s rules distortion, that this idiom has undergone. In fact, during the decades the spoken Neapolitan has been altered, but the written Neapolitan is the one that undoubtedly has more been subjected to changes.
Just to give an example, someone today would write:
“nu sacc caggia di pe fa n’esempio” (I do not know what to say to make an example)
while the more correct form should be:
“nun saccio c’aggia dicere pe’ fà ‘n’esempio”
The main reason of the increasingly Neapolitan language’s degradation is due to the lack of any kind of teaching both by private and public, remaining a language transmitted “orally” and not “academically”. In all local schools the Italian and English are subjects of study and not the Neapolitan. The lack of teaching led new generations to know very little about the “original” written language, while the spoken language is continuously contaminated through slang, with young people who change some words and forget the meaning of others.
In Naples, very few young persons are able to write the Neapolitan properly today, and everyone, young artists included, prefer to write it simply transcribing the vulgar form how they pronounce it. The result is a deformed Neapolitan, which varies according to the person who writes it and that often becomes even difficult to interpret. Although for long time Institutions have been talking about “protection and enhancement” of the Neapolitan language, to date nothing concrete has been done.