The Bagitto Language

Patrizia Poli
2 min readAug 12, 2021

The real recipients of the edicts of 1591 and 93, promulgated by Ferdinando I ° dei Medici, better known as Leggi Livornine, were the Sephardic Jews from the Iberian peninsula, Spanish, therefore, but above all Portuguese. Thanks to the laws of Ferdinand, the Jews obtained freedom of trade, religious practice, possession and publication of books. The Livornese publishing became polyglot and reproduced the babel of languages ​​of a free port city, full of life, cultural exchanges and businesses.

From the beginning of the seventeenth century a community of Marrani settled in our city. They had been forced to convert to Catholicism but remained Jewish in soul and their mother tongue was Judeo-Portuguese.

In the eighteenth century there was a dichotomy between the high speech of the ruling class, which used Portuguese, and the low one, the language of the refugees and the people. If Portuguese remained the language of the community until the 19th century, especially in official exchanges, while Castilian was used in literature and liturgical functions, Hebrew as a sacred language and Italian as a means of communication in relations with Tuscany , the bagitto was an Italian Jewish language, used by the most popular Labronic community. It is not properly a language or a dialect, rather a jargon to understand each other without being understood by others.

The linguistic base is Tuscan, the chanting cadence Portoguese.

The sonorous S becomes sweet, the G occupies the place of the C, the P becomes F, the V is exchanged with the B, the doubles turn into singles, the Livornese characteristic of strengthening disappears.

Many works in bagitto were written, the best known of which are Luigi Duclou’s La Betulia Liberata and La molte d’Ulufelne by Natale Falcini.

With the dispersion of the Jewish community during the Second World War, few traces of the bagitto remain, it continues to live (or, at least, continued, until past decades) among the market stalls, managed for centuries by Livornese Jews, before advent of the Chinese, Indians and Senegalese.

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Patrizia Poli

Patrizia Poli was born in Livorno in 1961. Writer of fiction and blogger, she published seven novels.