Interiezioni and intercalari, the “parsley” of the Italian language

È come il prezzemolo! Italian intercalari

He’s like parsley! That’s what Italians say of someone or something you see everywhere, like parsley on Italian dishes. Intercalari and interiezioni are elements of the Italian spoken language that people sprinkle all over, to emphasize what they want to say.

Just like parsley, intercalari and interiezioni are really everywhere in the Italian spoken language. But, again, just like parsley, when there are too many, they can spoil the taste of our beautiful language.

Intercalari are fragments, specific words used outside the canonical structure of a sentence. They can give an elegant pace to a speech but they also could be be very annoying, a sort of linguistic nervous tic.

Allora, appunto, insomma, diciamo, dai, vabè (a Milano), vabbè (a Roma), vabbuò (a Napoli), così, ecco, cioè, è vero, non so, come dire, voglio dire, ti dico, per così dire, diciamo, vedi, guarda, senti, praticamente, tipo, un attimino and many others, are classic intercalari.

Some of them are used as ice-breakers to start a sentence (allora, dunque, senti, guarda, vedi, praticamente …) others as a sort of request, a confirmation that you are listening to what I’m saying… (cioè, allora, no?, niente, proprio, capito) to which you are supposed to nod, like when someone in English says ” you know” every 10 words.

Here below, a fragment of an Italian cult comedy movie called “Un sacco bello”: a debate between a desperate father, a hippie son with his girlfriend living in a community in Tuscany, and a priest. They have a strong Roman accent and speak quite fast. Don’t worry, just listen.

Try to count the cioè, allora, proprio, no? niente, and others you may catch.

That was quite extreme, but some people use intercalari a bit too much.

Finally the interiezioni are a sort of intercalari, but usually shorter expressions of different emotions. Depending on the intonation and intensity, the same sound can have different meanings, followed by a question mark or an exclamation. I can’t include all the feelings here but I will write some emotions in Italian. Google them and find their meaning.

  • Ah: sorpresa, desiderio, rabbia, dubbio
  • Eh: sorpresa, indignazione, approvazione, rabbia
  • Oh: gioia, sorpresa, ammirazione
  • Boh: sorpresa, smarrimento
  • Mah: dubbio
  • Toh; sorpresa,

Alla prossima

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